When man domesticated the cat, they didn’t have cat litter. The cats went and did their business outside, and came back in. Cats instinctively know to look for dirt or soil to excrete. Today, cats are kept indoors for health and safety reasons. Since cats have become more domesticated, they are less able to defend themselves against predators, and have outside contaminants to worry about that didn’t exist hundreds of years ago. That’s why today, cat litter is where cats are “doing their business.”
Why You Shouldn’t Use Ordinary Cat Litter
What’s wrong with using cat litter? There are a few inherent reasons that cat litter can be bad for the environment, and for your cat. Over the years, cat litter has become more sophisticated and chemically arranged. Instead of simply having gravel in a bag, kitty litter has been formulated to maximize absorbency and to even clump onto urine or solids. Then, there’s also the artificial fragrance, all while trying to keep the material somewhat natural, something your cat will still want to call his or her private wee station. Cat litter, furthermore, is creates a fine carcinogenic dust when kicked up that can can be really bad for cats (and you).
Ingestion of KittyLitter
Kitty litter is also ingested regularly by cats. That means that the sodium bentonite that causes the litter to clump will expand in their insides, clogging things up. Compare it to working around asbestos, and sometimes accidentally eating it. It’s breathed in, clogging nasal passages and coating the lungs (and doing who knows what else down the line).
The Cons of Flushable Litter
A surprising by product of cat litter is flushable cat litter, which may have had a profound impact on sea life in California. Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite, is often ingested by cats through eating animals like birds or rodents. The parasite is hardy, and can survive even after being excreted and flushed, winding up in ocean beds and in marine life. So what? Well, the parasite may have been the cause of the deaths of many otters along the California coast. There is no waste treatment for toxoplasma gondii, so the survivability rate is high. Read more about the parasite and eco friendly cat litter at Planet Discovery.
What should you use instead of traditional clumping cat litter?
Indoors cats need a place to go to the bathroom, that much we know. However, they don’t need the grocery store bought bags of chemically created “sand” that companies want us to buy. There are eco friendly alternatives out there that are far better for your kitty. Green Little Cat has an excellent post summarizing the best eco friendly cat litter available, from the Purina owned Yesterday’s News to lesser known litters.
Intro photo of cat by Keven Law on flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.
For more information on greening your cat, head to Green Little Cat, a blog written by Holly Tse. The website contains dozens of useful posts on green cat food, litter, and greening the pet industry.