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Why Your Cat is Eating Their Litter & How to Stop It

Eating cat litter may seem like an extremely odd behavior, but it’s actually fairly common in cats. Just like your cat may be tempted to lick plastic bags or eat small items they find on the floor, they may be prone to ingesting their litter.

There are a variety of reasons your cat may develop this behavior (sometimes referred to as pica) and helping discern the cause can help you to prevent it from continuing.

Why is My Cat Eating Litter?

If your cat keeps eating their litter, it may be due to one of a few possible causes.

1. Curiosity

Kittens especially are prone to consuming litter, as they often don’t understand its purpose and may be interested in eating more non-food items after weaning. Once kittens reach 8 weeks and it’s safe to begin using litter, choose a natural litter to prevent them from ingesting harmful chemicals. If the kitten is repeatedly eating litter, avoid clumping clay litter to prevent any intestinal blockages from occurring and opt for a natural formula that will pass through their digestive system regularly.

2. Stress

Just like humans, cats can develop strange behaviors when they’re feeling increased stress. If you notice your cat suddenly starting to ingest litter, evaluate whether any changes have been made recently to their routine or to your household that could be causing your cat increased stress.

3. Medical Conditions

Some cats who suffer from anemia, pancreatitis, kidney disease or feline leukemia may be prone to ingesting litter to compensate for nutritional deficiencies. If you suspect the cause of your cat’s litter eating tendencies isn’t due to environmental causes, take her to the vet to get tested for any potential medical issues.

4. Confusion

One other reason your cat may eat their litter is if you change to a new, natural formula. Sometimes switching from a clay litter to a corn or other natural formula can cause your cat to view their new litter as a food, because it’s so different from their old formula. Help prevent this by slowly transitioning from your old litter to a new formula, by mixing a small amount of the new into the old and gradually increasing the amount.

How to Stop Your Cat from Eating their Litter

1. Call them away from their litter box

If you find your cat hanging out in their litter box without actually using it, or eating their litter, remove them from the box. Next time they go to use their litter box, call them away when they’re done going to the bathroom and give them a treat. Get them used to the cycle of getting in the box, using it and leaving when they are done. Treats and praise will help provide positive reinforcement.

2. Distract them with play

If you notice your cat eating litter, or spending extra time sniffing around their litter box, pull out a toy and engage them in some play time to keep them away from their litter box when they’re bored.

3. Provide something else to munch on

If your cat likes to chew or eat non-food items, try keeping rubber toys around that they can dig their teeth into. You can even get a rubber KONG toy and fill it with kibble or a pureed cat treat to keep them busy licking for the last bits. Try growing a cat grass plant indoors and keep it in an area they can easily reach to munch on it, though you’ll need to replant more seeds every few weeks as the lifecycle of grass is fairly short.

4. Improve their diet

If there are no discernable medical causes or your veterinarian indicates your cat may have a nutritional deficiency, try switching your cat to a more nutritious food like a grain-free or human-grade formula.

With these tips, you can help keep your fur baby safe by getting them away from the litter box when they don’t need to go to the bathroom. Want more litter tips? Give us a follow on Instagram for tips on food safety and litter, plus fun cat photos, giveaways and more!