Why Do Cats Eat Litter?
Ah, cats. These tiny little tigers keep us occupied for hours and make our hearts explode. But sometimes we find ourselves scratching our heads over their actions. For instance, the things they eat, like litter, will leave you with the question, “why is my cat eating cat litter?”.
You ask yourself this question after you place down their 5-course meal and wonder if this is them detesting the can or bag of food you laid out. “Is this something serious and deep?”. If this sounds like something you go through, then read on to find out more!
The Link to Pica in Cats Who Eat Litter
Cats (and dogs) like to eat things they aren’t supposed to. In the veterinary field (especially around the holidays) removing foreign objects from their abdomens is a common surgery. Eating things like their own poop or litter is sometimes what’s on their menu. Cats eating their feces is called coprophagia.
Veterinarians sometimes have to perform abdominal exploratory surgery. This happens when they are concerned that your cat ate something harmful. Your veterinarian(s) and licensed veterinary technicians need to prep your cat and go inside to find out what it is they ate, and remove it.
If your cat does this often, then it’s their behavior that needs to be fixed otherwise, you will find yourself in this position more than once. This behavior of eating things they shouldn’t is called Pica.
Your cat may just lick an odd substance and ingest these things, and that causes issues. Some common items are string, rope, toys, and litter. All are worth a close observation as they can lead to more serious issues.
Reasons Cats Eat Kitty Litter
Your cat-eating kitty litter can be because of one of two things. It can either be related to their health or behavior. If they are not eating their litter to fill a void or to try to heal themselves, this is a behavioral factor that can cause health issues.
When your cat eats litter because of a health concern, it’s usually acute and has an underlying cause. Anemia is one of those issues that can cause a cat to eat litter. Anemia is the condition where your cat lacks enough healthy red blood cells.
Anemia can lead to an iron deficiency and deficient in trace minerals, fatty acids, or essential vitamins. All of which are things that will cause an issue to your cat at the moment or down the road. To check for anemia, check your cat’s ears and gums for paleness.
You can also note if your cat has been lethargic. Kidney disease is another issue that can cause your cat to eat litter. To further diagnose kidney disease or anemia, your veterinarian will have to perform a complete blood cell count.
If your cat lacks nutrition, they may also turn to litter to find it. Cats require many essential vitamins and amino acids to remain healthy. Clay-based litter may contain some of these minerals, which would make your cat eat them to help balance their body.
Is Cat Litter Toxic to Cats?
The answer to this question has a few parts. In short, some litters are better than others. However, the danger lies within the ingredients. Some litters, such as clumping litter, can wreak havoc on your cat’s stomach and internal organs.
The ingredient that makes the litter clump is called sodium bentonite, and it can cause an intestinal blockage within your cat. In addition, it will cause clumping inside their stomach or intestines and can lead to bentonite toxicosis.
Other litters that do not clump aren’t as dangerous but can still cause an array of issues. If you are in the process of trying to stop your cat from eating litter, try to find a safer one. There are litters made from food sources that may keep your mind at ease while you try to find the underlying issue so that you can break the habit.
Is it Normal for Cats to Eat Litter?
Animals eating strange things may seem off to us, but it is normal behavior. Normal behavior can still lead to dangerous consequences and issues. It’s normal for your cat to be curious and want to explore.
Eating things is another way your cat can explore its curiosities. However, it is also a sign that they are trying to correct something within their body or a sign that they have an impulsive disorder.
It’s normal for cats to be curious and test the waters, but when the behavior becomes a habit, then it becomes abnormal. It’s especially abnormal if there’s an underlying health cause that’s making them feel a need to eat litter.
When looking into these things, you’re going to want to consider age. For example, kittens are generally more curious than adult cats and are more likely to behave abnormally out of curiosity.
The Results of Cat Litter Consumption in Cats
The type of litter your cat consumes will affect the severity of the danger afterward. Litter, in general, can lead to gastrointestinal obstructions, which are very dangerous for the well-being of your cat.
Clumping litter leads to a higher chance of obstruction due to its clumping nature. It can also lead to toxicity. The ingredients in the litter can also cause problems to your cat because of their chemical nature.
Other ingredients found in their litter will strip your cat of particular electrolytes, and scented litters can cause toxicities within your cat. If you use newspaper clippings or other natural products for litter and your cat is eating it, it’s a lot less dangerous.
However, you still want to keep an eye out for why your cat is doing this and make sure no blockages occur. If you are using a natural product, it is probably more so due to boredom, anxiety, or curiosity rather than an underlying health issue.
Nonetheless, getting your cat scoped out by your veterinarian should always be the first thing you do in the fight against their litter consumption.
How to Stop Your Cat from Eating Cat Litter
The first step in stopping your cat from consuming litter would be to pinpoint the underlying cause. First and foremost, taking your cat for an examination and blood work is essential to determine if your cat is malnourished, or suffering from anemia, or kidney disease.
If all of the underlying diseases are ruled out, then you’ll want to explore some behavioral reasons. For example, anxiety, boredom, or curiosity could be the reason your cat is eating litter. Introducing your cat to fun toys to engage with can help ease that boredom.
Also, catnip and other supplements can help them resist the urge to eat their litter. In the meantime, you will want to switch to a safer litter choice while you are troubleshooting. Speak to your vet about supplements and proper diet choices to ensure your cat has all the proper nutrition it needs.
The Final Say
Cats are generally curious animals; we all know the saying, right? As cat owners, we need to make sure their curiosities do not get the best of them. Eating a small consumption of cat litter can go by without causing any issues.
When it’s consumed in large amounts, and clumping litter is the main course, it’s imperative to stop the behavior in its tracks but further diving into what is causing your cat to do it in the first place. Make sure to always speak to your veterinarian and work with them on proper problem-solving.
Problem-solving includes an appropriate approach with a physical examination, bloodwork, and nutrition exploration. First, ensure your cat has what it needs to stay engaged and physically healthy. This way, they snack on their food and treats and not on their waste product.
Jaclyn is a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) who has a bachelors degree in journalism. Combining her two interests of writing, and veterinary medicine is a true passion. Jaclyn has already created her own blog called The Four Legged Nurse (@thefourleggednurse) and looks forward to contributing to I Love Veterinary! Jaclyn is blessed with two children, a wonderful husband, and four devoted fur babies. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, reading, and riding horses.