The Trouble with Kitty Litter: What is Safe and What is Not?

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post appeared online in July 2008. At that time very little was known about the harmful effects of clay cat litter. This post offered scientific proof that clay litter is harmful to both cats and humans (see link in post to silicosis). Today’s consumers are much more educated about clay litter dust. And there are a greater variety of alternative litters (both clumping and non-clumping) available in 2013 than in 2008. In addition, this post focused only on clumping types of litters. This is why your favorite non-clumping litter may not be mentioned in this post.  We prefer clumping litter because our animal welfare agency (Texas Animal Guardians) cares for numerous cats. In a multiple cat situation we have found clumping litters provide easier maintenance of the litter box than non-clumping. Also, cat parents need to know that any type of grain, nut or food substance can produce allergic reactions in cats, dogs and humans. Therefore, if your cat has food sensitivities (or any other member of the family does) do not use grain clumping litter. Instead find a non-clumping alternative. Please monitor your cat’s reaction to any type of litter switch. If there are any adverse reactions to the new litter discontinue use immediately.

The more indoor cats you have the more important cat litter becomes.

Finding just the right cat litter brands can be one of the most difficult trials to deal with when owning a cat. And you’ll need to conduct your own test before finally settling on one brand. But there is more to the cat litter question than just what works for you. There is a question of health, not only for you but your cats.

Silicosis and the cat box connection?

When I conducted research on the Dust Bowl for an upcoming book on Route 66, I came across an interesting item. It was a disease that I had never heard of before called Silicosis. Silicosis is caused by the constant inhalation of tiny particles of silica. These particles then embed themselves into the lungs clogging up the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. The particles are so small the lungs can not clear themselves out by creating mucous or coughing. In other words, silica dust particles gum up the lungs. The lungs then become congested, filling with fluid, and eventually producing fibrosis and inflammation. The final result is chronic lung problems such as bronchitis (note, any disease ending in “itis” denotes that it is an inflammatory illness), asthma, and lung tumors.

It’s not just harmless dust….

When you pour clay litter (clumping or regular) into a litter pan a puff of dust floats up towards you and streams throughout the room. You are inhaling these particles directly through your nose. The residual litter dust is inhaled indirectly as it travels throughout the room and around your home. However, your cat is under constant exposure to silica dust since each time he uses the box he inhales these particles directly into his lungs. Plus he is also inhaling the indirect dust floating in the home atmosphere.

Clay is a mineral that is very difficult for the body to eliminate. Exposure to clay dust puts people and animals at risk for such diseases called “Farmer’s Lung” and Mesothelioma Lung Cancer. The research is very clear that cats who are already suffering from lung problems have difficulty clearing clay dust from their lungs. It is the clay litter alone that causes these lung problems. Please click on this link for a full report (including images) of this disease: http://www.securepet.biz/wordpress/study-on-silica-dust-in-cats

As responsible pet owners and health conscious people we need to think twice about bringing any clay litter into our homes. Let’s not expose our cats and families to this potential hazard.

The natural alternatives to clay litter are growing.

The alternatives are a natural litter made from wheat, corn or paper. The only clumping ones are made from wheat and corn. These materials are safe for cats of all ages. They are free from perfumes and dyes. And they are safe for the environment. Below you will find a sampling of various clumping products—alternative and traditional clay—along with my personal test results.


Fresh Step clumping clay litter uses perfumes that increase the chance of health risks in cats. Many cats have chronic eye problems due to allergic reaction to scented litter. For humans who are chemical sensitive these heavily scented products only aggravate their condition. In addition, perfumes can produce allergic reactions in humans.
Cost: $
Performance: **
Health: *

Tidy Cats Scoop Multiple Cats formula contains an odor controlling formula plus perfumes. These chemicals irritate the sensitive lining of a cat’s nostrils. This can further aggravate any allergy problems the cat may have. Furthermore the cat can ingest these chemicals into their system when cleaning their paws. Reviews on this product appear to be good but my personal experience with Tidy Cats was not satisfactory. The heavy scent was annoying, not to mention unhealthy.

Cost: $$
Performance:**
Health: *

Kittens often eat clumping litter. Once the litter is ingested it begins to swell in the stomach causing intestinal blockage and death. For this reason kittens should never have access to clumping litter. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Swheat Scoop (made from wheat) offers an alternative to traditional clumping litter. In my test trial it did not produce firm clumps and in a multiple cat home this can pose a problem with crumbling. Regardless of its “low dust” claims this product created more dust than the clay clumping litter. One of the other problems with this product was its tendency to stick to the bottom of the litter pan. The Swheat Scoop people have now introduced a multiple cat version. This was not tested and it is possible that this produces harder clumps.
Cost: $$$
Performance: **
Health: ****

World's Best Cat Litter - PetSmart
By far the superior alternative is World’s Best Cat Litter made from corn. True to its name it is the best I have ever used. It is expensive but a little goes a long way. The multiple cat version clumps up nice and firm (it can even be used in automatic cat litter machines). Best of all it does not stick to the bottom of the litter pan. It naturally eliminates odors. This product does not claim to be “low dust” but it produces far less dust than Swheat Scoop and only a little more than clay clumping litter. With this product my cats and I are safe from harmful silica dust, perfumes and dyes.
Cost: $$$$
Performance: ****
Health: ****

Comments

51 Responses to “The Trouble with Kitty Litter: What is Safe and What is Not?”

  1. craig on February 10th, 2009 5:51 pm

    I have been using yesterdays news cat litter. Have you heard about any health concerns from recycled newspapers?

    Hi Craig,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post regarding the dangers of clay litter. Your question is a very good one and brings up several concerns that I have had about the use of recycled newspaper as a form of litter.

    I have recently had negative feedback on the recycled newspaper litter. This is primarily from people who have small animals in cages such as gerbils, hamsters, hedgehogs, and even some of the dwarf rabbits. It appears that some of these animals become lethargic when exposed to this type of litter.

