Can You Be Allergic To Cat Litter? The Truth Told By VETs!

By Davis Wilkins •  Updated: 12/07/22 •  12 min read

If you own a cat, you’ve probably wondered if you can be allergic to cat litter.

Do you sneeze, wheeze, cough or get an irritation as soon as you are around a cat litter box? You may even think that cats make you sick, but the kitty box could likely be causing you to develop an allergic reaction.

For example, even though I have four cats at home, it was only recently that I realized that their litter might affect my health.

Can cat litter cause allergies– is this even a thing? I can exclusively reveal that, yes, it is a thing. And you might have not heard of it, because litter box allergies aren’t hugely talked about or written in a lot of medical journals.

If cat litter can be harmful to cats, it seems unnatural to think that a person could be allergic to it.

Cats are one of the most common types of pets in the United States, with approximately 79 million homes owning them. Although cat ownership is normal, there is always some risk involved when you bring an animal into your home.

The most common allergy related to cats is usually due to their fur or dust.

Unfortunately, cats produce allergic reactions in human beings and they can end up being severe. The major cat allergen, Fel d1, is a protein found in the sebaceous glands of the skin and the cat saliva.

Since cats are constantly licking themselves clean, Fel d1 dries on the cat’s skin and hair, and the tiny particles break off into the atmosphere. They become airborne and circulate in your house where you easily inhale them with every breath.

So, what do you need to do in such a situation? Today, we will discuss whether people are allergic to cat litter or not, and what exactly causes this reaction.

 If the idea of cat litter allergy in humans sounds strange and mysterious, then read on.

 You will learn more about human allergy to cat litter, how a litter box can make you sick, and quick remedies to implement.

After all, we all deserve to live in a clean, safe, and healthy household.

Can a litter box make you sick?

A cat litter box can certainly make you sick?

But are cat boxes truly germ-infested and disease-ridden death traps?

For the most part, no. Most quality cat litters in themselves do not make you sick. Cat poop deposited in the litter box, however, can make you sick.

Cat feces contain pathogens like E. coli, Toxoplasma gondii, and salmonella that can cause illness in humans if ingested or if it gets into cuts or other open wounds.

Be aware that the bacteria in cat feces and urine can remain infectious long after the feces have dried up. This means that if your litter box isn’t being cleaned regularly, it can start to stink and easily get contaminated by bacteria.

That’s why it’s important to keep your cat box as clean as possible.

Many pathogens can be passed from cat feces to people, including bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses.

The rule of thumb is that if you’re breathing in litter box odor, then you’re breathing in its pathogens and they’re getting into your lungs.

As a result, you may develop some cat litter allergy symptoms, such as:

  1. Coughing or wheezing
  2. Red or watery eyes
  3. Puffy face

How do I know if I’m allergic to cat litter?

To find out if you are allergic to cat litter, begin by asking yourself these questions:

 If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be allergic to cat litter.

Additionally, if you are constantly sneezing and there is no other identifiable cause for your allergies, consider that it might be cat litter that is causing the problem.

Can humans be allergic to cat litter?

Person using an inhaler

You will know if you are allergic to cat litter if you wake up every morning with congested sinuses, red and watery eyes, and a runny nose. If this happens and the litter box spends the night in your bedroom, then it’s likely you are allergic to the cat litter box.

To figure out whether cat litter is causing an allergic reaction or not, start by separating the litter box from your bedroom or sleeping area.

If you don’t already do so, keep your bedroom door closed while you sleep. This will prevent dust mites and other allergens from getting into your room while you’re sleeping.

Within several days, your symptoms should improve significantly if cat litter is causing them.

Can you be allergic to a cat’s litter box?

Here are the most common cat litter allergy symptoms in humans:

Can cat litter cause respiratory problems in humans?

Cat litter has been known to cause some upper respiratory tract effects in human beings. Let’s dive into some examples.

1.      Sodium bentonite allergy:

The most common and cheap available cat litter in your favorite store is probably a clay-based clumping litter.

This is great because of its super clumping ability and it can swell up to 15 times its original volume absorbing the cat poop and pee.

It makes scooping out the waste clumps easy while adding fresh litter, without cleaning out the entire box. This makes it a favorite for many cat owners.

However, with time, these clay-based litters which contain sodium bentonite and silica dust have been linked to upper respiratory infections in both cats and humans.

When ingested, they can cause gastrointestinal distress and even death in extreme cases.

Sodium bentonite clumping clay litter is dangerous, especially to kittens and aging cats. They ingest this toxic cat litter through inhalation and licking their paws.

In humans, when used as cat litter in the litter box, it causes upper respiratory infections such as cough, wheezing, and irritation of the mucus membrane.

This with prolonged exposure can cause more serious health conditions beyond the sodium bentonite allergy.

2.    Cat Dust Allergy:

Cat litter dust is common with clay-based litter.

