Clay cat litter was invented in 1947 by H. Edward Lowe, a successful businessman in the building supply industry. First, wet clay is gathered from below the earth’s surface (about 30-40 feet down) and carried away to processing plants for drying. The clay is then broken into smaller pieces and loaded into a 2000-degree F kiln, which bakes away any moisture.
Next, the clay is crushed, sifted, crushed again, and ground up. Clumping clay litters go through an extra step where sodium bentonite, another type of natural clay that swells when it contacts moisture, is added to the mix. Some companies then add dust-reducers and scents to their litter before sending it off for packaging.
Since clay can be found in the natural world, pet parents and manufacturers assumed it’d be a safe potty-box medium. However, the aluminium silicates and minerals clay are made to have some problematic traits.
One of the most common issues clay litter causes is feline asthma, also known as feline allergic bronchitis (FAB). Despite the fact that many clay litter manufacturers add dust reducers to their products, the issue remains. If your cat is using a clay litter, those airborne particles can be inhaled and cause irritation, an allergic reaction, and even an asthma attack.
Another serious medical concern associated with clay litter is the potential for an internal blockage. Kittens are, particularly at risk. Naturally curious, kittens will often lick their litter.
The problem is that the granules in clumping clay litter can expand up to fifteen times their size once they come in contact with moisture. If your cat ingests these granules, they can cause a life-threatening internal blockage.
Adult cats are also at risk as these granules often stick to your cat’s paws and can be ingested during your cat’s many daily grooming sessions. If you’re a multi-species household, dogs that get into the litter box or lick up tracked litter are also at risk.