    As I examined this a little more I discovered a few interesting things about recycled newspapers. Naturally, we all know that recycled newspapers are filled with chemicals. It now appears that many of these chemicals have an adverse affect on mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. My eyes were really opened to the full impact of the dangers of these chemicals when I read an abstract published on January 17, 2008 in Toxicology Science. The abstract states that newspapers and newspaper ink contain agonists for the ah receptor. This basically means that newspapers and the ink found on them are neuro (nerve) toxins. This might explain why small animals living in enclosed environments react adversely to recycled newspaper litter.

    Cats, however, are not contained with the newspapers but when they use the litter they get the chemicals on their paws. In turn, they clean their paws and ingest the harmful chemicals. These chemicals may or may not impact the cat immediately but they could have an accumulative impact on the cat’s nervous system and organs. It certainly is something that warrants caution on the side of a pet parent.

    Based on the above information, I can no longer recommend recycled newspaper litter for any type of animal, particularly if the animal is a caged one.

    Hope that answers your question,
    Gyvel

  2. Jennifer on September 5th, 2009 2:03 pm

    I am using arm & hammer baking soda kitty litter with oder alert. I inhaled some dust and now have an itchy throat. Could I just be allergic to it.

    Hi Jennifer,

    Allergies to scents are common in both animals and humans. Keep in mind that even if a product states it is unscented does not mean it does not contain perfumes. The only way to be certain there are no artificial chemical scents in a product is to purchase products that state “no perfumes.”

    Since we humans can have such severe reactions to cat litter chemicals can you imagine how bad it is for our fur babies whose systems are much smaller than ours?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and I certainly hope that your allergic reaction vanishes quickly!
    Gyvel

  3. Barbara Pond on September 8th, 2009 1:31 am

    I would like to comment on this article:

    Tidy Cats Scoop Multiple Cats formula contains an odor controlling formula plus perfumes. These chemicals irritate the sensitive lining of a cat’s nostrils. This can further aggravate any allergy problems the cat may have. Furthermore the cat can ingest these chemicals into their system when cleaning their paws. Reviews on this product appear to be good but my personal experience with Tidy Cats was not satisfactory. The heavy scent was annoying, not to mention unhealthy.
    Cost: $$
    Performance:**
    Health: *

    I bought a pail of Tidy Cats Scoop Multiple Cats back in April of 2009. Immediately upon pouring into the litter pan I began choking on the EXTRA strong scent in the litter. (which I dumped out the following day) I became sick and have been under the care of my family doctor and an ENT doctor ever since. My throat was all red and irritated all the way down to my largynex. My nose and nasal cavities are also a mess. I still have a sore throat and often run a low grade fever. I have trouble eating lots of foods that I could eat before. I mostly have to eat soft and bland food.

    I have used Tidy Cats Scoop litter for years and never had a problem with it before. I believe it was the “New Fresh Laundry Scent” that they added to it recently. I contacted Purina and filed a complaint and asked them to refund the out of pocket money that I had to spend at the doctors. They refused to do so stating that I could not prove it was the litter. They would not release the chemical make up of the scent to the doctors so they could treat me properly. The doctors can not say for a fact it was the scent because they have no way of knowing what chemicals were involved. The lawyer I talked to said we would not have a case without that proof. I wish that I would have thought to save that pail of litter instead of throwing it out. I do still have the empty pail.

    Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.

  4. Gyvel Young ©2008 on September 8th, 2009 11:24 am

    Hello Barbara,

    Regarding some of the health concerns you have experienced after using Tidy Cats Scoop litter with the “New Fresh Laundry Scent,” I am not a physician so please consult your doctor regarding my comments to your post. Fragrances can cause a myriad of health problems, both to animals and humans. This is because fragrances are made up of chemicals and many of these chemicals are actually considered toxic by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.

    My recommendation is for you to purchase another pail (or bag) of the Tidy Cats Scoop litter and pay for a chemical analysis of the product (including the fragrance). You might be experiencing environmental toxicity from years of exposure to fragrances.

    I would recommend that you visit: http://www.ourlittleplace.com/mcs.html for more information about the dangers of fragrances. Another place to read more about fragrances please click on this: Dangers of perfumes

    A laboratory analysis will reveal the chemical makeup of the scent in the “New Fresh Laundry” product.

    As for the doctors, I strongly urge you to find a physician who specializes in environmental illness.

    All my best to you and I hope that your health improves rapidly!
    Gyvel

  5. Barbara Pond on September 8th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Gyvel…. Thanks for answering!

    This Tidy Cat scent just came out in April of this year. It was a NEW scent that they added to the litter. We did not know about the new scent when we bought the litter. It was only after my reaction to the scent that my husband went and looked at the empty bucket that he had put in the shed outside. On the back of the bucket was a tiny (3 inch round) silver sticker that said fresh new laundry scent on it.

    My husband has been looking for some more of it, but it is not on the shelves at either Walmart or Kmart. What is on there now just says “Specially Formulated to Neutralize Odors” and the litter does not smell as strong. As I stated above we threw the bad litter out not thinking to save any. We got just a bit (1/2 tps) of the dust out the empty pail but that is it. Therefore I am unable to get a chemical analysis. I asked Purina to release the chemical analysis to my doctors and they refused to do so.

    This “Fresh Laundry Scent” litter was enough to just gag anyone it was so strong. It took several days to just get the smell out of the house. May have been caused by a production mess up since it was just put on the market.

    This link I found suggest that Walmart just recently had a problem with Tidy Cat and either removed it from the shelves or refused to sell it.
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090829161122AATheIo

    I have been searching the web and can not find anything at about Cat Litter recalls. Except for the above link. I have been to OSAH, FDA, SPCA and CONSUMER REPORTS and so forth with no success.

    If Purina continues to refuse the chemical makeup of the fragrence to my doctors it seems that there is no other way to obtain it. Even if I do find a doc the specializes in environmental illness.

    I will check out those sites you listed in your post. And thank you for the well wishes.

