Is Scoopable Cat Litter Safe?

First introduced in 1984, scoopable cat litter sales now account for about 70 percent of the cat litter market annually. Scoopable litter offers cat owners a quicker and easier way to clean up the litter box. Instead of having to change clay litter frequently, owners can now scoop the solids daily and freshen the box with the addition of more scoopable litter, which allows some cat owners to change the box filler monthly instead of weekly or twice monthly.

Scoopable Cat Litter Ingredients

Scoopable cat litter originally contained a clay-based litter supplemented by sodium bentonite, a mineral that increases the clay litter’s ability to absorb liquids.

The highly absorbent nature of sodium bentonite has also made it the target of anecdotal claims by cat owners who believe their pets’ health has been endangered by the inclusion of sodium bentonite in scoopable litter. Reports of “clumping activity” in a cat’s lungs or her intestines have led to concerns about respiratory issues, dehydration and urinary tract problems in affected cats.

In response to concerns from pet owners, some manufacturers have created natural scoopable litters that do not feature sodium bentonite as an ingredient. These include Feline Pine, Swheat Scoop and Scooples.

Health Concerns Arise

In the mid-1990s, questions and concerns began to surface about the safety of scoopable cat litters, especially after some cat owners began reporting health problems in their pets that they attributed to the scoopable litter. These included diarrhea, constipation, digestive upsets, coughing and urinary discomfort.

Possible Bentonite Health Threats

For cats and their owners with respiratory problems, bentonite-based scoopable litters are probably not the answer due to the dust that can be kicked up as your cat uses her litter box. Less-dusty litter crystals may be a better choice for cats and owners with allergies and other breathing problems.

Intestinal blockages could become an issue if your cat (or another pet in your home) consumes large amounts of bentonite-based litter. The highly absorbent bentonite could block your pet’s intestines, which could require serious surgery to correct.

Kitten owners should use litters that do not contain bentonite until their pets are about a year old. Younger kittens may be too curious about the taste of the litter in the box and may eat it, which could cause intestinal blockages.

The Bottom Line

Although some feline health problems have been attributed to bentonite-based clumping litters, nothing has been scientifically proven. No studies have been undertaken to prove or disprove the safety of bentonite in cat litter, and many cat owners used bentonite-based clay litter without problems or incident.

If you’re purchasing a kitten from a breeder, ask what type of litter box filler he or she uses. If you’re adopting a shelter cat, ask what type of litter the facility uses. Conduct online searches to read both sides of the story and then make the best decision for you and your cat.