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Why is My Cat Eating Litter? 6 Reasons And How to Stop It

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Some cats can be a bit weird when it comes to their litter trays. Some cats lay in their litter boxes, others meow in their litter trays. But have you ever noticed your cat eating litter?

As strange as this is to us, cats eat their litter for a variety of reasons.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • The reasons why some cats eat litter
  • The dangers of cats and kittens eating litter
  • How to stop it

Find the Best Cat Litter For You and Your Cat

We’ve used hundreds of cat litters since 2013 and product tested 72 this year. These are 9 of the best.

Why Do Cats Eat Litter: Here Are 6 Reasons

black and ginger cat sniffing their cat litter

There are a few reasons why cats eat litter, most of which have anything to do with the smell or taste of it. These can be health issues, behavioural problems or it could be simple curiosity.

That said, if you think it’s a health issue, you should seek veterinary advice soon as possible. Especially if the behaviour has started suddenly.

Here are 6 reasons why your cat might eat their litter;

1. They Might Have Pica Syndrome

Pica is a behaviour where cats have the urge to eat, lick or suck on non-edible materials. It’s a texture-based compulsion. Some cats lick plastic, others fixate on sucking fabric and some eat cat litter.

Pica is pretty common in cats and it can be harmless, like licking plastic. But eating non-food products like cat litter can be dangerous, causing intestinal blockages.

If you think your cat might have Pica Syndrome, speak with your vet.

2. Your Cat Might Have Anaemia

Eating litter could be a sign your cat is suffering from Anemia.

This is a condition that occurs when your cat isn’t able to produce enough red blood cells and haemoglobin. So they eat litter to try and get the iron, vitamins, trace minerals or fatty acids they’re missing in their diet.

Check your cat’s gums. If they’re pale, white or bluey, this could be a sign of Anemia.

If you suspect your cat has Anemia, speak to your vet as soon as possible.

3. Other Health Issues

Cats eating litter could be a sign of other health issues including;

  1. Kidney diease, or
  2. Leukemia (which can cause Anemia)

To diagnose the issue, your vet will need to conduct a full exam. This will include a complete blood count and urinalysis. They might also need to do an MRI.

If you suspect any kind of health issue, speak to your vet as soon as possible.

4. They Might Have Nutrient Deficiencies

Many cat litters, clay-based litter, in particular, contain minerals cats can smell.

If your cat is is deficient in;

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1
  • Magnesium
  • Taurine
  • L-Cartenine, or
  • Sodium

They might eat their litter to compensate for their deficiency.

If you think your cat has a nutrient deficiency, speak to your vet about changing their diet.

5. You Might Have a Curious Kitten

A kitten eating litter is pretty common. Kittens don’t always know what it is or what it’s for, so they try and eat it.

This behaviour isn’t an indicator of an underlying health problem but it could create one. If your kitten swallows their litter, it could create an intestinal blockage.

That’s why important to use non-toxic, non-clumping cat litter. It will reduce the likelihood of his ever happening.

When litter training kittens keep an eye on what they’re doing. If you see your kitten eat cat litter, remove them. They should grow out of the habit as they get older.

6. A Bored Cat

If your cat doesn’t get enough stimulation and gets bored, they may act out in weird ways. Including snacking on their litter.

This is even more true for indoor cats that aren’t allowed to go outside.

The Dangers of Cats and Kittens Eating Litter

No matter what the reason is for your cat eating litter, it can be dangerous.

That said, some litters are more dangerous than others. For example, some clumping cat litters contain Sodium Bentonite as the clumping agent. This can clump inside your cat’s intestine and cause a blockage. In some cases, it can even cause Bentonite Toxicosis.

If this worries you, try changing your current cat litter to a different type that doesn’t contain it.

Read More: The Best Cat Litter: We Tested 72 and Picked 9

How To Stop Cats Eating Their Litter

cat eating cat grass

If your cat has started eating their litter you should get them checked by your vet. Once they have given your cat the all-clear, you can start to deal with the behaviour.

There are things you can do;

  • Encourage Play: If you think your cat eats litter when they’re bored, play with them. Throw a ball or get their favourite toy and encourage play to encourage them away from their litter tray.
  • Encourage Natural Hunting Behaviour: On top of increasing play, get your cat a food puzzle or toy. You can also make your own using household items. These toys and puzzles develop their foraging and hunting instincts. While they’re working for their food or treats, they’re not eating their litter.
  • Give Your Cat Something Else to Chew On: If your cat is a natural chewer, give them something to chew on. Cat grass and/or catnip are ideal substitutes for cat litter. Put it near their litter box to encourage them away from it.
  • Make Changes to Their Diet: If your vet finds deficiencies in your cat’s diet, they will give you advice on this. At the very least, try upgrading your cat’s food from the regular brands. There are high-quality, natural cat foods that are nutritionally complete.
  • Change Their Litter: Clay-based litters contain minerals and vitamins your cat can smell. So try changing it to a corn-based litter or silica litter. Also, if they eat clumping cat litter, it could well inside the gut and cause an intestinal blockage. Try changing to a non-clumping litter.

In Conclusion

There are a few reasons why some cats eat cat litter. Some are health-related, and some are behavioural.

If your cat is snacking on their litter, get them checked out by your vet. They will be able to spot any underlying issues.

If it’s a behavioural issue, work with your cat to keep them stimulated and happy. With a bit of time, patience and love, you’ll be able to stop it.

Photo of author

Ben Doyle

Ben Doyle co-owns Pet Checkers with his wife, Vicki. He spends his days looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When he's not taking care of animals, he's writing about them.

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