7 telltale signs your cat is allergic to their litter

If your cat is sneezing, coughing, or has a runny nose, at first, you might think he’s sick — but those can also be symptoms of an allergy. Cats can be allergic to all sorts of different things, including chemicals and ingredients in their foods. But for some cats, the cause of their allergies is a central part of their lives: their cat litter. For a cat allergic to litter, those allergies get aggravated multiple times a day. When you understand the signs of an allergy, you can recognize that your cat might have a problem and take the right steps to get to the bottom of it.

Why cat litter allergies occur

The ingredients in litter can cause allergies in some cats. Clumping litters generally contain silica, which produces silica dust, an irritant known to cause allergies in some humans and animals. Fragrances can also be potentially irritating. While clay litters tend to be the most highly irritating, your cat can be allergic to any number of components in any litter.

The way that your cat uses the litter box contributes to these potential allergies. Cats dig in the box, bury their business, and scratch at the box sides and at the litter. All this activity can stir up dust and irritants, making the issue worse.

Orange kitten climbing into a litter box

Signs your cat is allergic to their litter

If you’re asking, “Is my cat allergic to his litter?” there are several symptoms you can watch for. Common signs of an allergy in cats include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Red, watery, itchy eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Wheezing
  • Frequent scratching and itchy skin
  • Facial swelling or swelling, inflamed ears

You might notice one or more of these symptoms, and their severity can vary. If your cat has an allergy and continues using the same type of litter, those allergies can worsen and the symptoms more pronounced.

Initially, you might notice symptoms only when your cat is in or near the box. However, dust from the litter can get stuck on your cat’s paws, and your cat can track it through the house and into his bed. If this happens, then your cat might experience those symptoms no matter where in the house he happens to be.

Your cat will become uncomfortable, and if he realizes that the symptoms are worse when he uses the litter box, he may start avoiding the box.

Kitten sitting in a litter box looking up

What to do about a litter allergy

  • One of the first steps necessary to address a cat litter allergy is to change the litter entirely. Look for a litter that has none of the ingredients used in your cat’s current litter. To accomplish this, you’ll probably need to change litter types entirely — for example, if you’re using clay litter, switching to pine or corn litter can help.
  • Before you use the new litter, thoroughly clean out your cat’s litter box. Give it a good scrubbing to ensure you remove all the dust from the previous litter. You’ll also need to clean all the areas of your house where the litter dust could have been tracked. This means cleaning your floors, your carpets, your cat’s bed, cat tree, and any other areas where he likes to go after using the litter box.
  • Change your cat’s litter over to the new litter and then prioritize frequent cleaning. Vacuuming and sweeping up often can help reduce the allergens in your home. Monitor your cat for signs of symptom improvement to see if the litter change helped.

Remember that your cat may be allergic to multiple elements in your home, and he can also be allergic to different ingredients in different types of litter. Removing and changing his litter might improve his allergies, but it also might not solve them altogether. You might want to try another type of litter, or you might need to consult your vet and explore other potential allergens that are bothering your cat. Your vet might recommend a food-elimination diet or even allergy testing to pinpoint what your cat is allergic to. Managing your cat’s allergies can take some hard work and persistence, but it can pay off with a healthier, happier cat.

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