Cat Litter and Allergies

Most people only think of having pet allergies with the pet itself, and this is correct. However, you also must consider other things that are associated with cats in their daily life.  In a post, I mentioned eliminating carpeted cat trees, non-machine washable bedding, and a little about cat litter.  I received some questions (please ask your questions in the comments; someone may have the same issue), so I thought an explanation of why litter is important is needed.

Of course, if you are like me, you have other allergies in addition to pet dander. I’ve said in several posts if you are allergic to cats/dogs you are allergic to the entire animal and not just the fur. When cats use the litter box, they leave a bit of themselves in it. Urine and feces don’t completely stay in the box, but it’s not only because your cat is kicking litter out.  Urine and Feces travel microscopically all over the place (check out this episode of The Myth Busters about feces and toothbrushes). This means you are exposed to the pesky protein that much more.  For human pee and poop, the levels are relatively small. We flush after, and we wash our hands, so the opportunity for your waste to travel is diminished. Not so much with the cat as you know.  It still is minimal, but depending on how pronounced your allergies and how long that exposure persists, it can be an issue.

Low Dust
You see the claim of “99% Dust Free” on many types of litters.  Dust free is not about not seeing the dust.  The term refers to how many particles per cubic meter is measured in the air. The manufacturer estimates the dust in litter just like your local weather company measures pollen.  The dust like the pollen is not what you can visually see, but rather what lingers on a microscopic level.  Though a product can have small dust, it does not mean it is dust free.  NO product is dust free.
The residue you see should give you pause if you are trying to choose which litter to use.  All cats toss litter to a point. If your litter 's hard to clean up (whether sweeping or vacuuming), and you have allergies, consider a change.

Litter ingredients
When speaking of ingredients, I’m not talking about the chemicals.  Most litter at its base is made from natural materials.  Silica and clay are both mined.  Corn is harvested, Paper and wood are trees.  All litter goes through a processing and some of that included chemicals.  But in considering allergies; what if you are allergic to pine trees?  If you are, you may want to avoid litters with pine scents or made from pine.  I am testing out Okocat wood litter.  From the company website, they say “√∂kocat litter is a blend of spruce, fir, and pine.”  I am allergic to some trees, although I need to check with my allergist if any of these are in my panel.  I know many people who have issues with silica (the microparticles are larger and cause more irritation). Either way, something more to consider.

The Alternatives
If you are having problems with litter and allergies, there are non-litter boxes.  There are automated systems that use either washable litter or require minimal handling of waste.  These would be Litter Robot, CatGenie, Scoop Free, and the systems that teach your cat to use the toilet like Litter Kwitter.  Except for the latter, these can be expensive to set up and maintain, although the company says you make up for the initial cost when you no longer have to purchase cat litter month to month.   There is also a size restriction to these machines and in the case of toilet training if this practice can cause some confusion in the cat.  Since I’ve not tried any of these, I don’t have an opinion on the validity of these sentiments.

Though I am testing out the ok cat, I have used World’s Best Cat Litter for years.  I as did many took issue with how much the formula changed from its original. The product once was mostly husk but use more of the processed corn product toss off (less corn husk, more other stuff).  The company now provides the product closer to its original, and that is what we use.

As with all litter, it is important to take your cat’s opinion into consideration.  Despite your difficulties, your cat’s preference should be primary in your decision. 

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