Is Clay Litter Bad for Cat Health?

Clay litter has received criticism in recent years, as anecdotal evidence arises that it may be unsafe for cats. While no scientific studies have been done, many cat owners have become concerned enough to switch to natural cat litter for the sake of their cat's health. Here are some facts about clay cat litter, and the impact it can have on cat health.

The Clumping Litter Controversy

For some time now there has been debate about the safety of clumping clay litters that use sodium bentonite as a clumping agent. Sodium bentonite is a natural clay that swells to fifteen times its natural size when exposed to liquids. Many cat owners worry about what might happen when their cat licks his fur and paws, possibly ingesting sodium bentonite dust. Some owners are concerned about their cats breathing in this dust, and the possible respiratory damage this might do.

Kittens are considered particularly vulnerable to sodium bentonite toxosis, because curiousity might compel them to taste cat litter. Opponents of clumping clay litter say that the sodium bentonite then clumps inside the kitten's body, causing gastrointestinal blockage and death.

The Other Side of the Story

Manufacturers have a different tale to tell about the dangers of clumping clay cat litter. They claim that multi-cat and other clumping cat litters are perfectly safe for all cats and kittens. No studies have been conducted; it's important to remember that all evidence of the dangers of sodium bentonite clay in cat litter is anecdotal and, therefore, has not been proven. Many owners still feel perfectly comfortable using clumping clay litters made with sodium bentonite.

Additional Concerns About Clumping Litter

There are, however, some other concerns posed by clumping clay litter. Dogs who eat clumping clay litter may suffer from the same health problems as cats who ingest the substance. The litter contains crystalline silica dust, which can cause respiratory problems in animals and humans who breathe it. There are also environmental concerns, as clumping clay litter is not biodegradable, and its widespread use promotes clay strip mining.

Safe Cat Litter Options

If you're concerned that clumping clay litter is bad for your cat's health, there are plenty of other options available. You could try cat litter made from one of the following substances:

  • Corn
  • Corncobs
  • Pine
  • Wheat
  • Citrus scraps
  • Grain
  • Paper
  • Wood scraps and shavings

Litter made from these ingredients is chemical and clay free and biodegradable. It also keeps usable waste out of landfills.