What goes in your cat box? I’m not talking about Sheba’s “creative efforts” but the substrate she likes to dig. Did you know that indoor cat toilets are a relatively recent innovation? Most cats spent time outside and did their business in the dirt. The inside felines might be accommodated with a box of sand or perhaps ashes. Can you imagine the sooty footprints? Back in the winter of 1947 in Cassopolis, Michigan, a cat owner’s sand pile froze, and she got tired of using ashes for her pet. She visited the local hardware that sold industrial absorbents including sawdust and filler’s earth (a type of clay). Edward Lowe suggested using clay instead of sand for the cat--and it turned into a multi-billion dollar industry after his introduction of the original Kitty Litter, and later Tidy Cats and Scamp. Purina bought the brands much later and expanded the market even further. From humble beginnings at 65-cents per 5-pound bag, today cat owners find a smorgasbord of litter choices. But what you like and what Sheba prefers may not agree. We’re all about odor control and convenience. Cats just want something soft to dig in, that doesn’t offend their noses. Strong perfumes and dust can turn them off. And we all know what happens when Sheba shuns the box--we have to change the carpet! You can still find plain clay litter. Cats love the clumping clay litters because of their fine texture. Humans love ‘em for their ease of scooping waste. But clay litters get dusty--they’re dirt, after all. The finer stuff tracks more, too, especially if it catches in very furry cat feet. The most common additive to make it clump, called sodium bentonite, can pose a risk to mouthy kittens that taste everything or to d*gs intent on raiding the box. To answer the demands of eco-friendly owners, you can find edible and biodegradable litters made from corn, wheat, paper, cedar chips, and even citrus. I’m a bit perplexed, frankly, by the citrus litters since most cats hate the smell and I recommend citrus as a feline deterrent. *shrug* Some of the corn and wheat products, like World’s Best Cat Litter (corn) and Swheat Scoop also clump, and may work in the automatic litter boxes. Side-by-Side Kitty Litter Comparison Newer kinds of litters include silica gel crystals that absorb moisture and odor as readily as many of the clumping litters. Some of these clump, others do not. The latest innovation, called Perfect Litter, is a flushable septic-tank safe granule made from vermiculite and perlite found with potting soil at garden shops. It includes a milk protein safe enough to lick for odor control--how about that?! Instead of bentonite, it uses a food-grade starch for clumping. Five pounds of this litter equals thirty-five pounds of traditional clay litters. I haven’t tried it yet, but sounds like a contender and there are free samples available at www.perfectlitter.com. Bottom line--the best litter in the world ain’t worth spit if your kitten or cat won’t use it. Cats love routine, so if your cat’s happy with the facilities, don’t mess with success. Unless you want new carpets.
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