Say No to Clumping Cat Litters!
The manufacturers of clumping cat
litters, those clay-based litters that form easy-to-scoop clumps when they come into contact with urine, like to talk about
economy, convenience and "freshness." What they don't like to talk about is the health of the cat that's using them.
The material that makes clumping clay kitty litters clump is sodium bentonite, a naturally occurring mineral resource
that is mined by the ton in Western India. When air-dried, it retains an earthy aroma that is said to be appealing to cats.
Unfortunately, it also has other, less benign properties. Particles of sodium bentonite are capable of swelling to 15-18 times
its dry size and then sticking tightly together. This makes sodium bentonite a great ingredient for sealants and grouts. This
does not make it great for the insides of a cat.
What does it do?
Inside a cat, the litter expands, forming a
hard, insoluble mass. It coats the digestive tract, encouraging old fecal matter to collect and become toxic. the litter also
absorbs moisture in the intestines, causing blockages and dehydration, and preventing the proper absorption of nutrients or
fluids. This process is especially damaging for kittens, whose intestines are small. In a matter of weeks, such a blockage
can become fatal to a kitten. Older cats using clumping litters have been found to suffer from stressed immune systems, increased
infections, respiratory problems, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Because such a range of symptoms exists, "clumping litter syndrome"
isn't necessarily easy to recognize. A veterinarian may encounter it but fail to identify the cause. Nevertheless, veterinarians,
especially holistic practitioners, are becoming aware of the problem, and the ASPCA now recommends against using clumping
litter for kittens. Furthermore, concerned cat owners are beginning to question the manufacturers of these litters.
tell your cat not to eat it!
A typical response is that although the company is aware that its product may be causing
health problems, it is the consumer's responsibility to make sure the cat doesn't consume it. But of course, cats don't eat
it-they lick it from their bodies, in the form of dust, when they clean themselves. When kittens are first learning to use
litter boxes, they do this a lot.
What can be done?
There are plenty of alternatives around to clumping cat litters.
Even non-clumping clay-based litters are an improvement, although the dust they generate can also cause problems. A better
alternative might be a plant-based litter.
Some people have found they can use less of these, somewhat offsetting their
higher price. Natural litters can be made from such materials as fine cedar shavings, recycled paper, corn cobs, and ground
wheat. Some are even claimed to clump without the clay.
Another thing we can do is keep complaining to the manufacturers
of clumping cat litters. We can tell them that not only will we refuse to buy their products (any of them!), we will also
educate our friends, our veterinarians and the pet supply stores we patronize to the dangers of this heartlessly and cynically
Check the list of natural litters at http://www.thelighthouseonline.com/articles/natural.html.