Cats sometimes do mysterious things. And sometimes, to our shock, that includes eating cat litter. What in the world possesses a cat to eat cat litter—and is it even safe for them to eat? As it turns out, there are a lot of reasons why a cat might show an unusual interest in their litter.
Your cat’s craving for cat litter can be caused by a range of medical issues, by what the litter itself is made of, and can even be caused by genetic predisposition.
Some cat litter is naturally “tasty”
While most litter is made from clay or crystals, some litter is made from more edible, and possibly more enticing, sources. This includes litter made from corn, walnut shells, coconut husks, grass, wheat, or paper. The scent of these types of litter may encourage your cat to take a bite, and the foodlike taste might keep them coming back for more.
What is pica?
Your cat could be eating litter for reasons that have nothing to do with the smell or taste of it, though. Pica is a texture-based compulsion to eat, lick, or suck on nonfood items, and this condition is fairly common in cats. Some cats lick plastic. Others fixate on fabric. And some are drawn, inexplicably, to litter.
Pica isn’t the only reason that your cat might develop a taste for cat litter, though. Here are some of the top causes that PetMD lists for unusual cravings—including craving cat litter.
- Litter made from food-based products
- Dietary deficiencies such as anemia
- Feline leukemia
- Feline immunodeficiency virus
- Brain tumors
Whether your cat eats litter due to pica, boredom, or another reason entirely—your first concern might be for your cat’s safety. Litter isn’t meant to be eaten, but is it dangerous for cats?
Litter is not good for cats to eat, but some litter is more dangerous than others. Clumping litter contains sodium bentonite, and it is especially dangerous for cats. The sodium bentonite can clump inside of their intestines and cause a blockage. In extreme cases, it can even cause bentonite toxicosis when ingested.
Not all litter is created equal. If you are worried about the risk of sodium bentonite, consider looking into a different type of litter. For a litter that doesn’t contain sodium bentonite, consider one made from food-based products such as wheat or corn.
How to stop your cat from eat litter
It isn’t good for cats to eat cat litter, but you may be lost on how to help them break the habit. How can you stop a cat from eating litter?
Since stress can lead to eating inedible substances, start with monitoring and reducing stressors in your cat. Stress can be caused by a variety of sources, and can be diffused by keeping your cat mentally stimulated, giving your cat enough space, playing, or even introducing a horomone diffuser to help your cat feel safe.
Boredom is also a potential culprit. Ensuring that your cat gets plenty of exercise and interaction and has lots of fun toys to play with will help combat that. It may also help to give your cat toys they can safely chew, such as one in which you can hide an edible treat.
Anemia or dietary imbalances can cause strange cravings. Ensure that your cat is eating a high-quality cat food that provides them with the vitamins and minerals that they need to stay healthy.
If your cat continues to eat litter, consider switching to a different litter. This may stop the compulsion. Switching to a natural litter may also decrease the risk of complications from eating litter. A litter made out of wheat, corn, or a similar substance is less likely to form internal blockages and does not carry any risk of bentonite toxicosis.
If these don’t help with the problem, consider taking your cat to the vet. A more serious cause could be at the root of this. Your cat may be eating litter due to a medical or psychological reason that your vet will be able to help with navigating. Your vet will also be able to advise you on what lifestyle changes will help your cat to kick their compulsion for good.
Whether your cat is eating litter out of boredom or due to a serious medical condition, taking steps to ensure your cat has plenty of stimulation, low stress levels, and the veterinary care they need will help them to break their unsavory habit. If you have even more questions about cat litter or cat anxiety, check out the articles below for even more information.
- What to Do About Your Cat’s Anxiety
- 9 Best Cat Litters for Your Feline Friend
- Come Clean With These Dust-Free Cat Litters
- Take a Deep Breath—We’ve Found the Best Odor-Reducing Cat Litter
- Get the Scoop on the Best Covered Cat Litter Box
- 17 Stand-Out Cat Litter Box Furniture Options to Fit Your Style
- 10 Cat Litter Mats to Keep Litter From Getting Everywhere