Cat Litter Cautions from Dr. Cathy
When it comes down to our four-legged family members, the two legged variety will sometimes spare no expense in health care, proper nutrition, treats, clothes and grooming. With all of the potential choking and ingestion hazards in our animal toys, toxic flea and tick treatments, food recalls and food varieties from which to choose has created a very savvy consumer.
We read labels; we research; we talk to other pet owners and we seek routine and regular vet care.
So where does “savvy consumer” meet up with “I never thought of that.” One place would be the kitty section of your local retailer. Aisle after aisle devoted to pet toys, grooming aids, flea prevention, treats and, of course, the myriad of cat litter varieties. How many of us actually read a cat litter label as something for our pets to eat. We should.
Watch a cat groom itself: your kitty will meticulously groom her feet, licking off all traces of cat litter, and swallowing it. And not to just point out Fluffy’s proclivities toward “fastidious-ness”, Fido often snacks at the cat pan buffet.
Still, how does this matter?
Think about this – your basic cat litter ingredients are: clay, sand, paper – which are natural absorbents -– but then, companies add in all of the other ingredients designed to make their humans happy. Baking soda, deodorizer, perfumes, colors and chemicals.
Baking soda, when used for baking, is effective and frankly most recipes require it. Baking soda, when used for odor control is also fairly effective. But it sure is hard on Kitty’s kidneys.
Even if you feed your cat the absolute “best” dry food on the planet, you cannot police your cat’s bathing and in many cases, it’s not the food – it’s the litter – and your pet is not dining on litter but is still ingesting the litter.
Here’s how seemingly innocuous baking soda can kill your pet. Fluffy uses the litter box and cleans himself up. Again and again. Then one day, you notice Fluffy hitting the litter box more frequently, straining to urinate but not getting any urine to come out. You rush him to the vet and find out he is blocked.
The baking soda he’s been gradually ingesting has made his urine too basic –not acidic enough. It takes acid to keep the bladder healthy and strong so it can fight off the occasional bacteria that drifts through. Now, you have a hospitalized cat with acute renal failure and it may be a few days until he comes home. (By the way, your bill will be anywhere from $600 to $1000 depending on how bad it was and where you live.)
I had a patient last year with urinary tract issues – and his owner spared no expense in trying to help him – but his condition was so severe, his penis formed scar tissue from the blockage and eventually, there was no way to pass a catheter. We were unable to save him; even the most extreme surgery couldn’t get urine out of his bladder.
Then there are the other all natural litters — corn and wheat based litters, crystals, pine based and newspaper.
We live in the heart of corn and soybean farms. For the most part, farmers are careful and conscientious about the chemical and fertilizers they use on their crop. But for the small percentage that doesn’t care past harvest time, our animals are at their mercy. Corn is pretty hardy – it can be sprayed with deadly chemicals and pesticides without outwardly causing harm.
But if your cat is in constant contact, breathing litter dust and ingesting particles, toxic effects can occur. One of our readers here at Truth About Pet Food has experienced a tragedy due to toxic chemicals in on of the “natural” cat litters. Just recently, she lost her cat due to the toxins from her cat litter being exposed to liquid – urine.
And all cat litter can be dusty – you inhale those particles when you change the box, kitty inhale and swallows the dust particles and as the advertising claims, “it clumps” in the lungs, intestines and throughout the body.
For a great reference, see: http://thelighthouseonline.com/articles/clump.html and please keep up the vigilant research and reporting to all of us.
Dr. Cathy Alinovi DVM
As a practicing veterinarian, Dr. Cathy treated 80% of what walked in the door — not with expensive prescriptions — but with adequate nutrition. Now retired from private practice, her commitment to pets hasn’t waned and she looks forward to impacting many more pet parents through her books, research, speaking and consulting work. Learn more at drcathyvet.com