Have you noticed your cat suddenly developing a peculiar taste for cat litter? If so, why do you think that is and how can you curb their newly found appetite? Read on as we examine the reasons why your cat has hopped on the new diet craze sweeping your household!
Sometimes It’s Just Tasty
While there can be many behavioral and health-related reasons as to why your cat is eating kitty litter, sometimes the reason isn’t more serious than the litter itself just being tasty. Although many kinds of litter are made from clay, some litter is made from less processed ingredients. These less-processed ingredients can be alluring to a cat’s taste buds. Examples of fewer processed ingredients that are possibly tasty to your cat are corn, coconut husks, walnut shells, wheat, and even paper. The less processed litter being consumed, the less likely your cat will develop a serious condition like an intestinal blockage. Either way, monitoring your cat’s behavior and diet is important when you notice this behavior, and sometimes, more often than not, it’s time to switch the type of cat litter.
Sometimes It’s Pica
Pica is a behavioral condition where your cat is eating non-food items like plastic, dirt, wool, or litter. Experts believe this can result from a mineral deficiency in a cat’s diet, some disease, or just boredom. Usually, pica begins early on when they’re kittens and can long well into adulthood. A PrettyLitter subscriber once described her cat as having an appetite for tape, whether that was scotch or packing tape, he loved the feel of the stickiness to his mouth. When it comes to pica, sometimes cats opt for something less sticky and more accessible like their kitty litter.
Sometimes It’s Anemia
Anemia is a health condition where the body doesn’t produce as many red blood cells as it should or the red blood cells it already has aren’t working the way they should be. Animals that have this condition become iron-deficient as a result. One of the most telling signs of anemia, other than kitty litter consumption, is paleness. You can check for this by lifting your cat’s lips and looking at the gums. Their gums should be a healthy pink color. If you notice your cat has a dark pigment in its gums, that’s normal. You’ll be able to tell whether or not their gums are paler than usual. If you notice gums that look white or blue, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. Feline anemia can often be a sign of a more serious illness such as kidney disease or cancer.
Sometimes It’s Just Gross
An arguably grosser behavioral condition that could be why your cat is consuming kitty litter is called coprophagia. This is the act of eating one’s feces. As unpleasant as this is to witness, it's a natural behavior among many animals. It’s commonly associated with dogs but cats can also engage in it. Usually, it occurs when they are kittens. Since kittens don’t have microorganisms in their gastrointestinal tracts, ingesting microbes via cat feces could help a kitten establish a balanced gastrointestinal ecosystem in their first few weeks of life. Most cats will grow out of this cat behavior when they are potty trained and weaned, however, it can sometimes linger into adulthood.
Sometimes It’s FIP
Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) is a rare condition that’s believed to be caused by a virus that invades a feline immune system’s white blood cells. This then leads to inflammation, abnormal eating behaviors, fever, weight loss, and bloating.
Sometimes It’s Curiosity
We all know that cats are naturally curious creatures. There’s even a common, ill-fated phrase about their curiosity. Because of their curiosity, many cats enjoy trying new things like the taste of their cat litter. If you’ve only noticed this cat behavior occurring once in a while but not often, curiosity could be why. Curious kittens are very similar to human children and will try to eat many things they shouldn’t.
Sometimes It’s Their Diet
Cats are naturally carnivorous animals. Cats who don’t get enough meat in their diet may develop nutritional deficiencies and may try to correct these deficiencies by eating cat litter. It’s our duty as cat parents to make sure our kitties eat cat food that contains lots of natural ingredients and nutrients like potassium and iron.
Sometimes It’s Something Deeper
Strange eating habits can indicate something deeper such as a compulsion or something similar. Maybe your cat is going through something emotionally or psychologically like the sudden loss of another pet or loved one. Stressed or depressed, they could be exhibiting strange eating habits because of it.
Some other major cat health-related causes of kitty litter consumption are feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, diabetes, and brain tumors. No matter the levity or gravity or the cat's health-related cause, the best thing you can do is take them to a vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Some Things To Watch Out For
Depending on what kitty litter is used, some ingredients can be hazardous for your cat. Clumping clay litter is dangerous because the ingredients used to make it could cause it to clump in your cat’s digestive system creating potentially deadly intestinal blockages. The clay in clumping litter can also strip away essential minerals such as iron and potassium from the cat’s body. For more on non clumping vs clumping cat litter, check out our blog. Other cat litters are made from crystals that, albeit sharp and can cause tiny cuts within the lining of their digestive tract, also contain hazardous chemicals if eaten.
Some Things You Can Do
The absolute best thing you can and should do when you notice your cat has begun eating their litter is to take them to the vet for an evaluation. Once a diagnosis has been made, the best course of action can be taken such as prescribing antibiotics, enhancing their diet, or even surgery. Some proactive steps you as an owner can take include watching what they eat, changing the type of litter being used, and eliminating any other chewable/snackable items around the litter box like cat toys or plants like cat grass. You can also try to train them to not eat non-food items by clapping loudly and firmly, yet warmly, saying “no.”
Like many risky diets and fads, eating litter can be a thing of the past for your cat when you take the right steps in curbing their strange new appetite!
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