These are excerpts from some of the many hundreds of letters I have received in response to my article about the possible dangers of clumping clay kitty litters. (Be sure to read that article as well.) I am posting these excerpts so others may know that my experience was not unique. The letters include the experiences of dog, rabbit, and ferret owners as well.
Be sure to also read the articles listed on the CatMom.com home page.
Note: Because some of the writers used ellipses ... in their letters, and since normally ellipses indicate a deletion, I instead used ellipses within brackets [...] to indicate where I have shortened a letter. Otherwise, ellipses in letters are there in the originals, too.
Another note (2010): Although I continue to receive letters, I haven't added most of them to this page. The letters all pretty much confirm the same experiences other letter writers have had, and I didn't want to make this page too long.
I just clicked into your site, and I am disgusted by things I was unaware of. ... I just spent nearly $1000. in vet bills, because my one cat blocked completely, and I was advised to have him put down. At this time, as gray, cement-like mass was removed from his urethra, and although I thought it looked like litter, I was told that I was wrong, that it was a mucous plug. It was sent away for testing. I refused to accept putting my cat down, and was unimpressed with the substandardcare he was receiving. After almost 2 weeks, he was no better. I switched vets.
The second clinic we went to was wonderful, and was able to turn the situation around in a matter of days. He was damaged from having a catheter in for so long and not receiving any drug therapy. He had a nasty infection as well. They brought him back from near death, and sent him home yesterday. This morning I had a call from the vet, just to see how we were doing. Later, approx. 20 minutes, she called back. It seems that the test results on the gray mass sent away to the lab finally came back, and the former vet giving care was decent enough to pass along the information. It was in fact, a clump of litter! (The test results stated that the blockage was 80% silicate.)
Hello. I recently realized my dream of owning a truly beautiful purebred cat. I purchased two Bengals. I saved my money for years in order to do this. How heartbreaking it was when I got them, and they were both ill. There were other issues because unfortunately the cattery I got them from was not a good one. A lesson I learned too late. However, the most prevelant problems were the result of clumping litter. The kitten was the worst. He cried every time he entered the box. He had very runny and yellowish diarrhea, always followed by blood. I noticed the yellow stools were mentioned often [in your Letters page], but no one mentioned the blood that followed. I thought you might like to know about it. I immediately suspected parasites, and took them immediately back in to the vet. Fortunately, since I mentioned parasites, they asked for stool samples. When I brought in the samples, they were able to tell me right away that the clumping litter was the culprit. It was EVERYWHERE, inside and out, and I immediately changed litters. The vet suggested just a plain clay litter, and gave me a perscription diet, and medication to help their digestive systems back to health. The symptoms slowly started to improve, but the diarrhea and the blood continued. So, I started looking at different litters. I figured the pearls would be a good alternative, because they wouldn't break into small pieces as easily, thereby hopefully the cats wouldn't ingest as much. Unfortunately, as soon as the change was made, the symptoms worsened very rapidly. Soon, all the cats were bleeding and vomiting. I panicked and switched litter again. Now I use the Feline Pine, or the PetsMart pine brand. They are made from recycled pine. Cleaning the box is a little more of a hassle, but the odors are almost nonexistent, and best of all, my cats are healthy now. They have normal stools, and NO BLEEDING. I just wanted to let you know about the pearls. They almost killed my kitten, and made my other cats very sick as well. They were almost worse than the clumping litter as far as how rapidly they deteriorated the health of my cats. Thank you, J. C.
How I wish I'd paid more than fleeting attention to your article some time back warning about the dangers of clumping litters! Our 11-year-old female Wudgie started a series of illnesses on July 11 — including pneumonia and a raging urinary infection — and culminated in her refusing food and water and wasting away. We took her to the vet for the nth time yesterday for a barium enema since all her blood tests were clean (although her sister Rosie is FIV positive). Boy, I'll bet this is all a familiar litany to you!
When the vet's assistant called us to report that Wudgie's innards were "clean" save for an INCREDIBLE amount of rock-hard, stored-up stools, and that they were just plain baffled about why this was happening, the anorexia, preceding illnesses, etc., I flew down to my office, pulled up Google on the 'Net and input the words: Scoopable Litter Intestinal Blockage ... and voila! There it was! Continually runny eyes; the infections; the insidious anorexia/cessation of peristalsis; ad nauseam. Speaking of which, Wudgie was intermittently vomiting bile and even vomiting small amounts of force-fed Nutrical and water.
ANYWAY: Now that they've purged the poor thing of most of that "clap" (clay-crap) lining her innards, she has started eating and drinking again, and having easier BMs. I didn't bring her home today because no way WE were going to try to give Wudgie the last required enema! We pick her up tomorrow morning, praise God. ...
I have an 11-month-old kitten named Shelby. She has always had minor symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, back in January of this year my kitten developed a severe case of diarrhea, which went on for about three weeks! None of the oral medical treatments that my vet had prescribed worked, and I mean none. The only thing that brought it under control was a steroid injection.
Originally I thought that she had picked up something from a sick puppy that had spent about a week in our house, but my vet could not find a single indication of that in her stool. He blamed it on stress. Also, she has pretty severe sneezing fits and a runny nose.
