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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

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.

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.

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.

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.

Litter Allergy Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Callie
Calico
Dont no say round 3
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

scratching

My cat was a outdoor an indoor cat since ive moved i keep her inside most of the time i changed cat litter an now she scratches all the time an pulls at her hair i no she dont have fleas so is it the litter i use to use cheap litter that was more like sand now i use litter that has clumping an fragarence

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
It is most likely attributable to the change in litter, non-clumping cat litter is best generally and fragrance may cause some irritation to the skin leading to scratching; I would go back to the cheaper litter and give Callie a bath to see if this helps to improve the itching. Give it a week or so after changing the litter, if she is still itching it may be due to something new in your home or a change of food or treat. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Hunter
Domestic shorthair
12 Weeks
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

My kitten of 12 weeks has been sneezing a lot, it has just started happening. I just adopted him 4 days ago. He is playing, drinking water, sleeping, eating and using the bathroom just fine. I took him to the vet earlier today and she said everything looks fine, but later tonight he starting sneezing more.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
It is possible that your kitten is allergic to something in your home which may be due to the litter or something else; a new environment can cause some respiratory symptoms in animals when they are initially introduced there but should clear up on their own. Try changing things like litter and other things to see if this makes an improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Mork
domestic short hair
6 Months
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

White discharge from eyes
Puffy eyes
Coughing

Medication Used

Fluconazole for ringworm
Lysine

My 6 month old kitten has had ringworm for a month. He also had been diagnosed with pneumonia and was treated with antibiotics. He was doing well until two days ago I noticed him coughing a bit and gagging when eating. And he sounds stuffed up, has white eye discharge and under his eyes is a bit puffy. I recently changed his cat litter, it has a fragrance so I am thinking that could be it. Should I switch back to the old litter? His symptoms are worrying me.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
If the symptoms correlate with the change in litter, I would change the litter back to the old type and to give Mork a thorough bath to remove any residue of the new fragrant litter. If there is no improvement over a few days you should visit your Veterinarian to look at other possible causes including infections, other allergies etc… Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Carbon
Bengal
4-5 years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Hello my cat, Carbon is 4 years old and she recently has been developing bald patches in the neck area(so far 2) they are not big but are definitely noticeable. We recently switched her little and she uses it fine but could that be where the source of the problem is? She also grooms quite frequently lately. And has been scratching her left ear often now she has little bumps in the area. Could this be a litter allergy or mites?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
It is highly suggestive of litter allergies if the symptoms presented after switching litter; you can try switching back to the old litter and bathing Carbon to see if there is any improvement in the scratching. If there is no improvement, other possible causes may include infections, allergies, parasites, bites among other causes; you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Puff
Unknown
8 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

overgrooming
scratching
Fur Loss
Scabs

Medication Used

zyrtec

Two months ago I notice that my 8 year old indoor cat had some very small scabs on her neck...I gave her Zyrtec 5mg for over a month and it has done nothing to help. She does not have fleas, mites etc...I have now switched her to a Duck-Sweet potato food in the event that she has a food allergy. I did bathe her with the first episode of these scabs...now her entire belly is bare, her hind quarters as well, and she has the scabs from her neck to her back side and belly. If the Zyrtec did not help...and the food allergy takes up to three months to determine...what can I give this poor cat to stop the itching and over grooming? Could she have a litter allergy?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
It may be that she has an allergy to cat litter, a detergent you use for your laundry, other cleaning products among almost anything else. Given the severity of the scabs and hair loss, you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and to check for any mites which may be present on the skin; also allergy testing may be useful to identify an allergen. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Leia
Maine Coon mix
6 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Scabs
scratching
Scratches

Our female cat who is around six years old started getting little marks on her skin which we chalked up to being marks from our other cat when they rough house, but now she has them all over her neck and tail area. I’ve check for fleas and brushed her coat really well and haven’t found anything, she has upper respiratory problems and has feline hpv that’s currently in remission, we changed the kitty litter over a month ago but I’m not sure what the cause is.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
It is important to have your cats treated regularly for fleas, ticks and worms even if they are indoor cats; keeping to a schedule is important for general prevention. It is possible that Leia is having an allergy to the new litter, especially if the symptoms coincide with the change; I would recommend changing back for a few weeks to see how she goes and bathe the affected areas with dilute chlorhexidine or another antiseptic daily. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Charlie Bear
Domestic shorthair
8 Weeks
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

I am fostering an eight week old kitten. I have had him for over a week now and recently changed the brand of litter I was using. I noticed that after I changed the litter he started to sneeze quite a bit. Before I freak out and take him to the clinic, I was wondering if it could very well just be the fact that this litter could be more dusty or the fact that this new litter has a perfume to it..the only reason I am more hesitant to say he is sick is because he is eating, drinking, and pottying just fine?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
If you suspect that the litter is the culprit, change back to the old litter for a week or so and see if the symptoms disappear. Dusty litter may cause respiratory symptoms and if the symptoms appeared after the change then this too is indicative of this being the problem. Keep an eye on Charlie Bear, but if there are other symptoms present you should think about visiting your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Indigo
American Shorthair
11 Years
Mild condition
1 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Sneezing

My cat's been sneezing on and off for a few weeks. Like every few hours she'll sneeze two or three times. Sometimes she'll go for a couple days without. I switched her litter to a different brand, the last one before my current brand seemed to be when she went without sneezing the longest. But I want to be sure it's not something serious. She has feline herpes so I wonder if it might be part of a flare up? I do notice that the sneezing coincides with my visits to a friend with 6 indoor/outdoor cats, one of which had a cold. Can people carry illnesses that affect pets but not themselves? I also wonder if it's a change in environment, my room is kind of dusty and lately we've had the windows to the house open, so I don't know if either of those would trigger allergies?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
All of the possible cause you have listed are possible culprits; humans can carry infections on clothing, hands and in some cases in our respiratory tract without being infected ourselves. The amount of time a pathogen can live outside of a host varies between each pathogen (no set rules). The kitty litter is an easy one to check, just switch back to the old brand for a few weeks and see if there is any improvement; also monitor Indigo’s sneezing and visit your friend during a period of no sneezing, if she will sneeze on your return, you know the cause is from your friend which most likely though is an allergen. It is all trial and error really, if it get really bad visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Frosty
British Shorthair
7
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Cat is starting to pee on a chair. Try's to avoid cat litter box. Could she be allergic to the cat litter? She recently had a urinary tract infection and was on anti-biotics. It seems that the symptoms are coming back where she doesn't want to pee in litter box. I think maybe she s allergic to the litter.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1679 Recommendations
If you are suspecting that Frosty may be avoiding her litter due to allergies it may be worth testing this may moving to a different type of litter; it is possible to get (depending on your location) kitty litter which is old newspaper pellets or try the other way with shredded newspaper to see if that helps. Speak with your local pet shop to see what alternatives they have for you to try. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.yesterdaysnews.com

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