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

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
1207 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
0 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
1207 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
1207 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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