The debated dangers of clay/clumping kitty litter have given birth to a number of "green" kitty litter products. The new products are made from a range of materials including corn, wheat, wood pellets, and newspaper. I know that I can sometimes feel daunted by a sudden influx of new products on the market, so I hope I can help you avoid that experience.
What is the problem with clay/clumping kitty litters?
Unfortunately, clay/clumping kitty litter does have a strong potential to be seriously hazardous to both humans and pets. Clumping agents include two dangerous chemicals, sodium bentonite and quartz silica, a known carcinogen. Sodium bentonite expands with fluids up to 18 times the dry size. Think of your cats licking the dust of this chemical off their paws and coats. Sodium bentonite has been linked to dehydration in cats, which can lead to kidney dysfunction. Quartz silica poses the hazard any carcinogen does. Both chemicals are released in dust both you and your pet breathe and can cause allergic reactions in some people and pets. (Some pet owners use this type of liter for other types of pets as well, such as ferrets). Clay/clumping kitty liters are also a burden on landfills. Some clay for use as kitty litter has also been noted to have been strip mined.
What are the benefits of green kitty litters?
The benefits of green kitty litters are about the same for all products. The benefits include:
- High absorption
- Reduced odor
- Low to no dust
- No chemicals
- Low tracking.
- Costs for green kitty litters are about 30% higher than clay/clumping
- The production of corn and wheat, unless farmed in an environmentally friendly way, often contributes to damaging water sources with pesticides and fertilizers
- Some cats will need to adjust to the feel of a different material. Natural kitty litter companies usually suggest mixing materials until the pet(s) adjust.
- Yesterday's News (recycled newspaper)
- Feline Pine (pine pellets, similar if not identical to the pellets used for pellet stoves)
- Swheat Scoop (ground/textured wheat)
- The World's Best Cat Litter (ground/textured corn).
One of the qualities of some natural kitty litters, The World's Best Cat Litter in particular, includes the ability to safely flush your cat's feces. The important word here is "safely." What the companies are referring to is the product not turning into highly expandable cement, which essentially, clay kitty litter is. Naturally, you don't want a material like that in your plumbing. However, it can be dangerous to humans and wildlife to flush cat feces due to the potential for it to contain toxoplasmosis eggs. Toxoplasmosis eggs have a hard shell which is difficult to break down, even in the best sewage treatment plants. The eggs have been linked to high death rates for sea otters in a study done by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine for example. The state of California actively requests its residents to put cat feces in the trash as opposed to flushing.
I, and a number of friends, have used green kitty litters and find them to be completely effective. The hazards related to clay/clumping kitty litter have been too strong to ignore.