Can a Dirty Litter Box Kill a Cat? 7 Powerful Ways to Save Her Life

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 06/24/22 •  10 min read
Sickly looking pale cat

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A few weeks ago while I was in a veterinary clinic to have my cat vaccinated, I witnessed a furry cat that had been there for three days straight.

Out of curiosity, I engaged my vet to understand what was ailing her.

Long story short, she never made it back home.

The part that broke my heart the most was discovering the cause of death.

A dirty cat litter box can be hazardous to cats in many ways, from bacterial infections and skin issues caused by other microbes to respiratory infections and even septicemia.

Septicemia is a deadly condition in which bacteria get into the bloodstream causing fever and rapid heart rate.

Litter boxes can get messy very quickly.

If a box has been used for too long or is not cleaned properly, cleaning litter out of it may be an uncomfortable chore for you.

But can leaving a dirty litter box eventually kill your cat?

It’s a question many cat owners are afraid to ask themselves.

I understand your concerns. I’m here to show you how to go about it and save your kitty’s life!

What cat health problems are caused by a dirty litter box?

There are several cat diseases that a dirty litter box can cause.

Some of these include:

1.       Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD):

Feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) is an inflammation of the urinary tract.

It can affect any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, bladder, and ureters.

Feline lower urinary tract disease can be divided into two categories:

FLUTD is a chronic condition that causes symptoms such as:

2.       Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP):

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is an infection of the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity.

The disease causes severe acute illness and often fatal hemorrhagic colitis.

FIP is caused by a virus that can be spread from cat to cat through the environment, such as litter boxes and food bowls.

The virus survives for a long time in these environments, usually for at least six months.

The most common mode of transmission is through direct or indirect contact with an infected cat’s feces.

Signs and symptoms include:

3.       Toxoplasmosis in cats:

Toxoplasmosis is a disease of cats caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii.

It affects the brain and nervous system in cats.

This organism infects felines through contact with contaminated food or water dishes or by coming into contact with cat feces in the litter box that contain Toxoplasma eggs.

The eggs are then ingested during grooming sessions.

Common symptoms of toxoplasmosis in cats:

4.       Urinary tract infections:

They can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

They can cause a burning sensation when urinating, as well as blood in the urine and other signs of infection.

The most common cause of UTIs is a bacteria called E. coli.

It lives in your cat’s intestines, but if it gets into their urinary tract, it can cause an infection.

Common symptoms of a UTI are:

What is the best cat litter for urinary problems?

There are many different types of cat litter, but the best cat litter for urinary problems is one that is low in dust and contains a high proportion of absorbent kitty litter.

This litter should:

If you’re however looking for an inexpensive alternative, try using newspaper as a litter box liner or putting some baking soda in the bottom of the box and sprinkling some into it once a day or so. Baking soda absorbs odors and works well if your cat likes to dig in his litter box.

sick boy resting in a bed

How to prevent litter box illnesses

  1. Clean the litter box regularly and change the soiled litter frequently enough to control odor and reduce tracking through the house. If you have a large cat, you will need to scoop and rake at least twice a day.
  2. Change the cat litter every few weeks
  3. Ensure that your cat’s diet is balanced and nutritious. Feeding high-quality food with the proper balance of protein and fat will help keep your cat healthy. As with humans, excessive weight gain can cause digestive issues in cats, which can lead to chronic diarrhea. If you have concerns about your cat’s weight, talk to your veterinarian about ways to monitor his or her eating habits.
  4. If you notice that your cat has diarrhea or vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately.
  5. Keep your house clean.
  6. Vaccinate your cats and kittens at least once a year, especially if they live in a multi-cat household or are allowed to roam outdoors without supervision.
  7. Don’t allow your cat to roam freely outdoors without supervision or proper protection from predators, such as a dog or coyote. This is especially important for outdoor cats that may be exposed to fleas and ticks regularly (such as barn cats).
  8. Exercise your cat regularly with plenty of playtime indoors too, so that it doesn’t spend all day sleeping or lounging around the house watching television!

Frequently Asked Questions:

Are cats happier with a clean litter box?

Cats are much happier with a clean litter box.
Cats prefer to use the same spot every time, so if there is some urine or feces in the box, clean it up.
Cats also like to dig in their litter boxes and create small depressions in the litter.
If you have had an especially large cat who likes to dig, this can cause some problems with the litter.
The more often you change your cat’s litter, the better it will work for both of you.
Cats are very clean animals. They use their paws to clean themselves after urinating, defecating, and playing.
Cats also groom themselves by licking themselves, which can be seen as an indicator of cleanliness.

