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Cat litter is often something we don’t think about much. Choosing the right cat litter for you and your kitten can also be healthier for you, your pet and the environment.
While clay-based cat litter is the most common – and therefore the most affordable and widely used – choice on the market, it is not considered environmentally friendly (see the FAQs below). Additionally, clay cat litters often have added silica which creates dust. This dust can be irritating to asthmatics if you or your cat breathe it in. The dust that your cat creates during cleaning or use can get deep into their lungs and be difficult to get rid of, causing breathing problems and, in rare cases, lung cancer.
Perhaps one of the best decisions you can make for your cat, the environment, and your lungs is choosing a biodegradable cat litter. Alternative litters are made from a variety of materials alone or in mixtures such as paper, corn, walnuts, wheat, wood, pine, and grass.
Here are the best eco-friendly cat litters:
If you’re just venturing into cat litter with no clay and no sand, the world’s best non-perfumed, clumping, multi-cat corn cat litter (look at Walmart) is an excellent place to start. Its price, performance, and clumping ability have made it a favorite.
What to look for in cat litter
As with any cat litter you buy, consider whether you prefer lumps or non-lumps. Clumping is easier to scoop up, but fussy cats usually prefer the less expensive, non-clumping waste, which contains more urine and odor but requires more frequent changes (usually once a week if you scoop daily).
Most cat litter indicate whether or not they are flushable. But the truth is, if you can avoid it, it is better not to flush your cat litter. Flushable cat litter won’t expand as much as non-flushable types. Both types can clog your pipes if you ignore their specific flush directions.
But even without the risk of installation problems, this is negative for your municipal sewage treatment plant or your sewage treatment plant. In order for your city’s system to treat what you flush, they need to separate the cat litter solids and still take them to the landfill. By skipping the flush, you save them the hassle and reduce the sediments sent to the sewage treatment plant.
If you find yourself in a domestic sewer system, flushing your cat litter will only add excess organic solids to your system. That will force it to work harder to process your waste. This can upset the balance in your system and lead to an increased need for service. Instead, find out if your local composting facility can hold cat litter or if you want to compost at home and set up a special kitty compost heap.
If you need to flush, check the bag to make sure the trash is flushable. This includes flushing recommendations and restrictions that are worth following. You should avoid anything that expands when it gets wet.
The pellet size must also be taken into account. If you have a long haired cat, litter with a small pellet size is not recommended. It can stick and matt in their fur. Many litters will indicate on the bag whether or not it is recommended for long haired cats.
If you have more than one kitten, consider litters called “multi-cat”. They tend to contain more odor neutralizers like baking soda to help prevent odors upon contact. Lump litter is often better for multiple cats as they can be scooped up quickly each day and do not need to be changed as often. Most experts also recommend a crate for each cat and at least one additional litter box.
Can i make my own cat litter?
Yes! There are a wide range of materials that can be used to make do-it-yourself (DIY) cat litter. Note that each material has different properties, so for example some can be very absorbent but contain no odors and vice versa. Be sure to look at the pros and cons of each type so that you can choose the one that’s right for you. Most recipes use baking soda as an ingredient to control odors, but you can also try green tea.
Newspaper is a great option if you are still getting your local paper because you are using something you already bought for other purposes. But you can also find simple recipes online that contain one or more of these biodegradable materials:
- Dried wood shavings, shavings, sawdust, or animal litter (cedar, pine, etc.). Avoid fresh cedar, however, as it contains natural phenolic oils that are toxic to cats
- Whole grain kernels
- Steel cut oats
- Ground wheat berries
- Chicken feed
- Pellets with rabbit food (alfalfa or timothy grass)
- Coconut or walnut shells
- Wood pellets (stove fuel or cattle litter)
Is clay cat litter biodegradable?
The clay used in cat litter is a natural soil component made up of minerals – either calcium montmorillonite or the clumping sodium bentonite. Neither guy continues to break down in a landfill or compost heap. Although both occur naturally, they are technically not biodegradable.
Is clay cat litter environmentally friendly?
Clay cat litter is not considered environmentally friendly as it is often not from sustainable sources. Although clays are naturally occurring soil minerals and are therefore better than plastics, they do need to be broken down. The commonly used process – strip mining – involves removing all trees, plants, and topsoil, which then leads to erosion into nearby waterways. Most mines are so destructive that they cannot and will not be repaired or rehabilitated.
Often these clays are obtained from the southern United States, Montana, Wyoming or South Dakota. Some clays may also be obtained from other countries such as China and Ukraine.
Are silica cat litter environmentally friendly?
Many clay cat litters have added silica, which creates fumed silica. Silica is a type of sand. It is also known as quartz sand, silica gel, or crystal cat litter. Silica is made from degraded quartz (silicon dioxide). Like clay, it is made from naturally occurring elements that are slowly weatherproof and technically do not biodegrade.
Some companies market it as a better alternative to clay cat litter because it’s non-toxic, technically reusable, and doesn’t create harmful dust like clay does. It is also better at neutralizing odors and lasts longer than clay cat litter. Although breaking down silica is less harmful than breaking down clay streaks, the process still causes environmental damage. It also takes a lot of processing and energy to produce. The garbage remains in the landfill on a geological time scale and is not sustainable in the long term.
What’s the best way to dispose of biodegradable cat litter?
I am so glad you asked! There are many ways to get rid of the garbage, each with advantages and disadvantages. Check out this Treehugger article for the pros and cons of the most environmentally friendly options.
Why trust Treehugger?
Lorraine Wilde has had at least one cat companion in her home for the past 35 years. Two of her cats were in their early twenties. She only has the highest standards for her best friends. Lorraine also holds a Masters Degree in Environmental Science and believes that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally conscious choices to protect their families, their pets and our planet.