I’ve always heard that clay litter wasn’t good for the environment, but never really knew why, so today, I decided to investigate and learn more. The more I learned, the more I’m glad that Furball has never used clay litter. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about switching to an environmentally friendly cat litter, here are some good reasons to switch litters.
Have you ever wondered what makes the cat litter clump together after your cat has urinated in it? I’ll be quite honest that this question had never crossed my mind before either. Well, today I learned that sodium bentonite is the key ingredient. It’s described benignly as a “natural clay” by many litter manufacturers.
A quick search on wikipedia reveals that sodium bentonite is a type of bentonite or clay that expands to several times its size when wet. It’s commonly used when drilling mud for oil and gas wells and for sealing things such as buried nuclear waste.
The health issues concern the ingestion and inhalation of sodium bentonite by your cat. When cats dig around in the litter, very fine particles may be inhaled. When they lick their paws, they may also ingest the clay.
There are claims that the litter causes asthma and lung issues and can block intestinal tracts. However, a visit to the Scoop Away® litter site reveals this: “Scoop Away® litter is not known to cause harm to animals, including kittens, when ingested in small quantities. However, if a pet eats a large amount of any litter (i.e. a bowlful), we recommend that you contact your vet.” I’m sure this statement is 100% true in that there is no known study that proves that this particular litter causes harm to animals when ingested in small quantities.
It’s up to you to decide whether this reassurance is good enough for you and your cat. Myself, I just think that sodium bentonite expands when wet. If the litter is dry outside of the cat, it will most certainly be wet once inside Kitty.
About.com has a very balanced article on the clumping clay controversy.
Sodium bentonite is mined. The Wyoming Mining Association (not singling anyone out, they just came up first in the Yahoo search) mined 5.2 million tons and milled 4.6 million tons of bentonite in 2005. In their own words, “Currently, Bentonite deposits in Wyoming make up 70 percent of the world’s known supply. It is economical to mine Bentonite as deep as 50 feet.”
It would not be a stretch to say that mining 50 feet deep has an impact on the environment. The US Bureau of Mines estimated that in 1994, approximately 1.5 million metric tons of clay were mined to make absorbent cat litter.
As I browsed around mining sites (company websites, that is), there was a strange dearth of photos of what the mines look like. However, I did find this one on Flickr by David Arran Photography.
Worldwise, a company that makes sustainable pet products writes that, “Each year over 2 million tons of cat litter, or approximately 100,000 truckloads, ends up in landfills in the U. S. alone.”
So based on what I learned about the health concerns of clay litter and the environmental impact of mining cat litter, it seems like the better choice for the planet to switch to an environmentally friendly cat litter. Go green, little cat!
Here’s Furball’s review of several eco-friendly alternatives for cat litter.
- Eco-friendly Litter Reviews
- How to Switch to Eco-Friendly Cat Litter
- Recycled Plastic Litter Boxes
- You’re Invited to Take the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge – Give your cat a green makeover in a month!