Eating litter is one of the many feline behaviours that have perplexed countless pet owners. In general, physiological and other behavioural problems often cause this issue to crop up.
Let us take a closer look to understand how cat litter-eating behaviour can be stopped.
7 Causes of Cat Eating Litter Behaviour
There are many possible reasons why your feline friend is eating litter. We give you a lowdown of the most common ones:
1. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Boredom
Cat eating litter behaviour may rear its head when there is a great lack of fun and engaging activities at home. As natural hunters, felines need physical and mental stimulation, especially if they are living indoors.
They will find ways to amuse themselves if their human companions do not make an effort. And, being cats, they often resort to doing peculiar behaviours such as eating litter.
2. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Pica
Pica refers to the peculiar behaviour of eating non-food items compulsively, and it is quite a common issue in cats.
Some felines fixate on munching on paper, whilst others prefer to chew on fabric. And there are a fairly few cats that go for cat litter. Most cases of pica are usually brought on by behavioural or health issues.
3. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Curiosity
Young cats, particularly those under 3 months, are filled with curiosity and more than eager to explore their surroundings. They do not have a clue what cat litter is yet. And so they mistake it for cat food and take a few or more nibbles.
Most curious kittens will eventually outgrow their cat eating litter behaviour when they become adult cats. Some may retain this eating habit when they reach adulthood.
4. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Nutritional Deficiencies
If your feline friend’s regular meals do not meet her nutritional needs, it can trigger cat eating litter behaviour. Deficiencies in L-carnitine, magnesium, sodium, taurine, thiamine, and vitamin A increase its likelihood of occurring.
Many commercial clay-based litters contain some of these vitamins and minerals, which can make up for the nutrients your cat lacks.
5. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Anaemia
Anaemia is a medical condition with insufficient production of red blood cells and haemoglobin. Without them, the transportation of iron and other nutrients in the body is stalled.
As a response, cats tend to eat non-food items to gain vitamins and minerals that can fight off iron deficiency. To know if your furry friend has anaemia, check her gums for pale or bluish colour, which are strong indicators of this condition.
6. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Other Diseases
Anaemia is not the only health issue that can cause cat eating litter behaviour. Serious ailments such as kidney disease, feline infectious peritonitis, leukaemia, and even cancer may also prompt this unusual eating habit.
Some pet owners might have seen a cat with cancer eating litter. Why does this happen? Cancer cells cause a depletion of important nutrients such as amino acids in the body.
To combat this dietary issue, cats end up consuming litter for additional nutrition. An elderly cat eating litter is a hint of underlying health issues too.
Always keep an eye out for common symptoms of feline health issues. Aside from cat litter eating behaviour, other warning signs are lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, bloody faeces, and fever.
7. Cat Eating Litter Behaviour Cause – Appealing to the Palate
Certain types of cat litters carry a scent that felines may find appetising. These include corn, coconut husk, grass, paper, walnut shells, and wheat-based cat litters. These varieties also have a food-like taste, which entices cats to get a taste.
What are the dangers of eating litter to cats?
Can litter make a cat sick? Regular clumping litters typically contain sodium bentonite, which can form large clumps in cats’ digestive systems when consumed.
This can cause intestinal blockages in cats. If a kitten eats clumping litter, it can be highly fatal and may require immediate vet surgery.
Is litter toxic to cats? Scented clumping litters are composed of sodium bentonite and deodorising chemicals such as scented crystals. If cats ingest them, they are at risk of poisoning.
If you caught your cat eating litter and vomiting afterward, look for other signs of toxicosis such as anaemia, lethargy, and muscle weakness, and take her to the vet right away.
What happens if a cat eats cat litter? Aside from stomach obstruction and poisoning, eating cat litter can also affect your cat’s absorption of nutrients. Clay-based litter can strip off minerals, such as iron and potassium, from her body.
How to Stop Your Cat from Eating Litter
Cat eating litter behaviour is something that should not be encouraged. Cat owners need to take action to stop their pets from consuming litter. Here are a few tips and ideas we got for you:
- Bring your cat to the vet for a health check. If the vet spots signs of an underlying disease, they will make a diagnosis and find the appropriate treatment to stop your pet’s litter-eating habit.
- Distract your cat from eating litter by redirecting her attention to playtime. Provide her with a variety of toys like puzzle toys to keep her mind and body busy. Swap the toys at least once a week to keep your cat from getting easily bored.
- Grow cat grass and catnip at home. They are also good distractions for your feline friend. She can chew on them instead of eating litter. Both plants are beneficial to her overall health too, since they provide additional fibre and improve her digestion.
- Make sure your cat is eating nutritionally balanced cat food. Consult the vet for advice if any dietary changes should be made to keep your cat from eating litter. They can help you search for high-quality cat food that meets her nutritional needs.
- Avoid using clay-based cat litter. Opt for products made from biodegradable materials such as corn, paper, or wheat. These litter types are more digestible compared to clay, which means a lower risk of intestinal obstruction if cats eat them.
Aside from these methods, make sure to scoop out your cat’s poop at least once a day. They may contaminate litter boxes with parasites and other harmful microorganisms, exposing your pet to more health dangers.