  6. Gyvel Young ©2008 on September 8th, 2009 7:38 pm

    Hi Barbara,

    Wow! I didn’t realize that the product was no longer on the shelves, that is interesting. And it is even more interesting that WalMart is not putting Tidy Cat products on its shelves.

    Please place a post about your experience on http://www.consumeraffairs.com/pets/ perhaps someone else has had the same experience as yourself. It could be worth a try.

    The number one rule (that most of us break) about food and pet product problems is to keep the product, do not discard it, do not return it to the manufacturer: Doing so erases the evidence. What I find perplexing about this is the fact that the product is no longer available for sale! This fact is also very, very telling.

    Keep us posted Barbara and get well!
    Gyvel

  7. Barbara Pond on September 8th, 2009 8:45 pm

    Gyvel…. Ok but a few questions first….

    1. Where on that Consumers Affair site do I post what happened to me?

    2. Will I get in legal trouble by more or less accusing Purina of wrong doing? Would not like a law suit against me for doing so?

    Did you go to the site in my above post about none being on the shelves at some Walmart’s and at other Walmart’s they just refused to sell what was on the shelves. That sure makes one curious doent it?

    Another curious thing is that when my husband bought the “bad” bucket of Tidy Cat it was at the local Kmart. He said it was the last one on the shelf. But there has been no mention on the Kmart site or anywhere else about the litter. I do as I said above still have the empty bucket which contains the price bar code and the code where it was made!

    Dont you find it strange that the new jugs of Tidy Cat do not have the Fresh Laundry Scent label on them? My husband went to Kmart on Friday the 4th and got me two small (20 lb) jugs of the litter and with a different label as stated in post above.

    Oh and a couple of more things to tell you… I am semi handicapted due to bad feet and back so I seldom go shopping. My husband is a transport driver and is gone for 5/6 days at a time. He left on a job just hours after we got the bad litter. We opened all windows, turned on all vent fans and put other fans in some windows to bring is fresh air. We have 3 large litter pans to handle the 9 cats. We tried pouring a 4 lb. box of pure arm & hammer baking soda in EACH pan. It helped but not much. The next day I started cleaning house to rid it of the smell. When my neighbor got home I called her and asked her to help me get this stuff out of the house. As soon as she came inside she said “oh my God what a horrible smell” I have a legally notorized letter from her about that and about helping me get it outside. The smell was undiscribable.

    BTW… My fever is higher tonight and I feel uck…sigh. Will go post on that other site tomorrow after hearing back from you.

  8. Barbara Pond on September 8th, 2009 8:47 pm

    Forgot to ask… I have been saving all my comments about this problem and the answers I recieve in MS Word for future reference. Is it ok for me to save what we have wrote here?

  9. Susan on October 17th, 2009 2:48 pm

    World’s Best Cat Litter is not dust free!!! I have to strain it with a very fine strainer when I first put it in the litter box and then restrain every so often. If I don’t, I get cat prints all over everything. The prints are especially noticeable on the dark blue throws I keep on our couch and chairs. I would say that the amount of dust in a large bag of this litter will easily weigh upwards of 5 pounds! And, I pay a very high price for this litter!

  10. Gyvel Young ©2008 on October 18th, 2009 7:03 pm

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to comment on the article. True, World’s Best Cat Litter is not dust free. And it certainly does not state that on the bag. I believe that what I stated is that it produces less dust than Swheat Scoop and a little more than clay clumping litter. The dust is yellow and it does track. However, so does clumping clay litter (it might not be yellow but it still produces a dusty film that goes everywhere). I have found that the World’s Best Cat Litter (multiple cat version) is by far superior in clumping ability than any of the clay clumping litters. Although it does produce dust at least this dust does not contain silica.

    Best to you and your kitties,
    Gyvel

  11. Susan on March 8th, 2010 4:05 pm

    Actually, we NEVER had a problem with tracking when using clay litter. There has to be a better solution out there somewhere. However, World’s Best Cat Litter is NOT it!

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you so much for your comment. The problem with clay litter is not tracking, it’s the silica dust which can cause potential damage to the lungs of a cat and humans. Several studies support this and it is a huge concern for people who suffer from allergies or who have children with allergies. More important, it can cause coughing, wheezing, and permanent damage to the lungs of both humans and animals.

    This link takes you to the study conducted on silica dust http://www.securepet.biz/wordpress/2008/07/study-on-silica-dust-in-cats/. As you can see there is enough evidence to be concerned, particularly since this study indicates that chronic respiratory disease is linked to silica dust. The only cat litter that contains silica dust is clay-based litter. This, above all else, is the primary concern.

    All my best,
    Gyvel

  12. Leroy on May 20th, 2010 10:19 pm

    I wish I would have known the hazards of clay litter, Been using Tidy cat scoop for years and have been diagnosed with Silicosis. In early stages that includes anger at myself for being so naive, Leroy from Milwaukee

  13. Diana on June 18th, 2010 8:27 am

    Hi,
    I recently adopted two kittens, and stored their litter box under my bed. I have been sick these past three days with nauseous and lost of appetite. I have been using the grocery brand of litter. Both scented and unscented. Do you think that this could be that has me sick? I’ve had the kittens 1 1/2 months.

    Sincerely,
    Diana

  14. Gyvel Young © 2010 on July 9th, 2010 5:07 pm

    Hi Diana,

    Thank you for dropping by for a visit. Please consult your physician about your recent illness. However, placing a cat litter box under the bed is probably not the most ideal location for a cat box. I can’t imagine trying to sleep with two little kitties scratching through the litter at night! And by the way, I am so glad you adopted the kittens. Good for you! Now, get well and stay well….

