Categories: cat litter

Is clumping cat litter safe?

Clumping cat litter — Image: Viacheslav Blizniuk/Fotlia.

Is clumping cat litter safe? There are at least two examples on this website which demonstrate that clumping litter is not always safe. These two examples alone are a warning sign of sufficient gravity, I would have thought, to exclude this type of cat litter for use by kittens. For my part, I would never use it based upon what I have read here.

Dana

One example comes from a recent comment written by Dana who is a breeder of dwarf cats, specifically the Munchkin and the Napoleon. About clumping litter she said:

Yes it is very true that clay clumping cat litter can be deadly to your cats – especially young kittens! I am a breeder of the Munchkin/Napoleon breed and learned this lesson the hard way. One of our babies from our first litter of kittens suddenly became very ill around 5 wks old. The vet didn’t know what the cause was and advised me to “force feed” him via a syringe. He died on my chest during a feeding. Turns out he was ingesting the cat litter and it solidified in his stomach – like a concrete block! Even the dust from this clay can cause masses in the respiratory system as well! It’s horribly unhealthy for any animal!

So if Dana asked the question: ‘Is clumping cat litter safe?‘, she’d have to say no.

Claudette

And several years ago, Claudette, living in Canada, wrote about her experience of losing a British Shorthair cat with whom she had lived for four years.

Claudette said:

“I had the pleasure of owning a British Shorthair Cat for 4 years. He was a real gentleman and very smart as well.

I have lost my cat to cancer, after switching my cat litter to clumping litter. My cat died 3 month after I switched to this new cat litter bought at Costco.

Please don’t buy any clumping cat litter, it can be a hazard to your cat.

My vet does not think that was the problem, but I know that was the problem. He was bringing up clay and particles of cat litter.

The good news is I will be getting a new cat around August and I will be using wood pellet, recommended by my breeder.

From a cat lover..Claudette

Once again if Claudette asked: ‘Is clumping cat litter safe?’, she’d have to say no as well. Very definitely a no.

Here, then, are two good examples which tell us that clumping cat litter is not always safe.

Young kittens can be curious about clumping litter and try to taste it. Particles of the litter can get stuck in their paws which is subsequently licked off and ingested. There can be a build up over time inside a kitten which can be fatal as a hard clump is formed inside the digestive tract.

The ASPCA suggested that caretakers might like to wait until kittens are 3 to 4 months of age before introducing them to clumping cat litter.

Another dangerous cat litter

Another form of cat litter is also potentially dangerous (or definitely dangerous) namely the very lightweight version of litter which causes dust to fly around. I have several pages on Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter. The general gist of the articles is that the litter is dangerous because it contains an abrasive substance called perlite aka volcanic glass. There’s a story on this site stating that this litter allegedly killed four Tonkinese kittens.

Crystalline silica is used in the manufacture of Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter. As I understand it, crystalline silica is made up of 80% bentonite and 30% perlite.

Dana, as you can see, converted to a wood-based litter because it’s safer. When I was using cat litter, I always used wood-based litter. At present my cat goes to the toilet outside in the garden where I have a special area for him.

I would welcome the input of others on this difficult subject. Many years ago I did a breakdown on the environmental impact of using clay or wood-based litters, which may interest someone.

There are many other pages on this site about cat litter. Please use the search tool to find what you are looking for.

Please comment here using either Facebook or WordPress (when available).
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.

View Comments

  • So is there any consensus as to which litter is the safest and most healthy for an indoor cat? My kitty Nikki Hana, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge four months ago, was six weeks shy of 21 years old. She used pine litter her whole life. However, the pellets were reformulated when the company sold the line to another manufacturer. The new pellets were larger and had sharp edges. I think they really hurt her feet the last few years. During the last year, after a stroke which left her very visually impaired, and bad arthritis in her back legs, she insisted on only using the floor. 😢😢💜💜💜🐾

  • I also have a cat who chose a couple spots outside in the dirt where he goes; I just have to remember to let him out after he eats to use it. I do mix in some sand and keep it tidy as well. There's also a newspaper-based litter (pellets) that I tried (for my cats) which I probably stopped using due to it just not working well, but it might be better for kittens based on what we've read here.

    Once a cat has chosen a spot outside (like the middle of your well manicured lawn) there's nothing you can do to change his mind about it short of a little electrified fence and an armed guard. Even then he'll probably still find a way to go there.

    Then there are cats who refuse to use the only place in the house for them (litter box). They do think for themselves at least, which I think is a concept foreign to many people.

  • We used clumping litter for my first cats. My cat, Tuffy, developed mega colon which is a stretching of the colon so that the animal becomes constipated and has to eventually have enemas which also require being anesthetized. She eventually had an operation which removed part of the colon. It was a new procedure for veterinarians to perform. We were also users of the clumping litter when it first came out along with the automatic litter box cleaner. We thought this would be good for the cats to have their box cleaned immediately after use because there was an electronic eye in it. Somewhere along the line my vet realized that the clumping litter had concrete in it. We immediately stopped using it and have never used it since. Tuffy’s mother also died of a blockage and it was before practice vets outside of medical centers had X-ray equipment. As I was writing this, I just realized it might have been the litter too.

    • Sorry about Tuffy. I had a cat who suffered mega colon. I know how he suffered and I did everything I could to help him with that short of surgery. He died before that was necessary. Yes, I've also thought that the clay has or acts like concrete in their lungs and intestine... very bad.

      • I have always used wood based but I know clumping is popular. Wood based is a better odor suppressor.

  • I use pine litter for my daughter. It is the only thing I can think of to use that is safe. Unless of course we can get our kids to use the toilet. Some do. How their parents get them to do that is beyond me.

    • Pine is a good place for bacteria and fungal spores to grow, so be sure to change it often even if it doesn't smell bad. The manufacturers add odor control but that's toxic as well.

      Honestly there's not much humans do to keep cats around that isn't toxic...

      • Damn. Well, that sucks big time! I do actually change it often. Thanks Albert. You would think they would make something safe for our kids to use??

  • The wheat based litters allow fungal spores to grow very quickly. Warm urine and faeces create the perfect nutrient mix for these often lethal spores.

    Wood has its own fungicidal properties too.

      • Curious that.

        Conifers are known to produce sap that contains phenolics that are by nature antifungal & antibacterial. Pine disinfectants were once common.

        High note phenols are known as lethally toxic to cats.

        Could the processing of pine wood into litter pellets destroy the antifungal/antibacteral properties?

        I'm assuming that wood pellet litter is made from softwood conifers.

        Most species of trees have sap that has antibacterial/antifungal properties, according to what threats prevail in the environment.

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