Monthly Archives: September 2008

Eco-Friendly Cat Litter Reviews

Eco-friendly, enviro-friendly, earth friendly (or whatever you want to call it) cat litter appears to have hit the big time in the world of cat litter. These days, you can get litter made from pine, corn, newspaper, guar bean, wheat, etc. In my greenventory to reduce Furball’s carbon pawprint, litter is definitely an important item to consider.

However, changing cat litter is always a tricky process. Fortunately for me, Furball is already using an eco-friendly litter. If you’re considering making the switch, I can share with you our experience with three enviro-friendly cat litters.

When evaluating these cat litter reviews, you should take into consideration that Furball urinates about 4x as much as other cats due to his high water diet (for crystals, more on that later) and that his box is in a fairly well-ventilated bathroom.

1. Yesterday’s News

Seven years ago when I first brought home a teeny baby Furball, there was a dearth of earth friendly cat litter. At the time, there was only one product available at PetSmart — now it looks like almost 1/4 of their litters are eco-friendly. The litter was called Yesterday’s News Cat Litter and it was made from recycled newspapers.

From what I recall, it was manufactured by some company in the maritimes, although now, the bag is plastered with the Purina logo and comes in a gajillion varieties, so I’m guessing the smaller company got bought out. Furball was already litter trained when I got him and luckily he took to Yesterday’s News like tomorrow’s latest trend. It’s made up of tiny grey cylindrical pellets that fit through the slots of a standard litter scoop.

PROS:

  • 7/10 for controlling odour; as good as any eco-friendly litter can get
  • Doesn’t track dust
  • Easy to scoop #2 from the cat litter
  • Made from recycled newspapers
  • Comes in a “softer” version that is more “clay-like” so this might be a good transitional litter if your cat is used to clay

CONS:

  • Impossible to shake out all of the pellets through the scoop as they JUST FIT through
  • Pellets stick in between the cat’s toes and can be found occasionally throughout the house
  • “Softer” version tracked little crumbly bits all over the house
  • Scented version stinks like fake perfume

2. Cat Country

When I moved to California, the local PetSmart did not carry Yesterday’s News or any other enviro-friendly cat litter. Fortunately, I found Petfood Depot, which had several eco-friendly litters to choose from. It probably took me half an hour to read through the bags and ingredients.

I went with Cat Country Litter for a couple of reasons. One, it seemed so “California” to be using litter made from organic wheatgrass. Two, it was shaped exactly like Yesterday’s News, so I hoped the cat would transition without incident. Fortunately, Furball switched without really even noticing the difference.

PROS:

  • Made from organic ingredients
  • Family owned, sustainable business
  • 7/10 for controlling odour; as good as any eco-friendly litter can get
  • Doesn’t track dust
  • Easy to scoop #2 from the cat litter
  • Flushable (see important note below)

CONS:

  • Smells like malted barley — I put out a fresh box before the pet-sitter arrived and she dumped out the whole box thinking it was full of cat urine because of the weird smell. On the plus side, you only smell it if you’re near it.
  • Impossible to shake out all of the pellets through the scoop as they JUST FIT through
  • Pellets stick in between the cat’s toes and can be found occasionally throughout the house

3. Swheat Scoop

I was enticed to try Swheat Scoop Natural Cat Litter after a fabulous sales pitch at the Sweat Scoop booth at the San Francisco Green Festival in 2007. The person RAVED about the superior odour control of their cat litter and how eco-friendly it was. He also gave me a bunch of coupons so I decided it was worth it to try a change. This time Furball did not take as quickly to the new litter.

I did the whole litter transition process, but he seemed very unsure and wouldn’t use his box for the whole day. I think what confused him most was that the litter was made from wheat. It seemed he wasn’t sure whether he should eat it or pee in it.

When I brought the bag home and opened it up, he meowed and rubbed up against me like I had just brought home the ultimate mega-sized bag of cat food. After I poured it in his box, he looked extremely puzzled, with a “why are you pouring my food in my cat box?” look on his face. He kept sniffing the box and looking at me.

I finally figured out that he was wondering whether he should eat it when he kept pawing at the bag and trying to get into it like he would with a bag of cat food.

PROS:

  • 7/10 for controlling odour; as good as any eco-friendly litter can get
  • Flushable (see important note below)
  • Made from wheat, so it’s natural

CONS:

  • It’s made from wheat so the cat wasn’t sure whether to eat it or pee in it
  • Flour + water = glue. So too, Swheat Scoop + urine = bricks of litter that are really hard to scoop
  • Odour control wasn’t any better than the other two eco-friendly litters I used
  • Made of tiny granules that did track. These were a pain to sweep up.
  • Priced slightly higher than Cat Country
  • It’s made from wheat, so I’m not sure if they’re diverting resources from the food chain

My neighbour used it for her cat and thought the odour control was pretty good. She said she didn’t have a problem with the litter bricks, but she did say that you had to use enough of it to avoid this problem and that “you have to stay on top of it”.

Conclusion

Based on my three eco-friendly cat litter reviews, I personally would give thumbs up to Yesterday’s News and Cat Country. For me, Cat Country Litter edges out Yesterday’s News because it’s organic and made by a family-run sustainable business.

