How to stop your kitten eating litter

A kitten sitting in a litter tray
(Image credit: Getty)

We all want the best for our pets and it’s important to understand their behavior – such as why your kitten is eating litter. According to Dr. Megan Dundas, veterinarian and practice owner of Lincolndale Veterinary Center in New York, litter-eating may not be anything to worry about. Speaking to The Dodo, she said, “Very young kittens explore the world with their mouths and may be found trying to ingest a wide variety of non-food objects.” However, owners shouldn’t write off their kitty’s behavior as harmless, as litter-eating can be a symptom of more serious conditions.

Why is my kitten eating litter?

In order to stop your kitten eating litter, you’ll first need to understand why it’s happening. You’ll also need to put some thought into the best cat litter to use. Just like human children, baby cats learn by curiosity and most love to stick their furry faces into everything! Young kittens may try to nibble a bit of cat litter as part of their way of learning about their world. They’ll soon discover that it’s really not worth the effort and give up. Kittens may also try snacking on litter out of boredom.

If you notice your furry pal eating litter continuously, it could be a sign of something more serious. The condition of craving non-edible substances is called pica, and it could be a symptom of a nutritional deficiency or a health problem such as anaemia or parasites. If you spot your kitten trying to eat litter or any other non-food items on a regular basis, speak to your veterinarian.

Will eating litter hurt my cat?

Eating a very tiny amount of litter as an experiment is unlikely to do your kitten any harm – and most will stop as soon as they realize it’s not very tasty. It’s not impossible that eating a bit of litter, whether on purpose or by accident, might cause problems though. Kittens can accidentally eat litter if they get it stuck to their paws and then groom themselves. As kittens have small, delicate digestive systems compared to adult cats, they’re more at risk of harm. Some types of litter can form a solid obstruction in your kitten’s gut which can cause serious problems. If your kitten is lethargic, listless or vomiting then take him to the veterinarian immediately.

Which types of cat litter are safest for kittens?

There are various types of litter on the market, and some are more suitable for kittens than others. Good choices include plant-based pellets, which are made from natural materials such as paper or wood. These pellets tend to be quite large and less appealing to eat and contain fewer chemicals.

Most commercial cat litters on the market are ‘clumping’, made from sodium bentonite. When your cat uses the litter to toilet, it forms a clump around the damp patch which can be easily spotted and lifted out. These litters are popular as they’re economic and easy to keep clean. While kittens aren’t really more likely to eat ‘clumping’ cat litter, if they do ingest it – perhaps by licking it off paws while grooming – it could cause a digestive blockage. To be on the safe side, you could opt for a traditional sandy litter.

Some kittens are very sensitive and are put off using the box if the litter smells too strong. Combat this by choosing an unscented version – although you may have to change it more often, as it can get a bit smelly! To help keep nasty niffs to a minimum, you could try a self-cleaning option. We’ve rounded up our pick of the best self-cleaning cat litter boxes here for you to choose from.

Whatever litter you choose, it’s very important to keep the litter box clean and well-maintained to avoid hygiene problems or infections. Click here to find out how often to clean the litter box.

A small kitten going to the toilet in a litter tray

(Image credit: Getty)

What to do if your kitten eats clumping litter

Clumping cat litter is made from sodium bentonite clay mixed with other forms of clay. As the sodium bentonite is highly absorbent, when it gets wet it quickly forms a solid lump which can be lifted out and disposed of. Although this makes it very clean and efficient, it also comes with a problem – if your kitten eats some, the same reaction takes place in his digestive system. If you suspect your kitty has eaten even a small amount of clumping litter, it’s best to speak to your veterinarian as a blockage can be very serious.

How to stop kittens from eating litter

If you’ve spoken to your veterinarian and are sure there are no sinister reasons behind your kitty’s choice of snack, then you can set about preventing him from nibbling.

  • If your kitten is eating your current cat litter, consider changing to a different variety – see our tips above.
  • Try changing your cat’s current food for a more expensive option, as these are generally more balanced nutritionally. There’s plenty of choices in our guide to the best cat food.
  • Keep him from getting bored with some entertainment! Invest in some of the best kitten toys to keep him stimulated, particularly if he spends much time on his own. The best catnip toys are also another option for keeping him interested.

At the end of the day, the person who spends the most time with your beloved kitty is you. You’re well placed to spot abnormal or unwanted behaviors quickly and to take any action that’s needed to stop your kitten eating litter, whether that’s a new toy or some advice from the veterinarian.

Sara is a freelance journalist and copywriter of many years’ experience with a lifelong love of animals. She’s written for a range of magazines and websites on subjects varying from pet care to travel. A horse rider since the age of five, she’s currently a full time pet slave to horse Blue and gorgeous, goofy English Springer Spaniel Olly. Adorable Olly has a huge sense of adventure and no sense of direction, keeping Sara on her toes.