    Gyvel

  15. David on September 21st, 2010 2:05 pm

    We got two kittens back in April. We used the “hard clumping” variety of Esquisicat for a while. When it ran out I found TidyCats Scoop, Multiple Cats on sale and picked up a bucket. It claims to “neuralize” odor. When I opened it I was hit by the chemical stench right away. But I figured the kittens wouldn’t care. I was wrong. They were so offended that they used our bathtub instead. The TidyCats is out in the garage, waiting for a spill to happen out there, it’s ok for that as long as you don’t breath it. We have returned to Esquisicat out of practicality. Personally I would recommend that any product, whether it be clothes softener or kitty litter be chosen in part for the absence of heavy chemical odors. My kittens had more sense than I did on this one. Won’t happen again.

  16. Janis on November 13th, 2010 10:03 pm

    I adopted a one year old cat from the local shelter about 6 months ago. I usually use World’s Best but I read a positive review of Scoop Away and bought the “perfume free” version last night. What a mistake! When I started to pour it into the litterbox a fog of dust filled my whole apartment. My throat immediately started burning and I coughed all last night. This morning my cat was coughing as well. I immediately threw it out and went back to World’s Best. I can’t believe people use this stuff, unless there was something odd about this batch. My apartment still smells like it tonight.

  17. venessa on December 16th, 2010 11:59 am

    what about feline pine? i’m wondering if such a change in texture might be a problem.

  18. Gyvel Young © 2010 on December 20th, 2010 5:14 pm

    Feline Pine appears acceptable to many cats. However, when introducing a new litter be sure to do so slowly. The best method is to place a small amount of the new product in the bottom of the litter pan and add your usual brand on top of this. As the cat acclimates to the new product add more and more until the cat’s litter box contains 100% of the new product.

  19. Paula Woodruff on June 1st, 2011 10:43 pm

    I love Feline Pine scoopable, but it doesn’t seem to be on the shelves of any of my stores. Did they do a recall or something? I can only find the original variety and I don’t care for that as well. Please let me know if there is a reason that it doesn’t seem to be available any longer.
    Thanks,
    Paula

    Hi Paula, I am not certain what happened to the Feline Pine scoopable. Have you tried asking the store manager where you purchased this product if they can order it for you? Or perhaps you might contact the manufacturer directly?

  20. Stephanie King on October 26th, 2011 6:12 pm

    What about the crystal cat litters? They claim to be a different kind of silica than is found in other litters. I like how they really do control odor and don’t track hardly at all. When I pour it in the litter tray, I pour water on top to completely do away with dust and it doesn’t cause any problem. Also my litter box is in my bathroom and any litter that gets out of the box does not turn into a muddy mess when it gets wet.

  21. Gyvel Young © 2011 on November 23rd, 2011 6:38 am

    Hi Stephanie — thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay. I am not familiar with crystal cat litters. However, if the litter is as you describe in your comment then I doubt that it would present a problem to your health and your cat. The silica problem appears to be with the clay-based litters. These litters generate a lot of dust in the air each time the cat uses the box. If a person has a closed-in type of litter box it will contain the dust to a degree, preventing it from entering the general environment as quickly as an open box. However, the cat will actually inhale a concentrated amount of dust into its lungs since the air inside the cover can not be circulated outward as quickly.The silica dust in both the regular and clumping litters is far more insidious than people realize. It’s for this reason that there are health concerns surrounding their use. I hope that provides you with a little more information …

    Update: after reading the comment below from another reader I have to strongly advise anyone NOT to use the crystal litters. I was unaware that these broke apart, releasing silica dust into the air. My apologies for the above statement. But I certainly do thank Julie for setting me straight on this!

  22. Julie Hill on December 18th, 2011 11:46 am

    I used a silica bead product for about 2 years ( litter Pearls) for my cats’ litter until my vet told me that one of my cats had mysterious cyst-like spots on her lung x-ray. He predicted this scaring was a sign that she was developing problems that would affect her breathing. I had just read about the dangers of silica dust ( and the product did have dust in the with pearls plus they cracked appart with use) so I stopped using it. I am so sad to say that a few years later my kitty began coughing and gagging whenever she tried to purr. Shortly afterwards her lungs began to fill with fluid to the point that they collapsed. Ater 3 trips to the ER vet with collapsed lungs, my vet said I had to let he go. I will never use silica bead or crystal littler again!.

  23. Gyvel Young © 2011 on December 19th, 2011 5:11 pm

    Julie, thank you so much for sharing this with us! I am unfamiliar with these products so in my ignorance I did not realize the pearls cracked apart, releasing silica dust into the environment. And I am so sorry about your kitty, it’s tragic when we have to say goodbye to our babies but it’s even more heart breaking when something we used caused their death. My sympathy to you Julie and hopefully this comment will save another kitty from the same fate!

  24. regina on June 26th, 2012 12:34 am

    My husband has developed a lung lining inflammation that can lead to fibrosis. The team of Md’s do not know the cause of this “allergy”, but are having an environmental specialist come to evaluate our environment to see what might be causing it.

    i am wondering if it could be the cat litter as he changes it. We used silica based litter for 18 years but changes 4- 5 years ago to CATSAN made by MARS corporation that strangely does NOT list the components on the packaging nor on the website.

    I have written to them to ask, but don’t know if they will answer.

    Does anyone know what is in CATSAN Hygene Plus (name in French as we live in France but CATSAN is sold internationally by MARS.

    Many thanks to anyone who can answer this.

  25. Gyvel Young © 2012 on June 28th, 2012 6:47 pm

    Hello Regina, I am so sorry to hear about your husband’s health problems. I do not know the exact ingredients in CATSAN Hygiene Plus Cat Litter but I do know that all clay-based litters contain silica. When I researched the Catsan product on the internet I discovered that it is listed as containing a high mineral content from “individual grains of fine chalk and natural quartz.” The purpose of these ingredients is to absorb moisture and inhibit bacterial growth. Chalk itself contains silica along with traces of quartz. Silica absorbs moisture so it is not surprising that it is found in this product. In fact, there are some pure silica cat litters on the market. These are actually made from a sodium silicate in gel form. Sodium silicate gel is a porous product that absorbs moisture. It is used in many types of crafts including flower drying. However,the dust from pure silica is hazardous for humans and animals to inhale. I will be curious to see what the environmental specialist finds out about your environment, including the cat litter that you folks use. Please keep us posted.

