Clumping cat litter forms a hard ball when it comes into contact with liquids, making it easy for you to clean your furbaby's waste by scooping it. Unfortunately, your curious kitten may try to eat the litter, leading to gastrointestinal distress. Avoid problems by using non-clumping litter until he's older.
When to Use
The majority of clumping cat litter is made from sodium bentonite clay, which expands to 15 times its size when it comes into contact with liquid, forming extremely hard clumps, according to Vetinfo. While sodium bentonite is generally considered safe for cats, young kittens may try to ingest the litter out of curiosity, making it a potential problem for them. Ingestion of clumping clay-based litters can cause gastrointestinal upset or even an intestinal blockage in your little guy. Because of these reasons, clumping litter isn't recommended for use with kittens under 4 months of age, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Clumping Litter Dangers
Clumping litter contains both sodium bentonite and quartz silica, two types of minerals that are safe if not ingested, according to Vetinfo. When your kitty digs around in his litter box, his feet and body may become crusted over with the clumping litter, especially if any urine gets on his fur. Your little guy will then groom himself, ingesting the litter. He may also become curious and try to eat the litter directly from the box to see what it is when he is first being litter-trained. While a small amount of these chemicals may cause some upset stomach issues, if he eats a large amount of litter, he could become seriously ill. Large amounts of litter can actually clump in the small intestine, according to PetPlace. A gastrointestinal blockage like this is a medical emergency and can be fatal.
When kittens get older, around 4 months old, there is less of a chance that they will try to taste their cat litter to see what it is. After all, at this age, they are used to it and know that it isn't food. They are also much bigger at this age, usually around 4 pounds or so, reducing the chances of their intestines becoming clogged with clumped particles of litter. After all, just a few grains of litter stuck together can easily block a younger kitten's tiny intestines. If you notice that your older kitty is still trying to eat litter, it could indicate a potential health issue, like anemia, according to the ASPCA.
What to Use
Traditional clay litter won't clump and is made of larger particles than clumping clay-based litter. These particles won't stick to your kitten's fur and are generally harder for him to eat. Another option is pelleted litters made from materials like wood or corn. These natural litters consist of pellets, slightly larger than the particles of traditional clay litter. Both of these litters work in the same way—they absorb your kitty's urine and allow him to cover his feces. The entire box of litter must be changed more frequently than with clumping litter, because you can't scoop all the waste from the box. Changing the litter one to two times per week should be sufficient to keep it clean.
While clumping litters are generally considered safe for cats, it's best to avoid using them until your kitten reaches 4 months old. Clumping litters made from natural ingredients like corn, wood or nut hulls may be safer for kittens, but could still cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested. Avoid any such issues by using traditional clay or natural pellet litter, which is harder for your little one to ingest and won't stick to his fur. When changing over your older kitten to clumping litter, do so by slowly adding it to your kitty's existing litter a little at a time until he becomes used to using it.
Based in Las Vegas, Susan Paretts has been writing since 1998. She writes about many subjects including pets, finances, crafts, food, home improvement, shopping and going green. Her articles, short stories and reviews have appeared on City National Bank's website and on The Noseprint. Paretts holds a Master of Professional Writing from the University of Southern California.