When it comes to your kitten's litter box, there are plenty of litter options to choose from. Clumping litters are popular, but they may not be the best choice for a young kitten. Before deciding which litter to use, consider the potential problems and research alternatives to clumping litter.
The main concern with using clumping litter when your kitten is still young is the worry the cat might accidentally ingest some of the litter and develop gastrointestinal distress or blockages as a result. Kittens are more likely to try to eat litter than adult cats, and they can also ingest litter if they lick it off their coats while grooming. No clinical studies have been done to see if ingested clay litter causes harm, but many cat owners choose not to use clumping litter just in case. Another potential danger is that the airborne dust that rises from clumping clay litter might cause respiratory irritation, although this association also remains unproven.
The ASPCA recommends waiting until your kitten is 3 to 4 months old to introduce her to clumping litter to avoid possible problems. If an older cat is caught eating litter, this could be a sign of a dietary deficiency, and she should be taken to a vet for an assessment.
Bentonite clay, the primary ingredient in clumping litter, is not biodegradable, so any clumping litter you use will stay in a landfill indefinitely once thrown away. Many people eschew clumping kitty litter and opt for a more ecologically friendly type. Also, most clumping litters are not flushable, so if you accidentally flush some of it down the toilet, you could clog your toilet. Some cat litters, including clumping litters, contain fragrances that some cats are sensitive to. If your kitten shows signs of a reaction to her litter, try a different kind.
Plain clay litter is the cheapest form on the market, but it requires daily replacement to keep the litter box fresh. Ecologically friendly cat litter alternatives include varieties made from corncobs, recycled newspaper and pine. Some alternative cat litters, such as corn- and wheat-based litters, also have some clumping ability, so they offer the convenience of scooping litter without the concerns. However, some kittens and cats do not like the texture of alternative litters and will refuse to use the litter box if those are the only choices offered.
Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.