By Kim Butler
I know, I know, I’m a little late to the eco-frenzy that has swept the nation. I’m still driving a non-hybrid vehicle-although it IS a 4- cylinder instead of my old gas-sucking Jeep; I just replaced my old, rusty oil-fired hot water boiler with….a brand new, oil-fired hot water boiler. However, it is Energy-Star certified and, even though it consumes fossil fuel it will at least consume less of it. And I did replace all my incandescent light bulbs with those squiggly bulbs that are supposed to last into the next millennium and use less energy. So I should get some points for that.
Believe me, I would have loved to have replaced my electric supplier with a row of solar panels on my roof, but at $30,000 it’s a little out of my league. That’s how much I spend annually on cat food, for pete’s sake. Plus I wouldn’t have any money left over to buy the five tons of litter I need to buy every week. The cats glared at me for even thinking such a thought. Which made me think: what if I could get my cats to go green—without telling them?
Since I usually write about litter and litterbox issues, let’s focus primarily on that area, since that also appears to be the biggest area we can make an eco-difference, starting with the litter itself. If we didn’t have cat litter, we would have to either let all of our cats outside, leash them up and take them for walks, or train all of them to use the toilet. The first option is an absolute no-no if you want your cat to live a long life without winding up as road kill on the side of the street. The second option? My cats are laughing their whiskers off. The third option will probably lead to an increase in the number of people attending 12-step programs.
The Invention of Cat Litter
Cat litter is generally credited as being invented in the mid to late 1940s by a genius named Edward Lowe as an alternative to packaged ash from burnt wood or sand, which was also commonly used. Lowe’s concoction consisted primarily of Fuller’s Earth, an absorbent clay which was used as an industrial absorbent. In 1947, he began selling the clay concoction from the back of his car in five pound bags as he traveled around the country, and in 1964, he founded the Tidy Cats brand of “kitty litter.” The first clumping litter was invented by Thomas Nelson, a biochemist, in 1984.
Ever wonder what it is that makes the litter “clump”? Sodium bentonite, which expands when wet and forms a “clump.” Sodium bentonite is so absorbent it’s used to seal stock & recreational ponds, dairy and sewage lagoons, and landfills. Wait, somebody call the EPA—we have the answer to the BP oil spill—just throw clumping cat litter down there! We can suck up all the oil, all the ocean, AND plug the leak! WOW! (The cats are yawning and eyeing me sideways as if to say “well, we could have told you THAT.”)
The downside of traditional clumping cat litter is the dust factor, which not only you, but your cats inhale—and the fact that when your cats lick their paws they may be ingesting a certain amount of litter—and sodium bentonite. However, there are litter alternatives which may not only be a little healthier, but also a little greener.
- ExquisiCat, manufactured for PetSmart and sold in their stores, markets an enviro-friendly pine litter, made from recycled pine—so that new trees do not have to be cut down.
- Yesterday’s News is made from recycled newspaper, another excellent eco-friendly choice.
- S’Wheat Scoop is made from wheat—although my cats weren’t sure whether to pee on it or eat it.
- World’s Best Cat Litter is made from totally organic ingredients, primarily whole kernel corn.
- Nature’s Miracle Odor Control Litter is made from corn cob, plus it has natural enzymes which help break down the odor which normally accompanying a “session in the restroom.”
- Feline Pine is perhaps the best known pine litter.
- Arm & Hammer markets their “Essentials Naturally Clumping Cat Litter” which is made of corn fibers combined with their trademark baking soda. Personally, I also like the fact that it weighs about half of what a typical bucket of traditional clumping litter weighs. No more blown rotator cuffs or cranky backs for me!
So there are quite a variety of choices to make when considering to “green” your cat’s bathroom habits. But what about the litter boxes themselves? Unfortunately there aren’t as many eco-friendly options. Just about all litter boxes are made from plastic of some sort. However, Petmate, the company that makes a variety of pet products including bowls, feeders, and waterers, also makes litter boxes and many of their litter box designs are made from 25% recycled content. Aside from disposable cardboard litter boxes, that’s about it.
I have a friend whose cat has decided that the best way to be eco-friendly is to use her tub as a litter box, which completely frustrates her, but I say “hey, look at all the money you save on litter, you don’t have to buy any litterboxes, and all you have to do is run the water and wash it away.” (oops, forgot what a mess #2 makes) Oh well, can’t have everything.
So my friends, hopefully we’ve provided some good information for you. There is also an excellent website/blog which has a wealth of information on more eco-friendly options for your cat including a 30-day program on “greening Fluffy.”