Monday, May 18, 2009
By Julia Williams
While there are many pleasurable aspects of feline companionship, dealing with the litter box is not one of them. Thankfully, there have been vast improvements in kitty litter in the last decade or so. These new types of cat litter are infinitely better at odor control and absorbency than the original non-clumping clay litter developed in the late 40s. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me to use the non-clumping clay litter, which requires dumping the entire litter box contents every week unless you want your house to have that “eau de cat” smell.
Clumping litter, in my opinion, was the best pet invention ever. This type of litter forms solid “clumps” when wet, which can be easily scooped out of the cat box while the rest of the litter stays relatively fresh. You just add more kitty litter to the box a few times a week, and clean the entire litter box once a month or so. The first clumping cat litter came on the market in the 80s; it was made from granulated bentonite clay, and is still used many cat owners today. If you like the clumping aspect but prefer a more natural alternative, there are now clumping cat litters made from corn, wheat, sawdust, newspaper and pine pellets.
So which type of cat litter is the best then? For cat owners, there is no definitive answer to the question. The best cat litter for one person may not be the right choice for another. Cost, absorbency, odor control, biodegradability, tracking and texture all factor into the equation. But the ultimate thing that determines which type of cat litter is the best for your household, is that your cat likes it. Some cats will use virtually any kind of kitty litter you put in the box. Others have definite preferences and will very clearly let you they don’t like their litter, by having “accidents” outside the cat box. If you have a finicky feline, then your choices are a bit more limited. Trust me, if your cat doesn’t like a particular litter, nothing else matters.
I used the clumping clay cat litter for many, many years and was quite happy with it. I switched to a natural cat litter made from finely ground corn, for several reasons. There have been claims that clumping clay cat litter can be harmful to cats if ingested, because it swells up and might cause intestinal blockages. Although there is no confirmed scientific evidence of that happening, I decided to err on the safe side. Clumping clay cat litters also typically contain silica dust, which asthmatic cats (and their human caretakers) should avoid. After I replaced my cats’ open litter box with a covered style (which I absolutely love), I didn’t think it would be good for them to breathe in the dust that’s kicked up when they scratch in the litter.
On the plus side, natural cat litter is safer, biodegradable, chemical free, and better for the environment. However, it does tend to be more expensive than clumping clay litter. The manufacturers of natural cat litter claim that the same size bag lasts longer than clay-based litters, but I haven’t found this to be true with the types I have tried. I personally think the corn-based natural cat litter I’m using offers enough advantages to compensate for the increased cost, but it’s an individual decision that every pet owner needs to make for themselves.
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