  26. Judy on July 4th, 2012 8:51 am

    Hi - Up until last Thursday, I was a very fortunate owner of a wonderful tabby named Miss Kitty. She wandered into my yard 8 years ago and I adopted her after looking for an owner (she was only 6 mos old) and then taking her to Friends of Strays for her shots and to be fixed. She has been a wonderful cat - all of my friends loved her because she was so affectionate. Last Thursday, I noticed she was breathing very fast and shallow. We took her to the Vet who put her on Oxygen and gave her a broncodialator and also some steroids. Her breathing did not improve but they were able to take x-rays. Since she had some fluid on the lungs, they aspirated and saw the cancer cells. I had to put her to sleep - it was the only humane thing to do. I have been so sad and wondered how she got lung cancer. It then dawned on my that her litterbox is a covered one and that all the dust she probably created when scratching in it could be the cause. I immediately googled lung cancer in cats and found your site through another site. I have been using Scoop Away for her litter box - it worked the best of all the brands I tried. I never thought of the dust until after she was diagnosed. I am so sad to think that my buying this product probaby caused her cancer. My daughter had a young cat - I am going to be sure she knows not to use this type litter. Maybe this experience will save her cat.

  27. Kim on July 10th, 2012 10:00 pm

    Hello all,

    I came across this site while searching to see if it was ok to use baking soda in Mimi Litter (silica crystals). I will be switching my cats’ litter immediately. I have some respiratory issues unrelated to the litter and see no need to make my own or my cats’ health worse. So for this, thank you.

    Gyvel, I wondered if you’d had any experience or spoken with anyone who has used a Cat Genie. It’s the litter box with plastic crystals; it can be hooked up to a water source and claims the sterilizer used to rinse the crystals is completely nontoxic. It seems very expensive to me, but then, certainly not more expensive than surgery or other treatments for a cat or human ailment. It also seems like it would be a lot less work, but I am a skeptic, and anything that sounds to good to be true–well, you know the saying.

    What are your thoughts?

  28. Gyvel Young © 2012 on July 11th, 2012 5:17 am

    Hello Judy — somehow your post got lost in the shuffle on July 4th so I apologize for the delay in responding. I am so sorry that you lost your poor baby to lung cancer. What a horrible thing to happen to a kitty. Please do not blame yourself, most people are completely unaware of the dangers of using the clay and silica based litters. Let’s face it, this type of litter has been around for generations now. Keep in mind that there may have been other genetic factors involved in her development of cancer. Hugs to you and I’m so happy that you are sharing this information with your daughter.

  29. Gyvel Young © 2012 on July 11th, 2012 5:34 am

    Hi there “Hello All” — I am not familiar with the Cat Genie. I would ask a few questions of any type of device or litter: What is it made from? What is in the cleaning solution? Please note that stating it contains the exact same ingredients as sanitizing products used by veterinarians does not mean that the ingredients are non-toxic. In my personal opinion gadgets are wonderful if they work and the cat accepts them. I used a “self-cleaning” device years ago and the kitties were fine with it. I, however, tired of it since it was a real chore to keep clean. It appears that the best solution for kitties is to train them to use our toilet and to flush after every use! : D If any of you have trained your kitties to use the toilet PLEASE share the method! Mine just like to sit on the toilet seat and watch the water go down the drain!

  30. Jonmarie on July 27th, 2012 2:47 pm

    This is a wonderful site! I’m hoping you can tell me how safe is zeolite to use as cat litter? I’ve been using Catsan non-clumping for years, but now, after reading all about clay cat litters, I’m concerned about the dust. A cat breeder recommended using zeolite on its own (it’s available in different size grit grains) or added to the Catsan.

    Thanks in advance!

  31. Debbie on July 31st, 2012 7:11 pm

    I recently changed my cat’s litter from A&H baking soda multi-cat litter to Feline Pine original litter. I put in 1 inch of the new litter and put the old litter on top of that. I have a stupid question. I now realize that my usual litter scoop doesn’t work with this new kind of Feline Pine litter. Perhaps I should have bought the clumpable or scoopable variety instead. Would that be easier to scoop? I feel pretty stupid about this but I don’t know how to scoop this new kind of litter. I feel like I’ll be throwing out a lot of it using the regular scoop. I changed litter because my cat has been so sick and I was afraid that the litter was contributing to her being sick. Her liver enzyme levels are way way too high and the vet asked me if she could have been exposed to some kind of poison. Could anyone suggest a healthier type of litter to use?

  32. Gyvel Young © 2012 on August 2nd, 2012 8:51 pm

    Hi Debbie, thank you so much for contacting me. Your question is by no means stupid, it’s very valid. In fact there’s really very little information on the web about the pellet type of litter and the products needed to scoop this litter. I have found that my clients who use pellet-type litter are very happy with it. There’s no dust, no tracking, and it’s easy to keep clean for a one-cat family. The best system for the pellet shaped cat litter is the Tidy Cat Breeze Cat Litter System. The system includes the cat box (with removable tray that traps the sawdust) and the scoop. You can purchase the tray pads to facilitate easy removal of the sawdust. This particular box works really well for a one cat household. It’s reasonably priced at about $40. Type in Tidy Cat Breeze Cat Litter system in your search term and you will find sites that sell this product. Your cats elevated liver enzyme levels could very well be due to clay-based litters so you have done the right thing by purchasing her a safer litter. I hope this information helps!

  33. Gyvel Young © 2012 on August 3rd, 2012 5:37 am

    NOTE: FURTHER INVESTIGATION HAS REVEALED THAT ZEOLITE IS NOT SAFE FOR LITTER BOX USE. PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS I HAVE MADE FURTHER DOWN (OCTOBER 2012). PLEASE DO NOT USE ANY TYPE OF ZEOLITE PRODUCT IN THE LITTER BOX, EVEN THE ONES SOLD AS CAT BOX FRESHENERS.