Unsatisfied by my vet's response about stress and having to bring Shelby in for another steroid shot, I started surfing the Internet for some sort of answer. I had just recently read your Web site about the dangers of clumping litters, and I was in absolute shock! I felt as if my cat was being described in almost all scenarios. I called my vet and he really didn't buy what I was telling him.
However, I did contact my local SPCA and got a second opinion from a holistic vet office and they told me to get rid of the clumping litter. We got Shelby when she was three months old. I removed the litter a couple of days ago, but it's too early to tell anything because her steroid injection lasts about three weeks. I must tell you that when Shelby had developed the diarrhea in January, while I was cleaning her litter box I noticed a clear goo like substance in her stool. At one time I actually found a hardened piece of glue in it! I couldn't figure it out. Now I know from reading your site that the active ingredient in the litter is sodium bentonite. They should really put a warning label on these litters.
Dear Marina: I am a co-founder of Westside Animal Rescue, a no-kill, not-for-profit animal shelter located in NYC. I was hoping that I could include a link to your website about "clumping clay kitty litters and your cat's health" on our website: www.westsideanimalrescue.org. We have not and will never use clumping litter and we advise everyone that adopts from us not to as well, citing the health concerns regarding that type of litter. We also advise our adoptees to use only cat and dog food that is not made from by-products.
Thank you for providing such important information for the health of all cats! And let me know about including a link.
All the best,
Co-founder, Westside Animal Rescue
We are a five cat, one dog household. I had been using Litter Purrfect, a clumping litter sold at Costco. It is manufactured by Western Family Foods. My 18-year-old cat had no problems with the litter, primarily due to the fact that she does not dig into the litter nor does she cover her own waste. She is in and out with little disturbance to the litter.
My giant tabby (16 pounds) and my two Abyssinians had quite a different set of symptoms which I now know were related to the litter.
Our newest addition to the family, a tabby/Siamese mix, was only with us for about eight weeks before all of the horror started, so her symptoms were not evident at the time. They vomited their food constantly. I tried every cat food on the market with no reduction of the vomiting. One of the Abbys sneezed every single day. Occasionally the Abbys would vomit a yellowish substance which I attributed to eating houseplants. Ultimately I noticed that the female Abby was not just sleeping a lot, but increasingly lethargic and weak. She had been EATING the litter grain by grain, day by day, since the day we brought her home from the breeder.
By the time that I realized she was desperately ill, her hematocrit was down to 10. Normal is somewhere in the range of 25. She was dying right before my eyes.
I rushed her to the vet, where she received a full transfusion and was put on antibiotics and prednisone. I came home from the vet with the vet's preliminary diagnosis of feline leukemia, FIP, or cat AIDS, ALL of which are fatal. I was devastated, and did not stop hysterically crying for days and days.
I got on the Internet to research the subject and one of my first hits was your Web site. I was STUNNED with the similarity between my cats' symptoms and those in the letters from your readers. I immediately called the vet and told her that the cat had been eating the Litter Purrfect. She did not agree with my opinion that the cat was poisoned.
Her condition had improved slightly with the transfusion, but she was still very sick, so she was transferred to the Emergency Clinic for monitoring and testing over the weekend. As the feline leukemia test was negative, they wanted to do bone marrow testing to rule out "hidden" leukemia and to test for Feline Infectious Peritonitis, etc. That test came back inconclusive as well. The two vets that I saw at the emergency clinic did not give my bleating about the litter any credence at all, in fact they basically told me to get ready for the fact that my cat was going to die!
In the meantime, my little kitty was holding her own and I was busy alternating weeping and getting rid of the Litter Purrfect. It is IMPOSSIBLE to get it out of the carpeting. I vacuumed for hours and hours attempting to remove every last trace of the litter. Upon her release from the hospital, complete with multiple needle holes and a giant catheter, she walked into the room, went right straight for the litter and attempted to dig litter out of the carpet to eat!
It was becoming more and more obvious to me that the litter was a huge suspect in this mystery. After several weeks of recuperation and treatment with the antibiotics and prednisone, my little kitty recovered completely. I was reluctant to believe that she was cured until she was off the drugs for a few weeks, expecting some sort of decline in her health. She is FINE, absolutely perfectly FINE. I had trouble getting the cats to accept a new litter, but now they are using THE WORLD'S BEST CAT LITTER, which is non-toxic, dustless, AND clumping. It's outrageously expensive, but to not have puking sneezing and dying cats is worth the price and then some. So now, after $2200 worth of vet bills and no lack of emotional upheaval, we are now one big happy healthy family! —N. N.
There may be controversy about whether clumping litter is hazardous to cats, but I can state, unequivocally, that it is hazardous to DOGS!
Given the opportunity, many dogs enjoy rooting around in litter boxes. For this reason, it is wise to keep the litter box someplace where dogs cannot get to it. In my vacation house, this is not possible. After I had put clumping litter in the box for the first time, one of my dogs came to me gagging violently. She had gotten a clump of litter wedged at the back of her hard palate. I was able to get a finger around and behind the clump and dislodge it. This was the first and last use of clumping litter in that house....
