Watching your fur-covered pal struggle to breathe is truly heartbreaking. Sometimes clumping kitty litter can make asthma symptoms even worse. You’ll have to make several changes in his environment to lessen the risk of asthma attacks -- including possibly switching to a different litter.
Asthma is a respiratory disease that makes felines overly sensitive to everyday allergens, affecting roughly 1 percent of all cats, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. When your four-legged family member has asthma, his bronchial tubes around his lungs become narrow when he’s around dust, strong perfumes, carpet deodorizers, cigarette smoke and other common allergens. He’ll have a sudden attack that makes it difficult for him to breathe. You might see him hunched over with his chest to the ground, straining to take a breath. Since he has to use a litter box to relieve himself, you’ll have to make changes to his toilet to prevent these acute attacks.
Clumping kitty litter is often very dusty. You’ve surely noticed a big cloud of dust lurking over the litter pan every time you refill the box. While that dust ball eventually settles, it comes back up every time Johnny digs himself a hole to do his business. The dust will come up and he’ll inhale it right away, sending his asthma into a frenzy. This is why he wheezes and coughs after going potty.
The Scent Concern
While wandering down the cat litter aisle, you most likely get a whiff of a fresh linen or floral scent. Litter manufacturers add all kinds of powdered perfumes to litter to minimize litter box odors and most types of clumping litters are heavily scented. Even though Johnny’s box is perfectly pleasant for your nose, the extra dust can trigger a sudden asthma attack. Avoid pouring any scented granules or baking soda into his litter pan. These added powders can further increase his risk of having breathing complications.
What to Use
If you prefer clumping litter and Johnny is already used to it, try using a brand that is labeled “dust free” and “unscented.” This type of clumping litter could be mild enough for him to use, depending on the severity of his asthma. Another option is using newspaper pellets in place of clumping litter. Newspaper pellets are made from ground and compacted recycled newspaper. These pellets aren’t scented and aren’t as dusty as traditional clay litters. If Johnny is still having severe asthma attacks, you may have to stop using litter all together and just use shredded paper instead.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.