When doing a green evaluation, you might conclude the opposite, that Yesterday’s News is better because it’s made by a large company (i.e., larger impact, economies of scale and efficiencies) and uses recycled newspaper. Just goes to show nothing is 100% cut and dry when doing an environmental evaluation, especially for cat litter.

However, I did find both of these eco-friendly cat litters be fairly equal in their use in the real world. I’d give thumbs down to Swheat Scoop for the extra labour involved in scooping, the tracking of wheat dust and that it’s using wheat.

Other “Earth Friendly” Cat Litters

These litters on the PetSmart website also look like they might be eco-friendly or “natural”. However, I haven’t had any experience with them. Please post a comment if you have used them and let us know your experience with these or any other enviro-friendly litters not listed here.

  • World’s Best Cat Littermade from corn. With all of the controversy surrounding biodiesel made from corn, this might not be so enviro-friendly. On the other hand, it is an extremely lightweight litter so there would be carbon savings in transporting and shipping it.
  • Nature’s Miracle Just for Cats Corn Cob Cat Litter
    – I’ve used their carpet cleaning solution and it really did neutralize the urine smell. The company says it uses “enzymes” as opposed to chemicals, so I suppose if odour control is really an issue, this might be a better product to use.
  • Feline Pine
    – Made from “kiln-dried shavings reclaimed from lumber production

IMPORTANT NOTE In the state of California, there are concerns about flushing your cat litter in the toilet. Every bag of cat litter must include a warning label. Why? Apparently sea otters are being killed by parasites found in cat feces, specifically Toxoplasma gondii.

Related Articles

Taking Greenventory

To begin greening up my cat’s life, I decided to start by taking a “greenventory” to see where we’re at and where we can improve. At first glance, Furball’s life is already pretty green, but I think looking at things in more detail will reveal ample opportunities to reduce his carbon pawprint.

Here’s my initial list of proposed items to look at:

  • Food
  • Litter
  • Toys
  • Health
  • Bedding
  • Accessories

I then visited the PetSmart website and saw a few other categories to add:

  • Carriers and Door
  • Collars, Leads and Tags
  • Furniture and Scratchers
  • Grooming
  • Repellents
  • Stains and Odour

I decided to ignore some other categories such as “Halloween Shop”, “New Kitten Center” and “Gifts”. While I must admit the Cat Lover’s Monopoly looks cute, I think we can all go without a Halloween Shop for our cats. WTF??? That’s a whole category they might as well label as “Halloween Landfill”. Note the “Whisker City Halloween Clown Wig” below. I feel sorry for that cat.

Your cat does not need this

Furball Goes Green

Cat goes green
I’ve been an environmentalist since I was seven. I wrote the government asking what they were doing to stop acid rain. They sent me some brochures I couldn’t understand and a button that said, “STOP ACID RAIN”. I think the button hooked me. Ever since then, I’ve been an advocate for the environment.

As a teenager, I re-used my brown paper lunch bag. Something felt so wrong about throwing away a crisp new bag each day. There was no recycling in schools back then, so I felt bad about the pop cans that I tossed. A friend and I went door to door to canvas for waste paper so that we could aggregate it and take it to one of the very few recycling facilities. In the late 80s, environmentalism was all the rage. I embraced the green wagon, but was sad when it faded away as just another trend, it’s only impression being some trees planted on Earth Day.

For awhile, I stopped caring as the apathy of others disheartened me. Rather ironic. One day, it dawned on me that if I didn’t care, no one else would care. So, I re-embraced my greenness. I carried reusable bags when it was completely unacceptable and actually was not allowed to leave a store without taking a bag for “security reasons”. In university, I volunteered for the school’s recycling program and hauled blue bins of smelly recyclables across the campus. I even washed my milk bags for reuse.

After I graduated, I set up an apartment worm composter, commuted by public transit, bicycle and walking for 12 years, shopped for organic food at dingy granola health food stores (no Whole Foods back then), gave up photography (too many nasty chemicals), worked at World Wildlife Fund for 1/2 my previous salary, ate mostly vegan meals, used hand-me-down furniture, washed dishes by hand (turning the tap on only to rinse) and donated to environmental charities.

In the past few years, I’ve softened my stance so as not to live like a pauper. However, most of my old habits are still in place. My previous landlady remarked that I lived “very modestly.” Now, it’s all about the organic rubber mattress, the Community Supported Agriculture (shopping locally and in season), setting the AC for 80 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping a watering can in the bathroom to capture the water when you turn on the tap to take a shower, etc.

My point is that when you think you’ve gone green, there is always more you can do. However, a sustainable life doesn’t mean you have to live like you’re destitute. Where’s the enjoyment in that? And, not too many people are going to want to join you. That’s where the true green power is–in numbers.

So it seems fitting that now is the time to look at my cat and see how his life can be greener. If you have a pet, I invite you to join me in discovering how you can reduce your pet’s carbon footprint.


 

Green Little Cat is the only blog that's all about eco-friendly ideas for cats and cat lovers. This blog is a labor of love, created by Holly Tse, author of Make Your Own Cat Toys.
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