I found your website, and was horrified that the clumping cat litter is as dangerous as it is! My cats have had the named symptoms, and now I know why. I am immediately changing products.
We have a HUGE problem now, though. We have a 6-month old German Shepherd ... who got into the clump litter last night. She has diarrhea, and is throwing up the yellow foamy substance mentioned on your site. She has no energy, won't eat or play, and her nose is warm. We adore this puppy, and would like your recommendation as to what we can do. ...
This letter is so long that I have placed it in another file. It is well worth reading as it illustrates how many seemingly unrelated problems could be caused by clumping clay kitty litters.
Dear Marina - thank you so much for the information re. clumping litter - it seems obvious to me now - but it never occurred to me before. My beloved cat suffering from intestinal pain and two trips to two holistic vets have produced no help so, after consulting with them I have been treating him with olive oil and enzymes to aid in the removal of suspected hairballs. All his blood work is normal and he has no parasites. Neither vet mentioned litter. …
I am on my way out the door this very minute to replace the litter boxes entirely….
[Follow up letter]
Thank you Marina! What I did was combine your information with holistic remedies that I had already applied that SHOULD have been working and weren't.... I believe the litter was the key.
I experimented with alternatives and finally found the wheat [SWheatScoop] to be the best for now anyway.
About one month after changing he passed a pure clay "plug" for want of a better word. That is exactly what it appeared like. He has had some small moments of pain but nothing to compareD to the months of real discomfort. I am very grateful to you and have only been waiting for the third month to end so that I am sure of the results (touch wood) before alerting every vet I know!!!
The combination of getting rid of the clay litter, adding digestive enzymes (human quality) greens, and a hair ball mixture of high quality dry food, if dry food is to be used - This seems to be working! TOUCH WOOD....!
Also - if water without chlorine can be served it is very helpful as the chlorine kills off the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
I am grateful for effort you have made to help those of us who love our feline members and have been suffering in the dark with them - Thank you!
Marina, Thank you so much for your article on clumping cat litter. I have 9 cats and have already lost a couple to complications from using this kind of litter. I wish I had known sooner. I told some friends of mine about this issue and got them to change the litter they use. My remaining cats are doing well. I haven't had any more problem since we switched litter.
My wife recently finished therapy for cancer and as a side note she has gotten into the daily work with our cats and kittens. Needless to say, as a result of therapy, she has developed adult asthma. Well, we were totally shocked to read the drastic health issues linked to the clumping cat litters and made a switch that very same night to a healthier litter with NO clay whatsoever. Her asthma is better and a lot less problems with our cats as a result.
It's scary to read the page and look at the cats we had and able to see a number of symptoms that they show and have now cleared totally that you mentioned in your Web site. They have gained weight, better appetites, and more active and a lot less problems of being sick after eating and with a lot less coughing or respiratory side affects.
Thanks very much…and the cats send a heartfelt MEOOOW to.
[My wife] is doing fine and breathes a lot easier doing cat litter boxes. :-) We switched to a litter called Cat's Pride; it's a recycled paper in a fine texture similar to sand grains but slightly larger. Cats don't mind it a bit, although it is a bit messier then some of the larger chunk-type paper litter. They don't mind stepping on this where the larger pellets the cats would shy away from.
Overall we have had good luck with this so far and cats don't seem to have any respiratory problems from it and they sure do love to kick it all over the place when they use litter box but that's a normal cat thing.
Thank you so much for the article about clumping cat litter. We switched to clumping litter about a month or two ago, and all of our cats, the kittens especially, have developed problems. They are all having smelly stools, often diarrhea, and almost always have gas. We thought it was the food we were feeding them, and we keep switching brands, hoping this would help, but it has not. Well, I will be buying new litter tomorrow, I promise you. Again, thank you for your help. [...] Tasha
My cat Smokey died last week of something like acute renal failure. Initially we thought it was some poison, however we have searched and searched and found no evidence of any poison. It was a sudden death, within 48 hours of symptoms appearing, but my vet thinks she must have had a preexisting condition. We may never know what happened in that critical moment, but there are some things I do know now.
2 years ago my cats were staying for at my sisters in a 4 cat household, while I was interning at a company in Japan for 5 months. My sister began to use clump clay litter at the recommendation of a vet. [...]
4-5 months after the switch to clump clay litter, Smokey began losing weight—about 3-4 pounds, and quickly, within 3-4 months. She also developed allergies, itching all the time—we took her in for tests. The vet only gave skin tests, so you see we never will know a thing about Smokey's real pre-existing condition—but anyways, she prescribed some chloropro—whatever, it made Smokey drowsy, and said that the weight loss thing was good because Smokey was a little fat previously.
At exactly the same time, Onyx began to puke, first once, then twice, then once a week, then twice, then once a day, then more and more.
I stopped my cats from eating IAMS and Nutro, thinking it was the food supply, but lets not even go there...But in hindsight, I am convinced that it was the change in litter that really nailed my two kitties with chronic diseases. Despite the hypoallergenic diets, Onyx kept vomiting. Smokey kept itching and losing weight. Finally Onyx was diagnosed with IBD.
