Kittens are naturally inquisitive and seek out sights and smells as they learn the world around them.
They taste different things to determine what qualifies as food. Unfortunately, some of their taste tests involve cat litter.
Is your kitten eating litter? There are a few reasons for this behavior and steps you need to take to ensure your kitten’s health.
Why Do They Eat It?
Kittens may eat litter once and never do it again. Others may consume it more often or you may get that impression if catching them in the act. Below are reasons to explain the behavior in kittens and cats.
Kittens explore the world around them as they learn to walk, eat and play. They will touch and eat many things in the learning process, but the eating part can be worrying at times. From yarn and ribbons to electrical wires to cat litter, many household items are dangerous to kittens. Be sure to remove or hide anything in your home that would pose a threat. If your kitten is overly curious and prone to eating or chewing on everything, consider restricting her access to one room or area.
Anemia occurs when the kitten’s body does not make enough red blood cells or loses them through bleeding. This condition may be a reason for eating cat litter, and it can be fatal. Causes of anemia range from infections to parasites. Keep your kitten free of parasites such as fleas and consult your veterinarian on recommended treatments. The kitten may also need to be treated for the anemia itself. Obvious symptoms are weakness and pale skin, but the kitten may also experience an elevated heart rate.
3. Leaving the Mother Too Soon
Kittens are stimulated to eliminate waste by the mother. They also pick up cues from the mother for using the litter box and other feline habits. If a kitten is removed too soon from its mother (before around eight weeks of age), she might not have developed these skills. You will need to train the kitten in the absence of her mother.
4. Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
Deficiencies are more common in adults but might be present in kittens. If the kitten is trying to eat clay litter, it could be caused by a deficiency. Check with your vet to have the kitten evaluated for any illness and discuss supplemental vitamins.
5. Neurological Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Kittens may have disorders from improper or delayed development or may develop compulsions for certain behaviors. If the kitten has been evaluated by the vet and found healthy, discuss ways to manage the disorder.
6. Inappropriate Food
Proper nutrition is very important for kittens to grow into healthy cats. Initially they live off the mother’s milk and as they grow, they switch to wet (canned) food before moving on to dry food depending on your feeding preference. The absence of the mother may require using a milk substitute made for kittens. Times may vary for the kittens taking to wet food. Some may be apprehensive at first, while others will dive right in.
Discuss any concerns with your vet before switching food types and brands. Soaking dry food in water is not recommended as it has the potential to become a breeding ground for bacteria. See my previous post “Protect Your Pet (And Yourself) From Contaminated Food.”
If your kitten eats cat litter it can be a dangerous situation, especially if the litter is toxic or has a clumping property. Clumps can form inside the body and cause a blockage in the digestive system, and this can kill your kitten if left untreated.
What to Do?
If you catch your kitten in the act of eating litter, remove the litter from the mouth and move the kitten away from the litter box. If you have clumping cat litter, you may need to get to your vet’s office with the kitten right away.
- Visit your vet. If your kitten has ingested a large amount of litter or a clumping variety, this is an emergency. If the amount was minimal or a non-clumping litter, book a visit to rule out medical problems and discuss your pet’s diet.
- Change the litter to a nontoxic, non-clumping litter type or a safe alternative.
- De-worm if the kitten is old enough.
- Keep appropriate food and clean water available at all times.
- Start or resume litter training.
Eating litter is not uncommon for kittens, and it helps to be prepared with a watchful eye and non-clumping litter. Some cats even sleep in their litter boxes from time to time! A wellness check and food discussion with your vet is an important part of the kitten’s development and should not be overlooked. With any luck your kitten will drop the habit as it matures, but if it remains take appropriate action to avoid injuries.
- Vet Info: Why is your kitten eating litter?
- ASPCA: Remedial Litter box training
- ASPCA: Litter box training