Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Natural Cat Litter, Part 1

I read a heartbreaking story recently from Marina Michaels at Catmom.  She raises Japanese Bobtails and lost almost every kitten from three litters just when they reached litter box age.  She put two and two together and realized that the clumping cat litter that is so convenient and so popular was likely the cause of what must have been painful, yet preventable, deaths.  So I looked into it myself, and I’d like to share what I learned in my two part post--the bad, the good and, for Kristi, the frugal!


The most popular and readily available and cheapest litters are made of clay, which is naughty for two main reasons.


Clay litters contain silica, which is a known carcinogen and can cause silicosis, a respiratory disease characterized by lesions in the lungs and throat and caused by breathing the silica-laden dust found in clay litter.  No thank you!

Clumping litters contain sodium bentonite, which is basically expandable cement.  They tell you not to flush the clumps because they can clog your pipes.  Sodium bentonite expands 15-18 times its original size.  If it’s hard on your home’s plumbing, imagine what it did to those little Japanese Bobtails’ plumbing when they licked it off their paws after using the litter box, as cats do.  Clumping cat litter plus cats who groom themselves is a recipe for disaster.  Please get rid of this stuff immediately.


Getting rid of clay litter or clumping litter is easier said than done.  You can’t compost them.  They NEVER biodegrade, so they just sit in the landfills.  Forever.  And just as disposing of clay litter is hard on the environment, producing it is equally destructive. Clay litter is strip mined without regard to the land, the water or the miners.


Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives to traditional clay litter.  Some of the environmentally friendly litters even offer clumping ability, if you must.  You can find natural litters made from a variety of renewable resources including wheat, pine, walnuts, corn cobs, and recycled newspapers.  Next week I am going to review some of the brands and materials, plus the pros and cons according to my relatively unscientific research.

See you then.

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