Feline Lung Problems Due to Clay Cat Litter

Clay litters create dust that can irritate kitty lungs.

Clay litters create dust that can irritate kitty lungs.

Clay cat litters are controversial, particularly for how they may affect your kitty's health. While some argue that the chemicals used in clay litter may cause respiratory issues in cats, the ASPCA has found that these chemicals aren't necessarily dangerous. Still, switching brands can give you peace of mind.

Monitor your cat's behavior if they use clay cat litter. While experts agree that clay litter alone is unlikely to create lung problems, the dust that it generates can exacerbate existing health issues such as asthma. If your cat ever appears to have difficulty breathing, especially after using the litter box, take them to see a vet. Any apparent breathing issues, no matter the cause, should be treated professionally.

If using clay litter, provide a litter box without a lid to allow air flow. Clay litters can produce a lot of dust, and toxic or no, it's unpleasant to inhale. If they use a covered litter box, those dust clouds they kick up have nowhere to go, essentially trapping them in a chemical dust cloud when they scratch at their litter.

If you are concerned about lung problems or if your cat exhibits traits of respiratory problems, gradually change your cat's litter. Even if respiratory issues aren't caused by the litter directly, they can be aggravated by it. Keep in mind that switching a cat's litter too suddenly may cause them to reject the box and eliminate elsewhere in your home. While switching brands, do so over the course of a week; scooping out some clay litter every day and replacing it with the new type of litter. Following this routine daily until the clay litter is gone helps your cat transition smoothly.

Items you will need

  • Lidless cat litter box
  • Organic cat litter


  • Consider using a naturally-derived cat litter brand when you switch your cat's litter, as it does not contain potentially harmful chemicals and does not kick up all of that litter dust that can irritate their lungs. Organic litters may be made of wheat, paper, corn, wood dust and other naturally-derived, odor-blocking ingredients.
  • Lung problems can be cause by a multitude of conditions, including heartworms. If your cat appears to have difficulty breathing, never assume that switching their litter will help -- take them to a vet.

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About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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