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Is Clumping Cat Litter Safe for Cats?
Posted by Abby Rosenberg on March 30, 2012
Filed under PetMeds Spotlight

Many cat-owners appreciate the convenience of clumping cat litter, which makes it easy to scoop both solid and liquid waste from your cat’s litter box.  This keeps the litter box smelling cleaner for longer, reducing the frequency of completely changing out and replacing the litter. However, you should be aware that clumping litter may pose a danger to young kittens.

The safety of clumping litter is actually a controversial topic. While there is nothing in the scientific literature documenting the health hazards to cats of clumping litter, there are many anecdotal reports from pet owners relating problems their own cats have had that the pet parent relates to the use of clumping litter. Clumping litters usually contain sodium bentonite, which is a natural clay. Even though sodium bentonite is considered to be an inert, non-toxic substance, many clumping litters form very hard, cement-like clumps which are not safe to be flushed as they may clog the plumbing in your home. Additionally, sodium bentonite expands many times when it comes into contact with water.

Young kittens are naturally curious and are more likely to try to taste-test litter than are adult cats. Kittens are also messier than adult cats and more likely to get litter stuck to their fur and paws, which they subsequently ingest upon grooming. It is easy to see how ingestion of clumping litter could easily cause intestinal distress or blockages in small kittens. The ASPCA notes that “…while there has been no proof to claims of problems in scientific literature, caretakers may wish to delay introducing kittens to clumping litter until 3 to 4 months of age.”

In the absence of scientific documentation regarding the safety of clumping cat litter, pet parents must decide for themselves whether or not to use clumping litters. It may be prudent reserve the use of clumping cat litters to adult cats and older kittens that are less likely to ingest the litter.  You can also consider use of a system such as the Tidy Cat Breeze cat litter system, which uses non-clumping, non-tracking, dust-free large clay pellets which don’t cling to your cat’s paws or fur.

What are your thoughts on clumping cat litter?

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9 Responses to “Is Clumping Cat Litter Safe for Cats?”

  1. Carole on 10 Dec 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    I’ve had my 2 cats for 6 1/2 yrs with never any infection. I changed their litter to clumping about 1 month ago. Last week one cat was DX with an eye infection & today the other with an ear infection> Coincidence? I really don’t think so.

  2. Lori on 18 Jan 2013 at 2:01 am #

    I have a cat that pukes after he uses the litter box (with clumping litter). Or, it is possible he is on his way TO the litter box to puke (apparently, some cats are tidy enough they do head for the box to blurch). Any thoughts on this?

  3. Dana on 25 Apr 2013 at 4:29 am #

    We lost a kitten from our 1st litter. He died from ingesting and inhaling Tidy Cat clay clumping cat litter. It hardened in his digestive tract (just like it would clog household plumbing if flushed) and jellified in his lungs (from inhaling the dust created when they scratch around in the box). After he died and found an article online relative to the dangers of clay clumping litters, I took my dead kitten straight into the vets office to confirm my findings. The loss of our kitten was unncessary and I will spread the news to every person I possibly can – CLAY CLUMPING LITTER KILLS!

  4. kate on 14 Nov 2013 at 9:27 am #

    does anyone know if tidy cats breeze is safe for very small littens? My month old kittens seem to want to try to eat them. I worry about choking.

  5. Heather W. on 23 Jan 2014 at 6:11 am #

    After 2 weeks of using a clumping cat litter, 2 of my cats got sick. Sachelle began vomiting a sticky light yellow liquid substance. Whenever something goes wrong, I try to think about what is different..what have I been buying or doing differently and thank goodness, put 2 and 2 together,,stopped buying that crap clumping litter and both cats had no more issues.

    If you put tacky tinsel on your Xmas tree even though you know it’s dangerous to cats/pets and you care more about your drapes and sofa that nobody will remember in a few years – DON’T HAVE A CAT – They deserve better!

  6. Drax on 19 Jun 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    Carole: “I’ve had my 2 cats for 6 1/2 yrs with never any infection. I changed their litter to clumping about 1 month ago. Last week one cat was DX with an eye infection & today the other with an ear infection> Coincidence? I really don’t think so.”

    This is the definition of a coincidence.

  7. Madeleine on 28 Sep 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    In defense:

    I have had cats for over 30 years. Granted, all my cats but one were adults when adopted/rescued. For the past 20 years, I have used clumping litter and not one of my cats developed a litter ball blockage. And this is from one who was very resistant to clumping at the beginning for the same reasons as stated above. I am a very conservative cat mom and look to the health of my cats obsessively. I would do nothing to endanger their health.

    I would suggest for those who have very young kittens that it seems prudent to use non-clumping as very young kittens, like children, are curious as to what things taste like. However, when your kit is beyond 5-6 months old, I would not hesitate to use clumping all the while monitoring whether they are making it their dinner. By then, they should know what the litter is for and that it doesn’t taste at all like a good food alternative.

  8. Glendon Thomlison on 18 Oct 2014 at 1:19 am #

    Since 1973 we have been owned by 1-5 cats. When the clumping litter came out, we knew nothing of the problems with the new material. All we knew was that two working people were delighted to be able to clean the boxes in minutes. We loved it, moreover, it ended up being less expensive because we were not throwing out a whole box of stinking litter every week. We loved it. Still do.

    Then came rumblings of troubles with sick or dead animals. We had none of that with the dozens of animals (many were rescues and/or fosters) over the years. We have healthy animals and we smell very good. Guests have commented on not noticing any \cat smell.\

  9. Linda on 20 Nov 2014 at 8:27 am #

    The odor of the clumping litter is so intense it makes me gag when I fill the litter box. I can imagine what this does to my cat, which is why she probably has quit covering her waste. I agree it’s more convenient, but with all the chemicals involved, I’m sure it has repercussions. I think I’ll switch back to a more natural product. I really liked the product called Feline Pine.

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