Why Is My Kitten Eating Litter?
First of all, ew.
Second of all, why is he eating his litter in the first place?
The Dodo spoke with Dr. Megan Dundas, a veterinarian and practice owner of Lincolndale Veterinary Center in New York, who explained why this happens and what you can do about it.
Why your kitten is eating litter
There are actually a bunch of reasons your kitten might be chowing down on litter.
“Very young kittens explore the world with their mouths and may be found trying to ingest a wide variety of non-food objects,” Dr. Dundas told The Dodo. “They may like the mouthfeel of the litter, or even the taste, in the case of wheat- or corn-based litters.”
But aside from normal kitten curiosity, your BFF could be eating his litter for a more serious reason, like malnutrition.
“Clay-based litter contains minerals that could address a nutritional deficiency, while corn- or wheat-based litters may be viewed as a food source by a kitten,” Dr. Dundas explained.
Not to mention, eating out of his litter box could also be a sign that your kitten is actually sick.
“Illnesses can also cause a kitten to eat litter,” Dr. Dundas said. “Anemia, or an abnormally low red blood cell count, is one of the more common illnesses that lead to ingestion of litter or other non-food objects.”
Anemia in kittens could be a result of parasites or infections, and in older cats it could even be a sign of cancer.
So, if you catch your kitten eating his litter, be on the lookout for other signs of anemia, like:
- Pale gum color
- Rapid breathing
- Sleeping longer than normal
“If your kitten is eating litter regularly, a phone call to your veterinarian is recommended,” Dr. Dundas said. “You want to be sure the kitten has been screened or treated for intestinal parasites, and that there are no signs of other gastrointestinal diseases.”
If his health checks out, his litter eating might be a psychological issue instead of a physical one.
“Behavioral causes, such as anxiety, are more common triggers for litter eating in adult cats, but even kittens can develop anxious behaviors, especially if they don’t have enough enrichment in their environment,” Dr. Dundas explained.
So, if you notice your kitten eating litter regularly, you’re going to want to call your vet right away, since each of these causes requires different treatment.
Plus, some of those underlying issues are actually pretty serious and should be caught sooner rather than later.
Problems with kittens eating litter
“Kittens who ‘dabble’ in litter ingestion likely won’t suffer any ill effect,” Dr. Dundas said. “Kittens who ingest litter often or larger quantities are at risk for developing a blockage of the stomach or intestines.”
If your kitten has a gastrointestinal blockage, that’s actually a serious medical emergency. So, be sure to look out for signs of a blockage, like:
- Diarrhea (followed by a period of constipation)
- Loss of appetite
If you see any of those signs, contact your vet ASAP so you can get your kitten the treatment he needs.
What to do if your kitten’s eating his litter
Again, you’re going to want to give your vet a call to try to figure out why your kitten is eating his litter in the first place and address that underlying issue.
“Eating litter is only ‘acceptable’ when it’s short-lived and due to curiosity,” Dr. Dundas explained. “If anxiety or other behavioral causes are suspected, your kitten may need to be on a medication while the behavioral issues are being worked through.”
And obviously, if your kitten is eating his litter because he’s sick, you’re going to need your vet’s help for that, too.
But if your kitten isn’t sick, he honestly might just be a little bored.
“If your kitten is healthy and still eating litter, make sure that there is plenty of enrichment at home in the form of play and offering a variety of toys to stimulate interest,” Dr. Dundas said.
The safest kitten litter for kittens who love eating litter
Most importantly, if your kitten does have a tendency to sneak a bite of his litter, you want to make sure you’re getting him the safest type of litter for him in case he accidentally swallows some.
“Any type of litter could potentially cause a gastrointestinal obstruction, [but] clumping litters [are] potentially more dangerous, given that they can clump up in the digestive fluids of the gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Dundas explained.
So that means you should opt for a non-clumping litter to be on the safer side.
“You could consider a switch to something like Yesterday’s News or a sand-based litter,” Dr. Dundas said.
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