To Clump or not To Clump? Is Clay Litter Safe?

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series To Clump or Not to Clump? Is Clay Litter Safe?


My parents might be considered over protective of me.  But they have their reasons.  I was very sick when I came down with pancreatitis after receiving  my shots.  I developed transient diabetes and it was a trying time for me, my doctors and my parents.  Luckily, I fully recovered and now enjoy good health. But during this transition, my parents began to worry about everything that I came in contact with, including the litter in my pan.

My parents were concerned about the safety of clumping clay litter. Clay litter has been criticized  because it contains the clumping agent, sodium bentonite. Sodium bentonite is a natural clay, but when it absorbs liquid, it  can swell up to fifteen times in size!  Whoa! I am picturing those little sponge toys that come in a capsule and they grow when you add water to them.

The clay litter is also dusty, so what happens when we cats breathe in this dust? What happens when our parents breathe in this dust? Anything? Is clay litter safe?

Cat parents worry about what happens when a cat licks their fur and paws, eating sodium bentonite dust.  Being cats, we are naturally curious, so what happens when a kitten decides to test taste the clay litter? Could the sodium bentonite clump up inside the kittens body, causing gastrointestinal  blockage and/or death?

Clay litter manufacturers  assure our parents that their products are safe.  And to be fair, all evidence of sodium bentonite being harmful to us is anecdotal, meaning no scientific studies have been done. Even so, many parents have started switching to natural cat litter for added protection for their feline family.

Cats Against Clay,  (C.A.C.) a unified front and quasi-political group united in the hatred of all things clay is gaining momentum. Recently at  the BlogPaws Conference their anti-clay message  was loud and clear. C.A.C. claims responsibility for the increase in sales  for all-natural cat litters.

So, The Tiniest Tiger is wondering what you think.  Are you concerned about using clumping clay litter?

Series NavigationTo Clump or Not To Clump? Part 2

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  1. bird seeds should be choosen so that they are 100% organic and does not contain genetically modified stuffs ;;

  2. a good bird seed is of course Sunflower seeds, birds like them coz they are tasty;,’

  3. Thanks for posting this great information 🙂

  4. Jimi & Sly says

    The human we own wouldn’t dream of subjecting us to clay litter. We’ve never known anything but Feline Pine, and we hope we never will.

    A couple of weeks ago, Sly cut his paw. He had to wear a bandage for several weeks, Interestingly, the vet told our human to use shredded newspaper for litter, because the clay stuff would increase Sly’s risk of infection. When our human informed the vet that we use only Feline Pine, the vet congratulated us. We didn’t have to change our routine at all, and Sly’s paw healed up fine.

    Clay is evil!

  5. Felix-Bittyboo-Princess and Tilly says

    4 wonderful 100% indoor Kitties (coyotes lurking out back door) so litter boxes always needing attention.
    We have 2, 1 with blue crystals and the other just switched over to cracked pine…its messy but I’m worried about clay/dust. We just spent $4,000 on Felix after changing formulas in dry cat food to more colorful blend…BIG MISTAKE! Caused him crystals in his urine, clocking his ability to pee…5 ER vet clinic visits…almost lost him.
    He’s my fav cat besides BittyBoo, Princess and Tilley…OK
    they’re all my favorites! How does one choose favorites?
    Anyway…they sell Wet Boot trays at larger Farm supply stores, and I’ve placed 2 of these besides the 2 litter boxes, so the litter falls into these boot trays, much easier clean up, don’t have to vacuum every day!
    But we do worry about litter causing them diseases.

  6. My staff has tried to eliminate all chemical-laden substances from the household, including clay litter. We love Feline Pine.

  7. We use Feline Pine. It’s inexpensive, good for the environment, and not harmful to any breathing creature. Best thing is, when you walk into our home, you can’t smell the litter boxes! We have 2 boxes for our 3 babies, and the most you can smell is the smell of pine, when I first change the boxes. We tried the Arm and Hammer Naturals, but I was sorely disappointed with it-it said it was fragrance-free, but it was definitely fragranced with something perfumey. Since we are very limited in our choices, (clay, the Arm and Hammer, and Feline Pine), we are sticking with the Feline Pine. It is good, it works, and the cats love it

  8. Smokey & Audrey says

    We have mostly used clay-based clumping litter. We tried wheat litter, but it attracted moths! Mom has heard that pine is bad for cats so never tried it. We currently use litter that is a combination of clay and sawdust, however, it is obviously very dusty (sawDUST). The brand of clumping litter that we found to be the least dusty, does not have an unscented variety so we are not sure what we will try next.

    • Michelle says

      In “the old days,” unprocessed pine shavings were used as bedding and eventually found to be unhealthy due to the presence of “aromatic hydrocarbons.” This applied only to small animals living on the substrate 24/7.

      Feline Pine products don’t have this issue due to the kiln-drying at 220 degress+ AND pressurization during the pelleting process (squeezes out any left over). The end result: 0.000000083 ppm measured. So there is Zero concern.

  9. Judy Simon says

    I had asked my vet about this years ago….He said he didnt see a problem with it. That they would have to ingest alot of it to harm them. Lets see what your vet says! Thanks!

  10. Baby Socks, Shu Shu, Muffin, Munchkin & Muffin says

    My wonderful parents try to get the best for us. My Mama read that clumping litter is the only truly hygienic type of litter since it clumps allowing you to scoop out the urine as well as the feces. Since she heard about that, she switched us to a clumping clay litter, but it is sooo dusty. We would love it if they would find us a litter that isn’t so dusty and easy to track because all 5 of us really make a big mess every day!

