Yuck! You may be surprised just how common it is for cats to eat cat litter. Is it healthy? No, decidedly not...clumping cat litter can block your cat's intestines or cause your cat to choke.
Figuring out how to stop this feline behavior all hinges on understanding why it's happening in the first place.
Why Do Cats Eat Litter?
Well that's the million-dollar question, isn't it? Cats can (and do) eat litter for a wide variety of reasons:
Curiosity (Kittens/Bored Cats)
Kittens under a few months old often eat litter out of simple curiosity. Like human babies, they'll put anything in their mouths! Likewise for cats who aren't receiving enough stimulation at home.
Cats suffering from anemia, a condition that decreases a cat's red blood cell count, often have pica, which is the behavior of eating non-food items. Anemia can be regenerative (caused by infection, toxins, or diabetes) or non-regenerative (caused by bone marrow disorders, chronic disease, or major nutritional disorders.) Pica should always be brought to the attention of a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Most cat litters contain minerals that cats can smell. If they're lacking a certain vitamin or mineral in their diet such as vitamin A, magnesium, taurine, etc., they may start chewing kitty litter to try to solve the problem themselves. Nutritional deficiencies are particularly common among cats whose owners make their own cat food.
What to Do if Your Cat's Eating Litter
It's important to note that a cat who suddenly starts eating kitty litter should be seen by a veterinarian soon. The behavior is almost always indicative of something more serious. A veterinarian can run diagnostic tests to check your cat's blood and urine to rule out many of the most common causes of this behavior.
If your litter-eater is a kitten less than four-months old and/or your veterinarian has confirmed there's no underlying health cause for the behavior, it's time to focus on solutions.
Start by monitoring your cat closely in the litter box and removing them immediately if they start to eat. They'll likely get with the program soon enough. You can also try swapping out your cat's food for a new flavor or brand (with the guidance of your vet) to see if a different formulation curbs pica symptoms. Likewise for the litter...maybe your cat's partial to just one! If you know your cat's a litter eater, be sure only to use non-toxic litter.
And remember, your cat may just be bored! Be sure to provide at least 20-minutes of concentrated, active playtime on a daily basis and to constantly stimulate your cat's brain. A bored cat cat become destructive.