Please know that Onyx was 5 years old at the time. Smokey was 4.
So now my kitty Smokey has died, and I think she had some pre-existing condition and the only thing I can pinpoint that coincided with her long-term health changes (she had little seizure-like twitches, sometimes spent a lot of time in the litter box, refused to cover up her stuff—was a meticulous groomer, with allergies, sucked lots of blankets...) the only thing is the clump clay litter.
Ditto for Onyx.
I am in Japan now, and Onyx and Smokey came with me. Here the idea is that clump-clay is bad for the cat and human lungs, so there are many alternatives [...].
Thanks for the honesty.
Judi and Onyx with eyes the color of planet earth.
Thank you for your article and the follow-ups. Our cat's life has probably been saved (we know she can't live forever...:) but would like to have her around a while yet!!)
Here's our story - feel free to use it.
We have had a bad time with our 15 year old cat, Scamp. She has always been a thin sort of cat, and has had some interesting experiences (disappearing for five weeks was one of them). But the recent events - her dramatic weight loss, lethargy, sad eyes, discharge, weakness and severe constipation, coupled with extreme thirst, had us totally puzzled. Luckily my sister, who is a real animal lover and has a special touch with them, said "do you use clumping litter - I've heard that it can be bad for cats..." Of course, the answer was yes, and we immediately went to the Internet to look for more information. Your article popped up and voila! All her symptoms (except she hasn't been vomiting - her poor stomach is too solid, I guess!) were there before our eyes.
Three days ago we removed the bad litter and replaced it with the old clay litter. We also gave her some mineral oil to lubricate her insides. In this short time, she is REMARKABLY improved. She now has an appetite again, does not refuse her food (we had about given up trying to tempt her appetite with every thing from chicken livers to cream to you name it!!!) and has stopped gulping water every few minutes. For several weeks she had been sort of leaning over after drinking, with a strange expression on her poor little face, like she was feeling something weird inside. She has not done this weird thing for the three days. We are SO relieved!
She can also produce normal (rather soft) bowel movements, two in the last two days. A few days back, she had to strain so hard that she almost fell over, being so weak to start with.
It is so nice to see her come running again when I open a can of food!!
She is certainly not 100% yet, and we realize that she may never be, but we certainly are hoping for 90%!!!! She is such a loving kitty, wants to be near us, wherever we are. Right now she is lying beside me as I type, seems as though she knows I am writing about her.
Another thing we have done in the last few days is to give her a VERY gentle massage around her tummy. You can actually feel the mass in there. The very light massage seems to be helping.
We have passed the word to friends and family, and will continue to do so.
Thank you again
in Nova Scotia, Canada
[...] As a result of your article I feel a sense of relief and anger. [...] I lost my five month old kitten today and over the last week he has seen three different vets. Unfortunately the first vet didn't detect the blockage in Harvey's intestines at all. As the week went on he went downhill as he was treated for a kidney infection by the first vet and was sent home with some antibiotics. Yesterday he saw a second vet who detected the blockage after several tests and this morning he was sent to a specialist for an ultrasound. They discovered the kidney problem was a result of the blockage and they could operate but he would probably have a life with ongoing kidney problems. He was merely a skeleton and in a lot of discomfort and so we decided to let him go.
I'm pretty sure after reading your article that this could have been what happened to Harvey and although I wish I had of known the danger sooner I'm glad I found it before we got another kitten. I'd like to thank you and let you know I'll pass this info on to both vets and friends.
I would like to thank you very much for your article on the clumping clay litter. I have only recently discovered this type of litter (the grey one with the blue in it) and we lost our Abby who was nearly 3 years old. I am not sure however if the litter was to blame, but her original visit to the vet was due to an intestinal problem (we had to have her put down three weeks later - her kidneys weren't working). [...]
We have a 9 year old Himalayan that has used clumping cat litters for as long as we can remember. She has recently fallen extremely ill; the doctor cannot diagnose FIP without a liver biopsy and our cat is not strong enough to do this. She suffers from respiratory problems (which we believe stems from her small nose holes), she has had severe bouts of diarrhea, vomiting (green bile and food), anorexia (from 8 lbs to 5.6), lethargy, drooling, red eyes, etc... Her doctor has placed her on a steady diet of antibiotics and steroids. The doctor also told us that Malia may also have a heart problem, without a heart sonogram it is impossible to know. This made giving her the steroids extremely risky, but the doctor said it is a necessary risk to try to combat the other problem. [...]
I appreciate your time,
Greg and RhondaMarch 30, 1999
Thank you for your quick response. [...] I have purchased the "Care Fresh" litter. We have also been directed by Malia's doctor to cut back on some of the medication she has been prescribed. So far, it seems to be helping. I will keep you posted on the progress of our Malia.
Thank you again for being such a caring person and writing back to us.
Greg and RhondaApril 25, 1999
We wrote to you a few weeks ago to tell you about our Himalayan "Malia". I am happy to say that we [...] removed the clumping kitty litter [...]. Malia's eyes have cleared up and she seems to be responding very well. We have attached a photo of our Malia, so you can see her.
