Kittens are known for their busy, curious behavior, sometimes getting into things they shouldn't. In their quest for entertainment, they may gnaw on a pencil, chew on string or even eat cat litter. Fortunately you can "kitty-proof" your home, keeping potentially harmful objects out of your kitten's grasp so she doesn't eat the wrong thing. If cat litter is the one thing your kitten insists on eating, she should see the vet to make sure she doesn't have a medical condition.
Types of Cat Litter
There are three basic categories of cat litter: clay, silica and biodegradable. Clay, which was the only option for decades, comes in two forms: clumping and nonclumping. Clumping clay litter is made of bentonite, which expands and binds together when wet. Nonclumping clay litter uses other forms of clay and allows urine to drain through the litter to collect in the bottom of the pan. Silica litter and some biodegradable litters act similarly to clumping clay litter, swelling to form balls of urine, for easy cleaning.
Pica in Cats
When a kitten or cat eats nonfood items such as cat litter, paper and plants, she has a condition known as pica. There are many reasons a cat may eat unusual things, including medical illness, genetic predisposition and compulsive behavior. If your kitten is eating cat litter, she may be suffering from a dietary deficiency or anemia; cats with anemia may eat clay litter or dirt to make up for the loss of iron.
Passive Litter Ingestion
Consider how your kitten goes about her daily business. She plays, has a bite to eat, plays some more, visits the litter box and then settles down for a quick four-hour nap. Being the fastidious little cat she is, she'll take a few minutes to groom herself at some point. It's normal for cats and kittens to ingest the small amounts of litter left on them after they've used their litter boxes.
What to Do if Your Kitten Eats Litter
Generally, if your kitten ingests a bit of litter during her routine grooming, she may experience some mild gastrointestinal upset. If she’s actively chowing down on her cat litter, she should visit the vet. In addition to diagnosing a reason for her litter love, your vet can ensure the litter doesn't cause a blockage or dehydration. Large amounts of litter can cause an upset stomach, constipation or intestinal obstruction.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, early claims about the potential danger of ingesting silica and bentonite clumping cat litters have not been proven. Some owners feared ingested litter would bind together and block a kitten's intestines. The organization recommends concerned kitten owners delay introducing a kitten to clumping litter until 3 or 4 months of age if they are concerned about the kitten's safety. If you are concerned about your kitten or cat ingesting even small amounts litter, consider using a biodegradable litter made of material such as corn or wheat.