Clumping Clay Cat Litter – Is It Really Safe?
Cat owners who use a clumping clay cat litter should be aware of the controversy surrounding them. This type of litter contains sodium bentonite. Apparently no scientific studies have been done to prove or disprove that this type of litter is safe.
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Most vets don’t think sodium bentonite is a problem. However, many cat owners have had bad experiences with kittens and cats who either eat the litter or lick the dust off their paws. In this article, I’ll be looking at the possible hazards of using clumping litter that contains sodium bentonite. First, we’ll take a quick look at the history of cat litter.
How Long Has Cat Litter Been Around?
It was invented in the late 1940’s by Edward Lowe. Cat owners usually used sand, ashes, dirt, or shredded newspaper in their cats’ litter boxes before that. None of these really worked all that well. When Edward Lowe’s product came on the market, it was an immediate hit. His original litter contained fuller’s earth, a clay that was highly absorbent.
Clumpable Clay Litter Was The Next Great Thing
As handy as clay-based cat litter was, it did (and still does) have drawbacks. It’s not scoopable, so it needs to be changed often. Many cats don’t like to step on wet litter, which is another reason to change it often. It also smells bad when it’s wet.
So when clumpable clay litters hit the market, it seemed like the best thing since sliced bread. Cat owners could easily scoop out the urine clumps and other goodies. If a little fresh litter was added when the litter level went down, the box of litter could last a month before it needed to be replaced. It’s no wonder they became so popular.
A Dark Side To Clumpable Clay Litter?
Marina McInnis, in her article, Clumping Clay Litters: a Deadly Convenience?, was probably the first person to raise the alarm. Could clumping clay litter that contains sodium bentonite be dangerous to cats?
It does seem plausible. Cats (and people) inhale dust from clay litter. They can also ingest it when cleaning their feet. And of course, kittens being kittens, they will sometimes eat litter for no other reason than to check it out.
What health problems can result? Sodium bentonite swells to 15 times its original volume when it’s combined with water or other liquid to form a solid mass. If a kitten eats it, it’s entirely possible that the clay would swell and block her intestines.
Less catastrophic is the possibility that clay particles can coat the digestive tract, causing dehydration and possible urinary tract problems. Clay particles in the intestines can attract fecal material, which increases bacterial growth and blocks the proper assimilation of digested food. This can lead to viral, bacterial, parasitic and yeast infections.
Inhaled clay particles can cause respiratory problems for both cats and their owners.
And if your dog likes to snack on the contents of the litter box from time to time, it can cause an intestinal blockage and other problems for your canine friend.
But I’ve Been Using Clumping Clay Litters For Year With No Problems
A lot of cat owners don’t have any problems with the clumping clay litters. But if you do use this type of litter, just be aware of a few things:
- It’s probably best to avoid this type of litter if you have a kitten. Like human babies, they do tend to investigate everything by putting it into their mouths.
- If you see your older cat eating litter, take her to the vet. Eating clay is called “pica,” and it can indicate a nutritional imbalance.
- Should your kitty ever develop sudden stomach problems, constipation, diarhhea, coughing, or discomfort during urination, be sure to tell your cat’s vet that you use a clumping clay litter.
Alternatives To Clumping Clay Litter
As mentioned above, there are no scientific studies on how safe clumping clay cat litter is. However, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that this type of litter can cause health problems for cats. If you’re concerned about the safety issues, you may want to consider using a plant-based clumping litter instead.
Swheat Scoop, is made from non-food grade wheat, and has even been certified to be flushable.
Another plant-based clumpable litter is Feline Pine, which is manufactured from recycled pine scraps.
If you like the convenience of a clumping cat litter, but you’re worried about the health issues surrounding clay-based litters, either of these products may be the answer for your and your kitty.
My next article will focus on the best place for your cat’s litter box. A good location is very important!