    Hello Jonmarie,

    Thank you for bringing Zeolite to our attention! Zeolite is indeed very safe for you and your pets. The zeolite “family” of minerals have many applications in industry and agriculture. Current uses are water purification systems, odor filters, and even laundry detergents. And several cat litter deodorizers on the market contain zeolite as the primary ingredient.

    You can purchase zeolite in bulk or locate a company that sells it as cat litter. I located one enterprise that sells a 25 pound bag of zeolite cat litter for $8, a very reasonable price. Obviously the primary benefit of zeolite cat litter is that this is NOT a clay based litter. The fact that it also neutralizes odors and absorbs liquids makes it a very appealing product for cat owners.

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jonmarie!

  34. Katie G. on August 23rd, 2012 10:00 pm

    Hi. I am extremely distraught to read the above information. We have been using the clumping litter. How can “World’s Best” corn litter be any better? Isn’t inhaling dust — any dust — bad for them? What are we to do? These are indoor cats? (Sorry… I’m not angry at you — I’m crying right now. Very upset at the thought of possibly injuring my precious animals. Two of them have the occasional seizure. I am SO UPSET.) Can the corn dust really be better? I need a deep box because two of my cats still urinate standing up and if I get the regular-size box they’ll be spraying the wall or into the room. Please help me…

  35. Gyvel Young © 2012 on August 25th, 2012 6:48 am

    Hello Katie,

    It sounds like your kitties are very fortunate because you are a conscientious pet parent who cares for her babies. While it’s true that dust is dust there is a difference. The dust in the wheat, corn, and now walnut based cat litters does not contain silica. Silica is what makes the difference. Even minute amounts of silica can cause lung damage (over time) in kitties.

    We can’t eradicate dust from our homes. Dust is everywhere. But as cat parents we CAN eliminate the types of dust that could cause harm to our cats’ lungs. To this end, removing clay litter from your environment will be a huge help.

    The type of cat box you are using will not affect the performance of the corn litter. The reason I recommend the “Worlds Best” multi-cat version is its clumping power far outweighs that of other litter types made from wheat or walnuts.

    I hope this helps!

  36. Cheryl on September 16th, 2012 12:57 am

    NOTE FROM EDITOR: FURTHER INVESTIGATION HAS REVEALED THAT ZEOLITE IS NOT SAFE FOR LITTER BOX USE. PLEASE SEE THE COMMENTS I HAVE MADE FURTHER DOWN (OCTOBER 2012). PLEASE DO NOT USE ANY TYPE OF ZEOLITE PRODUCT IN THE LITTER BOX, EVEN THE ONES SOLD AS CAT BOX FRESHENERS.

    “You can purchase zeolite in bulk or locate a company that sells it as cat litter. I located one enterprise that sells a 25 pound bag of zeolite cat litter for $8, a very reasonable price. Obviously the primary benefit of zeolite cat litter is that this is NOT a clay based litter. The fact that it also neutralizes odors and absorbs liquids makes it a very appealing product for cat owners. ”

    Hi Gyvel, I’ve been using WB Kitty Litter for 5 years mostly for the health issues due to use of clay litters and the fact I worried for my dog’s health who like to explore their litter box and consume parts of it’s contents.
    I too strain it through a fine stainless steel mesh strainer before use because of the amount of dust but I still get paw prints all over the furniture. If you have multiple cats as I have, 6 adopted rescued kitties and 3 strays I’m looking for homes for, then catching a time when someone hasn’t just had a wee wee is very hard and then it crumbles if it doesn’t set up long enough and now you have little bacterias growing around worst than usual in the box until next cat box total cleaning. I have other issues now as well with the company. They used to sell 34 lb bags but have recently reduced the size of their largest bags to 28 lbs. But the price only slightly went down. When comparing the cost, I now pay over $4 more for 34 lbs.
    I don’t like being taken advantage of especially on a product that already cost quite a bit. It is why I was out trying to find another safe product for my babies and my family. So all that said, could you please share where you were able to purchase a 25 lb bag of Zeolite for $8 because WBCL has been breaking my bank:( Ty

  37. Cheryl on September 16th, 2012 3:18 pm

    Cheryl: Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention! Further investigation has revealed that your concerns are not unfounded! Gyvel

    I got really excited when I read about the Zeolite so I went and did some research. Now, I’m not convinced of the safety of Zeolite as it appears it also contains silica dust. Perhaps, I’m reading the following page incorrectly. What are your thoughts? http://alamitozeolite.com/MSDS_page.html

  38. Gyvel Young © 2012 on October 9th, 2012 11:05 am

    UPDATE: I’ve reviewed the data on zeolite. It confirms that zeolite adversely affects the lungs. Documentation reveals that Zeolites have been associated with many types of lung diseases, including cancer. Please DO NOT use any type of zeolite product in a litter box. The tiny dust particles from zeolite can float throughout your home. But more importantly, your cat will be in close proximity, inhaling these particles directly into his lungs. There are many types of mined zeolites, but two primary classifications are the fibrous type and non-fibrous type. The fibrous type of zeolite is HIGHLY dangerous. It’s impossible for the consumer to know which type of zeolite they are purchasing. In fact, it’s almost impossible for the manufacturer to know, since the only method of identifying the mined zeolite structure is by a special type of imaging. However, synthetic (manufactured) zeolite is NOT fibrous but it still poses a danger to the lungs. Naturally occurring zeolite is mined from many areas in the United States. If the dangerous fibrous type of zeolite is in the product a person is using the risk of lung damage increases. The fibrous type of zeolites are associated with malignant pleural mesothelioma. It has been demonstrated to be carcinogenic in animal experiments. To be completely safe please AVOID any products (including litter box fresheners) containing zeolite. I will be writing more about this in a regular article.

    References:
    William N. Rom, Kenneth R. Casey., et al (1983). Health Implications of Natural Fibrous Zeolites for the Intermountain West. Environmental Research 30, 1-8.

