While clay litter is inexpensive and has been around for decades, clay litter is not so environmentally friendly: it requires strip mining to produce and is not biodegradable. There are also questions about the safety of clumping clay litter should your cat ingest it while grooming. Cat guardians looking for an alternative to clay litter often consider switching to a more natural litter such as a corn-based cat litter. Some of the benefits of corn-based cat litters are that they are lightweight, biodegradable and have a soft texture that many cats like. However, you could be exposing your cat to another danger with corn-based litter.
Aflatoxin is a naturally-occurring mycotoxin produced by the Aspergillus flavus fungus. Aflatoxins are quite toxic to humans and pets, and it grows on grains including corn, especially corn that has been exposed to moisture. There have been numerous pet food recalls over the past few years due to aflatoxin contamination, with the deadliest being the Diamond Pet Food recall in late 2005 and 2006 which resulted in dozens of cases of pet illnesses and deaths. Knowing that corn and moisture is not a good combination, could there be a danger to your cat from using corn-based litter?
Most commercial corn-based cat litter has been processed to eliminate moisture, and samples from each batch tested for aflatoxin. However, once the bag has been opened and exposed to heat and humidity in the home and the inevitable moisture in the litter box, there’s no foolproof way to know whether or not aflatoxins could be growing in the litter box. While cat litter isn’t designed to be ingested, cats do groom themselves and may end up ingesting anything clinging to the fur, and the lightweight litter could also possibly be inhaled. It is also possible that some cats could attempt to eat the litter, and many cat foods include corn as an ingredient.
Luckily, there are lots of cat litters on the market. If you’re concerned about aflatoxins in your cat’s litter and want to avoid clay litter, consider some of the other alternatives such as cat litter made from recycled paper, pine or a product such as the Breeze Litter Box System that uses special pellets instead of litter. If you do elect to use a corn-based cat litter, be sure to store it in a dry environment, and look out for a moldy/musty odor.