Let's face it, your cat will spend a lot of time in his litter box over the course of his life. The litter you put in that box shouldn't just be clean. It should also be healthy for him -- and you. Check the litter's ingredients and how it's made.
When you're choosing a healthy cat litter, consider the dust factor. As your cat digs and paws around in the box, he scoots the litter around. If the litter is dusty, that dust will fly up, increasing the chance that Kitty gets a lungful of the stuff. The dust can also get on your cat's fur, which means that the first time he grooms himself, he'll get a mouthful. Choosing less dusty litter reduces the chance that your cat will develop lung and respiratory infections. It's also better for you, since it's easy to inadvertently breathe in the dust while scooping out the box. Be wary of "low dust" claims on litter bags and in advertisements. These litters can still contain more dust than is desirable. Test out a variety of litters -- different brands and different materials -- to find a dust level you and your kitty can be comfortable with.
Clumping vs Non-clumping
Clumping litter makes cleaning up your kitty's messes a whole lot easier. But there's also a chance your cat will eat the litter, accidentally or on purpose. For kittens, older or ill cats, this could create a mess in more ways than one. Aside from gastrointestinal upset, kittens especially are at risk for blockages, which can be fatal. That doesn't mean you have to avoid these litters completely. If you have an older cat who's unlikely to ingest litter, clumping probably won't be an issue. Still, it's something to consider when choosing healthy litter.
Perfumes and Chemicals
Adding perfume to kitty litter makes perfect sense on paper. What better way to mask the sometimes nasty smells cats leave behind? The problem? The perfume can irritate your cat, causing him to avoid his box. This is bad news for you -- it's likely Kitty will find somewhere else to eliminate, such as the floor or your bed -- and bad news for the cat. A cat who avoids his box and holds out on going to the potty is at risk for urinary tract infections, urinary crystals and intestinal troubles. Harsh chemicals in litter also create problems. Silica, for example, could lead to tummy problems if your cat gets it on his paws and then licks it off.
When choosing a healthy type of cat litter, keep in mind the dangers of dust, chemicals and perfumes. Try litters made of natural ingredients instead. Some litters are corn based, though be careful -- cats can be sensitive to corn and shouldn't use this type. Wheat-based litters are another option. Some brands even offer low-dust clumping varieties that won't hurt your cat if he decides to snarf down a clump or two. Alternately, give paper or pine litter a try. There are no harsh chemicals or perfumes, and paper litter has no dust to worry about.
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