    Lou Solebello, Gary Tomaino (2011). Differentiation of Erionite from other Fibrous Zeolites by Central Stop Dispeersion Staining; A Preliminary PLM Investigation. The Microscope Vol. 59:1, pp 3-9.

    Hello Cheryl — thank you for sharing this! I am seeking out someone who has more knowledge in this area and will get back with the results of those findings. I appreciate your diligence in pointing this out. All my best, Gyvel

  39. metalhead mom on November 27th, 2012 12:38 am

    I found a kitten about a year and a half ago outside at my grandmas house, it had a severely broken front right leg. After paying about $500 I had the leg amputated, and the cat is just fine with 3 legs. She is a very skiddish cat but shes alive and healthy otherwise. The question I have is this; the cat lives with my grandma. We have been using the scoopable cat litter (Arm & Hammer and Tidy Cats). Recently my grandma has had complaints of shortness of breath and allergy type symptoms. I have been doing a bit of research and now I am in a panic. My grandma is 79 and she likes the scoopable litter as it is easier to clean for her. Any suggestions? I am feeling terrible as I am the one who talked her into keeping the cat……

  40. Gyvel Young © 2013 on November 27th, 2012 8:40 am

    Thank you so much for posting your question here. First, please do not feel badly about your grandmother’s shortness of breath. That could be attributable to many things. Naturally, she should be encouraged to have this checked out by a physician. The World’s Best Cat litter is scoopable so she can rest her mind at ease about that. It’ll be simple to switch the cat over. Just place the World’s Best at the bottom of the pan, placing about 1/2 the amount of litter needed. Then have her top off the pan with the remaining amount using the current brand. In other words, the new type of litter needs to be at the bottom of the pan, the current brand on top of that. The cat will mix it up on her own as she uses the cat box. Your grandmother can continue using this technique for about a month. By then the cat should be used to the new litter. I haven’t had any cats reject World’s Best since it has a similar texture to the scoopable clay type of litters. Even if your grandmother’s breathing difficulties are not due to the cat litter, this switch to a healthier type of litter will benefit her and the kitty. And, thank you for giving that kitten a chance at life!

  41. Deborah on December 13th, 2012 2:44 pm

    Check this website article regarding kitty litter made from corn and aflatoxin mold.
    http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com/articles/caution-to-use-of-corn-based-cat-litters.html

    I have been using WBCL for about 2 months and don’t think my 2 cats are having any problems but the 2 litter boxes are in the bedroom (very small condo) so I clean the litter just about every time I hear it used plus I check after I’ve been out. It clumps well and does not go to the bottom or stick to the sides so what’s left in the box is dry. Safe kitty litter is a very big problem for us with indoor kitties. Thank you so much for your site and information very much needed.

  42. Jonni on January 26th, 2013 7:22 pm

    My self I use tidy cats multi cat and my dog just aquired a tast for the stool . Hes became very sick and has the shakes. Is the litter toxic for dogs

  43. Warren on January 31st, 2013 10:03 pm

    So…. I’ve read through this entire page and my question is: Is there ANY freakin’ cat litter that isn’t toxic? I mean seriously!!!

    Hi Warren!
    I completely understand your frustration! It’s a real tough situation for cat parents to be in because we want to do the right thing for our kitties. On that note, the corn litters ARE safe and non-toxic, as are the wheat and walnut based litters. The only types of litter that have been PROVEN to be unsafe for cats are the clay based litters.
    Hope that helps!
    Gyvel

  44. Gyvel Young © 2013 on February 2nd, 2013 5:14 am

    Hi Jonni

    I hope you’ve had your dog checked by a veterinarian. Unfortunately dogs DO like to eat cat poop. It’s apparently a great delicacy! : )

    But your dog’s reaction could be to anything he’s ingested so it’s best to have him checked out thoroughly.

    I hope it all works out!
    Gyvel

  45. Celinda Scott on February 4th, 2013 11:23 am

    I have to identify with metalhead mom and her concern for her 79 year old grandmother. I’m a 74 year old grandmother who was wheezing-free for a week when we were visiting children and grandchildren, but have now come home and it’s started again. It dawned on me that it might be the conveniently clumping clay based cat litter I like to use, and found Gyvel’s website after a long talk with Arm and Hammer customer service, who are going to send me a coupon for Fresh Pine kitty litter. Here’s the medical “scoop,” Gyvel: my shallow cough, wheezing (which I’d never had before), colorless sputum/no fever, and shortness of breath made me see the doctor three weeks ago when the wheezing interfered with sleep. He ordered a chest x-ray, which showed “chronic lung disease.” (Google “symptoms of chronic lung disease” and you find the symptoms I mentioned at the top of the list.) He put me on two anti-biotics and prednisone, which I finished the day we came home (actually, the prednisone was for only two days). The coughing and wheezing were not present when we were away, but they have returned, which I especially noticed when clearing out the cat litter today. The doctor also gave me a “puffer,” which helps the wheezing. –I’ve never smoked, nor does anyone we know, and I’m strong and healthy other than the lung thing. We eat very healthy food, etc., etc. SO–I definitely would take seriously the possibility of metalhead mom’s having symptoms which might be caused or at least exacerbated by the clay based cat litter. –From now on, my husband will do the litter duty, and we will try to find a good non-clay based litter.

  46. Gyvel Young © 2013 on February 5th, 2013 8:27 am

    Hello Celinda!

    Thank you for your wonderful comment! I appreciate the fact that you did seek out a physician for a diagnosis. As you can tell from the subject of this post, I strongly encourage everyone, regardless of age or health, to switch from clay litter to some other form of non-clay based litter. Not only is it healthier for the kitties but the human household members will benefit as well. It’s not so much a matter of who does the litter duty, it’s the fact that clay litter creates silica dust in the air you breathe.

