From a cat vet on a bulletin board:
"The one article sure to be cited is one that appeared in "tiger tribe" magazine a few years ago warning of the dangers of clumping litter, and it's being responsible for the death of several kittens. The author says that the vet told her the litter was responsible for the deaths. What the people who cite this article don't ever say is that in the very next issue, the woman's vet wrote a letter to the editor saying she had been misquoted, it wasn't so much that the litter caused the death as much as it was a contributing factor in the subsequent death of already sick kittens. I personally have not seen any problems (in my own cats or clients cats/kittens), nor have any of the vets I know personally or have heard at the seminars I've attended, nor have I seen anything in the journals or trade magazines.
About a year ago, the U-Illinois Vet School did a literature search and did not find any published information to support that it is a danger.
So, is it a problem? As to obstructing intestines and causing death...I'm skeptical and maybe I've just been lucky, but I haven't seen any evidence to change my opinion, but I certainly would change my opinion if there is anything substantiated. Anything I've heard to date is anecdotal and again, seems to tie in with that one article. I DO feel that it is dustier, and many of my allergic/asthmatic cats have more respiratory problems when using it. Basically, do what you are comfortable with.
James Richards, DVM Director, Cornell Feline Health Center
in the March 1998 issue of CatWatch,
the Cornell University of Veterinary Medicine
Newsletter for Cat People
Editor's Note: In a previous issue of CatWatch, we suggested using a clumping-type litter to encourage cats with house-soiling problems to use the litter box. Several cat owners have sent letters questioning the safety of clumping cat litter. The following is a representative letter:
I started using clumping litter about two years ago, but did not like it because of the fine dust. I changed to regular clay litter. Last spring, I heard the commercials saying they had improved the dust situation, so I tried it again. Then I read a letter in a cat magazine in which the owner clained that one of her kittens died from clumping litter clogging up the intestinal tract. The kitten would play in the water and then the litter. She would then lick her paws and swallow the litter. On autopsy, they found her stomach and lower intestine filled with this gray stuff that was like wet cement. The letter discussed another situation in which kittens died, perhaps from litter ingestion. I've also heard about litter dust clogging kittens' nasal passages. What are your views on this matter?
The question of the safety of clumping-type clay cat litters was first raised about two years ago. No feline health problems related to clumping litters have been published in any of the veterinary medical literature, so I did an extensive investigation, questioning many veterinary surgeons and feline-medicine practitioners. None had noted any harmful effects of the litter. Whenever I attend a major feline veterinary medical meeting, I question the participants (usually 100 to 200-veterinarians or more) about their experience with the litter. So far, none have recognized any health problems associated with its use.
Besides its convenience, many cats prefer the texture. More than a few cats who refused to use the litter box have been "cured" when switched to clumping litter. House cats that consistently refuse to use the litter box are, sadly, at risk of being euthanized or thrown out on the street by owners who can no longer tolerate the odor and mess. I suspect that many cats have had their lives spared when their owners began to use clumping litters, which the cats preferred.
Lack of scientific evidence
Admittedly, no one has conducted any studies in which cats were forced to consume large quantities of cat litter to see what effect it had on their health. (Thank goodness! This kind of study would be inhumane, to say the least.) But the glaring absence of reports in any of the refereed veterinary journals implies that disease and death caused by clumping litter must be uncommon, as millions of cats are using it. However, one must realize that virtually anything, if ingested in large enough quantities, can be harmful.
Better to be cautious
So although clumping litters appear to be safe, these anecdotal reports of problems lead me to caution owners of nursing kittens to avoid having a litter box with clumping litter in the nursing area. It is conceivable that kittens playing in the box for extended periods could ingest or inhale a sufficient amount of litter to be harmed. Even once the kittens are more mobile and spend most of their time outside the nursing area, it is probably still wise to use a nonclumping litter until they are weaned.
For all other cats, I suggest having the feeding an drinking areas as far removed from the litter box area as practical, regardless of the litter type used. By doing so, fecal contamination of the food or water is reduced, as "tracked" litter is less likely to wind up in the food or water dish.
If you see your cat ingesting quantities of litter (like the kitty who played in the water), consult with a veterinarian on how best to prevent the behavior.
Subscribe to CatWatch by calling 1-800-829-8893
@ 1998 Torstar Publications.
Today, March 19, 1999, I received an email from someone who is disappointed in this page. Because the "dangers" of clumping litter are undermined. For those of you that haven't been to the rest of my site, let me explain a little about our home.
At this point in time, we have nineteen cats. Yes, nineteen. They range in age from six months (the little hoochie wanna be mamma Ciara to our old man, Bobby, the senior cat at 18 years of age). We also use clumping litter. We have used clumping litter for many years. We tried it the first time it came out and, to be honest, I wasn't impressed. It didn't clump as it said it would. Possibly, the multi cat situation oversaturated the litter and it just didn't work. So, I stuck with the fat granules of litter, the old style "Jonny Cat". I hated litter cleanup, as you might imagine. We tried the clumping litter off and on, then they came out with the formula for multi cats (we buy the litter at CostCo, Litter Purrfect). Great. We liked it. The cats liked it. In the litter boxes, I had both kinds of litter. One with the old style, one with the new clumping litters. Guess which one didn't get used? Right. The old one. The cats preferred the clumping litter. And anything that would help them use the litterbox, instead of the wall, was okay with me.
Then started the scare stories. Like the one mentioned above by Cat Doc, the one that was in the magazine Tiger Tribe. And I've heard that at cat shows the salespeople for the *other* litters repeat the stories. And someone who tried one of the other *natural* types of litters and sent in the coupon, received some *anti-clumping* litter literature in return. Of course they say bad things about clumping litter. If you're buying clumping litter, you aren't buying their litter. So, I put little weight in what they have to say. Kind of like politicians talking down their opponents.
Now, a personal anecdote about clumping litter. Our oldest cat, Bobby, lost a leg to an Akita when our cats were "free range". (No lectures, please, they no longer roam the neighborhood, we've modified our fence to keep them in.) He also lost both hipjoints. This makes it hard for him to get around, now that he's older and losing muscle mass. He also has a hard time negotiating any type of litter, so he pees and poops in front of the litter box. When he does this, he occasionally gets litter on him. I clean it off when I see it, but I don't always see it and he licks it off. He's been doing this for years. I'm not talking about the little bit that they get on their paws. Bobby's tail will get wet and drag in the litter that's been kicked out of the box by the other cats. And Bobby is doing just fine. No health problems, beyond those caused by the long hospital stay and the loss of his leg. He had a checkup within the last four months, bloodwork, too, and the vet said he's going strong.
If your cat gets sick and the vet suspects the cat litter, or if your cat dies and the vet suspects the litter, please, save the "mass" that the vet finds in your kitty. Immediately contact the company you've bought your litter from and ask them about it. Tell them you want to send them the mass and have it tested. Or look for some way to get it tested by an "unbiased" company or lab.
Until I hear something conclusive about the dangers of clumping cat litter, I will continue to use it and to advise others to use it.
© 1996-2003 lisaviolet