While some cats are extremely picky about what they put in their mouths, others have a habit of eating things they shouldn’t. From plastic bags to plants, they chew and sometimes swallow things that definitely aren’t meant to be food. One of the most curious things cats sometimes eat is their own kitty litter. Eating kitty litter can be a cause for concern, and it’s important to stop the behavior if you can. Unfortunately, the issue is relatively common in cats. If you’ve noticed your cat going to the litter box only to indulge in an inappropriate snack, the first thing to do is determine why it’s happening.
Here are a few possible reasons why your cat is eating kitty litter.
Pica is a a compulsory condition that causes cats to lick, suck on, or eat things that aren’t food. It can happen with plastic bags, fabric, dirt, kitty litter, and just about anything else. The biggest danger with pica is a cat eating something that is toxic or causes an intestinal blockage.
Pica is far from rare, but veterinarians still aren’t sure what causes it. One theory is that it happens when kittens are separated from their mothers too soon. The behavior starts with the motherless kittens following an instinct to nurse on random objects, and that nursing eventually evolves into chewing and swallowing. Another theory is that pica is mainly caused by stress or boredom.
A Medical Condition
Web MD also advises pet owners that unusual cravings can sometimes stem from undetected medical issues. Anemia, a decreased amount of red blood cells and hemoglobin, is one of the most common. Severe anemia can also cause other symptoms including pale gums and lethargy. If the red blood cell count gets too low, the cat may need to be hospitalized.
Other medical possibilities include leukemia and kidney disease. Leukemia is a cancer that affects the blood marrow, and it can cause severe anemia. Failing kidneys can also cause strange cravings in some cats. The only way to know for sure if your cat is suffering from one of these conditions is to have them tested by a vet.
Besides a full-blown medical disease, your cat could be eating kitty litter because they’re lacking in specific nutrients. Many types of litter, especially clay litter, contain minerals including vitamin A, thiamine, magnesium, and sodium. When a cat has a nutrient deficiency, they can develop a natural craving that could potentially help them make up the difference.
Nutrient deficiencies usually happen when a cat isn’t fed a high-quality diet. But there could also be an underlying medical condition causing the problem. You’ll need to talk to a vet to know for sure.
Just like human babies, kittens often learn about the world by putting everything and anything in their mouths. They want to know how it tastes and what it feels like. For this reason, a lot of kittens start eating kitty litter simply out of curiosity.
In most cases, this is a temporary phase that kittens grow out of. To be on the safe side, it’s recommended to use non-clumping litter until a kitten is older.
There’s a long list of feline behavior issues that can stem from boredom. Eating kitty litter is one of them. It’s true that cats can sleep up to 18 hours a day, but that doesn’t mean they’re content with a lazy, boring lifestyle. When they’re not napping, cats need both mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy.
Cats that spend long days by themselves, or don’t have many means for entertaining themselves, often resort to inappropriate behaviors. Eating kitty litter could have started out of curiosity. But if they’re bored enough, the behavior could easily turn into a regular habit. Taking time to interact with your cat and providing them with stimulating toys may help prevent the behavior.
How Dangerous Is Eating Kitty Litter?
Kitty litter is obviously not meant to be consumed. How dangerous it is, however, depends on the litter. Clumping litter is potentially the most dangerous. It’s designed to clump up when wet to make clean up easier, but it will also clump up inside your cat’s body. Those mounds of litter can easily cause intestinal blockage. If the blockage is big enough, your cat will need surgery to have it removed.
Clumping litter also contains a compound called sodium bentonite. It’s what causes the litter to clump, and it can be toxic to cats in large quantities.
More natural types of litter, including wheat, corn, or walnut shavings, are safer for cats to consume. Choosing these food-based products can sometimes backfire, however, because cats are even more attracted to the taste. You’ll have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each while considering how serious your cat’s kitty litter craving really is.
If you’re concerned about the how frequently your cat indulges in this strange behavior, it’s always best to speak to a vet about potential dangers and prevention.