Is Clumping Cat Litter Safe?

Clumping cat litter is popular because of its convenience and effectiveness. But there has been a lot of controversy around clumping cat litters made with sodium bentonite clay, as anecdotal evidence has arisen to suggest that it may be dangerous to cats. Concerned owners fear that sodium bentonite clay, if ingested, could cause gastrointestinal blockage and even death. Here's what you should know about clumping cat litter.

How Clumping Litter Works

Clumping cat litter is made with sodium bentonite, a natural clay that expands by fifteen times its size when it comes in contact with moisture. Sodium bentonite is also used in grout and other industrial sealants, and if you flush it down the toilet, it will clog your pipes.

Sodium bentonite's absorbent properties make it a convenient choice for filling cat boxes. Clumping cat litter lasts longer, and offers a high level of odor control because waste can be removed almost immediately, keeping the box cleaner than traditional non-clumping litters.

Possible Dangers of Clumping Cat Litter

However, many owners are concerned that ingestion of clumping clay litter might harm cats. Kittens are especially vulnerable because their youthful curiosity makes them prone to taste cat litter. A small amount of sodium bentonite clay can cause severe GI blockage in a young kitten.

Older cats may also sometimes eat litter, especially if suffering from an idiopathic condition known as pica. Pica makes cats want to eat things that aren't edible, including cat litter, wool and plastic.

Even if your cat doesn't suffer from pica, sodium bentonite dust could settle on his fur. If he licks off this dust, some owners fear, a cumulative affect could result in health problems later in life. Clumping cat litter also contains quartz silica, which can cause respiratory disorders.

Manufacturers, as well as many owners, consider clumping cat litter to be perfectly safe. No scientific studies have been done about the dangerous of sodium bentonite in cat litter. Evidence of the dangers of clumping cat litter remains anecdotal, and therefore hard to prove.

Alternatives to Clumping Clay Litter

If you're uncomfortable with allowing your cat to use a possibly dangerous litter, you can switch to one of the many natural and biodegradable options available today. Brands such as Feline Pine, Yesterday's News and Swheat Scoop are made with biodegradable ingredients such as wood, paper and wheat. They are clay-free, chemical-free and completely safe for your entire household.

Training your cat to use one of these litters might be a little difficult, as some cats may be uncomfortable with the different texture and smell of a natural litter. Natural litters offer varying degrees of convenience and odor control; pine is a natural deodorant, and wheat based litters often clump as well as clay based ones. Experiment a little to find something that works for you.