A Case Of Clumping Litter

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We have tried many litter brands here. None of them made any difference for Suki and Hiro, but they did to us. Some didn’t clump good enough, some were too dusty. And even the ones with an odor didn’t mask the poop-smell — of course! Right now we have a good clumping litter, but it’s a bit dusty. This is why we took off the flap-door from one of the boxes. But then I was linked to some websites about clumping litter and the danger that can cause it to our kitties. Is it really that dangerous as they say it is?

Photo by Kramdar.

Photo by Kramdar.

Clumping Litter & Sodium Bentonite

Sodium bentonite is an ingredient found in a lot of cat litter brands. It is used to absorb liquids and to clump. Sodium Bentonite can swell up to 15 times its volume when it absorbs water.

A few years ago, people found out there were issues about scoopable (clumping) litter. Most problems were about inhalation of the dust that can irritate the lungs causing asthma, but also about ingestion of the litter. The litter may clump in the intestine causing a gastrointestinal foreign body and may be only solved with surgery. This is common in kittens.

Not to be confused with beneficial calcium bentonite clay – non-biodegradable sodium bentonite clay can be harmful if ingested. Sodium bentonite clay contains high levels of sodium ions which have a higher hydration sphere than calcium ions. Sodium bentonite therefore absorbs moisture much better than its calcium counterpart and when wet swells about 15 times its original volume. – Naturalnews.com

There are no hard facts that the Sodum Bentonite can cause internal problems, but as cats lick their paws and whatever after using the litter box, I’m sure some of the litter may be ingested. And as it can swell up to 15 times its volume, I wouldn’t be surprise that it can actually cause problems to your cat’s health (blockage in the stomach). 1 + 1 = 2, right? But that’s not all. The dust from this litter can coat our cats’ lungs, leading to respiratory problems.

Inhaled particles could cause similar problems in the moist climate of the lungs. (The dust in clay is silica dust, which is not particularly friendly to either human or feline lungs.)- Franny Syufy Cats.about.com

Photo by Malingering

Photo by Malingering

On the internet there are a few vets (those who answer questions) who may have experienced the same problems or tell the cat owners not to use it if they know that their cat is ingesting the litter after using the litter box.

Manufacturers of the cat litter are often aware of this. But they may tell us that it is our responsibility as an owner to make sure it is used safely and that our cats won’t digest it. I understand this point of view, but I hope all cat owners know that it’s almost impossible to make sure that our cats do not eat the litter. We may not be home all the time, and you know… Cats being cats.

That’s why scoopable litters that contain sodium bentonite are not recommended for kittens (they may be curious and eat it) or any cats that are known to ingest litter. I don’t mean to scare any of you who use a clumping litter. Maybe there is nothing wrong with your cat. If your cat does not eat it, I would suggest an open box to give the dust enough space to ‘float’ away. But always keep an eye out on your cat.


If your cat or kitten may have ingested litter with sodium bentonite it may have several symptoms such as;

  • Yellowish vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Anemia
  • Kidney problems
  • Respiratory problems

The symptoms are for vets often too vague to diagnose.

thelighthouseonline.com | Marina Micheals’ Article

What kind of litter do you use?

42 Responses to “A Case Of Clumping Litter”

  1. Kitties Blue

    We’ve been using clumping litter for many years with no problems. We just wish Mom could find one that doesn’t leave a cloud of dust. All our boxes are open. Thanks for this info. Mom didn’t know there could be a problem. She’s glad to know the symptoms of ingestion in case any of us ever exhibit them. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

    • Lidia

      For years? Same here. And no problem either except for the cloud of dust! But it’s never a bad thing to know these things, right? And now we know the symptoms too!

  2. ScorpionGlow

    I use the Breeze system, which is unlike any traditional litter or litter box. It’s a special kind of box that has pellets in it and underneath is a tray that absorbs the urine into a pad. You change the pad weekly, you change the pellets out monthly, and you never smell anything. This helped my cat avoid UTI infections that were becoming an issue as she got older. I think it’s an amazing system and no, I have not been paid to say that. I recommend this over all other types of litter and boxes. It’s so much healthier for all involved.

    • alienredqueen

      So the pee drains through the pellets and the poop just gets scooped out? Not to be crude or anything, but I guess poop gets on them a lot of they don’t draw water out of it, right?

      • ScorpionGlow

        The pellets are large, so nothing really gets “stuck” to them. You just scoop the poop into the garbage (the pellets that do get attached would clog up your drains if you disposed of it any other way. No one wants to have to call the plumber over that!). The pellets disintegrate with time, but that could actually take months, they’re pretty sturdy. The few that made their way onto my carpet or floor just get vacuumed up. So much easier than regular litter.
        It’s also dust free, which is great for peole and cats with allergies.
        I was hesitant at first myself, but right away I saw a HUGE difference. It took my cat about a week to get the hang of it, but mostly because she couldn’t smell her box like regular boxes because the pad and pellets absorb everything so well, so I’d put her into it every time she’d give me “the look” and she picked up on it fast. I wouldn’t use it right away with kittens because the box is pretty big, but a cat older than six months? Absolutely. It also reduced any and all box scratching that some cats do with their litter boxes.

