Categories: cat litter box

Are cats inhaling micro-plastics from plastic litter trays?

Cat uses litter tray. Picture: Warren Photographic and used here with his express permission.


It is emerging that micro-plastics are a major international hazard to the health of people and wildlife. Tiny particles of plastic are shed by clothing during washing which find their way to the oceans and anywhere else. I’m sure that all humans have micro-plastics inside them. There are many reasons one of which is that we eat fish and fish ingest micro-plastics in the oceans. It’s ironic because the dieticians advise that we eat more fish for health reasons and yet we are also eating plastic.


A study has found that a baby could ingest 2.6 million micro-plastic particles daily if they are fed from a plastic bottle containing formula milk. The bottles are heated up and the liquid is shaken inside the bottle. Sometimes they are put inside a microwave to heat the milk. All this apparently results in tiny particles of plastic being shed from the inside of the bottle into the milk which the baby then ingests. It is worrying to learn this. The research confirms that plastic pollution is not only in the air and in the oceans but inside people and animals. Our knowledge of plastic pollution is growing daily.

The research is published in Nature Food. The recommendation is to not reheat prepared formula milk in plastic containers, avoid microwaves and don’t shake the bottle vigorously. The researchers don’t want to alarm parents but they also want governments to reassess their guidelines. Not sterilising bottles outweighs the dangers from micro-plastic.

Plastic cat litter trays

It occurs to me that it is entirely plausible that plastic cat litter trays could shed micro-plastic particles which are kicked up with cat litter dust to be inhaled by cats using the litter tray. Cat litter dust is a known problem and some lightweight letters are particularly hazardous both because they produce more dust and because of the type of material used which can harm lungs because it is abrasive.

I think we can add to the list of domestic cat household hazards the possibility that there may be minute plastic particles in the air when a cat buries their faeces. When they do this they move the litter material around quite vigorously, which has an abrasive action on the plastic releasing small particles of plastic into the air.

I am of course speculating and there is no evidence for this but I still think it is worth making the point to highlight the often hidden dangers within the home for domestic cats. Hidden dangers such as chemicals in carpets, sofas and perfumed diffusers are lurking around the best cared for homes occupied by the most concerned cat guardian.

Type of litter

If I am correct a wood-based litter would be less likely to abrade the plastic as it is softer. Wood based litter is arguably more environmentally less damaging.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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