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What is Litter Allergy?

Any cat at any age can develop litter allergies, but kittens and senior cats are more susceptible. Cats that suffer from other allergies are also more prone to developing litter allergies. Read your cat’s litter packaging carefully and avoid those with fragrances or other possible allergens. Also, speak with your veterinarian about which cat litter would be best for your cat. You may also consider an alternative to traditional cat litter such as sand or fresh pellets.

Cats can develop all sorts of allergies and many times owners are left wondering what is causing the problem. There are a lot of irritants that are overlooked because they are in products that are used every day for cats, this includes cat litter. This is especially the case with the scented litters and the clumping litters. Your veterinarian can run a diagnostic test panel on common cat allergens. You can also switch your cat’s litter and monitor your cat to see if the symptoms persist.

Symptoms of Litter Allergy in Cats

Litter allergies will be a constant nuisance to your cat, especially since they are exposed to the allergens in the litter several times a day. Your cat may even begin avoiding the litter box completely and toileting in other areas of your home. If you notice your cat acting strangely or sickly, contact your veterinarian for an appointment and discuss different possible allergens that your cat could be exposed to.

  • Sneezing
  • Watery and/or itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy skin with severe scratching
  • Facial swelling
  • Acne
  • Avoidance of the litter box
  • Toileting in places away from litter box
  • Coughing
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Causes of Litter Allergy in Cats

The exact cause of litter allergies in cats will vary depending on the cat that is affected. Just like people, cats can develop allergies to certain things such as fragrances or dust. Cat litter that is especially dusty or has a lot of fragrance will cause cats with litter allergies more problems than fragrance-free and minimal dust litters. 

Cat litter may contain chemicals, bentonite, silica dust, clay and/or fragrances that can cause your cat to exhibit allergies and begin avoiding the litter box. Cats that have already been diagnosed with other allergies will be more prone to developing a litter allergy. Senior cats and kittens will also be more prone since their immune systems are not as strong.

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Diagnosis of Litter Allergy in Cats

When you bring your cat to their veterinary appointment also bring a sample of their cat litter and the name of the litter. A list of the ingredients would also be helpful. Your veterinarian will take a detailed medical history and will probably examine the litter ingredients to see if there might be a common allergen present.

Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination. They will take blood samples, hair and skin samples. There are blood tests and intradermal tests that will detect common allergens that your cat is allergic to. 

It will also probably be recommended that you perform some elimination traits to verify if it is your cat’s litter that is the problem. Check labels carefully and avoid all litter that contains silica dust and/or fragrances. Once you remove the litter you have been using and replace it with a different litter, closely monitor your cat’s behavior and note if there is a decrease in the symptoms. Remember, it can take up to two weeks for the allergens to work their way out of your cat’s system. Therefore, be patient when trying new litter.

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Treatment of Litter Allergy in Cats

Your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine or cortisone to help alleviate the symptoms that your cat is experiencing. Allergy shots are also available if the litter allergy is severe. Immunotherapy may also be an option for cats that suffer from severe allergies.

Once it has been determined that your cat is suffering from litter allergies, your veterinarian may recommend certain litters that do not contain the offending allergens. You may consider switching the type of litter box you are using since ceramic or metal litter boxes will accumulate less dust than the popular plastic litter boxes. Also, avoid dyes, fragrances, and chemically treated litter.

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Recovery of Litter Allergy in Cats

Once you have found the cause of your cat’s illness, research cat litters that are available, be sure to avoid chemicals, fragrances and dyes. Also, check out the low dust options for cat litter. In cases where your cat is severely allergic to litter, there are alternatives to traditional cat litter. These include fresh pellets, wheat husks, dried corn, sand and shredded newspaper.

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Litter Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Not sure

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing, Watery Eyes, Stuffy Nose

I changed my litter to a different brand and my cat started sneezing, having watery eyes, and stuffy nose

Aug. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can be affected by viral infections that can cause sneezing and upper respiratory signs, but she may also be allergic or have a problem with the litter that you were using. If it is a recent change with the litter, it may be best to go back to the previous litter and see if she has the same problems. If she continues to have discharge and sneezing, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 18, 2020

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Summer

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Minx

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Itching , Hair Loss On Tail And Legs
Itching Hair Loss

I recently picked up a different cat litter which is not the normal litter I use. My cat has been constantly itching all over. Today I noticed a little scab on her back, hair missing from her tail and her legs. Can someone please tell me what this can be ?

