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Litter Box Safety

Litter Box Safety

When a drum of nuclear waste exploded in New Mexico last year, a chemical reaction between organic kitty litter (used to help absorb spills of uranium, plutonium and americium) and drum contents was to blame. Seems kitty litter can cause serious health risks!

For some people the immediate hazard is a parasite --Toxoplasma gondii or T. gondii --that lives in the cat gut.It can infect humans if they touch feces or contaminated material such as kitty litter and then accidently ingest it. According to the CDC, more than 60 million people in the US are infected, although most don’t have obvious symptoms. (People can also get the parasite from contaminated meats, water and unwashed fruits and vegetables.)  

People with a weakened immune system and pregnant women have long been warned to keep their distance from cat feces. (Congenital toxoplasmosis can cause stillbirth and miscarriage.) Two studies indicate that T. gondii might be an even more serious public health problem.

Researchers have found that people infected with T. gondii are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia (and perhaps other mental disorders) as those who aren’t infected; chances go from 1 in 100 to 2 in 100.

 

Individuals who may have a genetic predisposition to develop such disorders are probably better off without a cat. But for most cat lovers, there’s good news. The parasite doesn’t become infectious until 1 to 5 days after it’s been shed in the animal's feces. So cleaning out the kitty litter (using gloves) daily should reduce the risks.

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