Clay-based litters are excellent because they easily form a scoopable solid mass with moisture contact with excellent odor management. They absorb the urine to form clumps which you can easily scoop out leaving the fresh litter intact.

Clay-based litters, however, are a no-go zone if you have any respiratory problems.

This is because the dust from the clay can irritate the air passages and even trigger an asthma attack.

If cat litter dust enters your eyes, it will cause irritation and itching.

Substituting with a litter that is naturally derived, dust-free and hypoallergenic is beneficial for you.

3.      Litter box dermatitis in humans:

Fleas which are found on pets such as cats and consequently in the litter box can transmit a variety of viral, bacterial, and rickettsia diseases to humans.

When fleas pierce the skin of the host with their highly specialized mouthparts, Flea Allergy Dermatitis (F.A.D.) occurs originating from substances in flea saliva due to flea bites.

Scratching and itching are the most agonizing symptoms of flea bites in humans.

Flea bites cause itchy papules, especially on the ankles and bare feet which are the main target areas.

Flea bites may result in severe allergic reactions in susceptible individuals and scratching the bites can lead to secondary infection.

This results in litter box dermatitis in humans.

sick boy

Can cat litter cause hives in humans

Yes, cat litter can cause hives in humans. Hives are a form of a rash that appears as raised red patches on the skin. The patches are often itchy and may swell, causing small white bumps to develop. Hives usually disappear within a few days but can last longer.

4.      Bacteria in the porous litter box plastic:

Most litter trays are made of plastic which is a porous substance with microscopic holes that can potentially harbor bacteria.

 An automatic litter box will have more surfaces that are contaminated with bacteria. E.g toxoplasmosis

Did you know that contaminated litter boxes are the No. 1 source for transmission of toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that affects about 60 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?


Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by the parasite toxoplasma gondii. It is spread by contact with infected fecal material.

Toxoplasmosis poses a risk to pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, such as those with AIDS, organ transplants, or cancer.

Cats are one of the hosts that can carry and pass this parasite to humans through infectious cysts shed in their stool.

While an active toxoplasmosis infection generally causes mild flu-like symptoms in humans that go away on their own in a few days, it is very dangerous to fetuses in the first trimester of pregnancy.

5.      Cat urine allergy:

A multi-cat household with a limited number of litter boxes means that the cats will quickly fill up the boxes with poop and urine.

If the boxes aren’t scooped, there will be a buildup of ammonia due to the cat urine.

High ammonia levels can be dangerous and breathing in cat litter fumes constantly can affect you, causing you to be allergic to the cat urine.

Male cat urine has the strongest smell although the female cats excrete pungent urine too.

Older cats excrete urine that has a stronger odor than younger cats.

 The odor problems are mainly caused by ammonia, mercaptans, and other chemicals and gases produced from the urine and feces.

 Fresh urine has very little odor, but as soon as it lands on the litter box, it begins to decay.

Solutions to Reducing Cat Litter Box Allergies:

  1. Scoop the litter box twice a day
  2. Wash the kitty tray once every two weeks
  3. Keep the litter box away from ducts that circulate heat or air throughout the house
  4. Keep the litter box away from areas regularly used by anyone suffering from allergy issues
  5. Keep the cat litter pan away from the bedrooms and the main activity rooms.
  6. If you suffer from allergic reactions, don’t clean the cat litter boxes. If you have no other option, wear a mask and gloves while cleaning.
  7. Wipe your cat’s coat every week with Allerpet/C, focusing on the areas where your cat licks most often. It helps remove cat-related allergens before they are released into the air and circulate in the house.
  8. Use hypoallergenic cat litter made from natural sources such as paper litter, corn litter, or even silica crystals. A dust-free litter with no clumping agents or toxic clay is ideal for you.
  9. Use an air purifier with a filter to reduce the number of dust mites in the air. Clean surfaces, and cat litter mats too regularly to minimize the number of dust mites present.
  10. Vacuum your house thoroughly and frequently to get rid of allergens.
  11. If a plastic litter box proves problematic to you, switch to a metallic or ceramic litter tray.
  12. Use over-the-counter antihistamines to arrest the allergy even as you implement the above steps.


The cat litter box resting innocently in the corridor can be the cause of that sneezing and itchiness that never seems to go away.

It’s possible to be allergic to cat litter, and it can happen in more ways than one.

Allergies can be quite difficult to deal with, especially if you do not know what the trigger is.

If you suspect that you have a cat litter allergy symptom, try to slowly remove yourself from the environment.

You may find that once your allergies clear up that you can live with cats again.

The purpose of this article is to spread awareness. Many people are not aware of the fact that they may be allergic to cat litter.

 By informing those people, I can help them take precautions to ensure it’s not a health problem in the future.

With this newfound knowledge, I have tried to point you in the right direction and you can now take action.

However, if you have any sort of allergies it’s best to see a specialist and make sure that your allergies aren’t triggered by cat litter boxes.

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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