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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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Callie

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Black cat

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

3Rd Eye Lid Showing

Callie's 3rd eyelid is showing. I noticed it about 2 days ago, she is acting normal, playing, eating and drinking fine. About 2 weeks ago, her litter was changed to accommodate my other cat. The litter is fragran Ed so much that it makes the house smell like it. Is it possible that she's allergic to the litter/fragrance of the litter.

Aug. 7, 2018

Callie's Owner

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1 Recommendations

There are a few different causes for a cat to show their third eyelid which may include irritation from chemicals, small foreign objects, trauma, infections among other causes; flush the eye gently with some sterile saline to remove any possible debris and monitor. If there is no improvement try changing the litter to something less fragranced to rule it out. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 7, 2018

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Nugget

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short hair

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9 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Skin Lesion

I think my cat is allergic to a window seat we bought as she began to develop patches of bald spots with reddness in various places including the inside of her legs, neck, paws, and the outside of her legs. If I remove the window seat how long would it to see an improvement in her skin? We already switches her to hypoallergenic food over 1 month ago and have not seen improvement.

Aug. 1, 2018

Nugget's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Once you remove the window seat, it is important to thoroughly bathe Nugget to remove any residue from the skin/fur; it may take a few weeks (two to four) to start seeing improvement but monitor each day and see how it goes. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 1, 2018

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Penelope

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Domestic shorthair

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Fur Loss.

Penelope (a domestic shorthair) was adopted from our local SPCA shelter three months ago. She is an orange tabby which is an uncommon sex/color combination. We wanted an adult cat and the shelter thinks she is at least six years old. Penelope is an indoor cat and a "couch potato." Despite a sedentary lifestyle she has a strong appetite and a tendency to gain weight. She is healthy and takes no medications. When adopted Penelope's coat was full, soft, and smooth. Within a few weeks she lost most of the fur on her belly and a few small areas on her legs. No rash, no excessive grooming on the belly. Our trusted vet suspected a storage mite allergy and suggested we switch to a grain-free food. We did that one month ago and there has been no improvement. We asked the shelter about the kind of food used there (is it grain-free?). The answer was "We rely on donated food and our animals are fed whatever we have on hand. Nothing fancy and certainly not grain-free." There are no children and no other animals in the house, so Penelope lives a stress-free life (so far as we can control it). She enjoys attention and is not shy or skittish. She has no fleas, ear mites, etc. We have always avoided household cleaners and laundry products containing fragrance. The house is carpeted and is vacuumed regularly. The litter has a fragrance but Google searches indicate that fragrance allergies manifest as sneezing and eye-watering. Penelope does not have those symptoms. Please advise...

July 30, 2018

Penelope's Owner

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1 Recommendations

A non-pruritic (non-itching) cause for fur loss may include hormonal conditions since other causes like allergies, parasites and chemical irritation normally result in scratching or increased grooming; behavioural conditions like psychogenic grooming would result in a noticeable increase in grooming. Stress and other factors may lead to fur loss and it is difficult to say what constitutes stress for a cat, but if Penelope wants for nothing and is otherwise calm we can rule that out too. I cannot think of anything else which may be causing the the loss of fur, however sometimes the dust from some types of cat litter can irritate the skin and belly of some cats so it may be worth checking. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 30, 2018

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Franklin

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Orange tabby

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10 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Hairloss
Rash

Frankie has a rash on his inner hindleg, this is the second time he has had this rash, the first time was right after memorial day. He was examined by his vet who concluded it was most likely some type of allergic rash, or maybe ringworm. She treated him with a steroid injection and an antibiotic injection. His rash cleared up in a couple of days, my other cat and my dog both never got the rash. His symptoms include small red splotches and hair loss in an isolated area (the same spot both times) approx 1.5in in diameter and excessive licking . Today, I discovered for the first time he is urinating outside of the litter box, however I had been suspicious of this for awhile. I bought fragrance and dye free litter today with thoughts it may be an allergy to that. His food and environment have not changed, he is strictly indoors, UTD on all shots, 10 month old male neutered kitten.

