Fact checked

How Do I Prevent Cats from Eating Kitty Litter?

Cat Care
7 minutes read
Do your cats have a taste for kitty litter? Luckily, there are easy ways to carb their appetite and prevent it from happening again.
Expert reviewed by:  
Written by:
Susana Bradford
Published on:  
September 7, 2022
Updated on:  
September 7, 2022

While it is somewhat typical for kittens to eat kitty litter, this usually indicates a severe medical condition in an older cat. Consequently, the behavior should be stopped as soon as possible to prevent the cat from developing severe bowel problems. To prevent a cat from eating kitty litter, you should consider using a different type of kitty litter. You should also closely monitor your cat and shoo him away from the litter.

Kittens are very similar to human infants and children. They are generally very curious about their surroundings and often try to eat or chew on things, including kitty litter. Healthy adult cats, however, will not usually eat their litter, and eating cat litter could indicate a medical problem.

Adult cats eating kitty litter usually suffer from a deficiency of vitamins or minerals. Iron deficient anemia is one of the most common causes of this behavior. Anemic cats don't produce enough red blood cells because they don't have enough iron in their blood. They will try to get this mineral by eating cat litter.

As soon as you notice that your cat is eating kitty litter, you should make an appointment with their veterinarian. They will usually run several tests, including blood tests, to determine the cause of this unusual behavior. If your cat suffers from a vitamin or mineral deficiency, treatment should be immediately initiated. Treating the problem may be enough to stop the cat from eating its litter.

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What Can I Do If My Cat is Eating Its Litter?

Eating litter has many potential side effects, and cat owners should try to establish the underlying cause and discourage this behavior.

Visit the Vet

If you notice your cat eating litter, the first step should be to visit a vet to rule out any medical conditions. If the cat is healthy, it may be a behavioral issue you can quickly deal with at home.

Give Your Cat Attention

Your cat may be bored or understimulated. Cat owners often forget that their furry friends need plenty of playtimes to stay healthy and prevent harmful behaviors like eating litter. Play with your cat and carry a toy if your cat is an emotional support animal to keep it busy when you're on the move.

Feed Your Cat Well

Check for nutrient deficiencies in your cat's diet, as this may be a likely cause of eating litter. If you have an ESA cat, you might be tempted to feed it some of your food, which could deprive it of essential nutrients. Plan your cat's diet to receive all the crucial elements to prevent it from eating litter.

Catnip Works Magic

There is a lot of mystery around catnip and why cats seem to love it. Catnip has been shown to calm and mellow out cats, making it an excellent means of preventing them from eating litter out of boredom or nervousness. You can place catnip in toys to encourage the cat's natural foraging instinct, which helps to keep it busy and active to prevent it from eating litter.

Change the Kitty Litter

While trying to figure out the root of the behavior, you can change the litter to organic materials like bamboo or wood shavings. Such litters are not only dust-free but also does not include any chemical odors present in clay products, which can trigger asthma and other respiratory problems.

You can also explore other options, like nutritional changes, if the problem persists.

Draw Them Away From the Litter Box

Unless the cat relieves itself, try to shift its attention from the litter box. You can coax it with a toy or take it outdoors for sun or playtime. This helps to reinforce distractions as an alternative to eating litter. You may also provide a chew toy for it to munch on or consider growing cat grass that the cat can nibble on.

You can get your cat to stop eating its litter with patience and gentle firmness. Cats can eat litter for various medical or behavioral reasons, and identifying the root cause is the first step to stopping it. Schedule a visit with the veterinarian to rule out any medical causes if everything else fails.

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Why Is My Cat Eating Litter?

Let's look at why your cat may be eating litter.

Taste

Sometimes, the cat likes the taste. There might be additives in the litter that your cat is likely to enjoy. For instance, litter containing corn, grass, or walnut shells may appeal to a cat. Some cats may eat paper litter as often as they eat paper around the house.

Pica

Pica is a condition where pets or humans compulsively eat non-food substances such as paper, sand, or strings. The condition may lead cats to eat their litter without any underlying conditions. Pica can be caused by several factors and is usually associated with abandoned kittens. 

Other causes of pica include dietary deficits, and the condition may be accompanied by lethargy or diarrhea. Changes in the cat's daily routine and extended periods of inactivity may also trigger pica. 

Malnutrition

If your cat lacks minerals, it may look for them in the litter. Clay litter may provide trace minerals that your cat's diet may lack. The cat may instinctively try to eat its litter to satisfy these needs. In many cases, if a cat has access to a garden, it will be tempted to try garden materials.

If the cat only has access to litter, it may try to ingest it. Nutrient deficiencies that can trigger this behavior include a lack of Vitamins A and B1, Magnesium, Taurine, and sodium. Cat owners with an ESA certification may need to bring cat food when traveling to ensure their feline pet gets the nutrients it needs.

Curiosity

Cats personify curiosity in every way. They constantly explore and bite random things as they discover the world through their mouths. Sooner or later, the cat may try to eat its litter, mainly if it contains any food-based material. It's essential to watch over kittens as their curiosity usually leads them to eat foreign objects, including litter.

Anemia

Iron deficiency may lead to anemia in cats which may cause them to consume litter. Cats with anemia are prone to eating their litter, and this condition can get serious if not treated early. Cat owners should check the gums for any paleness or whiteness, as this may indicate the early onset of anemia. 

If your cat is anemic, it may be a sign of feline leukemia virus, bone marrow disease, or parasite infestation, and you should seek immediate medical attention.

Stress and Anxiety

Cats can get uncomfortable from loud noises, new environments, or drastic changes in their diet. Eating litter may be a response to stress and anxiety from these factors. If your cat suddenly starts eating litter, you should evaluate if any external triggers may be stressing it. Avoid sudden noises and drastic diet changes, as they may cause the cat to start eating its litter.

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Choosing the Right Kitty Litter

It would help if you also considered using a different kitty litter in his cat litter box. Avoid clumping litter kits since they can create major health problems in cats that eat litter. This litter can cause hard clumps inside the bowels, necessitating surgery—something you do not want for your furry friend.

Instead, you can try using kitty litter made from wood chips, recycled paper pellets, wheat, corn, or even sand.

If you get your cat eating litter, gently shoo it away and keep a closer look. Avoid shouting or yelling since this may frighten the cat and cause it to stop using the litter box. Cats are pretty sensitive, so always handle them with extra care.

Cats are fussy eaters; if your cat is eating litter, it could indicate an underlying health concern.

Do You Qualify For an ESA? Take the Pettable Quiz Today!

Is Litter Harmful To My Cat?

Cat litter is not considered toxic to the cat; however, prolonged ingestion may develop obstructions in the digestive tract, resulting in discomfort and digestion issues. Certain compounds like silica and sodium benzoate may harm cats if ingested over time. 

If you notice that your cat has been eating litter, you should try to discourage this behavior as soon as possible.

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Meet the author:
Susana Bradford

Susana is an avid animal lover and has been around animals her entire life, and has volunteered at several different animal shelters in Southern California. She has a loving family at home that consists of her husband, son, two dogs, and one cat. She enjoys trying new Italian recipes, playing piano, making pottery, and outdoor hiking with her family and dogs in her spare time.