Is your cat eating litter? Here's why and how to stop it!
All pets have their quirks. These peculiarities are mostly adorable, but sometimes they can be downright disgusting.
Cats, known for their finicky taste in food, sometimes have rather unfortunate snacking preferences. You might notice your otherwise elegant and sophisticated feline companion visiting their litter box more often than necessary (and for reasons a litter box is not intended).
A thought (the one you would gladly discard, but the evidence is too compelling) runs through your head. Is my cat eating litter? Possibly, but Untamed runs to the rescue. We reveal why felines sometimes eat their litter or its contents and offer solutions to the problem.
Why is my cat eating cat litter?
Felines sometimes exhibit strange and unpredictable behaviours regarding their bathroom habits. Sometimes they lie in the litter box (not great), and sometimes they eat what's inside (much worse).
The urge to eat anything other than food—dirt, wool, plastic, faeces, or litter—is called pica. It's a common disorder in cats, even when they are still kittens.
There are many reasons for this condition, and they can be sorted into two categories:
Behavioural reasons a cat is eating litter
I’m just resting in this aromatic container. I don’t see the problem.
Source: Litter Robot
Sometimes, a cat may eat litter because they like the taste. It's not surprising since many cat litters are made with corn or wheat meal. Other than that, the usual behavioural reasons for pica include:
Kittens usually eat their litter out of curiosity. They still don't fully understand what it is, so they might decide to taste it. Young kittens explore the world with their mouth, so this behaviour is relatively common. Most kittens grow out of this habit naturally, but you should remove them from the litter box whenever you catch them eating its contents.
Using non-toxic and non-clumping litter is crucial. Clumping litter hardens and expands in a cat's stomach, leading to intestinal blockage. It is a severe condition that demands urgent medical attention and often ends in surgery.
If your cat lacks stimulation and feels bored or lonely, they may resort to unwanted behaviour, such as destructiveness, hostility, and eating litter and other non-food items.
Felines who need more attention, like Siamese and Burmese cats, are particularly susceptible to this behaviour. Make sure to spend enough quality time with your kitty every day. Half an hour two or three times a day of playtime and training should keep your kitty active, amused, and happy.
You should also give your kitty fun toys and food puzzles to entertain themselves. Catnip or cat-safe grass is also a good distraction and something safe your kitty can nibble on instead of cat litter.
Eating litter can be your kitty's way of signalling that they are under stress. Sudden changes in their environment are common causes of feline anxiety. Frequent stressors include:
- New family members
- New pets
- Moving to a new home
- Loud noises
- Being confined in a small space for a longer time
Cats suffering from anxiety typically display other symptoms, such as:
- Low appetite
Identifying the source of anxiety and either eliminating it or desensitising your new kitten to the problematic stimuli is essential. Consulting a feline behaviourist is a good idea if you have ruled out medical issues as the cause of strange eating habits.
Medical reasons your cat is eating litter
I wasn’t eating this time, I promise.
Source: Litter Robot
Only a medical professional can determine the real cause of your kitty’s litter-eating habit, so the moment you notice signs of pica in your feline friend, schedule an appointment with your vet.
The typical medical reasons for peculiar eating habits include:
- Feline leukaemia
- Kidney disease
- Nutritional deficiencies
Anaemia occurs when a cat's body doesn't produce enough red blood cells and haemoglobin. Red blood cells transport oxygen and iron throughout the body, so if there’s a deficiency, your kitty may display the following symptoms:
- Pale skin
- Pale, white, or bluish gums
- Lack of energy
- Fast breathing
- Excessive sleeping
An anaemic cat may eat strange items to get vitamins, minerals, or fatty acids they lack. The cause of this condition can be an inadequate diet or a more serious underlying health issue, like:
- Feline leukaemia
- Kidney disease
- Bone marrow disease
- External blood loss
Feline leukaemia or FeLV is a virus transmitted between cats through:
This condition causes anaemia and lymphoma—a type of blood cancer and a potential reason for eating litter.
The usual symptom of FeLV are:
- Yellow colour in the mouth and eyes
- Skin infections
- Respiratory infections
- Bladder infections
- Poor coat quality
- Oral ulcerations
Kidney disease can be:
- Acute—Appears suddenly as a result of an infection
- Chronic—Develops over the years, usually diagnosed in older felines who gradually lose kidney function
The common symptoms include:
- Frequent and excessive urination
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Increased drinking drive
- Lack of appetite
In advanced stages, a cat may urinate less, which signals that the kidneys are shutting down. A cat may also have sunken eyes, struggle to walk, cry when trying to urinate, and hide.
