Is clumping litter safe for cats?
Part of having a cat in your life means dealing with the litter box. Nowadays, many cat owners appreciate the convenience of clumping cat litter, which makes it easy to scoop both solid and liquid waste from your cat’s litter box. The obvious advantage is that the litter box smells fresh for longer, reducing the frequency of completely changing out and replacing the litter. However, if you have young kittens, you might be unaware of a possible danger that clumping litter poses.
The safety of clumping litter is a controversial topic. While there is nothing in the scientific literature documenting the health hazards to cats of clumping litter, there are many anecdotal reports from pet owners relating problems their own cats have had that the pet guardian relates to the use of clumping litter. Clumping litters usually contain sodium bentonite, which is a natural clay. Even though sodium bentonite is considered to be an inert, non-toxic substance, many clumping litters form very hard, cement-like clumps which are not safe to be flushed as they may clog the plumbing in your home. Another characteristic of sodium bentonite is that it expands many times when it comes into contact with water.
Young kittens are naturally curious and are more likely to try to taste-test litter than are adult cats. Kittens are also messier than adult cats and more likely to get litter stuck to their fur and paws, which they subsequently ingest upon grooming. It’s not hard to see how ingestion of clumping litter could cause intestinal distress or blockages in small kittens. The ASPCA notes that “…while there has been no proof to claims of problems in scientific literature, caretakers may wish to delay introducing kittens to clumping litter until 3 to 4 months of age.”
In the absence of scientific documentation regarding the safety of clumping cat litter, pet parents must decide for themselves whether or not to use clumping litters. It may be prudent reserve the use of clumping cat litters to adult cats and older kittens that are less likely to ingest the litter. You can also consider use of a system such as the Tidy Cat Breeze cat litter system, which uses non-clumping, non-tracking, dust-free large clay pellets which don’t cling to your cat’s paws or fur.
What are your thoughts on clumping cat litter?