Is Clumping Litter Safe for Kittens?

Is clumping litter safe for kittens? While it may make for easy clean-up, the “controversy” over the best litter for kittens has been raging for years.

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By: AlanH2O

When you have a new cat, one of your most important goals is to make sure they are safe and healthy.

All cats will use the litter box, and one of the first questions on the minds of those with a new cat is what type of litter to buy and is clumping litter safe for kittens.

Clumping litters are convenient because they absorb the waste and make it easy to clean — but there has been some concern in recent years about the safety of clumping cat litter and the potential clumping cat litter dangers for kittens especially. So, is clumping litter safe for kittens?

First, Some Background: What is Clumping Litter?

Most kitty litter will form clumps because it is made using sodium bentonite clay, a substance that expands and forms hard clumps when it contacts a liquid. Many clumping litters will also contain quartz silica, and both substances are safe if they aren’t ingested.

You can also find some clumping litters that are only made up of natural ingredients such as nut hulls, wood or corn.

Why Clumping Litter Can Be a Problem for Kittens

Although clumping litter is safe when it remains outside your kitten’s body, it becomes a problem if she ingests it.

If the kitten eats just a little of the clumping litter, she will probably be fine or might get a slightly upset stomach. If, however, she has more, whether on purpose or by accident, she may get very sick.

This is because this type of litter carries the real risk of clumping in a kitten’s small intestine if it is ingested in larger quantities.

Does that mean other litter types are off the hook? No. Although the natural options don’t have any added chemicals, they are still made of items your cat shouldn’t ingest and could therefore cause digestive problems.

How a Kitten Might Ingest Clumping Litter

It’s possible that when you use a clumping cat litter, a bit of it will end up on your kitten’s paws, especially if the paws are damp when she enters the litter box.

The concern then occurs later when your kitty goes to groom and accidentally ingests some of the litter. Although this is a negligible amount for fully grown cats, it is a greater concern for kittens because of their smaller size.

Kittens are also more likely to become curious and decide to try eating the litter, especially if they think it is food because of clumps.

“It is conceivable that kittens playing in the [litter] box for extended periods could ingest or inhale a sufficient amount of litter to be harmed,” according to James Richards, DVM. “Even once the kittens are more mobile and spend most of their time outside the nursing area, it is probably still wise to use a nonclumping litter until they are weaned.”

What If Your Kitten Ate Clumping Litter

If you find your kitten eating litter and notice they ingested some of their clumping litter, it can be important to act fast. Taking them to a veterinarian is advisable to seek professional guidance and care specific to the situation, especially if your kitten ingested a large amount.

If your kitten ate clumping litter symptoms can vary, as kittens who have consumed this litter could develop serious health issues as there’s the risk it could cause an internal blockage. It’s always a safe bet to err on the side of caution and consult with a vet immediately to get advice on how to best help your cat, even if they only ate a small amount.

So, When Can Kittens Use Clumping Litter?

Wait until your kitten is 4 months old.

Experts generally agree that a kitten older than 4 months can start using clumping kitty litter. At this point, the kitten knows that the litter is not food.

In addition, by 4 months, most cats are big enough that accidentally swallowing some litter while grooming won’t cause serious damage.

The Other Side

I should note that there is a vocal group of people who maintain that the “clumping litter is bad for kittens” line has been blown way out of proportion.

They point out that this has been the primary type of litter used for years and that very few cats have had problems. They say the controversy all began when a breeder lost several kittens and thought the reason was that they ate clumping litter and it blocked their intestines (and her holistic vet agreed).

These advocates say that the risk of your kitten actually eating litter is incredibly small and that virtually no one has experienced any problems.

The Final Verdict: Is Clumping Litter Safe for Kittens?

If you’re anything like me, right now you’re thinking: It’s better to be safe than sorry.

I think cats expert Franny Syufy has it right when she says, “Since the curious little tykes investigate everything first with their mouths, why take chances on their ingesting something that is potentially harmful?”

Alternative Litter Options

If you want to avoid clumping litters for your young kitten, then you might opt for traditional clay ones or pelleted ones.

  • With clay litter, the particles are bigger (which makes them harder to eat), and they won’t stick to your pet’s fur (so she won’t accidentally ingest them).
  • Pelleted litters are larger so they further discourage eating.

Just remember that if you aren’t using clumping litter, you should expect to be cleaning out the litter box more often.

Additional Resources