The Scoop on [More] Sustainable Kitty Litter

Blind foster kitty extraordinaireMeet Brie. She falls in the 10% of things in my life that aren’t particularly green and I refuse to feel guilty about (see previous entry). This photo was taken during the year she spent in a cage at a no-kill cat shelter waiting for a home. Brie is blind and had never been socialized, so she was a bit of a hard sell. I felt bad for this grumpy, unadoptable cat, so I took her home. She’s now a very happy and affectionate kitty, and I’m grateful to have her in my life.

Anyway, even if having a carnivorous domestic animal can never be environmentally friendly, I’m still always looking for ways to lower her impact. Probably the most effective — buying grass-fed, sustainably raised meat and making my own cat food — really grosses me out as a vegetarian. I’ll get there one day. Maybe.

But there was something I knew I could totally do right now, and that was to stop using clay based kitty litter. Conventional bentonite-based kitty litter is strip-mined — not a byproduct of some other activity. The US Bureau of Mines estimates that about 1.5 million metric tons of clay were mined to make the absorbent type of cat litter alone in 1994. It contributes to mountain top loss, is not renewable, and doesn’t biodegrade.

From a cat health perspective, the silica dust in clay cat litters can cause lung and internal damage to our furry friends, to say nothing of the synthetic chemicals and fragrances added. Yuck. So I regretfully bid farewell to Everclean and ventured into more sustainable kitty litter. Thus far, I’ve tried two: World’s Best Cat Litter and Feline Pine (scoopable). Honestly? Neither works as well as clay litter, and both cost more, but I do think they are viable options for a healthier cat and planet.

World’s Best Cat Litter: whole kernel corn based litter, slightly larger granules than clay, light grain-y scent. $8/7lb

I gradually mixed World’s Best in with my Everclean, and at first, all seemed well. Clumping power was good, smell was under control, kitty had no objections to the change. Tracking wasn’t too bad, either, considering Brie likes to dig.  However, by the time we were done changing over (2-3 weeks), the smell was starting to be pretty offensive. It’s exactly what you think moldy corn and kitty fecal matter would smell like together, even with daily scoopings, even with new litter added. If you were willing to dump out all the litter every week or two and start with new stuff, I think World’s Best would work very well. However, at a dollar or more per pound, it’s going to be pricey.

Pros: clumping, low tracking, company donates to pet charities
Cons: Smell, price

***Update: Drew, from WBL, was awesome enough to send me a bag of the multi-cat formula to try. I was happier with the odor control, and the clumping was great, especially after months of using Feline Pine. I’ve had good results mixing the two. Target now carries both Feline Pine and World’s Best Litter.

Feline Pine (scoopable formula): a pine sawdust litter from scrap lumber that has been heated and had the wood oil removed. Available in pellet and scoopable varieties, $5/4lbs (lightweight, so more volume). Coarse sawdust texture, very light natural pine scent.

I started off by mixing scoopable Feline Pine into my now-mephitic corn litter, but soon realized that I just needed to start over. I took the chance that Brie would be OK with a faster switch (she was), so I scrubbed her box and filled it just with Feline Pine. The reduction in odor was amazing. However, the texture is fluffy, so it doesn’t scoop particularly well. If you give the scoop a vigorous shake to get loose litter through the holes, clumps are likely to fall apart on you. (Best technique: scoop under visible areas of wet and shake gently, if at all.) I’m realizing that all biodegradable litters are subject to bacteria, so you’ll still want to change your entire box every two weeks or so. Because it’s so light, however, it works out to be quite a bit cheaper than World’s Best.

Pros: odor control, price, easy to carry up apartment stairs
Cons: tracking, scoopability

The good news is that both of these companies offer full rebates for first time users on their sites. I know for a fact World’s Best honors rebates; I haven’t tried Feline Pine’s. This review was not sponsored by either; it’s just my own experiences using them. What have yours been with [more] sustainable kitty litters?

11 responses to this post.

  1. Hmmm…. your post got me thinking about where the bentonite clay comes from that is used in so many cleanses and natural body care products.

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 08/21/2010 at 08:41

      I thought bentonite sounded familiar. Maybe there’s another way to source it? Sigh. Some days it seems like the more closely you look, the more things you find aren’t at all environmentally sustainable.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Lisa on 08/21/2010 at 13:12

    A plug for my favorite litter:
    Swheat Scoop is a scoopable, non-clay litter made of wheat. I found it less dusty and better at clumping than the World’s Best. Because it is better at clumping, it is better on odours as well. After trying several brands of non-clay litters, I found it to be the best all-round for me and my cat.

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 08/21/2010 at 16:29

      Thanks for the input! I’ll try that one next…as you can tell, I’m not totally thrilled with either of these, though I can picture myself sticking with the Feline Pine.

      Reply

    • Posted by Tony on 11/23/2010 at 09:15

      wah – We’ve been using Swheat Scoop for a while now. Unfortunately our local Target just stopped stocking it, so I’m thinking of trying a Pine based litter next. Both the Target and our local grocery stores carry that. We do 95% of our shopping on foot or by bike, so schlepping cat litter from the nearest pet supply stores is out of the question as they are all more than five miles away.

      I have not been totally in love with the Swheat as it is not the greatest clumper, at least for this two cat family.

      Reply

      • That’s great that you do so much of your shopping without a car! Kitty litter is pretty heavy, although Feline Pine is light for its size. I’ve had good results mixing World’s Best Cat Litter (multicat formula) with Feline Pine to get better clumping and smell control. I think Target now carries WBL as well.

        Reply

        • Posted by Mandy on 03/26/2011 at 08:38

          I also shop without a car… we in Canada have PC Green (a store brand of a food chain. Loblaws) litter, it’s corn cobs ground up and I find the smell OK. It lasts too. We have a local lady in my province who makes wheat and barley litter, but the clumps are horrible and it stinks. My bf’s aunt uses cedar or pine shavings I think… I never notice a smell, but I haven’t used it myself. I used the corn stuff long before I started trying to be more green simply because it is flushable.

          Reply

  3. […] I have been unable to find out how and where B-mix is mined, but if it’s anything like the clay that goes into kitty litter, it’s most likely […]

    Reply

  4. Posted by Kristin on 10/12/2011 at 11:45

    Don’t flush your cat litter!!! It is not safe to have that in our water supply!

    Reply

  5. […] even better, it’s quick and easy, reuses materials, and biodegrades (or would, if you use non-clay cat litters and our landfills let things biodegrade). I find it especially satisfying to fold up an annoying […]

    Reply

  6. […] even better, it’s quick and easy, reuses materials, and biodegrades (or would, if you use non-clay cat litters and our landfills let things biodegrade). I find it especially satisfying to fold up an annoying […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: