Cat owners not only have to think about their cat or cats, they also have to give consideration to any other pets that may be in the home. There can be many other types of pets in a home, ranging from a dog, a hamster, a pet bunnie rabbit, to a guinea pig etc.
Now aside from the obvious animal and territorial conflict there may be, in this article we want to just focus on the issue of cat litter. As any cat owner will know, if you own a cat, then having a cat litter is essential. The big question we want to answer here is twofold:
- How does cat litter impact on other household pets?
- Can you use cat litter, as a litter for other types of pets?
I shall deal with question 1 first, and then answer question 2 later down this article.
Will Cat litter Harm Other Pets Like Dogs, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and other Household Pets?
Just before I answer that, it is important to properly understand what types of cat litter are available and what ingredients they will contain. If we know and understand that, it will really help you make a very informed decision.
There are a few types of cat litter available:
- Clay based litters which clump
- Clay based litters that are non-clumping
- Natural biodegradable litters and pellet style litters
- Silica gel or crystal based cat litters.
The clay based litters are by far the most popular and account for around 80% of all litters sold in the world. In particular the clumping litters are extremely popular, and account for a large proportion of sales.
The natural and pellet style litters are safe for almost any other animal, but they do not account for a very high percentage of sales. That is mainly because they are more expensive to buy, and not that well advertised.
Silica gel litters are growing in popularity. These use crystals to absorb urine. When the crystals turn yellow, they are then scooped out, and replaced with new ones. Like the natural style of litters, these are not that popular with cat owners, as they are also expensive and relatively new to the market place.
Perfumed or Scented Cat Litters
Many of the cat litter types described above are scented. This is done by the manufacturers to try and help control cat urine and poop smells. It does seem like a logical thing to do. Many of these scents are artificial and there is just not enough research available to know if these are harmful to other pets or not.
If in doubt the nest idea is always to avoid, as there are plenty of other alternatives available.
Now you know what types of cat litter are available, I can better explain if these are suitable for other pets that can be found in many homes.
Understand the Difference in Cat Litters for Other Pets
The reason I explained the different types is that it does depend on which type of litter you are using around other pets. The huge majority of cat owners will use a clay based litter that clumps.
These are very absorbent and that is what makes them so very popular. With clay based litters there are two types, clumping and non-clumping.
The non clumping style of litter is also sold, though not quite as popular.
You never want to use a clumping cat litter around any other pet. The reason this clay clumps is because when moisture (cat urine) comes into contact with this type of litter, it swells up to form a clump. That makes it easy to remove from the litter box, and that in turn helps control the smell.
That is why cat owners use this as their first preference of cat litter. If that litter was eaten or ingested by another animal it can swell up inside them and cause blockages which could be fatal. It should be avoided at all costs.
The pellet style of litter can be made from various natural materials like wood, corn wheat etc. Generally speaking those are safe around other pets.
With reference to the silica gel type of crystals, there is just not enough information available to be sure if this is safe around other pets. Until there is I would avoid using it around other pets.
What Cat Litter is Safe for Ferrets?
The natural instinct of a ferret is to push through materials with their nose. This trait means that no cat litter is really suitable for ferrets. The one exception could be a paper pellet type of litter.
Many ferret owners use a variety of materials for litters including wood stove pellets, recycled or shredded papers, and corn cobs.
None of these are very absorbent, and that is why ferret owners consider using cat litter, which is very good at absorbing moisture including urine.
There are two reasons why cat litter is not suitable for ferrets:
- There is dust inside most cat litters, caused when the litter is in transit, and this would cause breathing or respiratory issues for ferrets who are low to the ground and use their noses to shuffle through whatever they come across
- Clumping cat litters swell up when moisture hits the clay in the litter. Ferrets tend to rub their backside along the floor of the litter after they have finished doing their business. If clumped litter got attached to the anal or rectal area, then it can easily cause both blockages and infections
Click Here to Read about the best natural cat litters
Which Cat Litter is Safe for Rabbits/Bunnies?
Most rabbits spend a lot of time in their litter boxes. They will almost always nibble on their litter as well. Only organic or natural litters should be used for rabbits.
These are litters made from oat, citrus, paper or alfalfa. Many rabbit owners simply use paper covered with hay as a litter.
Also stay away from litters made from soft woods or wheat. Cat litter generally speaking is not suitable for rabbits and should be avoided. That is because they have dust, many of them clump and swell and rabbits will eat this type of litter.
Which Cat Litter Can Be Used for Hamsters?
You can buy litter for hamsters but it is not cat litter. Some of the litters for hamsters are clay based litters but they are of the non clumping variety. Most hamster owners use some type of paper pellet. Hamsters usually go to one spot to do their business.
It is possible to train your hamster to do this as well. That can help a lot keeping the cage clean. Like cat litter boxes, here are also hamster litter boxes available, or you can also use a small plastic box, with a lid and a small hole to let the hamster in and out.
Some hamster owners do use cat litter, but if they do they use scent free and dust free cat litter. They also advise that if you decide to do that, to make certain that the hamster is not nibbling on it. If they are then you should change the type of litter.
Which Cat Litter Can Be Used for Guinea Pigs?
It was very interesting when I did my research on this section of this article. I would have assumed that it was not possible to use cat litter with guinea pigs.
Some guinea pig owners do however use the recycled paper cat litters for the litter in the cage.
Mainly they use this for bedding. The general consensus is that cat litter is not a good idea for guinea pigs. Clumping litter is a very big worry as if they eat that, it can cause any number of problems.
Cat litter generally speaking would hurt the feet of a guinea pig, and if they ate it would cause a lot of problems.
My advice is to avoid using any type of cat litter for your guinea pig. For bedding most owners recommend aspen, kiln dried pine or Carefesh shredded paper.
Will Cat Litter Hurt or Kill a Dog?
Some dogs will eat cat poop, and some will also try to play and do their business in a cat litter. Disgusting as it may seem to us, cat poop to some dogs is just like a tasty snack. As well as doing that many dogs will also try to eat cat litter, especially the clumping kind.
There is an official name for the eating of poop and that is coprophagia. The mother will for example eat the poop of their pups just to help keep the nesting area clean. So it is a natural behavior in many dogs to try and eat cat poop and/or litter.
The bigger question though is can cat litter harm or even kill a dog? No ingredients contained in the different varieties of cat litter is directly toxic to a dog. They can however be harmful.
That does depend though on how much cat litter the dog has eaten, how often they eat the litter, the sensitivity of the dog’ s stomach and other issues such as any artificial dyes or perfumes contained in many cat litters.
I have completed a more detailed article on the impact of cat litter on dogs, which you can read by clicking here.
Which Cat Litter Can Be Used for Mice or Pet Rats?
You will not be surprised if I tell you once again that cat litter is not suitable for pet mice or for pet rats.
Many people ask will cat litter help keep mice and rats away from your home. That is of course a very different question. The short answer is no. Cat litter does not contain anything specific, that deters mice or rats. That said, if you have a cat that uses the litter box, then it will certainly keep mice and rats away.
That is because the smell of the cat, and the smell of cat pee and poop, will keep mice and rats well away from that area. If you would like to find out more about keeping mice and rats away using cat litter, then please click here.
Will Cat Litter Hurt Chickens?
Most chicken owners use either straw, pine shavings, hay or wood shavings on the floor of their hen house or chicken coop. Some owners also use corn cob pellets for that.
It is well known that chickens like to peck, dig and scratch so I would highly recommend not using cat litter.
The general consensus from chicken owners is that none of them use cat litter to help reduce the mess or the smell.
Like almost any animal the best way to do this is regular cleaning. Sure that takes a bit of work, unpleasant work as well, but that is what works best. That along with some wood shavings seems to do the trick.
Can You Use Cat Litter for Hedgehogs?
Like many of the animals mentioned on this list, hedgehogs like to burrow a lot. For bedding the hedgehog experts recommend recycled paper litters or aspen. Some owners will use a non clumping cat litter for the actual litter.
The experts though suggest a corner style litter pan, and to use something different to what is used for the bedding. That is why you will find an aspen bedding for example and a non clumping clay based litter, used as a litter.
Conclusion of the Impact of Cat Litter On Other Animals
I think there is a general thread running through this article. That is not to use cat litters as a substitute for a litter recommended for other types of pet. It would also seem that clumping style of cat litters should never be used for any other type of pet.
Clumping litters are by far the most popular choice among cat owners. That is because the litter clumps when contacted with moisture (cat urine). The clumping helps control the smell and makes it easier to keep the litter box clean.
However this clumping is very dangerous if the litter is eaten. The litter will swell up when it meets moisture inside the animal and can cause severe, if not fatal problems.
This next sentence is not too pretty but it is true. Clumping litter can also stick to the rear end of animals and that on its own can cause blockages. It would clearly seem to be a very good idea to avoid clumping cat litter for smaller pets, and I would avoid it altogether.
Steve is a blogger with an unhealthy cat obsession. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, cooking and cuddles with his cat Fij.