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Birds--General/Clay cat litter dust and bird health problems!


Hello. I have been online searching for information for about TWO HOURS now and can't find any solid, detailed articles to help me. My Mother and I have been fighting about this subject for a bit now. We have a Sun Conure who acts like he can hardly ever breathe well expansion of chest all the time, looking fluffy, etc, even after baytril or other medications. It's like he's ALWAYS sick. He is in our Glass Aviary (used to be our deck) at the back of the house. We keep TWO CATS in there with the 15 birds (all in sep cages) and they get along. There are TWO litter boxes. My Mother uses the refillable kind from PetCo and it is REALLY DUSTY when you dump or scoop (even if you're careful) and when the cats paw it after going! I think he possibly has asthma and the dust is irritating resp track. I want her to switch to another litter but, one of the cats had issues urinating out of the box and she doesn't want to switch litters because she thinks the current one "is the one" and doesn't want the urinating to re-start (even though it hasn't really stopped)! This is the reason the one cat is locked in there at all times and the other is because she fights with others. There is very little air flow in the room. Even the plants are covered in dust and there is (obviously) a lot of dander! No air purifier and she doesn't want one! She is FRUGAL!

I was wondering if you know of any IN-DEPTH articles that could help me out in explaining the NECESSITY of finding a new litter for this room. Also, to explain the harmful health effects of clumping clay litter on birds respiratory tracks! Or, maybe several short, descriptive articles? Or, if you could WRITE a detailed response to this specific issue, it would REALLY HELP A LOT!

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Hi Brandon,

Birds have a unique respiratory system.  While they have a very small set of lungs, the most important feature is a system of 7-9 air sacs. While this makes their respiratory system more efficient than that of mammals, it also means that toxins (like dust) in the air are also transferred more efficiently. Since it sounds like a veterinarian has checked for bacterial or fungal diseases, maybe your bird has a hypersensitivity to the cat litter dust? Have you tried using a good air filter (such as a HEPA filter) located near the cage?  Sorry I can't be more help, I've never seen this addressed in an article. Good luck!



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Robin Keister


I can answer questions about bird identification, avian physiology, avian conservation, avian genetics, bird song and music, and injured/ill/orphaned bird rehabilitation. I am not trained as a veterinarian and therefore can NOT answer questions about companion/pet bird injuries or diseases.

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