Help, why is my cat eating litter???!!!???
It’s definitely alarming to see your sweet little kitten gobbling down litter.
Is it a sign of a major problem, though, or just cats being their normal weird little selves?
Read on to find out the answer!
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Why Do Cats Eat Litter?
If you are the worried parent of a bit of kitten of one or two months who has started eating litter lately, chances are he is just curious.
Similar to human babies, kittens would eat anything they would get their paws on. So, a kitten eating litter is pretty common.
That said if you notice itty-bitty-kitty gobbling down a lot of it, definitely book an appointment with the vet asap, as the ingested litter can cause an intestinal blockage or choking.
Now, adults, on the other hand, are a different story entirely. If your adult cat is eating litter, it can be a symptom of vitamin deficiency or an underlying medical condition.
If your feline friend is ill or wants to convey something, she can show some strange behavior.
She may pace around anxiously meowing. Suddenly start clawing up the furniture. And yes, she may even eat her litter.
This is quite common in Siamese, Tonkinese, Burmese, and other Oriental cats.
Some other reasons that can drive your cat to eat the litter are as follows:
A cat over three months of age and displaying the abnormal behavior of eating cat litter may have pica, a common symptom of anemia in cats.
The term ‘pica’ can be defined as the urge to eat non-food items such as cat litter, plastic, paper, carpets, blankets, etc.
Like in humans, anemia in cats is reduced red blood cells due to the destruction of red blood cells, reduced production of red blood cells, or excessive blood loss.
Anemia in cats is of various types that can broadly categorize into two categories:
- Regenerative anemia is caused to due to infections, diabetes, various medications, and inherited disorders.
- A non-regenerative anemia is a serious issue that is usually caused due to major underlying disorders such as aplasia, leukemia, nutritional disorders, and other chronic disorders.
For cat owners, it is essential to keep an eye on their cat’s gums and immediately rush to the vet if gums are turning white, bluish, or pale.
Other symptoms of anemia are weight loss, lack of appetite, weakness, and tiredness.
Anemia is an indicator of deficiency in vitamins, iron, trace minerals, and essential fatty acids.
#2 Nutritional Deficiencies
Cats can start eating litter if their bodies are suffering from a dietary deficiency of minerals and vitamins.
It is an instinct move to compensate for the deficiency of nutrients through the litter.
Though there are several mineral deficiencies and vitamin deficiencies in cats, the major ones are:
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1) deficiency
- L-Carnitine deficiency
- Pyruvate Kinase deficiency
- Taurine deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency
- Sodium deficiency
- Taurine deficiency
Most of the cat litter available in the market is made from clay and abundant minerals.
The cat can easily sense these minerals and tries to ingest the litter to overcome the deficiency of these minerals in their diet.
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#3 Other Undiagnosed Medical Problems
The habit of eating kitty litter can also be a sign of kidney disease and leukemia.
For a proper diagnosis, a vet will run a complete blood count (CBC) test. After the initial blood tests, your vet may also suggest an MRI or other such tests.
In other words, if you find your furry friend eating litter, don’t wait for another day and schedule a visit with the vet.
#4 Curious Nature of Cats
As mentioned above, sometimes, kittens eat litter simply out of curiosity. That’s why it is advised not to get clumping litter till they are a few years old.
Eating clumping litter can easily cause intestinal blockage. Ensure that you are using a non-toxic litter and keep an eye on its use.
Remove the kitten immediately from the litter box as soon as you see him eating the litter.
Adult cats can also be seen eating the litter if you have changed the kind of litter recently.
For example, if the litter is corn or wheat-based litter, your cat might eat it.
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How to Stop Your Cat from Eating Litter?
Once your vet has given clearance on your cat’s health, the next step is to modify your cat’s behavior and stop him from eating the cat litter.
There are different types of litter available in the market ranging from clumping, both scented and unscented, clay, paper-based, and wheat-based.
If your cat is showing an inclination toward a specific type of litter, then it is better to switch to another kind.
- Catnip can work wonders if you are trying to modify your cat’s behavior.
If litter-eating stems from anxiety, it can be incredibly beneficial. It also helps improve your cat’s digestion. To sum up, catnip can add spice to the life of your bored cat.
- Boredom is another major cause that can lead to such abnormal behavior in your cat.
If you find your cat eating litter regularly, try giving him a toy mouse or crinkle ball to distract him.
You can also use a fishing pole toy to keep it away from the litter box.
- Another way of stopping your cat from eating litter is to change their diet.
If you are feeding your cat the usual supermarket-grade cat food, then it is time for an upgrade.
There are many high-quality cat food options available in the market that are packed with nutrients.
Talk to the vet about the best cat food suitable for your feline friend.
- Give your cat’s instincts a boost
Felines are born hunters; domesticating the animal can easily suppress their prey behavior.
To enhance their natural prey behavior, increase their playtime while adding certain food puzzle toys. These toys can encourage natural feline instincts.
There are different toys available in the pet stores, or you can make your versions by using various household items.
These puzzle toys make the whole idea of getting food fun, thus distracting the cat from the undesirable behavior.
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Sometimes pets do display unusual behaviors that can confuse the owners.
This is true, especially with felines, as there are certain scenarios when even the experienced owners fail to figure out the reason behind a specific behavior.
But with some precautions and monitoring, any disastrous situation can be mitigated.
Vets can help you in this, but most of the time, it is better to be proactive while ensuring that your pet furball is healthy, happy, and satisfied.
Ensure that the cat food you are purchasing has all the essential vitamins and minerals.
If your cat has developed the habit of eating litter, don’t panic and be patient with the little one.
Remember that though you do not like this habit at all, this is way out of its control.
It is vital to understand that eating cat litter isn’t just a habit, relatively a symptom of many underlying problems.
All it takes is a visit to the vet, your love, and patience, which can help your cat come out of this situation.
- Fries, Wendy C. 2009. “Why Is My Cat Eating That?” WebMD. WebMD. July 16, 2009. https://pets.webmd.com/cats/guide/unusual-cat-cravings#1.
- https://www.facebook.com/thespruceofficial. 2021. “Symptoms & Treatments of Common Cat Diseases.” The Spruce Pets. 2021. https://www.thesprucepets.com/cat-diseases-and-disorders-4162119.
- PawTracks. 2020. “Cat’s Eating Litter? Here’s Why and How to Stop It.” PawTracks. PawTracks. October 6, 2020. https://www.pawtracks.com/cats/cat-eating-litter/.
Did you have a cat eating litter? What was your reaction and how did you stop him? Please share your experiences below!
Barry Stingmore is a British content creator living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats.
Barry works with the island’s animal charities to help manage and care for feral and abandoned animals. Alongside fieldwork, he works to support the charities with fundraising and raising awareness.