Thanks again for the information in your site, it has proven to be a life saver.
Greg and Rhonda
For this letter, I have taken a slightly different approach and have included the answer I sent, since I repeatedly receive email asking the same questions as Lori asks.
Letter from Lori C.
I have a cat (5 years old) that has been throwing up constantly. I have taken Socs to the vet and had every test they could run on him. He's taken 3 different kids of medicine, which none of it worked. My Aunt sent me your article "Are Clumping Litters a Deadly Convenience?" I am very alarmed. I have always used clumping cat litters, and never knew there could be a problem. I am now looking into alternative cat litters. I have read the information on your web pages, and have a few questions.
- First, I went to the web page listed for CareFresh and there were three products listed there. CareFresh pet bedding, CatWorks Premium cat litter, and ECOfresh cat litter. Have you used all three different products? Or do you use CareFresh pet bedding as a cat litter?
- Secondly, where have you found the best place to buy alternative cat litters? I first just checked Wal-mart and they just sell regular cat litter and all the clumping kind.
- Finally, have you found after using the alternative cat litters that the problems the cats had disappeared? Or, having once used the clumping material, will the cat continue to have problems? Does the clumping material ever get totally expelled from their body?
Finally, thank you for helping us uninformed people become wiser!
Thanks for visiting my Web site! And thanks for taking the time to write.
In answer to your questions:
- The CareFresh that I use is the CareFresh Pet bedding. It works great as cat litter. I haven't tried the other two items.
- The best place to buy alternative litters seems to be at feed stores. Feed stores also carry the higher end cat and dog foods, too. I don't know why, except to think that perhaps people who have stock understand the value of taking good care of all your animals, whereas most people in urban environments aren't aware of how diet can affect the health of our animals, so they think that the regular grocery store fare is fine for cats and dogs. (It isn't.)
- The answer to this question is, "It depends." Some cats never completely recover; others become entirely healthy (as far as I have heard or can tell). I don't know if the material is ever completely expelled, though I like to think that our bodies (cats, dogs, humans, others), if otherwise supported, are capable of completely healing from any number of insults to our health. :-)
Please keep me posted on how Socs is doing.
[...] your article turned the lights on for us and our 2 year old cat who¹s suffering from terrible constipation. Thank-you, I hope we can save her for the second time in her life: she and her sister were abandoned in our backyard at 3 weeks old and we had to hand feed them till they could feed themselves. Naturally, we don¹t want to lose one of our babies to a dangerous product designed to make our lives easier. The irony of it all is just depressing. Needless to say the clumping clay litter is in its way out just as soon as we can track down one of the alternatives.
With much gratitude...Peter F. and Dieudonné (the cat)
My wife and I have 2 ferrets a cat and a dog. The clay litters we have been using have caused ME respiratory problems, I can only imagine what they are doing to the animals.
Thanks for a great article!
Chris, Patty, Sweet Pea, Buddy, Petey, and Fifi
Our cat has had problems with diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, and abdominal pain for about 2 years now. We only recently found out about the clumping cat litter problem (from my uncle, who is a vet), and switched to a recycled newspaper litter (the one they use in the clinic) about 2 months ago. Unfortunately, our cat has not improved at all, even after a change in litter and a hypo-allergenic diet.[...]
I guess I just wanted to let you know that not all cats improve by switching litter. Maybe if we could have known about this when the problem first started, but I think her system is just too damaged to recover.
A response on March 7, 2002
I read the letter of December 17th, 1998 and wanted to reply to the author that a potential cause of their cat's problem could be carrageenan in the food. After my cat has had constipation and vomiting problems, I not only switched from a clumping litter but I also investigated the ingredients in her food. Guar gum and carrageenan sounded like potential suspects in causing constipation and look what I found!
Look at the first abstract. My cat's food has carrageenan in it. I think bleeding could have caused the stickiness of the stool and constipation that my cat got.
My husband and I figured out what was wrong within a day or two when we first saw the babies with the yellow froth and diarrhea. We didn't realize it was the litter right away, but we figured out how to fix the kittens. It's unpleasant but a VERY VERY small section of a baby glycerin laxative suppository fixes them right up. Our vet was trying to force feed them and inject fluids under the skin and whatnot. Terrible (and expensive). Fortunately, I never lost any to this, but it was touch and go with the first litter for a bit.
Addendum sent later
...And sure, use the tip about the laxative. We would cut the little stick in half, and the half (lengthwise) the resulting piece to form 4 long thin pieces. It saved our first batch (over a couple of days though it was touch and go, they were so plugged up already) and had other kittens fixed in hours because we recognized the symptoms, before we realized it was the litter and stopped using clay-based [litters] totally (even the large granules of clay can cause this in babies cause they eat it!) until they were older and stopped eating the stuff.
Thanks so much for your article on the Web about cat litters. Our cats exhibit the same symptoms as you suggest, and we're switching TOMORROW to whatever we can find that matches your list [...] Even our Golden Retriever has started having respiratory problems for no reason our vet can find...and he steals some cat litter whenever he can get away with it. Thank you again.