  11. jone gagnon says

    bird seeds.perfect for diabetic cats/great for environment!& i was very concern with cly dust/chemical,so would probably use corn base called i think swoosh?can’t remember

  12. I really enjoyed this post, especially the “examples in this post” portion which made it really easy for me to SEE what you were talking about without even having to leave the article. Thanks

  13. Phil Mosher says

    We have five kitties and have never used clay litter. We have always used pine litter.

  14. Cyndi & Gang says

    Several years ago my neighbor’s daughter’s dog had eaten some clumping catlitter and he died several hours later. The vet said it formed like cement in the intestines. So it does bother me about the clumping litter.

  15. Virginia says

    how do we know the “natural” litter is any better? are there any studies about any of this? this sounds like creating a problem from a few anecdotes, a lot like the non-connection between autism and vaccines. do a scientific study and we’ll have something to talk about.

    • Maybe we don’t exactly know it’s better. We use Feline Pine-it’s compressed pine shavings, shavings that are super-duper fine-and there isn’t any dust floating around, altho’ there is a bit of shavings on the floor being tracked.

      I was interested in your comment because of the autism/vaccination thing. My son is autistic,and I’m constanly ‘discussing’ that link with others, lol! There isn’t one!

      @SMOKEY AND AUDREY-I’m curious, where did your momma hear about pine not being good for kitties?? Inquiring minds wanna know, cuz, well, my furbabies are part of my family.

  16. Moses Tatcilace Ben-Leahden says

    Gracey, our mama never really worried about clumping litter- but now we are ALL thinking about it. Maybe we will switch. We’ll have to talk to Daddy and see what he thinks since he buys the litter most of the time, but Mama said she is going to do some research after reading what happened to you, because she loves us and doesn’t want us to get sick. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Moses, Leah, Tatijana, Aden, Benny and Lacey from NJ

    • Moses,
      I have allergies and got the pancreatitis from medication. I did not have problems from my litter. My parents just worried about the dust because of my allergies. They thought better to be safe.

  17. Jaxy & Rainey Fluffbottom says

    Our mom mixes the ground-up pine litter with the Tidy Cat for Multi-Cat Households – not so much dust, which is good b/c Mom’s lungs are persnickety and make funny noises when she breathes, even when there is no dust or fur floating around. Seems to mix well and is good at absorbing the smelly stuff, also clumps very well.

    • Wow! this sounds like a great idea! I’m going to ask hubby to consider it… he like the Fresh Step Scoopable litter but I want to use natural for the environment. I would like him to consider that Ct Genie which uses washable litter. sounds like a great idea also.

  18. I have begun to worry about not just what the dust from clumping litter is doing to my cats, who breathe in all that silica residue, but what it might be doing to ME, as the person who scoops and changes the cat boxes. I can tell you that every time I scoop the clumps and pour more litter into the boxes, I go and look in the mirror and I always see the same thing. My nose hairs are WHITE from residue dust. What about what’s not getting filtered and making its way into my sinuses and lungs? I have taken to wearing a paper painter’s mask when changing the boxes, but the finer particles may still be making their way in. My oldest son was recently referred to a pulmonary specialist, who ordered a CAT scan and found dark spots all over my son’s lungs. After a question and answer session with the doctors, it was assumed that my son’s condition was due to a hypersensitivity to the birds that we also had. We re-homed the birds, did a thorough cleaning of the bird’s former area and re-filtered the home’s air system. A new scan showed the spots had not yet healed up, although his symptoms greatly improved. Litter dust? Maybe?

  19. Bailey, Flirtie, Dude, Dawg, Bundle, Itty BItty, Bubba, Sissy & Tootie says

    Our momma tried several litters hoping to find a dust free alternative to the clumping litter we used for years. She bought us the pine litter – weeee – that was fun. It was so light we could kick it yards away from the litter pans. The downside was momma could follow a little pine trail to any one of us – which made it hard to get by with any mischief like blaming the broken vase on the baby “Tootie”.

    She tried others too but some of us are trying to be persnickety and won’t use it.

    Lately momma’s been buying us the Arm & Hammer Clumping Litter with the light blue “Multi-Cat” banner. She’s pretty smart ’cause it doesn’t have nearly as much dust and it sure works great for fighting smelly stuff – ewwww.

    We heard momma say that there is a visible difference in the light blue “Multi-Cat” & the maroon “Multi-Cat” versions. She said she’d just have to use it till something better came along.

    Yippee, now we can get by with mischief again since this litter doesn’t track as much as the old litter or the pine did.

  20. Sharon Lake says

    Toothpick uses the clumping litter. I have a little ‘litter keeper’ rug for his paws when he’s done. He rarely cleans his paws right after using the litter, at least when I’ve been around to see him.

    I never really thought about him breathing the dust, but I use the kind that is fairly dust free. I also use the Arm & Hammer deordorizer about every other cleaning.

    You have given me something to think about, Gracey…

  21. Junior & Orion says

    Meowm uses clumping pine litter for us. She has tried the clumping corn litter, and likes it, but not the cost. She quit using clumping clay litter cause she was concerned about what it would do to us.

  22. Toby, Tansy, Abytail & Sweetie says

    Our parents use clumping pine litter for us. Momma says it’s easy, and Papa says it smells good, too!