Cat litter can be a dirty business, with a huge impact on the environment - and we’re not just talking about what comes out of our precious kitties! If you’re interested in safeguarding our world and leaving the Earth a better place, you have to look beyond your personal carbon print - you should examine how your pets are impacting the environment as well. For cat owners, that means facing the litter problem.
Besides, switching to greener products could be beneficial to your cat’s health as well!
HOW CAT LITTER IS MADE
The oldest form of cat litter - well, after the boxes of ashes or sand people used prior to 1950 - is clay-based, thanks to clay’s great absorbent properties. Most scoopable cat litter is an extension of the format, adding sodium bentonite (a specific type of clay) which forms clumps when exposed to moisture. According to Stanford’s Eco Advice: “Digging Deeper: The Scoop on Cat Litter,” 75% of cat litters on the market are made using bentonite clay. Unfortunately, the majority of sodium bentonite in America is strip mined in Wyoming.
Strip mining is as bad as it sounds. Also known as surface mining, the mining company bulldozes everything at surface level, then removes the topsoil down to the desired mineral. This type of mining destroys the local environment, displaces wildlife due to habitat loss, and can contaminate water tables. Many mining companies today (often thanks to state laws) have improved their practices to include restoring the stripped land by reclamation. However, this process is of questionable benefit from a conservation perspective.
Besides the environmental impact of clay-based litters, some people believe the dust coming off of sodium bentonite can be bad for our cats and for us - it could cause lung problems or worsen asthma. Either way, dust is definitely an irritant best avoided by us all!
Another type of cat litter involves silica - it’s a crystallized cat litter that makes urine or feces stick to it, which is also great for scooping your cat’s waste up. Some people believe this is an acceptable alternative, while others consider the dust off this litter product to be as dangerous as clay’s.
Some silica kitty litter is infused with cobalt chloride (for a visible color change when wet, to indicate it’s been used), and cobalt chloride is carcinogenic. Even when it’s silica gel alone, some pet owners may not be able to deal with the worry of their cat eating the litter and becoming sick. (Note: that would take a bowl full.)
We haven’t even discussed the industrial footprint involved in the physical process of all this mining! There are enormous energy costs in mining the clay, baking it dry, then crushing and rolling it to achieve the desired litter texture - not to mention the cost of burning additional fossil fuels to transport this heavy product around the world.
Then there’s the matter of waste. Clay and silica-based litters are not biodegradable - they’re already in their final form - clay or silica. It’s not going to break down. Instead, it’s going to sit in our landfills and not go anywhere - and, according to Judd H. Alexander in 1993’s In Defense of Garbage, over 2 million tons of cat litter ends up in landfills each year - that’s enough cat litter to fill up 180,000 dump trucks! Considering that the number of cats kept as pets has only increased over the past 24 years, you can bet it’s well over 2 million tons now!
One way to improve and limit your environmental impact with cat litter is to switch to a renewable type of litter made from plant-based materials. You can find litters made from wood (cedar chips, pine pellets), wheat, beet pulp, and other biodegradable substances. These alternatives still require you to scoop and deal with cat litter. Therefore, best way to avoid the environmental impacts of cat litter is to stop using cat litter.
The CatGenie is an automatic self-washing cat box that uses Washable Granules rather than high environmental cost, dirty, dusty cat litter. The Washable Granules are 100% dust-free and the CatGenie automatically washes, cleans and completely drys them. The CatGenie hooks up to a cold water line in your home and uses recyclable SaniSolution cartridges, to wash and clean the Washable Granules. You set how frequently it washes itself - every 4 hours, on manual activations, or on cat activation (i.e. when your cat finishes their business). Having a CatGenie means you never have to deal with cat litter - especially soiled cat litter - ever again. Now that’s living the dream!
So get out there and go green with your cat box - and let us know how the CatGenie works for your cats!
Written by Deborah Brannon