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PETS

Q: A friend sent me a link to an article on the Web that says clumping cat litters can be deadly, but my veterinarian says they're fine. Who is right?

-- F.Y.

A: The idea that clumping litter is deadly traces back to an article in a long-defunct holistic cat magazine and is kept alive by the power of the Internet. The article -- I've read it -- guessed that the litter was the cause of the death of the author's kittens. The evidence was purely speculative and anecdotal, and has not been supported by subsequent scientific research.

While there's no evidence that clumping litters are bad for adult cats, some veterinarians adopt a better-safe-than-sorry policy regarding young kittens. That's because a playful, curious kitten might be tempted to eat the material, which might indeed cause an intestinal problem. The cautious solution is to use a non-clumping litter for the first couple of months, then switch if you wish to.

Final note on this: If you have a dog who eats the contents of litter boxes, either use a non-clumping variety or be sure the box is in a place the dog can't get to it.

Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network, an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her at writetogina@spadafori.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.