Corn and moisture are not a good combination; deadly aflatoxin mold can be the result.  While many pet owners avoid corn ingredients in their pet foods because of the concern of aflatoxin, do we now have a new concern with corn cat litters?  One pet owner says a definite yes; the death of her pet raises suspicion to aflatoxin poisoning from Worlds Best Cat Litter; a corn based cat litter.

In late 2005, many pet owners learned a new word to be worried about; aflatoxin.  Diamond Pet Foods contaminated with the deadly mold aflatoxin was recalled; at least 100 dogs were killed.  In October 2009, Wysong Pet Foods recalled numerous brands of pet food due to aflatoxin contamination.  Because of these recalls and the true concern of aflatoxins, many pet owners avoid at all costs corn ingredient in pet foods and pet treats.

But what about corn cat litters?

I hate to admit this, but it’s something I never thought about prior to receiving an alarming email from a pet owner.  “Is it possible that a corn-based cat litter could contain aflatoxins once it has come into contact with a moisture-rich environment (i.e. litter box). My 3 cats began vomiting and one developed hepatic lipidosis resulting in the insertion of a food tube but then developed hind leg paralysis; another developed kidney disease; and the third is now ok once the litter was replaced with clay. Unfortunately, the one with hepatic lipidosis was euthanized because her prognosis was so poor (miss her terribly).”

My first thoughts…of course it could be possible.  With further information, it seems clear it is VERY possible.

From Cornell University Department of Animal Science “the commodities with the highest risk of aflatoxin contamination are corn, peanuts and cottonseed.  Pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination of peanuts and corn is favored by high temperatures, prolonged drought conditions, and high insect activity; while post-harvest production of aflatoxins on corn and peanuts is favored by warm temperatures and high humidity.”

With corn ingredient pet food and cat litter, pet owners first need to trust that the corn was accurately tested prior to pet food or cat litter manufacturing.  Testing accuracy is difficult.  Consider a ton of grain.  Only one small sample of each ton is tested for toxins.  While that one small sample might test clean, it is possible another section within the ton of corn IS infected.  Again, testing accuracy is difficult.

Next, a pet owner has the concern if the corn ingredient pet food and/or corn cat litter was subject to warm temperature and high humidity after production of the product.  This would include warehousing conditions of the product long after it left the manufacturer.  With corn cat litter, this could happen right in your litter box.  Covered litter boxes with added warm urine.

The livestock industry tells farmers that “uninfected corn at 18% moisture can only be safely stored for just over a month at 70 degrees F”.  Broken kernels of corn are three to four times more susceptible to mold growth than intact kernels.

Even clumping corn cat litter and the absolute cleanest litter box – remnants of moisture remain in the box.  Are they growing deadly mycotoxins that could be inhaled and consumed by cats visiting the litter box?  If so, what is the risk to cats?

“Mycotoxins can show carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic, teratogenic or immunotoxic effects. Mycotoxin exposure in the workplace may occur through inhalation and skin contact, e.g. during occupational handling of organic matter such as livestock feed, food products, or waste. Various studies suggest that both acute and chronic effects can occur, depending at least on the exposure level. The magnitude of the potential health risks associated with a respiratory or dermal intake of mycotoxins has largely remained unclear to date.”  Published 2/26/2009

zeldaThis is Zelda.

Zelda had to be euthanized because of liver failure and numerous other complications.  Zelda’s Mom – JH – is needless to say heartbroken.  JH wanted other pet owners to be alerted to the possibility of risk with corn cat litters.  Below are some of her comments.

“The illnesses of my cats have occurred within such a short period of time (within 4 weeks of switching to Worlds Best Cat Litter in late December 2009).  Soon after euthanizing my Zelda and seeing the decline of my two remaining cats, my husband and I were really puzzled and convinced that they had come into contact with something toxic  The only change that had been made was the litter; so we quickly switched back to the clay, and neither has vomited since.”

“After relaying my concerns about the litter to her primary vet, she said that the presence of aflatoxin would be her main concern, but could not definitively say that was the cause.  I’m still waiting for comments from the specialists who included an internist, oncologist, and cardiologist.  I think that the simple fact there is suspicion and probable cause is enough to warn others.”

Dr. Berryessa from Georgia Veterinary Specialsts (who treated Zelda) stated that “aflatoxin is definitely associated with corn but could not conclusively say that this caused Zelda’s liver failure;  she was cremated and an autopsy was not performed.  He further stated that if this litter is ingested, it could aggravate a cat who has kidney disease because it could contribute to dehydration.”  

The cat litter company, Worlds Best Cat Litter, told JH the lot number was tested clean of aflatoxins.  JH told the company her “concern was not with the product in the bag, but rather what happened to it once it is used as litter and comes into contact with moisture.”

While Worlds Best Cat Litter did respond to JH’s concerns with the litter, an email from their ‘Research Department’ is very suspicious (and down right stupid in my book).  Please take a close look at the sections I bolded…

“We use corn and other ingredients, which meet the standards for pet foods. There are no possibilities of contamination and toxicity issue when the product is in the bag and fresh out the bag. We use a high temperature and pressure process to produce the product and make the product meeting feed/pet foods standards in terms of microorganisms. The product was made in winter (Nov. 29th, 2009) and won’t have any mold or fungi issues in normal conditions unless it has been subjected to high temperature and high humidity or moisture in the litter box.”

‘There are no possibilities of contamination and toxicity issue when the product is in the bag and fresh out the bag.  The product won’t have any mold or fungi issues unless it has been subjected to moisture in the litter box.’

Does Worlds Best Cat Litter understand what cat litter is used for?

I have to wonder if Worlds Best Cat Litter ever bothered to test their products for toxins when it was used as a litter.  I wonder if anyone ever gave the slightest thought to moisture in the litter box.  If anyone ever gave the slightest thought of the pets that would be using this litter.

Dr. Cathy will be adding her concerns in a follow up article soon.

My sincere thanks to JH for allowing me to share her heartbreaking story with readers; her wish as is mine is that by sharing this heartbreak, other lives can be saved.  I hope your other babies fully recover; I hope your broken heart will heal soon.  Zelda will not be forgotten.

Add corn cat litter to your list of cautions for your pets, any corn litter.