Cat’s eating litter? Here’s why and how to stop it

When your cat has the urge to eat things they shouldn’t, it’s a common habit called “pica,” and unfortunately, eating litter is one form of this behavior that is a concern. However, there are some simple steps that can help you to stop your cat from doing this. Generally, when cats are eating litter, it is either a sign of a physiological or behavioral problem.

Striped cat sitting a litter box
Sharaf Maksumov/

Why is my cat eating strange things?

Pica refers to an animal’s desire to eat nonfood items such as plastic, paper, string, sand, litter, and other bizarre things. Though it might also seem strange to you, your cat’s preference of bringing you pieces of animals that have been caught is actually not considered pica, but it can be unsettling.

Young cats are most at risk for developing pica behaviors. If your kitten is starting to do this, it should be a bit of concern to you. If you’ve noticed this behavior in an older cat, that is also concerning and could suggest other health problems. In most cases, pica occurs as part of either a behavioral or physiological problem. We will get more specific about this later in the article.

In general, if you have noticed pica symptoms in your darling fur baby, make sure you contact a veterinarian as soon as possible. The pica may or may not be severe to be a sign of a problem. In most cases, only a medical professional can accurately diagnose whether or not the pica your cat is exhibiting is a sign of something serious or doing it simply out of boredom.

In some cases, cats will eat their litter if they are not feeling stimulated enough. This could be a problem if your cat is not allowed to go outside. A bored cat will start to act out and do strange behaviors to amuse itself. This type of situation is possible in all pica cases, though only a veterinarian will be able to be absolutely sure about what is going on with your kitty.

What are some health conditions caused by eating litter?

In addition to boredom, your cat could be eating litter because it is not feeling well. One of the main physiological reasons is because they are not able to produce enough red blood cells and hemoglobin.

This condition, known as anemia, can be serious in our feline friend. If this is the cause, your cat is eating litter to try to get the vitamins, minerals, or fatty acids that it are otherwise missing from their diet. If your cat has very lightly colored, white, or bluish gums in their mouth, this is a strong indicator of anemia. If you suspect your cat is anemic, be sure to take it to the vet as quickly as you can.

This behavior could also be a sign of leukemia or kidney disease. To determine these diagnoses, your vet will need to analyze your cat’s complete blood count. An MRI or other imaging technique may be necessary. Again, if you are noticing that your cat is eating litter, don’t wait to bring them to a vet.

Nutritional deficiencies are common in many cats. Eating litter is actually a response to these nutritional shortfalls. Many commercial cat litters are made from clay and contain a wealth of minerals. Your cat senses this and tries to eat the litter to make up for what it is missing from their diet.

How to stop your cat from eating their litter

Orange cat standing in litter box
Guajillo studio/

If your cat has been examined by a veterinarian and all other issues have been ruled out, your furry friend may be eating litter because of a behavioral issue. There are many different types of cat litter, and you might find that switching from a clay-based variety to one made from corn, wheat, or paper could help. You might need to experiment to see how different formulations work.

If your cat is eating litter because they are bored, you might need to provide your furry friend more stimulation. You can purchase new toys and set aside extra time from work for playing and entertaining them. Food puzzles can also be a great way to motivate your cat. If you notice your cat going back to the litter box to eat, try to direct it away gently with a piece of string or toy. This process might take some time and patience.

Catnip can be a very potent ally here. By planting some fresh catnip in your yard or bringing some dried leaves to your cat, you can help your furball to be more relaxed and at peace. This herb can also help to soothe your kitty’s digestion. All in all, catnip is a great addition to help a bored kitty to regain the spice of life.

With patience and love, you will figure it out

Even experienced cat owners sometimes have trouble figuring out what is going on with their beloved cats. Vets can assist, but at a certain point, it’s important for cat owners to be proactive in ensuring their cat is healthy and satisfied. If you are trying to figure out how to stop your cat from eating litter, try to be patient and remember that even though you might not like this activity, your cat is not doing it maliciously.

Eating cat litter is often the sign of another underlying issue. It is important to take your cat to the vet for a diagnosis. With a bit of patience, love, and positive intention, you can help your cat to get over this unfortunate activity.

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