Why Does My Cat Eat Litter?


my cat eats litter

Dogs are often the pets that people think of when people talk about animals eating things that they really shouldn’t be eating. After all, many dogs would be delighted to tear through your garbage bag looking for scraps of food and treats to enjoy. However, what a lot of people don’t realize is that other pets can do this as well. 

Cats can have a nasty habit of eating things that they shouldn’t, particularly houseplants. You may not realize that your cat is eating things that it shouldn’t unless it is eating something that is actively bad for its health.

In order to make sure that your cat is not eating anything that it shouldn’t, you will want to check its food dish every so often. 

The amount of food that your cat eats should go down at a steady rate each day unless the cat is a kitten and actively growing. If you notice that your cat stops eating its food, then there’s a chance that it could be filling itself up on something else. 

Cats aren’t always the smartest creatures and may find themselves eating too much of what they shouldn’t eat, throwing it up in the process. As unpleasant as it may be, this would also be a good indication that your cat has gotten into something it shouldn’t have.

Help! My Cat Eats Litter!

One of the more surprising things that cats will choose to eat is their own litter. 

While this is not incredibly common, there are times when people will pass by their cats’ litter boxes only to find the cat licking and actively eating the litter in their tray. 

Believe it or not, cats actually have a reason for doing this and it is not something they do out of sheer boredom. 

If you notice that your cat is eating litter, you will want to start making changes to both your and your cat’s lives to ensure that it doesn’t feel the need to do that any more.

Why Do Cats Do it?

There’s a good chance that when you notice a cat eating litter, you will be incredibly perplexed. Litter shouldn’t have any nutrients in it that your cat would actively want to go after but in some cases, it actually does. 

There are a couple reasons why you might find your cat eating its own litter.

Curious Kittens

kitten litter
Photo by Pedro Candeias on Unsplash

If your cat is a relatively young kitten and is exploring the litter box for the first time, it might try and eat the litter out of sheer curiosity the same way that human babies put things in their mouths. 

You should keep an eye on kittens who do this to ensure they don’t form a habit out of it but it will likely be a one- or two-time happening.

Behavioral Problems Like Pica

Photo by Biel Morro on Unsplash

Cats may also have a form of pica which is a condition that causes people or animals to feel compelled to eat things that are not edible. If you suspect that your cat has pica, then you will have to bring your cat to the vet or an animal behavior specialist to try and work out a way to prevent it from doing this.

Some cats will feel an instinctual need to eat litter to make up for lost nutrients. Just the same as how people have cravings for things that their bodies need, if a cat’s brain realizes that it is low in certain vitamins and minerals, it will cause the cat to begin eating its own litter. 

Depending on the type of litter brand you use, it may be full of rich minerals that your cat needs. The best course of action in this case is often talking to the vet about getting a more well-rounded nutritional diet so the cat no longer feels the need to do this.

Illness

Photo by Anastasia Dulgier on Unsplash

And finally, there are some cases where your cat will eat litter as a sign of sickness. You should always try to rule out health issues before turning to other solutions for your cat. 

Eating litter can be a sign of conditions with the blood, particularly anemia. An anemic cat will try and replenish its lost minerals by eating its own litter, among other things. 

Unfortunately, this can also mean that your cat could have feline leukemia (which causes the anemia) or kidney disease. This would have to be checked and determined by your veterinarian to verify that this is what’s going on in your cat’s body. 

From here, the solution would be dependent on the findings that the vet exam would bring.

How to Stop Your Cat from Eating Litter

Getting your cat to stop eating litter can be difficult, especially if it is stemming from pica or a condition that is not easily treated, such as leukemia. You should always take your cat to the vet first, not only to check and see if this behavior is medical but to also make sure that your cat is not developing intestinal blockages as that is one of the problems with eating litter that some cats encounter.

Depending on the results that the vet gets from your cat, the best course of action could be to switch to a more mineral- and vitamin- rich diet, often from a recommended brand from the vet. 

There may also be some behavioral exercises that you can try if it stems from a behavioral problem.

Conclusion

There are a variety of reasons why your kitty might eat litter, so it is important to discover the root cause. Just because your cat eats litter doesn’t mean that it suffers from a serious condition, but it is very important to get your feline friend checked by a vet and/or behavioral specialist to determine your next steps.

Editorial Team

When we aren't scooping up droppings to ensure a luxurious litter box experience for our fur babies, we are writing all sorts of stuff about cats for your enjoyment and knowledge.

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