If you’ve noticed your kitten eating cat litter, you are most likely understandably concerned. Will your kitten be harmed if she eats cat litter? Why is she doing it? Will she eat all types of cat litter? And how can you stop her from doing it? Here’s what you’ll need to know.
So, why does my kitten eat cat litter? Kittens typically eat cat litter because they’re curious, although some kittens may do this if they’re stressed. More rarely, some kittens (and older cats) can suffer from pica, which means they’ll eat anything, whether it’s food or not.
Other times, kittens can eat cat litter accidentally – when it gets stuck to their paws, and they’re grooming themselves.
But regardless of the cause, this is not something you are going to want to allow to continue.
We will soon see why in the next section before turning to exactly how you should respond to this strange, yet alarming behavior.
Will Eating Cat Litter Harm Your Kitten?
If a kitten eats a small amount of cat litter, infrequently, they should not suffer from any severe health complications. That being said, a large amount or regular consumption can cause serious digestive complications that will likely require the assistance of a vet.
Let us now walk through each scenario.
If Your Kitten Has Eaten A Small Amount of Cat Litter
Most of the time, a kitten eating a bit of kitty litter is nothing to worry about.
Like babies and puppies, kittens explore their world with their mouths.
You may spot your kitten trying to eat something that isn’t food just because she’s exploring. Kittens usually like sticking their furry little faces into lots of things!
It’s all part of their learning.
As a general rule, it isn’t surprising when kittens under 3 months old try eating cat litter. Most kittens will soon stop eating kitty litter when they see that it isn’t very tasty!
Sometimes a bit of cat litter will get stuck to your kitten’s paws, in which case she may ingest some of it unintentionally as she grooms herself.
If your kitten nibbles a bit of litter out of curiosity, most of the time she’ll soon get bored of it and stop by herself.
Sometimes kittens munch on a bit of kitty litter because they’re bored.
If Your Kitten Eats Large Amounts Of Cat Litter Or Eats It Regularly
Eating large amounts of cat litter can harm your kitten, though.
Clumping cat litter, in particular, can cause intestinal blockages, which can be very dangerous.
Sometimes your kitten might be eating cat litter continuously because of a behavioral problem such as pica (craving non-edible substances).
Other times, your kitten could be eating cat litter because of a nutritional deficiency or a health problem such as parasites or anemia.
If you see your kitten eating cat litter in large amounts or on a regular basis, take your kitten to the vet.
Your vet will be able to ascertain the cause and prescribe treatment where necessary.
Signs That Something Is Wrong
Sometimes, though, even small amounts of ingested cat litter can cause damage to a kitten.
Kittens have small and delicate digestive tracts, especially compared to adult cats.
A kitten is at a higher risk of harm from eating the wrong things.
Ingested cat litter can form a solid blockage in your kitten’s digestive tract, which can cause dangerous problems.
Immediately take your kitten to the vet if you notice any of the following:
- Listlessness or overall lack of energy
- A dull coat
- Poor appetite
- Vomiting (or not being able to keep food down)
An obstructed gut can be potentially serious and might need to be fixed with emergency surgery.
Unfortunately, gut surgery on kittens is high-risk because the kitten is so young: stitches can pull through the wall of the gut, causing peritonitis (life-threatening).
Will Kittens Eat All Types of Cat Litter?
Kittens don’t go for any-one type of cat litter in particular, although they are more likely to eat litter with small pellets.
Most cat litters on the market are ‘clumping’.
Kittens aren’t known to prefer clumping cat litter over other types of litter.
However, they’re more likely to eat clumping litter simply because it will stick to their paws more easily than other types of litter.
Any cat litter with very small pellets will be more attractive to kittens than litters with large pellets.
For this reason, the best choice of litter for kittens contains plant-based pellets, which are less appealing to eat because of their size.
The Best Type Of Litter To Use
Plant-based pellets tend to be made from natural substances such as wood or paper.
These pellets won’t stick to their paws, and they have fewer chemicals.
If your kitten does ingest a chunky, plant-based pellet, at least it is less likely to cause blockages in her digestive tract (see below).
Another type of cat litter that kittens are less likely to eat is the traditional sandy litter.
What Litter To Avoid
Scented Cat Litter
You might be tempted to use scented cat litter, but know that cats prefer unscented litter for their toilet needs.
Your kitten may not eat the scented cat litter, but she probably won’t pee in it either! Cats don’t like strong smells, so you’ll need to change it often.
Keep the litter box clean and well-maintained: you want to avoid any infections or hygiene problems, whether your kitten munches on a bit of litter or not.
Clumping Cat Litter
Don’t ever use clumping cat litter, no matter how convenient it is for you.
