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Pick of the litter

By Kim Ahlstrom

 

Before businessman and entrepreneur Ed Lowe invented and trademarked Kitty Litter® in 1948, the most popular litter pan materials were sand and fireplace ashes. If you are a seasoned cat owner, you can well imagine the impact of sooty ashes and "litter box tracking" on your clean carpet. Or how little odor control sand or silica would have on a human's olfactory senses.

 

The pet industry has long taken into consideration a human's sense of smell and has come a long way in fulfilling our needs with a myriad of scented, absorbent and earth-friendly cat litters. In fact, cat litter is one of the best-selling feline products on the market. Learn the pros and cons of five different varieties of cat litters and the impact each has on the environment.

 

CLAY LITTER

Clay litter is composed of absorbent, diverse clay minerals called "fuller's earth." Fuller's earth is any non-plastic clay or clay material that can be used to filter, decolorize and absorb liquids and spills. It has been popular for decades and has the innate ability to absorb its own weight in water.

 

Examples of clay litter: Tidy Cat®, Fresh Step®

 

Pros of clay litter:

  • It will effectively absorb moisture as well as provide some odor control through absorption.
  • There are many alternative uses for clay litter, including motor oil clean-up, soaking up "barbeque run off" and traction for icy driveways.
  • It is also relatively inexpensive compared to other products on the market.

Cons of clay litter:

  • While clay litter effectively absorbs moisture, if the soiled litter isn't replaced often enough, the urine will collect at the bottom of the box. The bacteria in the urine will multiply and convert the uric acid into foul-smelling ammonia.
  • It is dusty and can cause respiratory problems in both cats and humans. It is obtained through strip mining, which has a negative impact on the environment. It does not break down naturally - leaving landfills full of soiled cat litter.

CLUMPING (or SCOOPABLE) CAT LITTER

Clumping litter is also a clay-based litter, but the main ingredient, sodium bentotite, acts as a clumping agent, absorbing urine and turning it into tight, solid clumps that can be easily removed from the litter box and disposed of.

 

Examples of clumping litter: Scoop Away®, Arm & Hammer Super Scoop®, Precious Cat Ultra®

 

Pros of clumping litter:

  • “Urine clumps” eliminate odor build-up and keep the box cleaner.
  • It is virtually dust free.
  • Ideal for mechanical or sifting litter boxes.
  • It works well with multi-cat households.

Cons of clumping litter:

  • There has been much debate about the safety of clumping litter in regard to a cat ingesting the litter and becoming ill. It has been suggested (but not clinically proven) that if ingested – the clumping litter will expand in the cat’s intestinal track and absorb moisture in the cat’s body, creating intestinal blockages and dehydration. As such, many clumping litter products are not recommended for kittens – who often times play in litter pans and ingest litter.
  • Do NOT flush! Due to the highly absorbent nature of clumping litter, flushing it down the toilet can cause it to expand and damage plumbing.
  • Green hazard: Clumping litter is also collected from strip mining and is NOT biodegradable.
  • It's more expensive than regular clay litter.

RECYCLED PAPER CAT LITTER

Post-consumer recycled newspaper is converted into pellets or granules and works well as cat box substrate.

 

Examples of paper cat litter: Yesterday's News® (pellets) and Pa Purr Scoop® (granules)

 

Pros of paper litter:

  • It's made from recycled newspapers
  • Biodegradable
  • Safe for septic systems
  • Highly absorbent
  • Virtually dust free
  • Scent-free
  • Safe for kittens and post-surgical cats

Cons of paper litter:

  • Different from clay litter, paper litter will absorb urine from the bottom, so having the litter too deep will make it more difficult to find and remove the soiled litter.
  • More expensive than clay litter.
  • Some cats do not like the texture or feel of paper pellets.
  • Not always found in grocery stores (You may need to visit a pet retailer or pet store)

PINE CAT LITTER

Made from 100% recycled pine and formatted into pellets, pine litter is also highly recommended for pet owners looking for an environmentally friendly product.

 

Examples of pine cat litter: ExquisiCat®, Feline Pine®

 

Pros of pine litter:

 

  • Biodegradable
  • Recycled product (no new trees are cut down to make this product)
  • Safe to use with kittens and post-surgical cats
  • Safe for flushing
  • Safe for composting
  • Can also be used for small animals, birds and reptiles

Cons of pine litter:

  • Not all cats like the texture or pine scent
  • More expensive than traditional clay litter
  • Not always found in grocery stores (You may need to visit a pet retailer or pet store)

CORN CAT LITTER

Corn cat litter is all-natural and the whole kernel substrate offers clumping and odor control. The large surface area of the kernel traps and absorbs ammonia and urine odors naturally.

 

Examples of corn cat litter: World’s Best Cat Litter®, Nature’s Miracle®

 

Pros of corn litter:

  • Soft texture
  • Resists tracking
  • Safe for flushing and septic tanks
  • Biodegradable
  • Safe for composting
  • Silica dust-free
  • Natural clumping ability makes it easy to scoop box
  • Safe for kittens and other pets

Cons of corn litter:

  • Not all cats like the texture or smell of corn litter
  • More expensive than clay litter Not always found in grocery stores (You may need to visit a pet retail store or pet store)