Is silica gel litter safe for cats?

Medea from Miami asked us:

My biggest question is that there’s such conflicting information out there about the pros and cons of crystal and traditional clay litter. Some places say crystal litter can cause respiratory illnesses, while others say if cats ingest clumping litter it can cause intestinal issues.
I’m considering a Pretty Litter as a primary option.

So as a veterinarian, what is your opinion on the safety of crystal cat litter made from silica gel and clay litter? Is there a possibility that using either of these could harm your cats?

If you don’t recommend crystal litter, or someone’s cat just doesn’t like using it, what are some signs they can look out for regarding cat health?

One thing I noticed since I started testing Pretty Litter is that one of my cats has watery eyes occasionally. I’m not sure if it’s related, and I’m sure you can’t say definitively without seeing him but do you think it could be from the litter and I should stop using it?

Claudine Sievert, DVM answers:

Yes, silica gel spreads the biggest amount of airborne dust particles. But this doesn’t mean that clumping litter does not spread at all. In fact, there’s no crucial difference between how these two types of litter spread dust and zoonotic diseases.

And clay litter can also cause digestive issues (and even cause death). But this may happen only if your cat eats a considerable amount of litter. This won’t happen if your cat just licks its paw after going to the bathroom.

Both silica gel and clumping litter can be dangerous if your cat has specific eating disorders, respiratory diseases, or allergies. But that’s an exclusion — in 99% of cases, both types of cat litter are safe.

Pretty Litter can not be considered a full-fledged indicator of your cat’s health. All pet owners should understand that their pet can still be ill even if the litter has a ‘normal’ color.

Hence Pretty Litter is a good addition to regular vet tests, not a replacement.

Medea, your cat may be allergic to silica dust so your guess may be correct. I suggest you switch back to clumping litter that was used before or a natural coconut litter for at least 4-6 weeks and regularly monitor your cat’s eyes.

Thank you for reading this! We wish your pets to be healthy and happy! Click here to ask your own question.

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