Sept. 20, 2018

Summer's Owner

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Bruno

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Dlh

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Nasal Discharge
Sneeze

My cat has been sneezing with discharge for over a year. He has been to the vet, gets antibiotics that help while on them, but within a week of stopping them, the sneezing with discharge starts again. I don't think he has allergy testing done. He is fine & acting normal other then the sneezing and discharge. We have 4 other cats, all fine, all indoor. 1 is his brother from birth, no issues.

Sept. 15, 2018

Bruno's Owner

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Sami

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Short hair domestic

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Runny Nose

My cat scratches a lot (especially his ears). I’ve brought him to the vet and got a full work up. Labs came back fine. They don’t know what’s wrong. He sneezes, nose runs, over grooms, sometimes pulls out his hair. He shakes his head a lot. I need help. This is my baby.

Sept. 13, 2018

Sami's Owner

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Gypsy

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short hair

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Runny Nose
Watery Eye
Bloody Mucas

I adopted a cat perfectly health and within a week or 2 she had developed a watery eye and bloody mucas clogging only 1 nostril. This is only in one side of her face and she has tried 3 antibiotics. The recent wave of antibiotics got rid of the blood in mucas unless that was coincidental timing. This has been ongoing for 3 months with no answer, is the litter a possible cause?

Aug. 23, 2018

Gypsy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

A litter allergy may result in watery eyes and some nasal discharge among other symptoms but we wouldn’t expect the symptoms to be as severe as this; if there is no overall improvement I would recommend having a culture and sensitivity test done to determine whether there is an antibiotic resistant infection and which antibiotic the infection is susceptible to. Also, it may be worth looking at litter in the meantime and using a different product from newspaper or other source. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 23, 2018

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BeBe

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ragdoll siamese cross

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9 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing, Itchy Ears, Bad Breath
Coughing, Itchy Ears, Bad Breath, D

My cat has been a notorious under groomer and has mats. She has had itchy ears for most of her life where trying to pin point the allergy has proven impossible. The vet she saw said she has allergies and her ears are clear. She has now developed a cough, asthma probably, and it may be the litter. Tidy cats lite weight, quite dusty. I think I should change her litter to a Okacat which is paper... Bringing her in will undoubtably cost more than I can afford even with the pet insurance I pay for monthly.

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Zia

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domestic short hair

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Licking
Excessive Grooming
Scratching Head Above The Eyes
Scratching Neck

My cat had developed lesions on her forehead and ears with severe scratching/bleeding. She was first put on cetrizine 5mg for 3 weeks. Then to Prednisolone 10mg twice/per day for a week, reducing gradually to 2.5mg every alternate day. (Almost 2.5 months on Prednisolone)Though the lesions have gone. She excessively licks her front legs below her paws to the point the hair feels stiff and dry. She is on a mackeral fish diet with dry food for snacking. I'm wondering if it has anything to do with her litter- bcoz problem areas seem to be front legs and ear/forehead/neck - from grooming?

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Isabelle and Nickoli

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Siamese half breed

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Sneezing
Wheezing
Avoidance Of The Area The Box Is In

Hey yall. My cats Isabelle and Nickoli seem to be allergic to pine. I live with friends of mine and they keep using a pine litter. They also use Dr elsesy (sorry if i mispelled that) cat litter attractant (the bottle of dust like stuff). The cats are eating the litter when this stuff is used. I smelled the bottle of it and it smelled like catnip. Does anyone have any experience with either of these products? We have eight cats total but Isabelle and Nickoli are the only two the wheeze and sneeze when these are used. Please help.

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Rajah

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tabby

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss
Itchy

Sounds like we all have similar symptoms. I have changed detergent , litter, food, cleaning products, candles etc. he is still getting rashes which only used to happen around neck and tail but now it’s around his nipples and inner thighs along with other places. 2 different vets couldn’t figure it out so they just gave him a steroid shot to fix it for only 2 weeks . I went ahead and got him an e collar cone so he can’t scratch or over groom. It’s healing all the wounds but as soon as I take it off it seems like something else appears.

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Ren

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tabby

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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2 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Hair Loss

My 1 year old kitten has recently underwent some hair loss, mostly around her tail and butt. It also shows a little on her stomach, hind leg, and two spots on her back hip. Her behavior and diet have not changed at all. I haven’t been able to figure out what was wrong, so I’m considering it may be a newly developed litter allergy, since it is only around her backside areas. As well, when my kitten uses the litter box, she keeps most of her body, and three of her paws out of the litter box, almost avoiding it.

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