Day 5: How to Switch to Eco-Friendly Cat Litter — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

I will be the first to admit that switching to an enviro-friendly cat litter is not the easiest thing to do. However, it is the one thing that would probably have the most significant impact on reducing your cat’s carbon paw print. Think about it. Let’s conservatively estimate that your cat uses one pound of litter per week. That’s 52 pounds a year. Multiplied by at least 60 million cats in American households, and you get . . . ready for this?

3,120,000,000 pounds of litter annually

That’s 3 BILLION POUNDS!!!

Now, that could be 3 billion eco-friendlier pounds or 3 billion pounds of a non-renewable resource that is strip-mined. What is strip-mining? That’s when the surface of the land is removed and mined. In the case of kitty litter, the land is mined for sodium bentonite, the “natural clay” that makes up most commercial clumping litters. We’re talking tracts and tracts of land where the surface is stripped off. Even though the land is supposed to be “restored”, it will never be the same again.

Furball uses organic wheat grass litter, and before that, he was using recycled newspaper litter. I’ve never actually used clay with him, but our old family cat used the clumping litter. I will admit that the enviro-friendly litters are not as good at controlling odors, but that can be managed by cleaning the box at least every other day. For regular maintenance cleaning, just scoop out the big chunks and occasionally refresh with a few cups of new litter. Proceed with your deep clean as required, but I find with daily maintenance, I can usually get by with doing a major clean only once every 2 to 3 weeks.

Now, this is certainly not as convenient as letting the box collect for a few days, but consider this: there’s a reason why the box smells and why it should smell. That’s nature’s way of telling you the box is disgusting and should be cleaned. Think about it. Your cat is walking around in a box of bacteria-infested feces. Then, he’s walking around your house, on your table, on your counters, on your furniture, etc. So, regular maintenance cleaning is actually good for your cat and good for your household.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

Because this is a task that requires a bit of effort on your part, I’m going to simplify the process as best as I can.

  1. If you’re not convinced, read my post on why you should switch from a clay litter to an enviro-friendly cat litter by clicking this link.
  2. Next, pick a greener litter. Here’s a list of eco-friendly cat litter options to get you started. Ask friends what they use. If you find out they’re using still using clay, point them to this post by clicking the “Share This” link at the end of this blog posting. Go buy the smallest bag of the litter available. Be sure to combine this with your regular purchases and not make a special trip to the store just for the litter.
  3. To make the switch and minimize the potential for confusion (i.e., bodily function accident outside of the box), go slowly. The new litter should be introduced very gradually. When I switched Furball’s litter, I started by adding only a single cup of the new litter and mixing it in with his old litter. Over time, you gradually increase the proportion of new litter to old. I’ve seen various recommendations on the Internet of the process taking about 4 to 7 days. I’d give it two weeks if your cat is really sensitive. I also found this blogpost that recommended using non-clumping clay litter as an interim transition litter if your cat is finding the switch directly to a green litter to be too jarring.
  4. What to do with leftover clumping litter? Should you use it up and then switch? What if you have to try a different brand and have a bag of litter you can’t use? Here’s a simple solution. Join a local freecycle in your neighbourhood at freecycle.org. Just post that you are offering cat litter, and like magic, someone will want to take it off your hands.

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