What is Eating Cat Litter?
If you have a kitten under three months old who is eating cat litter, he may just be curious. Just like human babies, they will put just about anything in their mouth. So, a kitten that eats cat litter is pretty common, but adult cats do not usually eat cat litter unless they have a medical condition or vitamin deficiency. In addition, cats that eat clumping cat litter should be taken to the veterinarian right away because the absorbency of the kitty litter is dangerous for their system. It can cause choking or an intestinal blockage.
Even if your cat is not ill, you need to have him checked by a veterinary professional to make sure he does not have any blockages in his digestive system.
Why Eating Cat Litter Occurs in Cats
Cats sometimes behave strangely if they are ill or if they are trying to tell you something. For example, if your cat is anxious or stressed due to a change in home life, he may eat cat litter to get your attention. However, this is not common. It is most frequently seen in Tonkinese, Burmese, Siamese, and other Oriental types. The most common causes of eating cat litter are:
When kittens are young, they are just like toddlers, and they are curious about everything they see. It is very common for kittens to eat litter as well as other non-food items such as paper, plastic, electrical cords, and anything else they can find. Some kittens do this if they are weaned too early.
If your cat is older than three months of age and is eating cat litter, he may have pica, which is a symptom of anemia. Pica is the urge to eat non-food items such as paper, plastic, blankets, carpeting, or cat litter. Anemia is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells due to blood loss, lack of production of red blood cells, or destruction of red blood cells. There are different types of anemia separated into two main groups:
- Regenerative anemia includes those caused by diabetes, inherited disorders, infections, toxins, and medication such as aspirin
- Non-regenerative is a serious type that is usually caused by bone-marrow disorders like leukemia, aplasia, chronic disease, and major nutritional disorders
In addition, your cat may show other signs if he has anemia such as pale gums, weakness, lack of appetite, and tiredness.
Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
If your cat is lacking in some vitamins or minerals, he may eat non-food items like cat litter as an instinct to get those nutrients. There are a variety of vitamin and mineral deficiencies in cats, some of which are:
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) deficiency
- L-Carnitine deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency
- Pyruvate Kinase deficiency
- Sodium deficiency
- Taurine deficiency
As cats get older, their kidneys get weaker and less efficient. This makes the kidneys have to work harder to do their job. Approximately 30% of cats over seven years old have kidney disease. Some of the additional symptoms besides eating cat litter include vomiting, weakness, weight loss, and depression.
Your cat may eat cat litter if he has feline leukemia as well. This virus is the second leading cause of death in cats. Leukemia affects the bone marrow and blood production, which causes anemia and pica. Some of the other signs of feline leukemia include diarrhea, weight loss, pale gums, depression, and fever.
What to do if your Cat is Eating Cat Litter
If your kitten is curious enough to eat litter, you should change to a nontoxic type of litter made of paper or other natural substances.
Anemia has to be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian. Your cat will need several tests to determine the cause of the anemia. Once the anemia is addressed, your cat should not eat cat litter anymore. Blood transfusions will be done as well, if needed.
Vitamin or mineral deficiencies must also be diagnosed by a veterinary professional to find out which vitamins or minerals your cat is lacking so you can replenish it. Also, the veterinarian will need to figure out why your cat had the deficiency to begin with.
Kidney disease is a serious condition in cats and must be treated right away by your veterinarian.
Feline leukemia is almost always fatal in cats and has to be treated (supportive treatment only) by your veterinarian.
Prevention of Eating Cat Litter
To prevent your kitten from eating cat litter, monitor his litter use and remove him if he tries to eat the litter. They will grow out of it quickly.
Anemia can be prevented if it is caused by a nutritional deficiency or from consuming toxic medications. Make sure you are feeding your cat a high quality cat food with enough vitamins to support good health and do not give your cat human medication.
Vitamin or mineral deficiency is prevented by providing a good, healthy diet of the best commercial cat food.
Kidney disease cannot be prevented. It is caused by age and affects 30% to 50% of cats between 7 and 10 years of age.
Feline leukemia can be prevented with a vaccine from your veterinary care provider. Be sure to keep your cat up to date on his vaccinations at all times.
Cost of Eating Cat Litter
The cost of treating a cat who eats cat litter can range from $100 for an office visit and tests for curiosity to $3,000 to $6,000 for kidney disease. In addition, feline leukemia can run about $200 to $1,000 if you do not get the vaccination, which only costs about $30. Anemia may cost up to $3,000 with the blood transfusions, hospitalization, and tests to determine the cause. Vitamin deficiency is usually only about $200 for the cost of the veterinary visit, tests, and vitamin supplements.
The health problems associated with eating cat litter can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.
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