What happens if you don’t clean your cat’s litter box?

If you don’t clean your cat’s litter box, it could lead to serious health problems.
It can become a breeding ground for bacteria and other germs.
If you don’t clean your cat’s litter box regularly, the odor will become more and more unpleasant. This is because there is a layer of waste that builds up over time.
The smell will attract flies and other pests.
Flies are attracted to feces and urine, so if the cat’s litter box is dirty, they will lay their eggs on the feces or urine spots.
These larvae will hatch into maggots.
If you notice any changes in your cat’s behavior, such as him vomiting or having diarrhea, contact an animal hospital or veterinarian immediately.

Can cats get sick from old litter?

Cats can get sick from old litter, but it’s not likely.
Cats are very clean animals and will generally avoid the litter box if they find it dirty.
Old litter may be dirty and end up harboring parasites that will infect your cat making her get sick.
If your cat has recently gotten sick and you think it could have been from old litter, try cleaning out the box with a soft brush or sponge.
Or try changing the entire litter box and replacing it with fresh, clean litter.

Can a dirty litter box cause infection?

A dirty litter box can cause infection.
A dirty litter box is one that does not have enough clean litter or one that has been sitting for a long time without being changed.
The bacteria that cause infections are often found in the cat’s feces and urine, so when these materials are left to sit in a dirty litter box, they can create an environment that is conducive to infection.
When the cat urinates or defecates in this environment, it creates a breeding ground for bacteria and other germs.
It may cause an infection in your cat’s intestines or urinary tract.

Can a cat get sick from a dirty litter box?

Yes, cats can get sick from a dirty litter box.
It’s important to keep your cat’s litter box clean and sanitary.
A dirty litter box can lead to several problems, including:
1. Diarrhea
2. Vomiting
3. Dehydration

Can male cats get a UTI from a dirty litter box?

Yes, male cats can get a UTI from a dirty litter box.
A male cat’s urethra is shorter than a female’s, so it is easier for bacteria to enter the bladder and cause an infection.
The symptoms of UTI in male cats include:
1. Straining to urinate
2. Urinating frequently
3. Urinary urgency
4. Fever
5. Vomiting

How long can a cat have a UTI before you detect it?

The answer depends on the age of your cat and how long it has had a UTI or other infection.
For example, some cats experience signs of UTI within the first few days of infection, while others may not show any signs for a week or longer.
Some cats are more likely to develop complications than others.
The best way to find out if your cat has a UTI is by taking its temperature every day, preferably after it has been awake for at least half an hour.
If the temperature is higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), then contact your veterinarian immediately.
If you notice that your cat is acting unusually sluggish, lethargic, or having difficulty breathing, contact your veterinarian immediately as these could be signs of a serious illness.

Can litter cause crystals in cats?

No, litter does not cause crystals in cats.
Cats are very susceptible to crystals in the urinary tract.
This can be caused by several things, but litter isn’t one of the main culprits.
Crystals occur in cats’ urine due to the type of diet they are having and poor water intake that dissolves the forming crystals.
When urine becomes too concentrated, it starts to crystallize out of solution and form crystals that are highly resistant to being broken down by bacteria.
These crystals can cause blockages in the urinary tract, which can lead to cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).

Can worms live in cat litter?

Worms can live in cat litter, especially if the cat litter is contaminated with cat feces.
Cats defecate, and their feces contain microorganisms that eggs of worms can feed on.
If you do find little white worms in your cat’s litter box, don’t panic.
You can safely dispose of the litter, clean the litter box with soap and water then replenish it with fresh litter.


While it might be rare for your cat to die from an infected litter box, the truth is that it can happen and it’s best to keep your cats safe.

Luckily they tend not to develop these types of serious infections until they’re older because their immune systems are stronger.

Pets are special creatures and are one of our own families. They deserve to live a long and healthy life.

If you maintain proper litter box hygiene and follow the steps I outlined in this article, I am confident that, at the very least, your cat will not die from a litter-box-related disease.

Davis Wilkins

Davis Wilkins is a dedicated cat lover, with three cats under his care. He grew up in a cat-loving family, nurturing these feline friends. As a result, he purposed to share his cat knowledge with the universe. Wilkins has been writing professionally for over four years, specializing in feline care with a keen interest in litter box care and handling. He hopes to help other feline lovers achieve their pet care goals.

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