Cat Litter: An Environmental Problem?Published December 15, 2008
Oh no. Not another household problem with environmental impact! Sadly, yes. Cat litter not only can create environmental problems for the places it comes from but also for the places it goes. Read on to find out how to choose an enviromentally friendly litter and safe ways to dispose of kitty litter.Oh no. Not another household problem with environmental impact! Sadly, yes.
Cat litter not only can create environmental problems for the places it comes from but also for the places it goes. That saying, "We're all connected," explains why keeping our environment healthy occupies our country's best minds.
Here's what a busy mother needs to know to choose a "green product" from among the twenty-five brands that look the same, while her children inch the grocery cart closer to a teetering display of canned pet food.
Cat Litter Essentials
The problem breaks down to two parts: what do you use to absorb waste and odor and how do you dispose of the soiled material. Clay-based litter is commonly available and inexpensive. However, the clay is extracted by strip mining, which is bad any way you look at it. To make matters worse, both human and feline family members inhale clay-dust particles that can cause or worsen respiratory disease. All clays contain the problem-causing material.
Dust free litters include silica gel pearls and plant material litters such as corn, wheat, paper, and pine. Silica gel pearls are expensive, but work well for those who clean their cat boxes infrequently. Made from the same material as sand and processed to absorb tremendous amounts of liquid, a much smaller amount of litter is needed than with other materials. Mining sand does create open pits, but restoration can be more complete than with strip mining. Corn, wheat husk, and pine litters absorb odor well, but some cats do not like the smell or texture of a particular litter. If the cat does not enjoy digging in the litter, he will not use it. However, plant-based litters are byproducts of other industries, which is, in principle, a good thing.
If you can afford it and are not fastidious about changing your cat's litter, you should try silica gel pearls and see how those work for you. If you want to be frugal, select an unscented product that uses corn or wheat husk or pine and try it. These litters require changing every couple of days.
Many litters claim to be flushable. Two issues with flushing: First, consider the age and sensitivity of your plumbing and the amount you wish to flush. Second, some cities' water treatment facilities are not able to remove a parasite that cats often carry.
If you plan to flush, check the website of your local water and sewer company to find out whether they can filter the toxoplasmosis parasite. If so, flush away. If not, or if your litter is not flushable, bag the litter and dispose of it in the trash. Some suburbanites or rural residents bury their cat litter. You could do this, but do not bury litter (and possibly parasites) near water. If the parasite can enter your water source, the savings in the landfill is not worth it.
Oddly, many people toilet train their cats. Some training systems use instructional CDs. Alternatively, some cat behaviorists step their clients' cats through this training. Again, check whether your sewer company is able to filter the parasite.
Oh, and if you were considering simply letting your cat roam and do his business elsewhere, the world is not your cat's litter box. If your cat uses others' yards for toileting, your neighbors pick up after your cat. You haven't solved a problem. You've simply shifted your problem onto someone else's garden. Understanding more about how our cats can effect our environment is one step closer to preserving it.
Share Your Stories
Please share your stories about cat litter choices. I'd love to hear from you. Leave a comment below!
Carol has been fascinated by cats ever since she watched a bobcat hunt along the swamps of her childhood home. She writes about the many felines that have graced her life at www.thiswildlife.com.