[...] My older cats have not lost weight, but they do vomit a lot & have bouts of diarrhea & the 14 year old female has frequent UTIs. Could the clumping litter be a contributing factor to these problems? They haven't had loss of weight, but the 14 year old isn't very spry, & she does have arthritis. I have 3 stray kittens, & this morning when I went into them, one had vomited & one/or all had loose stools [...]
[...] I wanted to tell you that every single student I talked to that #1 had cats, and #2 used clumping litter said that their cats had a problems with vomiting. I want to send your article to various vets on the Internet and locally. I would love to see this poison go off the market. Thank you for the article, Marina.
Spooky and many, MANY other kitties thank you!
Michele Eva and Spooky
It's me again.
I read one of your correspondent's replies concerning her cat which suffered an enlargement and displacement of its stomach. My kitten also suffered a grossly enlarged colon which my vet first diagnosed as the rare condition called mega-colon. Even after the kitten recovered from the constipation it took about five months for the distention to subside.
I would like to mention that the treatment which was the most effective in saving my kitten's life, besides the enemas, was a daily dose of linseed water added to the cats food.
Method: Soak one dessert spoon of linseed (flax seed) in half a cup of warm water for a few hours. Strain off the jelly-like water and discard the seeds. Add approx. 2 teaspoons linseed water to every meal. This natural laxative is mild and safe.
Although most vets recommend a high fibre diet as a cure for constipation, in cases where cat litter is the cause, a high fibre diet is inappropriate and will place more stress on the inflamed and damaged organs.
You may like to pass on this useful info to your readers.
[...] I have a kitty (just under a year old) who I've been using clumping litter for and I was appalled and dismayed to read all this! Thank you for sharing that information. She's had some problems — our vet said she has liver and kidney damage and we've had no idea where that could have come from, but I will have to ask him about a possible link. Meanwhile, I'm going to investigate some of your plant-based alternatives. I love my little Sahara and I can't believe I might have been hurting her all this time!
Thank you again for this informative article, and for sharing your experiences, research and information.
[...] I run a nonprofit society that cares for unwanted, stray and orphaned animals. In my home I run a sick kitten nursery and I also agree with the terrible side effects of clumping litter.
I think another thing that you need to tell people is that kittens when first learning to use a litter box naturally eat the litter which can lead to death in the young kittens in a very short amount of time. I am an animal health technician and have always been very suspicious of any NEW product that comes out on the market. The sad thing with most suppliers of clumping litter is they really don't have any idea what the litter potentially can do and so it does become buyer beware. Thanks again for the great article.
Reprinted with permission from Burmese Bulletin from Mocha Cattery, by Melanie McGlew.
Vet case history
Last week I was distressed to see one of my small 5 week old kittens straining in the litter tray.
I administered 3 doses of Animalax in the space of 6 hours but the constipation continued and the kitten was becoming weak from pushing.
I took her to my vet who administered an anal lubricant and suggested I leave her with him. He said that the stools were rock hard. Two days later he was still battling to soften the stools and only finally succeeded after a number of enemas to empty the bowel.
The cause of this frightening experience showed up in the X-ray. The kitten had eaten some clay cat litter which had set like cement in the bowel. Needless to say I have shopped around for a kitten friendly litter and think that I have found a suitable product which is plant based.
[...] Three years ago we lost our daughter's favourite cat to clumping clay litter. An autopsy showed her intestine to be completely blocked by compacted clay from her litter box.
We embarked on search to find a new material to use for our remaining cats. We developed a pelletised, wood fibre product that works very safely and effectively. It has the added benefit of utilising clean wood that is otherwise destined for wasteful disposal in land fills. We call the product Kind To Kitty.
We are now attempting to market the product via the Internet through a modified, network referral program. You can visit our site at http://www.in.on.ca/~begley/ktk.htm for more information before giving us your permission.
Since we are a commercial enterprise, we will understand should you not wish to be linked to us, however, I feel your information is of great importance to cats and cat lovers. The promotion of clay based cat litter is intense and that of natural, healthy products is weak. The link I propose would be one way, from us to you and not vice versa.
Thank you for your attention,
As I read your article in the National Cat Herald of July, I became very excited, AND hopeful of preventing that happening to our cattery again. You could have been describing what happened to us, with a few minor changes to details.Thank you so much for the article.
[...]We experienced the problems you describe. We were lucky not to lose any, although it was touch and go, and took many days of worry, vets, special food and care. The worst little "sceleton" in every litter got the nickname of Maergatjie, which is a loving way of saying Little skinny a—hole in Afrikaans. [...]
My adult cats do not seem to have problems with the litter but they have 12 hour access to a large garden, trees to climb protection by electrical fence, and all sleep in the house (mostly on our beds!) with a litter box for the night.
