Cat litter is an essential supply for cat owners. You can choose from the "clumping" products or the more traditional clay litters. Choosing the best litter for you will include weighing the risks attached to the ingredients used to make the litter. Some brands of cat litter contain known toxins while others offer a safer, more natural alternative.
The main ingredient in most clumping litters is sodium bentonite. Most commonly referred to as "clay," sodium bentonite acts as an absorber in the litter. The clay absorbs the moisture and can swell to 15 to 18 times its size. Dust from the clay can be inhaled and cause respiratory problems for cats and humans. If ingested, the sodium bentonite will expand inside the cat's stomach or esophagus.
Quartz silica is one of two forms of sand used in nonclumping littler. This type of sand poses a cancer risk and could cause respiratory conditions if inhaled. Safer alternatives to quartz silica include pine or cedar chips as well as corn cobs.
"Crystalline silica" may be found on your cat litter's ingredients list to describe the clay in nonclumping compounds. Crystalline is an alternative name for the quartz silica listed above and poses the same risks to humans and pets if inhaled.
Silica gel is a moisture absorber commonly used in clothing and leather and suede goods. The gel is actually hardened crystals that are usually found in packets but are also used in some cat litters for absorbency. The packets in your coat pocket bear the warning "Do not eat," but the Environmental Protection Agency categorizes the health risk as "moderate-to-low acute toxicity."