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Can Cat Pee Make You Sick? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

cat sitting near pee spot on the bed

Can Cat Pee Make You Sick? Vet Approved Facts & Safety Tips

VET APPROVED

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Alice Athow-Frost

Veterinarian, BVM BVS MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

We all know that cat pee smells awful, but did you know that cat pee can be harmful to you and can cause allergic reactions in people who are allergic to cats?

But just how dangerous is cat pee, how should you clean it up, and how do you get your cat to use the litter box a bit more? Let’s get into the details below.

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Is Cat Pee Toxic?

Not only does cat pee smell terrible, but cat pee can also release ammonia, a toxic gas, if it isn’t cleaned away quickly.  Prolonged exposure to ammonia can lead to allergic reactions in humans or the exacerbation of a person’s allergies. Because of this, you need to be very careful when cleaning up cat pee that you clean it all away, and if your cat is urinating anywhere other than in their litter box, you need to address it right away.

What Are Side Effects of Breathing Cat Urine Ammonia?

The ammonia that is produced when bacteria break down urea (a natural component of cat urine) can cause respiratory issues for both you and your cat.   Concentrations of over 2500 ppm are potentially fatal, but luckily, ammonia smells terrible so people are aware of it even at low concentrations, and leave places with high ammonia gas immediately, if they can. Cat urine from a few pet cats is highly unlikely to reach anywhere near a toxic level, but it’s best to practice caution, especially if you have more cats than this.

Ammonia, even at much lower concentrations can irritate your lungs and eyes, which is extremely uncomfortable. Because of this, you need to take precautions if you’re around cat urine regularly.

cat using cat litter
Image Credit: jamesjoong, Shutterstock

Other Dangers of Cat Urine

People who are allergic to cats are allergic to a protein known as Fel-D1 that is found in cat saliva, dander and urine.  The protein causes flare ups of allergies for those that suffer, usually leading to itchy eyes, a running nose and an itchy throat.  Those that suffer from asthma can also be triggered by Fel-D1.  Signs can be a whole lot worse for those with severe allergies.  Fel-D1 is not a danger to those without cat allergies or asthma, so if you have someone in the house without these conditions, ask them to clear the litter box.

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How to Clean Up Cat Urine

If your cat urinated somewhere they shouldn’t, you need to clean it up right away, but there are a few things you should know before you start scrubbing.

1. Wear Gloves and a Mask

It might seem excessive, but it’s a small step that can make a huge difference. Wear the proper protective equipment when cleaning up cat urine, especially if it has gone unnoticed for a period of time.  This means wearing disposable gloves and a high-quality face-mask. Your safety should always be your top priority.  When cat urine is fresh, it won’t be producing much ammonia at all, as it takes some time for bacteria to start breaking down the urea to ammonia.  Therefore, fresh cat urine is much less of a threat to you.

Gloves placed on hands
Photo Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

2. Ventilate the Area

In addition to cleaning the affected area, you should ventilate the area as much as possible. This will help clear the ammonia gas  and smell from the air, making it safe to breathe sooner rather than later.


3. Thoroughly Clean It Right Away

When you discover cat pee, you need to start cleaning it up right away instead of letting it sit there. The exact cleaning method you use will vary depending on the surface, but whatever you do, do it sooner rather than later so that less ammonia gas is released. Also, keep in mind that you’ll want to use an enzymatic cleaner to try and keep your cat from revisiting the area.

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Top 8 Tips for Litter Training Cats

One of the best ways to ensure your cat urinates only in its litter tray is to get them successfully toilet trained. This isn’t usually a problem, but if you have a cat struggling to consistently use their box, we’ve highlighted several tips and tricks you can try to get them completely litter box trained.

1. Get the Right Litter

Most of the time, cats won’t use the litter box because they don’t like the type of litter you’re offering. Each cat is different, so there’s no one right or wrong option here. Find what works for your cat and stick with it!

gray kitten sleeps in the cat litter box
Photo Credit: Dikova Maria, Shutterstock

2. Get Enough Litter Boxes

If your cat can’t find the litter box or if there aren’t enough litter boxes for them, then they might try to find somewhere else to relieve themselves. You need at least one litter box on each floor of your home, and you always need one more litter box than you have cats.

This means if you live in a 3-story home with four cats, you need at least five litter boxes. Even if you only have two cats in an apartment, you should have at least three litter boxes. The general rule is one litter box per cat, plus one.


3. Put Litter Boxes in the Right Place

Cats like litter boxes in quiet places that aren’t too hard to get to, and it’s up to you to find the perfect place to put them in your home. If there’s too much going on around the litter box or your cat can’t easily get to it, they might find somewhere else to go instead.


4. Keep the Litter Box Clean

Cats don’t like using dirty litter boxes, and if it’s too dirty for them, they’ll find somewhere that is cleaner. Scooping their litter box once a day goes a long way in ensuring they’ll keep using it day after day. You should also aim to do a full clean of their box about once a week.

woman cleaning cat litter tray
Photo Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

5. Introduce Them to the Litter Box

Your cat won’t use the litter box if they don’t know where it’s at, so anytime you add a litter box or move a litter box, you need to introduce them to it. Simply putting them in the clean litter box should be more than enough to get them to come back and use it in the future.


6. Keep Your Home Clean

If your home is dirty, it can be confusing for your cat, and they might think the dirty laundry or the dirtiest part of your home is where they should relieve themselves. Keeping your home clean goes a long way in ensuring a cat only relieves themselves where they should.


7. Stay Positive!

It’s easy to get negative when your cat is urinating somewhere they shouldn’t, but you don’t want your cat to keep hiding the behavior. If you stay positive by encouraging them to use the litter box and rewarding them for doing so, you’ll get much better results.


8. See a Vet

If your cat is urinating outside of the litter box when they normally don’t, then you need to take them to the vet. Cats are very good at hiding signs of illness, and not using their litter box could be their way of telling you that something is wrong.  Cats might urinate around the house due to stress, urinary tract disease such as cystitis, an increased need to urinate due to kidney disease or diabetes mellitus, or because they can’t get into the box due to a sore leg or back.  Visiting a vet is a very important first step if your cat is suddenly urinating inappropriately.

vet wearing protective gloves checking skin health of fluffy cat
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

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Final Thoughts

Now that you know a little more about why cat pee isn’t good for you and how to clean it up, it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to sanitize your home and ensure your cat starts using their litter box in the future. We know it can be a frustrating process, but once you get it under control, you’ll have a great furry friend to spend your days with—and a clean, fresh-smelling home!


Featured Image Credit: Creative Cat Studio, Shutterstock

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