If your kitten eats clumping litter, know that clumping litter is made from various forms of clay. Because this litter is highly absorbent, it forms a solid lump.
While these lumps make it easier to clean the litter tray, they are dangerous if your kitten eats some.
Even a small amount of ingested clumping litter can cause an intestinal blockage (see Signs that Something is Wrong above).
How to Stop Your Kitten From Eating Cat Litter
The approach you take to stop your kitten from eating cat litter ultimately depends on the underlying cause.
Here is a sensible approach to take.
Visit the Vet First
You want to make sure there are no medical reasons behind your kitten’s choice of treat. You can then begin to discourage her from eating her kitty litter.
Here are some possible medical reasons for kittens eating their kitty litter and what you can do about them.
Kidney disease is rare in kittens, although it can happen. Signs of kidney disease include:
- Drinking more frequently
- Urinating more frequently
- A dull coat
- Weight loss
- Poor appetite
- Bad breath
In case of kidney disease, your vet will prescribe treatment for your kitten.
Anemia comes from a lack of red blood cells and usually is accompanied by an overall lack of energy. Anemia may be present if you notice your kitten:
- Being tired all the time
- With pale gums
- Seeming to be a bit slower or duller than usual
- Wanting to sleep rather than play
Causes of anemia include:
- Lots of fleas or lice (these parasites will suck blood and therefore ingest nutrients)
- Bone marrow problems
- Eating a toxin that damages red blood cells
- Kidney damage (lilies can cause this, they’re toxic to all cats)
- Infection with feline leukemia
If your vet diagnoses anemia, they will be able to perform tests to determine the exact cause. Knowing the cause will help your vet prescribe an appropriate treatment for your kitten.
A Dietary Deficiency
If your kitten has a dietary deficiency, this is easily remedied with a high-protein, high-quality food that’s specially designed for kittens.
Sometimes kittens may eat kitty litter to try and dislodge intestinal worms (at least, that’s the theory). Cats are suspected of eating grass for this reason (in addition to getting rid of hairballs).
Your vet can provide an effective treatment for intestinal worms.
What You Can Do at Home
Here’s what you can do at home:
Change the type of cat litter you are using, preferably a plant-based litter with very large pellets.
- Try a different type of cat food for your kitten that’s perhaps more expensive but more nutritionally balanced.
- If your kitten is bored, provide her with entertainment! There are many types of kitten toys you can get to keep your kitty stimulated. If you see her eating kitty litter, try immediately distracting her with her favorite toy to lure her away from her litter box.
- Try to encourage her natural prey and foraging behavior by using food puzzle toys. Food toys are another excellent way to distract your kitten from the behavior you don’t want.
- Favorite cat plants such as cat grass or catnip can also work well to distract your kitten. Offer a pot of cat grass, grow your own catnip, or sprinkle catnip on scratchers. Catnip toys also work well.
- Make sure your kitten doesn’t spend too much time on her own, as she’ll be missing her mother and siblings, especially while she’s young.
A Final Checklist If Your Kitten Has Eaten Cat Litter
Here’s a brief checklist that you can use as a quick guide as to what to do if your kitten has eaten kitty litter:
- Does your kitten seem to be acting out of curiosity? If so, and if it isn’t clumping litter, wait a bit and see how your kitten gets on.
- Does your kitten seem ill? Are you worried? If the answer to either of these questions is yes, call your vet. You can at least ask a few questions to see if your kitten needs to be seen or not.
- Definitely call your vet if you notice a poor appetite, runny stools, changes in behavior, or weight (weigh your kitten daily to build up a log).
If your kitten has an awful habit of eating kitty litter but is otherwise happy, playing, and growing well, take the following steps as precautions:
- Use non-clumping cat litter (preferably a plant-based type with large pellets)
- De-worm your kitten with a gentle product (ask your vet for tips)
- Feed your kitten a high-quality, well-balanced diet that is appropriately formulated for growing kittens.
If you’ve noticed your kitten eating cat litter, then you simply need to proactively stop it.
This is not a behavior that you should allow to continue.
Often, it is a sign that something is wrong.
So, do consider the recommendations and approaches referenced here today.
Upgrade your litter, ensure your kitten is happy and healthy, and if you have any doubts or concerns, do contact your vet!
Have other questions related to the diet of your kitten? Then my following guides may be of interest!
- When Can A Kitten Eat Dry Food? [& How To Transition Them]
- How To Burp A Kitten [All You Need To Do & Consider]
- How Many Pouches Should I Feed My Kitten? [Per Serving, Per Day]
- How Long Can Kittens Go Without Food? [Before Its Unsafe]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.