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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.

  • Curiosity
  • Anemia
  • Vitamin or mineral deficiency
  • Kidney disease
  • Feline leukemia

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:

Curiosity

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.

Anemia

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

Kidney Disease

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.

Feline Leukemia

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Eating Cat Litter Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Short hair

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Six month

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Noisy Breathing

My six month old kitten has started wheezing all of a sudden. She accidentally ate some cat litter when she tried using the litter box with her cone on. She recently got fixed so that’s why she’s been wearing the cone. It’s been a week since she got fixed so I’ve taken the cone off. I think she accidentally ate some cat litter during this past week, but I’m not sure how much. Should I take her to the vet this week?

Sept. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in answering, these emails are not set up for urgent messages. If she is still having increased noises when breathing, It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get treatment if needed.

Oct. 14, 2020

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Mancoon

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1.5 Years

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Vomiting Cat Litter

Why is he eating cat litter

Aug. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without seeing your cat, it is difficult to say why he might be eating the cat litter, but the best thing to do in the short term maybe to change cat litters to find something that he does not find so appealing. There are many different kinds of cat litter and ideally he would not eat the one that you choose. I hope that all goes well for your cat.

Aug. 21, 2020

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Long haired

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Eighteen Years

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Throwing Up Cat Litter

I have two cats, one has started throwing up cat litter (not sure which one). The are older, 18 years old. They have only eaten Purina UR whole life b/c one has kidney issue. I've noticed one crying more often. She has Herpes virus too so taking her to vet is too stressful at this age - make things worse. So need to know if anything I can do at home. Cat litter is combination of Fresh Step and Tidy Cats non-clumping (what have used their whole lives). Thank you!

Aug. 3, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Without examining your cats, it is difficult to say what might be going on, but older cats can develop thyroid issues, and that can make them hungrier than normal. If one of them is suddenly eating cat litter, that may be a cause? I think that a trip to the veterinarian would probably be best, even if it is a little stressful, as they may need to have some lab work or thyroid levels checked. Once your veterinarian has seen them, they will be able to let you know more what might need to be done for them. I hope that all goes well for both of them!

Aug. 3, 2020

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Bengals

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3 months

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Stomache Aches

If my cat ate some cat litter by licking their paws what should I do to make them feel better ?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Unless your kittens are eating large amounts of cat litter from the litter box, I would not expect them to have GI upset from licking it off their paws. If they are having decreased appetite, vomiting or diarrhea I recommend having them evaluated by your veterinarian and having a fecal performed to evaluate for intestinal parasites. There are several different differentials for GI upset in kittens, and it is best to have them evaluated by your veterinarian so a diagnosis can be made and appropriate treatment provided.

July 10, 2020

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Bengals

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3 months

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Throwing Up

What to do if my kitten ate clumping litter ? What to do to prevent them from getting sick ? Or in this case they already ate it what to do now ?

July 10, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello If your kitty is vomiting because he has ingested clumping litter, it is recommended to take him to a veterinarian right away. The litter could clump together in the stomach and cause a blockage. You may have to switch to a different type of litter eventually. Good luck.

July 10, 2020

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Simon

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Maincoon

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3 Years

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Hairloss
Behavior
Seperation

Hello, so I adopted my Simon from a Petco. All by chance. I went in only to buy dog food, Simon had other plans, he reached for me through those little holes in the glass and once I picked him up, he never let go. Until recently. Simon is a Mainecoon who was in the shelter for a very long time, he has FIV and no one would adopt him. But I loved him immediately, he’s the most loving cat I’ve ever had. Recently I switch his cat box from litter maid self cleaning, to the scoop free pet safe ultra. In the past week he has started losing his hair Kind of rapidly, not eating or drinking, wants nothing to do with me or anyone else. He’s hiding in weird places, like he’s been behind the washer and dryer all day. I got him out tried to entice him to eat but, he will only eat the litter crystals and goes back into hiding as soon as he can get free from me. I also noticed that while he was on my lap, there is no purring, no eye contact(which was a big thing for him) and his pupils are staying at midsized dilated and never changing. He was asleep on my lap for awhile but the moment he woke up he took off running to eat litter crystals and get back behind the washer. My heart is breaking. I take care of my mom with multiple sclerosis, my dad with heart and liver failure and homeschool my daughter, out of all that I get zero income. I don’t know what to do or what is wrong with him. I can’t sit back and let him die. Honestly a part of me will die with him. He’s my best friend. Please and help or advice would be such a blessing and I would be so grateful.

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Little Bit

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domestic short hair

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4 Weeks

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Poor Muscle Control

My 4 week old kitten at clumping litter yesterday. He is now unable to control his legs and is having muscle spasms which suggest he has low potassium. I have spoken to my very and have started potassium replacement but I think it's too late

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Missey

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Tortoiseshell

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18 Years

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Had One Seizure

I have a senior cat that recently had a seizure and she is now being made a stay in cat and uses a litter tray recently we changed to clumping cat litter as it is least expensive and easier to clean. Apart from the signs of pica Missy has been eating and drinking normally and only had one seizure about a week and half ago she has adjusted to staying in the house but still asks to go out which we refuse as we don't want her to have a seizure outside. Symptoms after the seizure was reduced Vision disorientation however confusion after the seizure lessened after a few hours but vision was worse.

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Cat

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Crossbreed

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Weight Loss, Cold, Lack Of Appetite

This is a stray cat I've been feeding for the last two years, she's around 10 years or more. She's been coming in the house the last year or so, recently she's lost her appetite,losing condition, she's cold to the touch and actually sleeps on top of the metal radiator when it's on, she's drinking alot more water and is grooming the same spot on her back repeatedly. She rarely moves at all.

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Midnight

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Not sure? She doesnt have a flat face, normal?

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8 Years

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Diarrhea, Sneezing

My cat I noticed recently she's been eating cat litter, at first I thought she was eating the feces until I caught her up close. She will take a couple of licks of the litter, I'm not sure how long she's been

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