Dirty litter boxes can cause your cat health problems! Cats can develop painful kidney infections, bladder infections, bladder stones, and urinary tract infections if their litter boxes are not kept clean. Leaving a litter box too long before cleaning can also lead to stress in cats, which can exacerbate these issues.

Common Cat Health Problems Caused by Dirty Litter Boxes

Most veterinarians recommend daily scooping and weekly litter changes to best protect your cat’s health. Read on to learn more about the problems that a dirty litter box can cause and why you should make scooping a daily habit.

1. Urinary Tract Infections

When a litter box does not get cleaned properly, they risk squatting over and stepping in old excretions. Bacteria from festering waste can travel up the urethra, causing a urinary tract infection (UTI). 

Symptoms of feline UTIs include:

  • Frequent urination, but only passing a small amount of urine 
  • Urinating outside the litter box 
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Crying out in pain while urinating 
  • Increased licking of urinary opening

2. Feline Interstitial Cystitis

This inflammation of the bladder causes lower urinary tract disease. While the exact cause of feline interstitial cystitis is unknown, stress often plays a large factor. Stress caused by a dirty litter box can manifest itself as an inflammation of nerves, including those that fill the bladder. 

Symptoms of feline interstitial cystitis include:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating in inappropriate places in the house
  • Crying out during attempts to urinate
  • Blood-tinged urine

3. Bladder Stones

Bladder stones form when minerals and organic materials accumulate in the bladder. Usually the result of inflammation or disease, bladder stones block the urethra, making it difficult or impossible for your cat to urinate. Typically caused by urinary tract infections, they are often linked to dirty litter boxes. 

Symptoms of bladder stones include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Genital licking
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Painful urination
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Urinary tract obstruction (especially in males)
  • Urine spraying
  • Passing urine in unusual places

Litter Box Management

Empty the litter box frequently and clean it well before refilling to protect your cat’s health and safety. You can also provide more than one litter box throughout the house to help prevent stress when one gets dirty. Many cats prefer a large litter box, because it provides more room. 

Check the height of the litter box to make sure your cat can get in and out easily, especially if they are advanced in age or have trouble with stiff joints. The type of litter can also play a role with how comfortable cats feel while using the box. Always place the litter box in a safe location so your cat feels calm and undisturbed while using it. 

Can a Dirty Litter Box Make a Cat Sick?

Yes, it can! Don’t let your cat suffer any health problems from a dirty litter box. Keep it clean and contact us if you notice any changes in their urinating habits. Anasazi Animal Clinic offers non-invasive ultrasound imaging and radiographs to make the correct diagnosis. If your cat is in pain, we also offer emergency vet and urgent care services. Call us today to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and treatment.

Photo by Litter Robot on Unsplash