No scientific studies on potential dangers of sodium bentonite clumping cat litter

Despite a long-standing and ongoing discussion about the potential dangers of sodium bentonite clumping cat litter to the cats that use it, there have been no scientific studies to either disprove or confirm anecdotal evidence. By “anecdotal evidence” people mean first-hand experiences or discussions by cat owners and casual observers. It’s all opinion and conjecture it seems to me but no scientist has seen the benefit of carrying out a full-blown study. And there are no articles in books on this either (Google searches books as well).

Sodium Bentonite
Sodium Bentonite. Image : MikeB from images in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

When there are scientific studies concerning domestic cats which are quite obtuse and questionable in their usefulness, it is surprising that a topic as big and as important as this has been ignored by the scientific community. Conspiracy?

“Sodium bentonite is a highly plastic colloidal clay found mainly in northern Wyoming as a naturally occurring alteration of volcanicash” (Masters thesis 1975). As you probably know it expands by a factor of about 14 which is why it is so good at clumping. It absorbs the urine and congeals into a convenient clump which you can scoop up and chuck into a bag. You can’t flush it down the loo because if you do you cause a concrete-like blockage. This is the exact reason why it is potentially dangerous to domestic cats who use it.

They are quite close to the litter. They scrabble around in the stuff. They dig holes in it and they cover up their feces (sometimes). All this activity generates dust which they inhale and which is sucked into their moist lungs where, it is argued, the litter congeals. But there is nothing which scientifically confirms this conjecture.

One well-known online veterinarian says that if there was a real problem veterinarians across North America (the biggest domestic cat marketplace) would have picked up the problem by now. They would have reported back on it. Something would have happened. You can’t brush a major domestic cat health problem under the carpet. This fact is further anecdotal evidence that sodium bentonite clumping cat litter is not a hazard to the cats that use it.

But what if consistently inhaling sodium bentonite clay dust has a small detrimental effect on a domestic cat’s health? Let’s say that detrimental effect is incremental so the health of the cat is slightly damaged in a way which is not readily observable. Let’s say it can cause secondary health problems and the link between the underlying cause and the secondary health problem has not been established because nobody has done any research on it.

Or let’s say that some cats are more susceptible than others to damage by this product because they kick up more dust than others. Perhaps there is a problem in some cats. And perhaps vets are keeping their vow of omertà. They do work with the big manufacturers of foods and litters because they sell their products. Are they keeping quiet?

The point I’m making is that just because there has been no major observable problem in cats in the use of sodium bentonite clumping litter does not mean that there isn’t a problem with it. On the face of it, it is not a major problem for the reasons stated but there may still be an issue that needs to be checked out. At the least it would put people’s minds to rest and it would clarify which litters are the best or the safest.

The best should be the safest. When you search for the best cat litter on the Internet it is a bit shocking to me that Google picks up a website which states that the second best cat litter is Tidy Cats Lightweight Cat Litter. I have almost proved through, yes, more anecdotal evidence that this is a dangerous cat litter because it creates more dust than usual.

When anecdotal evidence piles up it starts to become hard evidence, as hard as a clump of sodium bentonite clay clumping litter. When people search online for the safest cat litter they receive confusing and conflicting points of view.

This supports the need for some hard scientific evidence through a properly conducted and peer-reviewed scientific study on the cat health consequences of them using this controversial cat litter which is highly popular. It’s convenience makes it popular. Does human convenience outstrip cat safety? Sadly it does sometimes or a lot of the time.

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