Urinary tract infections are all about bacteria. The type of litter your kitty digs in typically won't spontaneously cause a UTI, but its cleanliness might. Some cats, meanwhile, suffer irritation from the ingredients in clumping litter regardless of its cleanliness, encouraging bacterial growth and thus urinary tract infection.
Urinary tract infections are essentially the result of a bunch of microscopic nasties having a party somewhere along your cat's urinary tract. Bacteria, fungi and algae can all work their way into your cat's urinary tract, where they hunker down, multiply and cause your kitty pain and various bathroom problems. Stress, dirty litter boxes and medical conditions such as diabetes can contribute to such unwanted microbial growth.
Linked to Litter?
Visit almost any online forum about cat health and you'll most likely find someone who insists his cat's litter caused his UTI. This may have merit, as some vets think scented and clumping litters can contribute to UTIs because they irritate the cat's urinary tract, leaving him vulnerable to bacterial attack. No hard scientific studies have proven this theory, but a dirty litter box is one possible cause for these infections. As your cat squats to do his business, bacteria from the dirty litter -- clumping or otherwise -- may find their way back up your kitty's nether-regions and hunker down to multiply. Thus causing pain, irritation and infection.
Clumping litter isn't the total evil many cat owners would like you to believe, but it does have pros and cons. Because of its function, any animal who swallows some of this litter, or even inhales the dust, could suffer from internal blockages as it solidifies inside. Kittens are primarily vulnerable to this issue, as they sometimes eat the litter as they learn to use the pan. If an adult cat walks through the box before the litter has a chance to set up properly after use, some litter may stick to his paws, which he'll swallowed when he grooms next. Anecdotal evidence by owners shows that some cats do seem to suffer more UTIs when they use clumping litter, which may be due to the ingredients in the litter or to a particularly sensitive cat tush. No evidence proves that clumping litter itself will cause an otherwise healthy cat to suddenly develop a UTI.
Treatment and Prevention
Cat UTIs typically respond well to medications from your vet, leaving your cat right as rain usually within a week or so. Preventing future UTIs requires following basic hygienic routines, such as cleaning his box regularly before it becomes too nasty and offering him plenty of fresh water. If no amount of litter box cleaning seems to stop recurring UTIs, swap his clumping litter with a non-clumping variety for a few months and see if it helps. Your kitty may simply be overly sensitive to the clumping litter's ingredients.
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