It can be quite alarming to find that your cat is eating litter. Cats are known to be clean pets and meticulous with their grooming. If you find your cat is having sudden meals in their litter box, it could indicate a health problem. They could be facing a behavioral or digestive system issue, or other health problems.
Why is my cat eating litter?
Cats are notoriously picky eaters, so why is your cat eating litter? If you notice your kitty treating their litter box like a buffet, it's possible that there is a more complex medical issue involved. Although it's more heavily associated with dogs, coprophagia, or the act of eating feces, is a behavior sometimes present in cats — and it's entirely normal and natural animal behavior. If your kitten is a first-time offender, it's likely that they are simply curious about the taste of litter and other non-food items.
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Because some cat litter is made from natural products, cats may consider it tastier than other brands. While a cat who repeatedly eats cat litter should be seen by a veterinarian, they may be more likely to munch on grass, wheat, corn, paper, or other natural litter components.
A cat eating litter can be a sign of nutritional deficiencies
When cats don't get the proper amount of minerals or vitamins, their instinct may compel them to consume non-food items, including cat litter, to fill their nutritional needs. Common vitamin and mineral deficiencies in cats includes taurine, sodium, pryuvate kinase, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B1, and L-carnitine.
Young kittens are more likely to have pica
Some curious and playful cats and kittens are likely to have pica. Pica is a behavior marked by the consumption of non-food items. Kittens might find that an object (such as a plastic bottle) simply tastes good or that it's a fun toy. However, non-food items that are small or torn can cause choking and major intestinal problems such as an intestinal blockage. Litter containing sodium bentonite is dangerous and can cause bentonite toxicosis if your cat eats it.
If the litter clumps get stuck, the kitten may not be able to process food and water. Litter that contains sharp-edged granules could also cause a stomach puncture or tear, which could be fatal to your kitten.
Pica in adult and older cats
Pica is even more concerning in older cats who have avoided or grown out of the exploratory kitten behavior of eating random objects as they discover their environment. If the onset of pica in an older cat is sudden, it could be due to several issues. This can include a change in cat food (which makes the litter tastier), anemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies as discussed above, kidney disease, and feline leukemia. Because pica in adult and senior cats is more likely to indicate health problems, it's necessary to take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
In older cats, pica is often accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy and weight loss. This could indicate problems with the digestive system, or the presence of anemia (when an animal does not produce enough healthy red blood cells).
What to do if your cat is eating litter
If your cat is consuming litter, it's essential to schedule an appointment with their veterinarian as soon as possible. You should also monitor and record your cat's behavior. Make sure to scoop the litter at least one time per day. This is especially important if you have multiple cats, as litter can accumulate faster. To lessen the risk of respiratory, intestinal, and other digestive issues, you can also switch to a biodegradable litter. Your veterinarian is the best source for determining the underlying cause of your cat eating litter. However, switching out the litter and scooping it regularly can prevent additional conditions such as E. coli contamination.
The bottom line
When you have a litter-eating cat on your hands, it's time for a trip to the veterinarian. However, you can create some preventative measures in the meantime. Monitor your cat's behavior and switch to a litter that is less likely to damage them. You should also scoop their litter box regularly. If you suspect your cat has pica, you should make sure your cat does not ingest other non-food objects.