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I have a genetic, incurable autoimmune disease. This causes me to be chronically immunocompromised. Keeping a pet is a decision of weighing the benefits vs. possible health risks. I've decided the benefits far outweigh possible health risks; this is my choice and a personal one.

Can contact with cat feces be harmful for pregnant women? explains it is unsafe for pregnant women to come into contact with cat feces. The same holds true for the immunocompromised.

Can someone advise me on how to manage a cat litter box to reduce possible contact with the litter and feces?

12

The Centers for Disease Control, in an article about risks to pregnant women from toxoplasmosis (a parasite-induced infection), give the following advice on managing the litter box:

  • If you own a cat, have a non-pregnant person change the litter box every day. If there is no one else to change the litter box, wear gloves and wash hands with soap and running water after changing the litter.

  • Risk may be reduced if the litter box is changed every day.

  • Keep cats indoors.

  • Avoid adopting or handling stray cats.

  • Feed cats only canned or dried commercial cat food, never undercooked or raw meat.

  • Do not bring a new cat into your house that might have been an outdoor cat or might have been fed raw meat.

(They also note that you are more likely to contract this particular illness from eating undercooked meat than you are from your cat.)

While your concern is not pregnancy but a compromised immune system, it seems like the risk-mitigation strategy would be similar: minimize exposure. The CDC's advice seems to apply to your situation as much as to their original situation.

If you are concerned about airborne challenges to your immune system (I don't know if you are), you might add a mask to the gloves when scooping the litter.

  • +1 for keeping the cat indoors. This will help to protect both you and the cat. – mhwombat Apr 28 '15 at 22:27
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I have a cat genie which I seriously think is the best thing ever. Essentially, when the cat uses the litter box, it washes and dries the pvc granules, and all of the waste goes down the drain (they recommend either a laundry waste pipe or a toliet, but we also have one hooked up to a sink drain pipe, that took a bit more plumbing knowledge).

Benefits:

  • Improved smell
  • Reduced dust
  • No handling of waste (other than once every 6 month cleaning of entire box assembly)
  • Supplies are lighter (we live in a 3 story townhouse, so carrying heavy litter around was annoying)
  • Fewer litter boxes (for 4 cats we run 3 cat genies, but should have 5 traditional style boxes)

Downsides:

  • Environmental concerns (they say the pellets are biodegradable, but I don't know; on the west coast there are concerns about flushing cat waste w/some of the wildlife).
  • Cost (the boxes and supplies are expensive)
  • Not sold locally (have to plan in advance not to run out of supplies!)
  • Extra electricity/water costs (essentially a toliet flush and 30 minute hair dryer each time your cat uses the litter box).
  • The pellets track worse than traditional litter.
  • Doesn't handle runny poop well (and one of our cats has IBS, so sometimes has runny poops). It smells terrible, so we run the bathroom vent fan for 30 minutes or so and then it's fine.

Hopefully that gives you a clear picture of what it's like to live with the cat genie litter boxes! I only know of one person who tried it and went back to traditional litter, and that was at the request of his landlord while he was in transition (while you're training the cat to use the new litter box, you leave a traditional box nearby and don't clean it, so it can get pretty terrible for a week or two).

  • 30 minute hair dryer? Or did you mean second? (I've no experience with these devices yet, but it sounds like something worth investigating.) – Monica Cellio Oct 25 '13 at 18:36
  • I haven't ever exactly timed the drying cycle, but it's much closer to 30 minutes than 30 seconds. Also, some folks have used the voltage differential when the dryer is running to automate ventilation fans for the runny poop situation, so it's a significant amount of electricity (though we have so many electronics we didn't notice it in our bill). – Zaralynda Oct 25 '13 at 19:00
  • @Zaralynda very comprehensive +1. I have kept Monica's answers as accepted, as it deals with litter handling generally, rather than just one system. But this is useful, and most descriptive. ty – In loving memory of Dyani Oct 26 '13 at 6:39
5

Maybe you should consider training your cat to use the toilets. I find it has many advantages :

  • no more time and money spent on litter ;
  • ecofriendly (much less CO₂ and pollution and probably less water, since you don't need litter factories and transport of litter bags anymore — but you have to pay the bill for the toilet flush) ;
  • odor-free ;
  • and the most relevant point to your issue : much more hygienic as the cat don't have to walk in dirty litter anymore, and you don't have to clean the litter box either.

I won't make advertisement but you can easily find training kits on the web.

BTW, this answer is probably a good place to emphasize again that "unsafe" is a big word, odds to be contaminated by a cat seem quite small. ;)

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