Diseases Commonly Transmitted Through Feline Litter

Cleaning the litter box is a familiar routine for most cat owners, however some are unaware of the numerous hazards associated with dirty feline litter. Pet owners may risk contracting a variety of sicknesses through contact with contaminated cat waste. Various kinds of bacteria and parasites inhabit soiled litter. These organisms carry a range of zoonotic diseases-illnesses that spread from animal to human. Being aware of these diseases and understanding how they are transmitted is an important part of protecting yourself against infection.

Diseases Caused by Parasites

Intestinal parasites are frequent in cats. Hookworms, roundworms and the microscopic organism Toxoplasma gondii are some of the most common parasites found in kittens and adult felines. Transmission happens when parasite eggs in your cat's fur or skin are ingested during your pet's daily grooming routine. Outdoor cats are particularly at risk for contracting eggs through contaminated grass, fleas, feces and wild animals.

Once infected, your pet can pass parasite eggs or organisms through her stool. Therefore, washing your hands after cleaning your pet's litter box is crucial to helping prevent the spread of parasites. Organisms are also transmitted frequently from mother cats to their kittens. Owners attempting kitten potty training should consider wearing gloves in combination with hand washing when dealing with feces and diarrhea, a common kitten ailment. Pregnant women and people with weak immune systems are generally advised to avoid contact with litter boxes. This is due to the risk of Toxoplasmosis, an infection caused by a protozoa-based parasite found in cat stool. Toxoplasmosis has been reported to cause birth defects and miscarriages in pregnant women and infections like encephalitis in people with compromised immune systems.

Bacterial Infections

Unsanitary handling of pet waste can also result in cat owners contracting bacterial infections. Campylobacter is one of the most common kinds of bacteria found in feline stool. It is responsible for the disease Campylobacteriosis, which causes bloody diarrhea, cramps, and pain. Salmonella is another bacteria sometimes present in cat feces. The resulting infection, Salmonellosis, can trigger vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever and diarrhea, lasting up to a week. In order to prevent the transmission of bacteria-based diseases, pet owners should wash their hands immediately after handling cat waste.

Protecting yourself from infectious diseases is an important part of cleaning your cat's litter box. Bacteria and parasites can spread easily through contaminated feces, so consider wearing gloves before handling pet waste. Keeping the litter pan, scoop and surrounding environment regularly clean and sanitized can also help prevent the spread of potentially dangerous microorganisms.