I’ve decided on a litter situation for my sandbox diggers, and it does involve clay, but let me explain a little about clay litter first to dispel some of the myths out there that you might come across from the hippy-dippy anti-clay litter movement.
1. I want to use a more natural product/more environmentally friendly product.
Uh, Bentonite clay IS a natural product. It comes from the earth. It’s mined from the earth here in the US and in many other countries as well. Yes, mining sucks. Mining is not an environmentally friendly activity, but the creation of most cat litters is not environmentally friendly, doesn’t matter if it’s corn, wheat, newspaper, wood, whatever. Anything that has to be grown takes up space that has to be stripped for planting and managed, which includes chemical fertilizers and pesticides and processing. Wood litter is waste from the lumber industry, and newspaper is, well, newspaper, which requires a ridiculous amount of processing for reuse. So aside from letting your cats do their business outside, all cat litter is natural and no cat litter is 100% environmentally friendly. If we really cared about mining, we’d give up salt and all our electronics among other things.
You can use less clay or no clay at all, but that won’t stop the mining process since Bentonite clay is used in a wide variety of industries including Medicine, Natural and Holistic Healthcare, and it is used to clarify wine, liquor, cider, beer, and vinegar.
2. I want something biodegradable. That clay cat poop blob is going to sit in the landfill forever.
I do have to laugh at this one because animals shitting in the dirt is as natural as you can get and for ten years I worked for a national waste management company, so I know a thing or two about landfills. Guess what? Bentonite clay is used in landfills as liner material. Because of what it is and how it works, it is used in all sorts of geotechnical and environmental applications. Want to know what’s worse for a landfill? Plastic. Batteries. Certain light bulbs, and all those electronics people throw away because they are too lazy to dispose of them properly. Landfills are toxic waste sites. Bentonite and your cat shit are not even remotely an issue.
3. I want something less dusty, more hypoallergenic.
Again, sorry to be a buzzkill, but anything processed is going to be dusty. Cat litter companies love to lie about this one with their 99% dust free claim. 99% of what? The bag? If so, that 1% of the bag that’s nothing but dust is some muthafuckin dusty-assed shit. I’ve found the corn-based litters to be the worst. As for the hypoallergenic thing, this is just more false information. Allergies can develop to anything really, and since cats lick their feet, anything they come into contact with may or may not cause an allergic reaction over time, including your fabric softener and many common household cleaners, even natural ones with essential oils. Corn and Wheat are notorious for their hyperallergenic properties and they are also susceptible to aflatoxins and bugs while in storage. I’ve also found them to be the dustier of the bunch. Wood, especially pine, is also a known allergen. If it smells like pine, then there are residual phenols in it. You get the idea.
4. I want something that tracks around the house less.
The only litters that don’t track are pellet litters, and we know how fond cats are of those. NOT. If you’ve got a cat who likes pellets, good for you, you are truly blessed, but for me, I’d still be sweeping because my guys mine their boxes like cracked-out badgers. High sided litter boxes, ha! My cats just laugh in my general direction.
5. I want something that controls odor.
Wouldn’t we all, but aside from letting your cat shit outside or use the toilet (please don’t do this as it contaminates the water supply) the only thing that controls odor is scooping. OFTEN. Scented litter causes allergies and just leaves your house smelling like perfumed piss and shit. Zeolite and Baking Soda are safer and they work, but they are also very dusty and you have to use a lot. $$$$$ So clumping cat litters are best but they must be scooped, at minimum, twice a day. It’s a labor of love really, and looking at your cats’ piss balls and chocolatey swirls can alert you to health issues faster. Trust me; I am an expert.
I’m sure there are more litter myths out there, but those are the big ones I’ve been battered with on every cat site I can think of since I started this crusade — see handy-dandy chart I found — so after weighing all of my options, this is what I am going with: Dr. Esley’s Respiratory Relief clay and Blue Buffalo Walnut litter. I wanted to try the grass litter (ferals love grass) but at $30.00 a bag, it’s just too gold-leaf toilet paper ridiculous.
Moon has herpes and allergies, and Rupert is FIV positive. Par for the course with former feral cats, so I have to be careful about a lot of things. The combination of these two products produces very low dust and tracking and has excellent scooping and decent odor control. Because of the way the walnut clumps, I seem to be able to remove more from the box than with clay alone, and for some reason, the clay seems to knock down the walnut dust and vice versa while keeping it confined to the box. I wipe my floors in front of the boxes every time I scoop, and there is very little if any dust on the floor. Tidy cat had my house looking like a cementitious powdered donut, and the clay clumps broke apart easy with their digging, so I never felt like I got it all out. Plus, after a week of pissing in it, the boxes looked like they were covered in hardened grout. I do not like scrubbing cement off of things. The combination of these two seems to prevent this from happening. Corn, wheat, and wood have too many potential issues especially when it comes to Rupert and his already compromised immune system. Moon’s eyes are even less watery since I switched, and I don’t need to wear a dust mask when scooping anymore, so something is working.
So, all that said, my long-winded tirade has come to an end, and here is my formula for now:
½ Inch of Dr. Esley’s Respiratory Relief Clay cat litter (the least dusty of all that I have tried.)
2 and ½ Inches of Blue Buffalo Walnut Multi Cat (clumps really nice too.)
I scoop twice, sometimes three times a day, especially if I get turd-bombed (Moon is a terrorist.) I add about 4 cups of Walnut litter to the boxes once a week and give it a good stir. This has reduced my clay litter usage monumentally. I would get rid of the clay, but the walnut is too light without it and the odor control is better with it. Just my opinion.
I have 3 boxes. I completely dump and scrub out 1 box a month with Hydrogen Peroxide, which is safer than bleach. As a prior-life fish keeper, we used Peroxide to kill a variety of nasty things that afflict fish, so it does work.
The cats also approve. They really seem to like the fluffy consistency too. The clay was too thick and hard and they seemed to dig more furiously. With this combination, they dig lightly and make less of a mess.