Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is your cat litter making you (and your cat) sick?

Posted By on Wed, May 11, 2011 at 4:00 PM

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Courtesy of: EarthTalk®
E — The Environmental Magazine
Dear Earth Talk:What are the health effects of clumping cat litter on humans? Are there any negative side effects from breathing the actual litter? —Andy and Taeja Klukas, Maple Grove, MN

Clay-based cat litters contain crystalline silica, the main component in sand, rock and mineral ores. A possible health threat from clay-based litters is posed by silica dust, which can be kicked up and breathed in by both cats and humans. Prolonged exposure to silica dust causes silicosis, a non-cancerous but sometimes fatal lung disease. Crystalline silica dust is also a suspected carcinogen, associated with bronchitis and tuberculosis. Although exposure to this dust is of great concern to those working in mines or on construction sites, the effects on cat owners exposed while cleaning their cat’s litter box are virtually unknown.

However, respiration problems are not the only thing to consider when purchasing litter for your cat. All cats clean their fur and paws, which can be coated with clay litter from using the litter box. Clumping litters in particular can be harmful to your pet because, once ingested, the litter expands and absorbs moisture in the intestines, causing blockages and dehydration, and preventing the absorption of nutrients. For this reason, the ASPCA recommends not using clumping litter for kittens.

Aware of the possible risks of silica dust and other side effects from clay litters, many cat owners are opting for healthier, more environmentally-sound alternatives. Dust-free litters like Feline Pine or Swheat Scoop are biodegradable, less harmful if ingested by pets, and produce no dangerous respirable dusts. They both contain no chemical additives, fragrances or dyes, are completely flushable, and can even be used as compost or mulch.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E — The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

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