Can Clean Cat Litter Trigger Asthma Attacks in People?

by Genevieve Van Wyden, Demand Media
    Your cat litter could cause a family member to gasp for breath.

    Your cat litter could cause a family member to gasp for breath.

    If you or your children suffer from asthma, you need to understand the link between cat litter, its dust and asthma attacks. Your doctor already told you what triggers asthma attacks so, if you want to keep your feline fur baby with you, exercise some simple precautions.

    Asthma and Dust

    The least expensive -- read “cheap” -- cat litters are high in dust content. It never fails. When an asthmatic family member changes or cleans the cat litter box, he will end up dealing with shortness of breath, coughing, increased mucus production and wheezing. Time to make a beeline for the asthma inhaler.
    Because these cheapie litters are made from clay, they will fall apart in the bag and in the litter box, leading to the dust issue.

    Brand Quality Matters

    Cat litter manufacturers aren’t really trying to get you to part with your hard-earned money just to line their own bank accounts. They have done some detailed research into what makes a high-quality cat litter. Some of these features include good clumping action. Make sure your cat’s litter doesn’t contain silica quartz, which is a cancer-causing agent, for your cat as well as for you.
    A potentially good cat litter is pine -- it doesn’t produce dust, but the scent may turn your cat off. Another excellent choice is litter made from wheat or recycled corn husks. These litters are very absorbent. A third choice is litter made using silica gel. Find a brand that is nontoxic, bacteria resistant, unscented and that you can flush down the toilet. Oooh, so convenient!

    Cat Litter Dust

    Unless your little feline is a kitten, a clumping litter is perfectly safe, both for herself and you. The clumping action means that, not only is it easier to clean stuff from her litter box, it is relatively low in dust. When it’s time to clean, all you’ll need to do is stick that little scoop in and move it around, looking for and removing urine clumps and cat poop.

    Simple Prevention Tips

    For your asthmatic family member, a high-quality dust-repelling face mask is essential if he has to handle this lovely duty. Those cheap 10-to-a-package paper masks with an elastic band won’t work. They don’t hug your face and the dust will get in.
    Your family member will love this one -- he should not even attempt to change or clean your cat’s litter box. Because the risk of an attack could be high, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assign that duty to a non-asthmatic family member.

    About the Author

    Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images