      • alienredqueen

        What if the poops are….(ugh) kinda wet? My boy also has this issue where he likes to be a jerk and not cover his poop sometimes. lol. Was the system very expensive?

      • ScorpionGlow

        The system is about $30 and comes with everything you need to get started.
        I’d add a second bag of pellets for the “liquid poop” and check the pad several times a week to make sure it doesn’t need to be changed, just in case it’s absorbing more than urine. With one cat, it gets changed once a week (moving it from one side to the other after a few days so that it holds evenly, as many cats pee in the exact same spot every single time) or every 10 days if your cat lets you stretch it out that far, especially those that aren’t immense drinkers. With more than one cat, I’d probably get a second system, just to be on the safe side. The bonus is that the system is fully refundable, even if it’s been used. I was given 60 days to return it, but I didn’t need to do that, obviously. I also found the pads and pellets cheaper than constantly buying heavy bags of litter that killed me in terms of lifting at times.

  3. fozziemum

    Disturbing information isn’t it! thanks for that post :) because we have four cats I will tell you what we do.I got this hint from the shelter I volunteered at as you can imagine they have many trays to do!! we buy bulk Chicken layer pellets..the pellets that chickens eat..it is very very economical,it is completely harmless,enviromentally friendly and works! we store a big bag of it in a kids wheelie bin toy box and it is the litter of choice for us.Readily available from Produce stores and rural suppliers :) hugs Fozziemum xx

  4. peacelovenwhiskers

    I’ve used clumping litter with my four cats. I’ve recently had to switch litter brands because of the dust and lack of clumping. I had no idea it could be dangerous. I will keep an eye on my babies just in case. Thank you.

  5. onespoiledcat

    We’ve used Arm and Hammer clumping litter for years…..have seen no dust but then I’m sure when Sam’s scraping around in there SOME dust comes up but he’s usually in and out in a flash anyway. It’s long-lasting, easy to clean up because it clumps very easily, and most of all HE likes it.


  6. Charles Huss

    We use Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra litter. We started buying the cat-attract version because Chris was pooping on the floor and then switched to the regular unscented litter. It is a bit expensive but it has less dust than any other litter I have ever tried. So far we have never had a problem with clumping litter.

  7. alienredqueen

    Thanks, D! Is the Sodium Bentonite or whatever listed on the package? I use clumping cat litter but it’s corn made, so not clay…. Seems like a lot less dust. I know someone above said they use A& H and haven’t noticed dust, but I swear, when our cats used the clay litter, we could smell it from the OTHER ROOM!

    • Lidia

      Then what do you use for Alfie? :o
      Thanks! :) I was planning on changing it again with the season. But I’m a bit too lazy!

  8. Tom Duhamel

    I use clumping clay litter. Always did. For the last few years, I’ve been using a store-brand for a large pet supply chain, which I trust. Never had any problem with the product.

    It’s actually recommended not to use clumping litter for young kittens (I’d say under 6 months) because they are known to often eat litter. Other than that, most people would recommend clumping litter because it can be cleaned daily.

    I wouldn’t know of any jurisdiction that would require to list ingredients on the package, since it’s not food nor medical.

    I always assumed it was just silica. This is used in so much products for it’s capability at absorbing liquid. I never gave it a second thought.

    Good topic, and good research. Thanks for sharing and provoking thoughts.

      • Tom Duhamel

        Yeah, perhaps cats don’t vomit the same color in the Netherlands and in Québec :P
        Anyway, how would I know? I’m a guy, I know of only 4 colors: blue, green, red and yellow. Brown is not a color, it’s a tint used in summer houses and old people’s living rooms.
        Alright alright, it’s brown, you are right!

  9. Connie

    I too often hear of the scary stats on scoopable litter. I too have gone out in search of any real world stories that it has harmed anyone by ingesting. The best I could find was a dog who constantly ate out of the cat litter box.. but this was one dog.. one story.. I also know of one dog who ate river rocks around the owners house, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put rocks down for landscaping

    I foster kittens, and for the most part the wee ones I use regular clay litter. Not because I fear ingestion, but because the kittens tend to walk through their poop and then end up with huge clay balls on them and cleaning them up is not easy. I know many foster homes who use scoopable clay litter with their foster kittens and have never had an issue – despite the fact that all kittens seem to eat litter before they eat food.

    if you want to be overly cautious or have respiratory issues, by all means, but don’t abandoned you and your cat’s favorite litter simply because someone says it isn’t safe.. because when you get right down to it there is something wrong with EVERY litter on the market..

    • Lidia

      Oh! You’re absolutely right! If it works for you and the kitties, and never had a problem with it why stop using it? I only want to make people aware. There are no hard facts about that litter. But perhaps people can use it careful around kittens. If you know kittens eat litter, then maybe it’s best to use another one for the first weeks? But if your cat never had problems, that’s great right? I suggest to just keep a small eye out maybe?


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