If you own a cat, you've likely come across them doing some pretty crazy things. Whether it's jumping at their reflection, going into random mad dashes, or just howling in the middle of the night, cats can indeed be strange animals.
One of the more noteworthy things a can be seen doing, however, is eating their own cat litter.
A symptom of a mental condition known as "pica", cats eating litter and other non-food items is not as uncommon as you might think when first hearing about it. Seen most commonly among younger kittens, pica can be a potentially very dangerous condition if left untreated.
Why Is My Cat Eating Litter? In Short!
While pica is one of the main reasons a cat may find themselves eating non-food items, it isn't the only reason. Depending on the situation, it may be a whole host of potential reasons ranging from anemia and nutritional deficiencies to simple curiosity or boredom.
Is Litter Toxic if My Cat Eats it?
Yes. The sodium bentonite can clump inside the intestines and a cat's digestive system and cause a dangerous blockage.
It also depends on the type of litter that you use. Some types of litter are made from materials that are not toxic for cats to ingest, such as clumping clay litter, which can cause digestive problems and even blockages if ingested.
Other types of litter, such as natural litter made from pine, corn, or wheat, may be less harmful if ingested, but it's still not safe for your cat to eat large amounts of litter.
Ingesting litter can also cause other health problems for your cat, such as irritation to the digestive tract, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Also, no cat owner wants their beloved cat to be potentially eating feces (mixed with a litter clump) from their cat litter box is really
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Reason Why Cats Eat Litter
Below, we'll go over some of the different reasons why your cat may be eating kitty litter as well as some different things you can do to get them to hopefully stop.
Starting with one of the most common reasons your cat may find themselves eating their litter, pica is a mental behavioral issue seen in both animals as well as humans.
Some of the different items an individual with pica may end up eating can include plastic, sand, paper, or string.
Generally, if this is due to pica, your pet doing this is due to a mental or behavioral problem. As such, you'll want to make sure to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible.
One thing to also keep in mind is that pica doesn't have to only be full-blown litter consumption.
In fact, most cases of pica start relatively minor, with just eating bits of string or other small items. If you see it happening at all, you should seek out a medical professional to determine the severity of the issue and what can be done to break this habit.
2. Nutritional Deficiencies
Cats that aren't getting their nutritional requirements in their food are likely to find themselves trying to eat anything they can to make up the deficit, including nibbling on some litter.
This is is because most types of cat litter are made using clay alongside numerous nutritional minerals.
While there are a ton of health risks that come from eating litter, to a nutritionally starved cat, the perceived benefits may outweigh the costs.
The best solution is to either invest in some higher quality cat food or consider looking into some different nutritional supplements for your cat to improve their diet.
Another potential reason your cat might find themselves eating cat litter is anemia.
As with the second reason on this list, there's a chance your cat may be lacking the proper amount of red blood cells and not producing enough hemoglobin.
As a result, you may find them nibbling on some clean litter in an attempt to pick up some trace vitamins and minerals.
Anemia can be a serious problem for cats, especially as they grow older. One of the surest signs that they are suffering from the deficiency is the color of a cat's gums.
If your cat's gums are white, blueish, or a very light color, it's probably because they have an incredibly low amount of blood cells to work with. If you think your cat may be suffering from anemia, make sure to take your cat to the vet as quickly as possible for a complete blood count.
4. Additional Medical Issue
Depending on your cat's behavior, eating cat litter can potentially be a sign of other more serious health issues.
Litter eating can be attributed to kidney disease as well as feline leukemia if matched with other symptoms.
You should make sure to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as you can to get an in-depth analysis of their blood count as well as potentially have an MRI scan done.
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One reason your cat may find themselves eating litter has nothing to do with their mental or physical health at all.
Instead, it may simply be because they feel like doing it! For young kittens that find themselves eating litter, this may often be due to a simple misunderstanding of what the litter actually is.
Many times kittens, as they are seeking to learn more about their environment, will nibble and nuzzle against different things.
As this is fairly common for young cats under three months, you want to make sure you're using non-toxic non-clumping litter that doesn't clump together, as the more standard litter options could potentially end up causing intestinal blockages if eaten.
For kittens, litter eating is a fairly temporary thing and should go away on its own over time.
For mature cats, if you've chalked it up to not being any of the other listed reasons, it may simply be because they are bored and aren't feeling especially stimulated or inspired.
You often see this with indoor cats in smaller quarters that aren't able to stretch their legs as much as they'd like. Simply put, just as humans can find themselves doing strange things as they become stir-crazy, so too can cats find themselves doing strange things in order to pass the time.
Regardless of the scenario, if you find your cat eating litter on multiple occasions, it's worth it to take them to the vet to have them looked over.
Even if it's just because of curiosity or boredom, you want to at least get the all-clear from a professional so you aren't worrying about anything too serious.
How To Stop Your Cat From Eating Litter
Now that you've figured out what is causing them to eat litter, it's time to look at some methods you can use to get them to stop.
Step 1. Visit The Vet: The first thing you need to do when you find your cat eating litter is to speak to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. Not only will they have a better understanding of why your cat is eating litter, but they can also hopefully rule out some of the more serious medical concerns.
Step 2. Try Out Different Litters: If you've determined the reason is primarily behavior-based, consider changing the type of litter you're using. In some instances, switching clay-based litter for a corn or wheat-based one may be all you need to get them to stop.
Step 3. Offer Some Fun: If you've determined that your cat is eating litter due to boredom and a lack of stimulation, an easy fix is to provide said stimulation. Simply put, look at buying a couple of cat toys so you can play with them while keeping their mind engaged. There are also some fun food puzzles out there that can also square their focus on actual food rather than their litterbox.
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Step 4. Consider Including Catnip: While given a bad rap in certain circles, catnip is a very useful and effective method of relaxing a cat and helping soothe its mind and attitude (as well as its body).
You can use catnip to calm them down and distract them from nibbling on their litter, instead having them nibble a bit on the catnip to give them a much safer and enjoyable alternative to the litter.
Why Is My Cat Eating Litter: The Verdict
While not something that every cat owner may witness, litter eating is probably more common than you thought 10 minutes ago. The truth is that even cat owners that know what to look for can find themselves stumped for the cause of their cat nibbling on their litter.
What matters most is that, if you see this happening on multiple occasions (anything more than once) you take your cat to the vet as quickly as possible.
You must keep an eye out for any bloating, fever symptoms or any
Veterinarians have the skill, equipment, and know-how to unravel these peculiar issues and, as such, should be your first point of focus when trying to figure out what is going on with your pet specifically.
Then, once you know what the underlying issue is, follow the recommended steps by your vet so that you can have them snacking on real food - not parts of their toilet.