Clay Litter: Concerns and Alternatives

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February 9, 2012
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I have always had a pet cat and right now I have two cats. When I was a kid the litter was the hard, rocky, whitish clay litter that was common to use. It came in a thick paper bag and had suggestions for other uses such as pouring over oil spills in a garage and things like that. As I got older, the brands of litter changed and some of the clay ones started having scent crystals. Then the clumping type came out and that was good in terms of making it easier to clean the litter box but it was rock hard and the small pieces of it would be tracked around the house. Now there are a lot of different types of litter on the market and I have heard pros and cons of many of the brands. However, some vets and shelters still use the clay litter. I, personally, recommend litter that is biodegradable such as the pine and corn based ones for many reasons that benefit me and my cats.

Here’s some reasons I no longer use clay based litter:

1: Chemicals used in processing the litter can have health impacts on my cats and me. I’ve been moving away from chemicals that are harmful in my home for a while now, including cleaners, scented candles, and other products.

2: The dust from the clay litter contains silica, tiny particles of glass, and that is a respiratory irritant. It’s the type of dust that can be attributed to the problems some people have who work in mines, stone cutting places, and quarries. My cats are right in the box, digging and burying, and breathing in the dust. I’m breathing in the dust when I pour in new litter, toss out old litter. No one in my house needs to breathe in more toxins than we do already.

3: Sodium bentonite is the ingredient that makes the litter clump. When it gets wet it swells and I started wondering what happens if my cats lick their paws after using the litter box and swallow some of it? What is going into their digestive tract? The litter has a warning to not flush it because of the blockage it can cause in the pipes. What kind of blockage could it cause in my cats?

There are several alternate brands to try if you’re thinking of making the switch. I use litter from pine that is reclaimed from lumber production and breaks down in a sawdust. There is also corn based litter, wheat, and paper. All are more environmentally friendly, safer for us to be around, and safer for our cats. Remember though, when switching over, mix the litter to make the transition not as abrupt. Some cats are very picky and need change to happen slowly.

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