Annette Seidel SOHPAR MI CATTERY , P.O. Box 1425 Welkom 9460
As promised, here's a first follow-up of the situation. I've removed the clumping stuff the day I last wrote to you. Now I'm using a non-clumping litter with much bigger white grains. A couple of days after the change, one of the two cats was already giving signs of improvement: eye discharge stooped suddenly, he started eating well again, and although sometimes it still sneezes, it amuses himself running around again. The other one is improving much more slowly. It has still a sad expression, and started eating again today after several days. It was the one with the hard belly. At least this is gone. I think probably it caught cold on top of all too, because mid-January it was often outside during the night, for reproduction.
By the way, my vet found your article interesting. However I had to fight first with his assistant secretary who was looking at me like a poor idiot, saying "not possible, we never had such problems... [...]". With the doctor the discussion has been much more constructive. He seemed much more comfortable about the discovery because he indeed noticed a degree of causality between the type of litter used and the development of certain type of cat diseases. He mentioned that this kind of product may well aggravate respiratory diseases in humans too, thru the powder which develops especially during litter change. I asked if something can be done against this kind of product, he said: "Well, you know...". No I don't, but I understand well.
February 3, 1996
Thank you so much for your article on clumping cat litters. You probably saved my rabbit's life. I was looking in the Net Vet and saw a rabbit home page. Your article was in it. For the past month or two my 4 lbs. rabbit was wheezing and had most of the symptoms you described. She wasn't vomiting, because it's impossible for rabbits to vomit. She was eating, but not as much as usual. After reading your article, I knew what was wrong. I am going to try some of the organic cat litters you named. We may also have her examined by a vet. Thank you so much.
DATE: 1/30/1996 8:03 PM
RE: Clumping Cat Litter
A little over a week ago, I went to a pet show in Miami. During the show, I spoke to several people regarding my cat's illness. My cat was desperately ill. She was so weak, she could hardly stand. My vet had been unable to determine the exact cause of her illness. A copy of your article: "Are Clumping Cat Litters a Deadly Convenience?" was given to me at the show and several people discussed symptoms of this problem with me. The symptoms they described were exactly those my cat had experienced. First, I noticed she was having bowel movements more and more infrequently. She began to vomit a yellow frothy substance and then she stopped eating all together. She lost several pounds in two weeks.
When I returned from the show, I began giving her chicken broth and liquids by eye-dropper. She was too weak to take them otherwise. I got her through the weekend and took her to the vet. I asked him to give her a barium x-ray. Sure enough, the barium went to a certain point and stopped. My vet was somewhat resistant to the idea that the problem might be the litter; however, he agreed to give her an enema.
The result was amazing! She has regained her appetite. She is energetic and playful again. She is obviously feeling much, much better. Unfortunately, her stomach was displaced during all this and she has vomited some of her food up twice since the enema. Both times, she had tried to eat quite a bit and I am hopeful her stomach will return to its original location little by little. I believe her stomach was displaced during one particularly painful pre-enema vomit session when everything she had eaten for several days came up in one long, undigested "tube". From the x-ray, I believe the food had compacted down to the block and eventually come up because it could not go down. The "tube" was the exact length of the area between her stomach and the block. After that episode, she was in such obvious pain I had called the doctor and made an appointment to have her put down. I just couldn't stand to see her suffering any longer.
That was the weekend I went to the pet show and learned about the litter. Most likely, your article has saved my cat's life. I cannot thank you enough.
As a precautionary measure, I had the vet give my other cat an enema as well. Of course, I have switched litters. I have returned to the basic clay litter and I am wondering if there are any problems associated with it. I can't stand the pine litters, so I hope the old-fashioned stuff will be fine.
Anyway, the point of this letter is to thank you and to let you know the word is spreading. My vet is somewhat of a believer now that he has seen your article and my cat's almost miraculous recovery. I am writing to the manufacturer of the litter I had been using to let them know what happened as well.
Followup, Monday February 12, 1996
Nice to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to write me back.
No, I don't mind if you use my name or my letter. I have been doing everything I can to spread the word. My cat is doing very well. Her liver enzymes have returned to normal. She still seems to have some trouble with digesting her food, although she is having bowel movements. I'm sticking with soft food mostly. It seems easier for her. Her stomach was out of place on the x-rays the vet took. I think it has to do with all the vomiting. I hope it is returning to its normal shape and size, but she may never be completely normal again. At least she is alive and seems to be doing quite well. Your article saved her life. I can't thank you enough.
[...] My girlfriend works in the pet supply dept. of our local animal shelter. Talk about the dangers of clumping litter has been-circling for some time, but to get the powers that be to take a position, more evidence is needed. We stopped using clumping litter at home when we noticed that after a cat box raid the dogs' stools contained large, white, hard objects. Not a big problem for 100+ shepherds, but for a 9 pound cat or a 12 oz. kitten? We didn't want to-take the chance.
[...] We (the House Rabbit Society) have had deaths reported from clumping/scoopable cat litters since before 1988. My understanding is that, in rabbits, some of the autopsies have shown that their intestines have actually been cut by this stuff as it tries to pass through and other deaths are as you've described in cats. Rabbits spend a considerable amount of time in their litterbox and are more fastidious than cats in their grooming. Since they also re-eat their cecal pellets (vs fecal pellets), it's very easy for them to ingest this stuff. I'd always wondered why cats weren't having a problem with these litters and now I see it's just being ignored. [...]
