If you have a feline friend, than you're all too familiar with what a litter box smells like. The pungent smell might make you gag, but it is really harmful? If you clean his litter box often enough, probably not. However, there are some risks from a stinky litter box.
What Causes Litter Odor?
The most offensive litter box stench is ammonia. Just like us or his canine counterpart, his pee contains ammonia, about .05 percent. Household cleaners typically contain 5 to 10 percent, so the amount is relatively low. Since he doesn't drink as much water, Kitty's pee becomes concentrated and has a yellow or amber color. If cleaned frequently, his box shouldn't have too many offensive smells. Never use ammonia-based household cleaners to clean his litter box or any messes he makes, however. Since it smells like urine, he'll be more likely to mark there in the future.
Dangers of Ammonia
Short-term exposure to low-levels of ammonia is pretty harmless, but it doesn't take much to become irritating. While 50 ppm or less is the considered a harmless amount of airborne ammonia, at only 100 parts per million, ammonia can cause eye and nose irritation. Inhalation can cause burns in the nose and throat, coughing and swelling of the airways. High concentrations exposed to your skin for more than a few minutes can cause burns or severe eye injury, however the amount in cat urine isn't usually strong enough to cause corrosive effects. This is typically only seen in concentrations of around 25 percent, such as some industrial-strength cleaners. You can adapt to the smell of ammonia, meaning you don't notice it much when exposed to it on a daily basis. This can mean that you could be exposed to low-levels over a long period of time and not realize it, leading to the development of asthma. Your kids are more at-risk for side effects than adults in your home.
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
Pregnant women are posed a special risk from the litter box. Cat feces carry a parasite called toxoplasma gondii that is usually harmless for people with a healthy immune system. However, for pregnant women it poses the risk of developing the disease toxoplasmosis, which can cause pregnancy complications, including loss of the baby. Remember that while this is a potential risk from the litter box, it isn't specifically from the smell. Pregnant women should avoid changing the litter box, so someone else needs to step up to handle that job. Daily cleaning reduces risk. If you must do the litter box when pregnant, wear gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after doing so.
Keeping Litter Odor Free
The best way to keep litter odors down is daily cleaning of the litter box. If you have multiple cats, make sure you have enough boxes for all your pals. Each kitty should have his own box. If you use a scoopable litter, dump the entire box every week and soak the box in hot water. For stubborn messes, you can add a gentle dish soap. This will keep the smell down for both you and kitty and help prevent him going to the bathroom outside his box. Baking soda or litter box deodorizer added to the litter with each cleaning helps prevent a stinky litter box. Add some clean litter to his box after you scoop to replace what was taken out. If kitty makes a mess outside his box, try using a cleaner made for kitty pee cleanup. They include enzymes that destroy urine and discourage kitty using the bathroom there again.