If your cat starts eating their litter, even without other symptoms, immediately take them to the vet. Kidney problems and many other medical issues can be successfully managed if diagnosed early.
Hmmm… I’m not quite sure that’s what I want.
Source: Piotr Musioł
Nutritional deficiencies are probably the most common reason why cats eat litter. Many cat litters are made with clay which contains a lot of minerals, so your kitty may be trying to compensate for the lack of specific micronutrients in their diet. If your kitty goes outside, they may also eat plants for the same reason. In case they are always indoors, their litter is the next best thing.
The micronutrients your kitty may lack if they are exhibiting this behaviour are:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B1
- Pyruvate Kinase
Your cat’s food might not be well-balanced, or their gastrointestinal tract can't effectively absorb nutrients.
A simple change in the diet can solve this problem. Whatever type of cat food you go for—wet, dry, semi-moist, raw, or homemade—it must provide all the necessary micro and macronutrients. You should also pay attention to how often and how much you feed your cat because nutrition plays a vital role in their physical and mental well-being.
What does well-balanced nutrition look like?
Whether you have a growing kitten, adult, or senior cat with strange eating habits, their diet must be based on:
- Animal protein
- Animal fat
Cat food containing lots of carbs, such as grains, vegetables, fruit, and added sugar, is a wrong choice because it:
- Delivers empty calories—Felines can't absorb enough nutrients from carbs, so they must eat more to satisfy their dietary needs. Unburnt calories turn into fat, leading to excessive weight gain and medical issues like heart disease, diabetes, joint problems, and hyperthyroidism
- Causes stomach problems—Cats can't properly digest carbs, so they often suffer from gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhoea, flatulence, vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation
Your kitty can only be healthy if they eat plenty of animal protein.
Source: Abeer Zaki
Since cats are hardwired carnivores, meat and fish are their primary energy sources. They also get all the essential amino acids (taurine, arginine, histidine, and lysine), vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from meat.
Feeding your kitty mead-based food will ensure:
- Strong muscles
- Normal organ function
- Regular eating habits
- Healthy skin and coat
The table below shows the biological values of various protein sources and how meat compares to plant proteins:
High-protein cat food should contain at least 50% whole meat and under 3% carbs. The more carbs the product has, the less meat there is in it, making it less nutritious for felines.
Animal fat makes cat food delicious and delivers fatty acids cats need for:
- Efficient immune response
- Prompt inflammatory response
- Nutrient transportation and utilisation
- Cell integrity
The amount of fat in cat food should be up to 20%. Anything more than that can lead to unnecessary weight gain.
Is your cat eating litter and other strange things? Give them Untamed, and they’ll stop!
Order Untamed, and get the balanced and complete meals your kitty needs.
Image (c) Untamed
Feline nutrition is our passion. Untamed’s gravies and jellies are vet formulated and made with more than 60% human-grade whole meat. Our dishes offer a perfect protein-to-fat ratio, ensuring your kitty gets all the necessary amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.
Untamed food is perfect for your feline companion because it’s:
- High-protein—We use only lean meat and steer clear of:
- Hypoallergenic—Our products are free from all known allergens, so kitties with food allergies and stomach sensitivities should have no trouble digesting them. If your cat is particularly sensitive, you can try our single-protein-source meals:
- Chocka Chicken in Jelly—made with chicken breast and liver
- Tuck-in Tuna in Jelly—made with dolphin-safe tuna served in fish broth
- Soft and easily digestible—We gently steam the meals to retain the nutritional value of the ingredients, preserve the taste and aroma of meat, and make the food tender and digestible. Even kitties struggling with dental problems or missing teeth can enjoy our delicacies
- Ethically produced—Caring for animals goes hand in hand with caring for our planet, so we:
- Only cooperate with sustainable and cruelty-free suppliers
- Make our packaging 100% recyclable
- Leave a neutral carbon footprint
Take our TRY NOW quiz to create a tailor-made meal plan for your feline friend and solve their eating quirks.
How to get a trial pack
To get a trial pack of premium cat food online, you should:
- Visit our TRY NOW page
- Provide information about your cat and pick the meals
- Place your order
You will receive the packet in a day. You can choose our subscription plan and get a fresh batch of your kitty's favourite meals every month.
Our long-term clients have noticed fantastic improvements after their kitties switched to Untamed. Here's how cats react to our dishes:
After a week
Two to four months
Over six months