Health Effects From Breathing Cat Urine Odor

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The ammonia in Fluffy's urine can leave some feeling sick.
The ammonia in Fluffy's urine can leave some feeling sick. (Image: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Cat urine contains ammonia which becomes stronger the longer it sits. Ammonia in liquid form at high levels can be quite corrosive. Most cat urine does not contain enough ammonia to cause serious health problems; sometimes, however, if it is concentrated enough, perhaps because it has sat too long in the litter box or seeped into the floor, it may cause unpleasant physical symptoms.

Why Cat Urine Is Dangerous

Cat fur may not be the culprit of people suffering from allergies.
Cat fur may not be the culprit of people suffering from allergies. (Image: Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Cat urine is very concentrated, so a small amount can smell very strong. Dried cat urine becomes crystallized, which causes strong odor. Generally, healthy people are not at risk by smelling it. However, if the odor is particularly strong and the concentration is particularly high, some people may have negative physical symptoms as a result.

Many people suffering from cat allergies believe their pet's fur is the cause of their suffering. This may not necessarily be true. People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems, which causes them to be allergic to any number of things. Often, cat urine is the culprit.

Symptoms of a Cat Urine Allergy

A stuffy nose and sneezing are some symptoms of a cat allergy
A stuffy nose and sneezing are some symptoms of a cat allergy (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Symptoms of a cat allergy include coughing and wheezing; hives or a rash on the chest or face; red, irritated eyes; and a runny, itchy or stuffy nose and sneezing. Allergies aside, excessive cat urine can also cause other unpleasant physical effects such as headache, dizziness, sore throat, lightheadedness, nausea and vomiting.

Serious Illnesses Contributed to Exposure to Ammonia

Cat urine contains ammonia which is dangerous to breathe.
Cat urine contains ammonia which is dangerous to breathe. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Those that are exposed to highly concentrated cat urine ammonia, or are exposed to it over a lengthy period of time, are susceptible to developing serious illnesses and injuries such as bronchitis or pneumonia, burns to the trachea and lung irritation. In extremely dire situations, people can experience Asphyxiation (suffocation.)

Breathing in ammonia irritates the airway, often making it difficult to breathe. Coughing up phlegm is often a symptom of a respiratory infection. Children are at greater risk for developing symptoms and illnesses due to the fact that their body weight ratio is lower than adults.

Preventing Cat Urine Odor and Exposure

Take the time to daily clean your cat's litter box.
Take the time to daily clean your cat's litter box. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Make sure litter boxes are not in carpeted areas in order to prevent ammonia from seeping into carpets and crystallizing. It is also important to empty litter boxes at least once a day and immediately clean up cat urine from a cat who has sprayed or for some other reason soiled the floor. Placing a litter tray liner in your cat’s litter box can help minimize spillage while emptying the litter. Using pine or cedar sawdust as your cat’s litter may be helpful because both types of wood—pine in particular—absorb fluid and neutralize ammonia.

If your cat’s urine regularly smells like strong ammonia, it may be a sign that he has a urinary tract infection and may need to see a veterinarian.

Litter Box Maintenance

Make sure your cat litter box is clean to prevent toxic ammonia levels.
Make sure your cat litter box is clean to prevent toxic ammonia levels. (Image: Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

It is important to empty litter boxes at least once a day and clean up cat urine from a cat who has sprayed or for some other reason soiled the floor immediately. Placing a litter tray liner in your cat’s litter box can help minimize spillage while emptying the litter. Using pine or cedar sawdust as your cat’s litter may be helpful because both types of wood – pine in particular – absorb fluid and neutralize ammonia.

How to Clean Up Cat Urine

Diluted water with vinegar is the best way to clean up cat urine
Diluted water with vinegar is the best way to clean up cat urine (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

If possible, dry the area with a rag or paper towel. Blot, do not rub, the area as you may spread the urine around. A mixture of hot water, peroxide and baking soda may work to get the urine out. Vinegar diluted to 20 to 25 percent with water may also get it out.

NEVER use an ammonia-based cleaner to clean up cat urine. It can react with the ammonia in the cat urine and make the problem worse. The scent will also draw the cat back to the same spot to urinate again.

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