Lately I have been hearing debates about the environmental impact of the manufacturing process of cat litter and the impact upon disposal.
The people having these discussions are either not cat caretakers or they only have one feline. The real debate is: "Will your feline adjust to a new product?"
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Noble intentions are great, but if your feline does not like the scent or texture of the product you choose, you will be crying the litter box blues.
Feline caretakers are bombarded with numerous choices. Clay vs. clumping clay. Plant derivatives, such as corn, wheat or pine, are all recycled matter, as is recycled paper pellets. Multiple silica gel products have also hit the market in recent years.
Besides your feline's wishes, how should you choose? Your main concerns are probably dictated by budget, cleanliness and ease of scooping or how often.
Mixed clay is the cheapest alternative on a budget. You will change the box more often because this product is messy, even in the low dusting formulas. I call this variety "my parents' generation of cat litter."
If you are budget conscious, spend the extra to pump up one grade and purchase clumping litter. This litter clumps when wet and easily scoops out. Not every brand is equal in clumping power, so you may have to try several before you find one that does a satisfactory job.
Conservationists find clay challenging because of the large amount of space it takes up in landfills. Only so much clay in soil is necessary to keep toxins from leaching into our soil. Let's face it, we are running out of landfill areas.
My experience with recycled pellets such as corn, wheat, pine and paper was not very positive. My felines hated the texture of the pellets, and though they used the litter box, I could tell they were not happy with these products by the way they walked into the box.
Even mixing pellets with some clumping product did not please them. The pine broke off into pieces that were messy sawdust and the paper pellets smelled like dirty ink when wet. The recycled paper pellets were far messier than the plant derivatives. My felines hated it so much they did not even want to use it post surgery.
Even if the environmental impact of plant and paper litter is more friendly, I say, "So what, if the cats do not like the litter."
Paper products are also messy if you have light colored floors. Save this product for post-surgery situations.
Silica gel is a synthetically manufactured product that is probably the most expensive to use. The product is very absorbing and odor trapping. They crystals absorb the urine totally by drawing it to the bottom of the box. You scoop less frequently and solid waste is easily removed and bagged.
In single cat households, silica's claim to fame is that you only change the box totally once a month. With that said, it is clear silica has less disposal implications on the environment vs. clay.
Clumping clay and silica hybrids are also available. This option is far more affordable than pure silica crystals. Whether or not this option is available to you might be determined by the number of felines that need to use the box. In multiple cat households, the hybrid variety tends to become more messy and much more scooping is necessary.
Finding the right litter for your ease of cleaning and keeping our felines happy can be quite the challenge. Whatever you try, do not change out all the litter at once. You may have a rebellion on your hands. You may even want to stick to the adage, "Don't fix it, if it's not broken."
• Smirnoff is a 3- to 4-year-old, beautiful gray and white longhair Maine coon/Russian blue. He was found outside in sub-zero temperatures and a good Samaritan brought him to Buddy. Unfortunately, Smirnoff tested positive for FIV and must be an only cat or in a home with another FIV cat. He is simply the sweetest cat and loves to be petted. He would make a wonderful addition to any family.
• Jimmy is a brown, black and tan shorthair tabby approximately 2 years old. He is very friendly and loves to just sit on your lap. He can be somewhat of a talker, as he likes to visit with the other cats at the shelter and socialize with them. Jimmy is a great cat and needs a forever home.
• The Buddy Foundation, 65 W. Seegers Road, Arlington Heights, is a nonprofit (501c3), all volunteer, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to the welfare of stray, abused and abandoned cats and dogs. For information, call (847) 290-5806 or visit thebuddyfoundation.org.