Thanks for writing this.
[...] I am a Maine Coon Breeder and I am mentoring a new breeder who was using clumping litter until I gave her your article to read. I had an experience about two years ago (my stud males are on an enclosed patio and when it rains we get some ground water and the skylights leak if the rain is heavy) when I decided to try clumping litter. I literally had a cement factory when it rained and the litter stuck to my cat's feet and I couldn't get it off. That taught me a lesson and I never-tried using clumping litter again.
[...] You might be interested to know that my vet here in Honolulu found that the bacterial content of clumping litter boxes was so high (presumably because not _all_ soiled litter is removed, and the box itself is changed rarely) that it was causing a variety of health problems in the cats she sees. She's been recommending for some time that her clients stop using clumping litter.
My name is Sue Ellen Mohney. [...] I am a Vet Assistant/Receptionist at Cat Haven Vet Clinic in Birmingham, AL. Recently we were fighting a mysterious illness with a cat, Toby, who was going through dramatic weight loss, vomiting spells and lethargic behavior. We went through a battery of tests and found no significant abnormalities. We tried symptomatic treatments, vitamins, changes in diet and even had the owner remove all the house plants Toby could come in contact with.
But Toby continued to loose weight and we felt we would see him pass on despite our efforts. Finally, a friend of the owner ran across your article in the Jan/Feb '95 issue of Tiger Tribe titled "Are Clumping Litters a Deadly Convenience?", they brought it to Toby's owner and she brought a rough Xerox to us. We were astounded. Toby has been removed from the clumping litter he had used and we've, just to be extra careful, replaced it with alfalfa litter and he is recovering nicely with only a few remaining symptoms. We suspect Toby will always have a very weak stomach. [...]
Sue Ellen Mohney, Cat Haven Vet Clinic
Subject: Re: Dog eats litter...
My vet has strongly recommended discouraging this practice where clumping litter is concerned. He has already had to remove an intestinal blockage in a dog from clumping cat litter.
[...] You saved my cat's life—it was not cancer but rather clumping cat litter that was causing her cough. [...] I'm sharing this with my friends and doctors. To say thank you for helping me walk this journey with Sadie's mysterious illness—seems so inadequate—I wish you could feel my relief and joy and (terror that I nearly killed my soul mate). I couldn't have come where I am today without your help. My heart overflows with appreciation for you. Thank you thank you thank you.
[...] I edit a small monthly newsletter for the New York Village of Nyack-On-the-Hudson, in the suburban New York City area. [...]
We thought you might like to know that we were told (by Scoop-Away's Director of Product Marketing Pam Lucchesi) that "if they (the cats) are eating the stuff—stop them." [... on the other hand] Bob Vetere, Head of First Brands, the company which makes Scoop-Away [...] said that sodium bentonite could not possibly be a problem [...and] added that the ASPCA gives clumping cat litter a clean bill of health—so we spoke with the ASPCA in Manhattan and learned that not only do they not endorse the product but caution against its use for kittens under two months of age.
Jan Haber, Editor in Chief, The Nyack Villager
Note that when first experiencing the problems, we were also told by the clumping litter manufacturer we contacted that we should not allow our cats to eat the stuff. —Marina
Telephone Conversation with Kate Gamble, Animal Behavior Specialist, San Francisco, California
Sometime in 1995 or so, I had a conversation with Kate Gamble in which she related her own experiences with clumping clay kitty litters. She had a cat who became extremely lethargic after she started to use a clumping clay kitty litter product. Her vet prescribed prednisone and said he would never be normal again. None of her other cats were affected. She also started to experience respiratory problems herself.
After removing the clumping clay kitty litter, her cat completely recovered and her respiratory problems went away.
We tried clumping litters before we got into breeding, about 4 years ago now & didn't like it one bit. On a purely tracking level, we found it everywhere [!!] in our house. The cats seemed to sneeze way too much as well.
When we bought our first ocicat, the breeders told us NO, absolutely NO, clumping litter. We had already gone back to clay anyway. I, too, have heard horrible stories from breeders re: clumping litters & newborns or young kittens. When I give out our kitten kit info, I specifically put NO clumping litters on there as well. [...]
All my best to you & your crew!
Look forward to hearing from you soon!
Many thanks for your excellent article in Tiger Tribe. I began changing my litter back to clay when the previous issue announced the advent of your article. I have for three years been treating a cat with mega-colon, battling constantly to keep him going "poo". I have asked many vets and professionals why his stool seemed to have such a clay-like consistency. Now I know. I am pleased to report that this problem has cleared up, and perhaps we are seeing some signs of colon improvement, although it is really too early to say for sure. Your clear reporting of your experiences and deductions is invaluable to me, and I intend to see that all my cat-loving friends are alerted. Thank you a thousand times. Happy Holidays.
And an update received March 16, 1995
[...] My cat, Thorndyke, has lost all signs of his clay poo. We have yet to improve his mega colon problems, but I do feel very strongly that this change has been very important in strengthening the possibility of change. We're still hopeful.
Best wishes for a lovely Spring. Thanks again.