Q: I’ll buy greener cat litter, as long as it gets the job done. But how do I get my two frisky felines cats to actually use it?
A: First, kudos for considering a greener option. With an estimated 82 million cats purring away in U.S. households, a lot of cat poop gets dumped in local landfills. Traditional brands typically contain sodium bentonite (clay) that must be strip-mined, creating a long-term environmental impact. Even low-maintenance silica versions of cat litter are manufactured overseas, making them less than earth-friendly.
To resolve your kitty conundrum, I contacted the experts. Eddie and Hemingway are cats-in-residence at Park Pet Supply in East Atlanta. These two laid-back foster cats add personality, without the funk of untidy litter boxes. Neither feline would consent to an interview. However, store owner Victoria Park graciously offered a little cat litter guidance on their behalf.
Greener options do exist
Eddie and Hemingway use the World’s Best Cat Litter, which is made from whole-kernel corn. “It’s dust-free,” Park says, “and it’s awesome with odor control.” It’s also nontoxic, so there is little health risk if they eat it — not that Eddie or Hemingway would do something so crass. Other top-sellers at Park Pet include Feline Pine, which uses kiln-dried shavings from yellow Southern pine; Swheat Scoop, made from naturally processed wheat and Yesterday’s News, made with good, old-fashioned newspaper.
Green really is good for the wallet — and the cat
A 25-pound bag of clay-based cat litter may cost $5, but Park says you can go through a bag much quicker. “Everything [in the litter box] gets wet, you have to throw it out,” she says. While a 7-pound bag of World’s Best costs about $9.99 at her store, Park says it will serve Eddie and Hemingway for about two months. Also, she notes that clay particles are easily tracked through the house or inhaled. “If cats groom themselves, they can be ingesting that,” Park says.
Cats adjust to the litter swap
Park suggests investing in one litter box per cat. Eddie and Hemingway have two boxes strategically placed in the store, just in case one is occupied. To ease the transition in your home, Park suggests placing containers of old and new cat litter side-by-side. Once your cats work through the original litter, replace it with the new stuff. “If the cats won’t go near the second box, it might not be the right litter.”
Poop is still poop
There are conflicting reports on whether cat poop can be composted, because of potential parasites. “My friends have a shaker box for the Feline Pine,” she says. “They shake the pine through and use it for compost,” discarding the cat waste.
As for training cats to use the toilet, it may be more trouble than it’s worth. Wastewater treatment facilities often lack the means to remove potential parasites. Also, you don’t want to deal with that waste coming back to haunt you if the toilet ever floods.
“We fill up [Eddie and Hemingway’s] box, scoop out waste and keep it in a biodegradable doodoo bag,” Park says. “When we fill that up, then we throw that in the garbage.”
Cater to your cat (as usual)
“Eddie likes to balance on the side of the cat box and go,” Park says. “He does not like to get his feet in the box until he’s ready to cover it. … Hemingway just gets in there and goes.” As a result, large, open containers work best for them. Your cats’ potty habits will help determine the best litter box to use. “If you make the cat box a happy, enjoyable place for the cats, they are going to be more inclined to use it.”