July 12, 2018

Franklin's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Litter allergy should always be considered when there is a rash present on the inside of the thighs or abdomen, you should ensure that you thoroughly bathe Franklin to remove any dust when you’ve changed the litter. However if there is no improvement you should visit your Veterinarian to determine the cause. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 12, 2018

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Flash

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Unknown

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Excessive Scratching
Excessive Scratching, Over Groom

Our cat has been scratching, fur missing in spots, scabs for about 3/4 months I’ve been watching him and it’s getting worse at first I thought the kids took the scissors to him. But now that I think about it maybe it’s an allergy... I switched to the new slide litter about that time frame... but he’s also been vomiting I haven’t seen anything lately... for the last 2/3 weeks and he seems to always be hungry ( goes after my kids plates after they get up) we’ve been watching him and monitoring how much he’s eating. Maybe I need to change his food? Our other cat doesn’t have any signs like he does. They are from the same litter and are kept indoors. Anything you can tell me would be helpful!!!

July 2, 2018

Flash's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Excessive itching and overgrooming may be due to allergies and if you noticed a change after switching to the new litter, that may be the cause; however you need to keep in mind that there are many possible allergens which may be from the environment or from the food and cats may even develop allergies to food or environmental sources over time. You could try switching the litter back and then bathing Flash in a mild hypoallergenic shampoo and monitor for improvement, if there is no improvement after two or three weeks you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 2, 2018

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Zoe

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Long-haired cat

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Two Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

I am so frustrated trying to find the right litter. I am a very well-informed homeopathic person. I have had a severe eye allergy off and on over the past year (excessive tearing), and after countless doctor visits, I have treated this by eliminating any potential allergens from my diet, detoxes, all pure/homeo home & personal care products, etc. The one thing that I notice is that my youngest Himalayan Zoe goes through bouts of intense scratching/itching and with hair loss, and this bout is timed with my eyes flaring up. Clay and silica litters are toxic. Period. We hate them. My cats hate them. Corn and Wheat can be deadly due to mold. We have been using this AWESOME non-gmo grass seed litter for about a year (same time as my eye allergy started) and love it. The Cats love it, there is no smell, there is no dust, there are no deadly additives. I clean their box regularly. But I fear that we are allergic to the grass seed. I've tried other litters (paper, walnut) and my cats WON'T TOUCH THEM. What do I do? Zoe is going bald and I am about to tear my hair out of my head if I don't get to the bottom of this eye allergy. If there was a healthy alternative for both of us, I would love that. I've looked and researched and feel so frustrated.

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Mittens

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Cat

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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

Scatching A Little In The Beginning

Hi my cat name is mittens... about 4 months ago she got a reaction to something, not sure what. She had a couple of scabs on her neck area..I took her to the vet, they did check but no sign of fleas. The vet treated her for allergy, it took about 6 wks to clear up but now it's at the base of her tail area.. I did change litter with baking soda in it..what can I do without costing me a arm and leg...

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Mohawk

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Maine Coon

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Itching
Infection
Inflamation

I was wondering if my cat could have been allergic to my other cat's urine in the litterbox. Since Mohawk was little he suffered from an allergy that affected his paws mostly. He's been on prednisolone which keeps it a bay. This past January my other cat Mr. Niki passed away and I changed my litter box to a new one. Mohawk hasnt had a reaction for months now and hasnt been on prednisolone.

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Sophie

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Persian

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen

My persian Sophie has her front paws swollen and with a terrible smell. Vet says it's a bacteria and probably I need to change the kind of litter I use. This happened before 3 years ago, so I changed the litter to the walnut litter, super natural and it's happening again. I honestly don't know what to do and what kind of litter I should try since I heard litter with chemicals would be worst for her. Any suggestions?

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