Cats have gotten a bad reputation as finicky eaters. They even refuse the tastiest wholesome food if they don’t want to eat. So, what on earth makes them eat from the magical litter box? Also, cats are clean freaks and never eat from bowls placed near their poop boxes.
If we consider all this, the behavior isn’t normal and also contradictory. There are multiple reasons why cats do so. I’m going to list out all of them. But it’s your and your vet’s job to identify why your cat does that. If your cat is looking uneasy after eating litter, rush to a vet and get your pet checked.
Reasons why cats eat litter
Cats are creatures of habit. They adjust their routine according to yours and follow the same schedule every day. That said, it will be easier to notice abnormal behaviors including eating cat litter.
The type of litter is also responsible for encouraging this behavior. Most of the best clumping cat litters for kittens are made of bentonite clay. It contains minerals that allure cats to ingest in order to supplement their mineral needs. More about it in the ‘nutrient deficiency’ section later in this article.
If your kitten is about 6-8 weeks old and facing the same problem, you should not worry much about the habit. In fact, 6-8 weeks of age is quite early to let your kittens use the box on their own.
A 6 week old is too young to wean off and they don’t know litter box rituals. So kittens may eat the litter out of curiosity. They grow out of this habit but 6 weeks of age is too young to be weaned off. In that case, you don’t have to worry much and monitor your cat carefully.
Though young kittens eat cat litter out of curiosity, some young cats continue exhibiting the behavior. Maybe they have made a habit of excavating hidden treasures from the box. If that’s the case, using different types of litter should solve the problem. This is because some litters smell more palatable than other ones.
If possible, monitor your cat while your cat does her business or have someone who can keep an eye on them until the problem is solved. Jot down daily progress and the cat’s behavior so that your vet can help you diagnose in case your cat is having any underlying condition.
Eating cat litter falls under the behavior known as pica. It refers to the behavior where cats eat inedible things and non-food items including dirt, paper, string, plastic, fabric, and litter. The condition may stem from the mother abandoning her kittens.
Your cat should grow out of it with simple monitoring. We can say that the behavior in question is referred to as pica.
The condition occurs due to a lack of hemoglobin and red blood cells in their blood. This behavior generally indicates an illness, especially if the cat exhibits it suddenly. Suffering from Anemia also means the cat’s body is experiencing nutrient deficiency including Iron, vitamins, trace minerals, and some fatty acids.
The cat may also be suffering from feline leukemia as the disease causes anemia in cats. So, it’s always to reach out to your vet if your cat has suddenly started eating cat litter.
A vet will do urinalysis and blood work to diagnose and rule out other medical conditions.
The behavior refers to eating animal feces including their own. Cats with Coprophagia seem like they’re eating litter but they’re actually eating poop. Most kittens grow out of this habit. But if your cat, older than one year, has started exhibiting such behavior, you should easily solve it.
But if that’s not the case, there must be some other reason why the cat’s eating poop, possibly due to nutrient deficiency.
5. Nutrient Deficiency
Despite feeding a wholesome and balanced diet, some cats suffer from nutrient deficiency due to poor digestion and existing health conditions. When a cat feels that she’s not getting enough vitamin A, Manganese, Vitamin B1, L-Carnitine, Magnesium, Sodium, Taurine, or Pyruvate Kinase, she will try to supplement these nutrients on their own by eating litter.
Clay-based litters have some minerals and other nutrients, so cats are attracted to that. Your vet will be able to tell if your cat is suffering from any nutrient deficiency or not.
How You Can Correct Eating Cat Litter Behavior?
Before we go into the nitty-gritty of the solution, let me tell you what you should do when you spot your cat eating litter for the first time.
Closely monitor what she ate, litter, or poop. Jot down all that you notice along with the date and time, this will help the vet to rule out possibilities of the behavior.
Keep a close eye on your cat so that you can notice how often your cat goes to the box for munching. Moreover, you should remove your kitty from the box but ensure that she is done doing her business.
Monitor your cat’s bowel movements. If you use clumping cat litter, you should see the vet immediately because clumping cat litter has high absorptivity and can cause obstructions in the GI tract of the kitty.
After spotting your cat eating the litter, note everything about their bowel movements for about next 72 hours. The litter should pass the digestive tract without any difficulties. But if that’s not the case, monitoring them will help you get your kitty treated properly. Below are a few pointers you can consider to correct the behavior.
Keep Your Cat’s Environment Enriched: A bored kitty would start looking to do the things she never tried before. Ensure your cat always has enough toys on rotation so that they don’t get bored.
When you strictly keep your cat indoors, she needs enriched surroundings for better health and well-being. There are so many ideas for enrichment. But that’s another article for another time. An enriched house is the prerequisite to prevent any litter-related problem.
Ensure your cat is getting a balanced diet: Maintaining your kitty on a healthy and balanced diet delivers required nutrients in sufficient amounts. This will keep your cat healthy in general and prevents nutrient deficiency from occurring which is one of the causes of eating litter.
Also, analyze your cat’s food’s nutritional value and ingredients. If you feel the food needs to be upgraded, do it without hesitation. Try different foods with different flavors and primary protein sources.
Distract your cat: If cats are eating cat litter out of boredom and no other solid reasons, you can simply solve this problem by distracting your cat. If you can put something more interesting near the litter box, the cat will just do her business in the box and would love to spend more time near the things you put.
You can distract them by using catnip and cat grass pot. They love to munch on cat grass and catnip.
Conclusively, cats will do weird things but they always mean something. It’s their way of telling you that something’s wrong with them. Don’t ignore those signs. You can always take a vet’s help to identify the problem.