    I strongly encourage anyone who is experiencing symptoms of wheezing, coughing, or shortness of breath to see a physician immediately. These symptoms can be attributed to serious health problems including heart and lung disease. And naturally, it would follow that anyone with a wheezing cat or wheezing household member should immediately remove all clay litter from the boxes and replace it with a non-clay type.

    I hope that your symptoms will be alleviated with the medication and change in litter type. Keep us posted!

    All my best,
    Gyvel

  47. StephieG on February 10th, 2013 10:57 pm

    I have used Arm & Hammer unscented for several years with no problems and I have multiple cats, multiple boxes. My husband purchased a box of fresh step on sale a few weeks ago and now one of my cats has been puking and is now not eating. To the vet tomorrow.

    I could not figure out what could be wrong since the cat has always been healthy
    and just noticed today the box of Fresh Step with carbon, scented that he bought and started using.

    I think it must be the problem. We’ve switched it out, back to Arm and Hammer.
    Never switch when something works.

    I’ve heard the “natural” litters like corn and such can contain mold.
    always something.

  48. Sandra on March 11th, 2013 1:25 pm

    Hi Gyvel, I just got off the phone with WBCL. I switched to WBCL a few months ago because of concern about dust/odors with clay litter. My husband has asthma and I’ve heard that clay litters are bad for cats and people. For awhile we were using a litter that even had me gagging and gasping. Then I found WBCL and we slowly made the transition. WE, the humans, LOVE it for many reasons - there is so much less dust, it is lighter and doesn’t stick to the box and get all gooey, and it doesn’t stink (tho there is a faint earthy corn smell).

    However, my sweet older cat who has never been sick a day in his life, started vomiting and then became so constipated and dehydrated we nearly lost him. A home visit from our vet for acupuncture and IV fluids slowly pulled him out of the crisis. As the vet and I talked more I realized that this “problem” had probably been going on longer than I had initially realized. Because he has always been a hairball puker, I didn’t think too much of the vomiting. And because there are two cats in the house, didn’t initially notice that he wasn’t eating normally and or pooping right. Then one day a light bulb went off and I realized the period of time this had been going on coincided with the change in litter.

    Though there doesn’t seem to be much, if any dust with WBCL, I had noticed the cats coming out of the box with their little fur paws covered in a fine yellow dust. I started to wonder what makes litter clump? And if there is something in it that makes the litter clump, wouldn’t it make sense that it could cause a drying out that could lead to or complicate constipation/dehydration? Of course that makes sense. I bought another bag of clumping clay litter and filled one of the two boxes. Since we’ve had that, both cats have preferred the clay and everyone seems to be moving toward pooping more normally again.

    Now, I HATE the clay… the clumps are large and heavy and gooey and stick to the box. Learning about the dangers of the silica from your site, and having a husband with severe asthma, a house with high radon, and having lost two beloved dogs to lung issues, I am in a tizzy.

    The cats have shown a distinct preference for the clay box over the WBCL box. So today I called WBCL. I told them my story, along with how much I loved the litter myself. But I wanted to know what is in it and if there are reports of other cats having issues like this. Everything about the business/litter is proprietary, i.e. a secret. They only have to tell you what they want to tell you. The woman at WBCL was friendly and gave me the enthusiastic pitch about how natural WBCL is (all issues of GMO/pesticides aside). She did tell me that there is a harmful chemical (sodium bentonite) added to clumping CLAY cat litters which is NOT in WBCL. However the two multiple cat formulas of WBCL DO have an “additive” that she would not disclose, only saying it was proprietary and something used in animal feed. They offered to send me some coupons and suggested I try the ORIGINAL formula which does not have this secret added ingredient.

    Because I love WBCL, I will go back and try that. Warily. However I am out the $100 vet bill, and about $60 worth of the MULTIPLE cat formula that I just dumped in the boxes (silly me, I know, I should have called first!). I’m sure they are not going to send me enough coupons to cover two large litter boxes worth. I’m sure of this because I told her how much I used and she insisted I only needed a two small 7 lb bags per box so she would send me three coupons for a free small bag (for two boxes).

    I hope it works out and my cats can use it without adverse effects. But I just want to alert everyone that the MULTIPLE cat formula does contain a proprietary ingredient for clumping. Also, there is the issue of GMO, pesticide laden non-organic corn, and the fact that corn is one of the top allergens for both people and pets. I think we (all pet owners, ALL consumers for that matter) should demand that ALL manufacturers of ALL products be required to disclose ALL ingredients in products that have the potential to impact the health of the user. If this resonates with you, you might like to also check out http://www.womensvoices.org/

    Caveat emptor! Let the Buyer Beware!

  49. Joni on March 21st, 2013 1:29 pm

    I purchased the WBCL (’safe’ corn - NOT!), and my cat started having food sensitivity problems. Found out that corn is a serious allergen with cats, and noticed her paws had lots of the corn dust on them after she used the box. Well, of course, she licked her paws clean, hence the ingestion of the corn, thus leading to her vomiting, swollen lower lip, and gas in her bowels! Not good!

  50. Lori on May 15th, 2013 10:59 am

    Greetings…I note that you are extremely effusive in your praise of Worlds Best Cat Litter for its safety. I would like to share that this is NOT the case for all cats and your readers should understand this. I switched to WBCL and was extremely pleased with it for a time HOWEVER I have discontinued its use with my cats as they developed anemia from internal bleeding caused by an allergy to the corn. I discontinued the corn and switched to original Feline Pine and the anemia has resolved itself. Even WBCL concurred that this was the action to take in this case. In recommending safe litters, please note that there is not one that can be considered the end all and be all for all cats and cat parents should be vigilant. I hope this helps others…

  51. Gyvel Young © 2013 on May 20th, 2013 8:15 am

    A big Texas thank ya’ to everyone who commented on this post. I am so thankful to all those who provided information, insight and tips to cat parents. We all want the same thing: a healthy, safe and loving environment for our kitties. The comments section is now closed for this post because a new, more updated post about cat litter safety will be appearing soon. God bless!