If there is one thing that cat lovers know, it is this: cats make wonderful pets! They are complex and charming creatures that make life enjoyable. Having said that, cats are not without downsides.
One of the biggest downsides is the cat litter box. All cat owners know the nasty smell of dirty litter. The primary culprit is the ammonia found in cat urine. Unfortunately, that ammonia does more than just smell bad, it can pose a few health risks as well.
In the sections below, we’ll discuss the symptoms of ammonia poisoning from cat urine.
Humans are exposed to low concentrations of ammonia on a regular basis. It exists in cleaners, textiles, soil, the air and as mentioned, cat pee. Usually it isn’t a problem. The scented litter in your cat’s box will absorb most of the gas for you.
But constant exposure to ammonia, especially in poorly ventilated areas, can start to take its toll over time.
Symptoms of Ammonia Poisoning from Cat Urine
Being exposed to the ammonia in cat urine can make you quite sick. The most common sign of a problem is breathing trouble but it can show up in other ways too.
For some people, the symptoms of ammonia poisoning from cat urine resemble an allergy. Most people will blame cat fur or dander but it may actually be the result of cat urine.
Exposure to ammonia can cause itchy skin, itchy or stuffy nose, hives, rash, dizziness, and even vomiting!
Breathing in ammonia can cause irritation in the respiratory tract. This can mean a sore throat, coughing or shortness of breath. For people with asthma, or other respiratory problems, exposure to cat pee can make things even worse.
Long term exposure can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis, trachea burns, and pulmonary edema. If it gets bad enough, it can be fatal.
How To Keep Yourself Safe
As scary as all that sounds, there are many things you can do to reduce these risks to you and your family.
Keep the Box Clean
One of the most important things you need to do is keep the cat litter box clean. This means removing clumps at least once a day and changing the entire contents of the box every 7-10 days.
Cats are tidy creatures by nature and ammonia can impact their health as well. The longer you let the litter sit, the stronger the ammonia smell will become.
When you don’t keep things clean and tidy, you run the risk of your cat starting to go outside of the litter box. If you want to learn how to stop your cat from peeing outside the litter box, this might help.
And do not forget that cleaning the litter box is more than just scooping and changing litter. It is important to clean the box itself at least once a week using soap and water.
Some litters are better than others when it comes to absorbing the ammonia gas. But even they have a limit. The litter can be more effective when used with a well-designed and high quality litter pan.
Litters like pine, cedar, crystals, newspaper, and corn have usually reached their capacity after about 5 days and will need to be changed. To keep yourself as safe as possible, consider using gloves and a face mask when changing and cleaning the litter box.
As much as we all love our feline family members, it is important to remember that they are animals. And as animals, they come with a range of instincts and behaviors that can be frustrating or difficult for us humans to deal with.
Spraying is one of those behaviors. Cats spray for a few reasons. They use spraying to mark their territory and communicate with other cats.
But spraying isn’t always about dominance. Sometimes it is a medical condition that makes them spray. Most often, though, it is anxiety or issues with the litter box that causes it.
If your cat is spraying, it is important to try to stop this behavior. This program from an ASPCA Veterinary Technician will teach you how to stop cat spraying behavior permanently.
Check the conditions of the litter box. Making sure it is clean, is top priority. From there, solving the problem could be as simple as changing the litter you use. Cats can be picky and they may not like the texture under their feet.
Adding a second box is also worth considering. Sometimes cats like to pee in one place and poop in another. So giving them the extra option can help a great deal.
Location, Location, Location
Try to put the litter box in a location where you do not spend a lot of time. If you have a home with a basement or a spare room you never use, put it in there.
Obviously this is harder to do in small spaces or apartments but it is important to try. Using cat litter mats is also a great idea as they trap the litter from the box and prevents it from scattering. These mats are also easy to clean.
To reduce the symptoms of ammonia poisoning from cat urine, try to put the litter box in a place where you will not be breathing the ammonia all day long.
Minimize and Neutralize
If your cat is spraying, or peeing outside of the box, you need to minimize the stains and neutralize the odor as quickly as possible.
Cats have a habit of marking the same place over and over again. The cat litter mats would definitely help in minimizing the stains. But if you do not neutralize the odor, your cat is likely to return to that spot and pee again.
When you are cleaning these places, it is a good idea to avoid using bleach. Bleach will not get rid of the ammonia smell and can make things worse. Bleach and ammonia mixed together can create toxic fumes that will only make the situation worse.
For getting rid of the cat urine smell, try using the following.
Simply spray the vinegar on the spot and let it dry. Repeat this process until the smell of cat urine is gone.
You use baking soda to absorb odors in your fridge. So why wouldn’t you use it other places too?
Baking soda is the best solution for carpets and upholstery. Sprinkle baking soda on top of the spot. Then, use a scrub brush to get the baking soda deep into the fibers. Leave it in place for 24 hours and then vacuum it up.
Again, repeat this process until the cat pee smell is gone. You can also sprinkle a little baking soda on top of the litter box to minimize odors at the source.
You can buy hydrogen peroxide at any pharmacy if you do not already have some in your home. Hydrogen peroxide is very good at neutralizing ammonia and checking the symptoms of ammonia poisoning from cat urine.
Mix 3% hydrogen peroxide with water. You will want this mixture to be 70% water and 30% hydrogen peroxide. Dip a cloth or a towel into this mixture and gently blot the spot where the cat has peed.
Once the odor is gone, you can use cold water to rinse away the solution.
You can also consider using enzyme cleaner for cat urine to effectively remove stains and odors.
Living with cats is a blast but experiencing the symptoms of ammonia poisoning from cat urine isn’t. They offer affection and entertainment but not without health risks.
The most important thing you can do for yourself, your family and your cat, is to keep the litter box clean and minimize ammonia exposure whenever possible.