What is cat litter made of, anyway?
In general, traditional cat litter is made of a type of clay called bentonite. This has been used in cat litter for years, as it clumps when moisture is added and helps absorb odor. Though bentonite is considered a natural product, the way of retrieving this clay is slightly controversial. Bentonite is extracted using something called strip mining, a process that needs large amounts of soil and rock to be moved in order to access the minerals underneath. This process creates huge holes in the ground, disrupting the natural area. Some cats have also been known to eat clay litter, which can cause digestive or breathing issues.
If you’re looking for a traditional cat litter alternative, here are some sustainable options:
1. PAPER LITTER –
Paper litter is formed in pellets, and often are recommended by veterinarians if your cat has allergies or is healing from an infection. Paper litter is made from recycled materials and produces virtually zero dust, which is beneficial for both your household and cat. One of the biggest cons, however, is that paper litter doesn’t clump, which may mean you need to change it often to avoid odor.
2. CORN LITTER –
Usually made from 100% corn kernels, corn litter are larger pellets, and can be uncomfortable on cats' feet. Unlike paper litter, corn litter can create clumps and absorb some odor. However, corn litter produces its own smell, and not everyone will enjoy it. Some varieties of corn-based litter are flushable though, so might be easier for cleaning purposes.
3. WHEAT LITTER –
Often made from “secondary wheat” (wheat that isn’t high quality enough to use for food), this variety feels the most like traditional clay litter. However, wheat litter can stick easily to the sides of the box, making it a bit more difficult to clean than regular litter. Wheat litter is biodegradable and eco-friendly.
4. COCONUT LITTER –
Odorless and made of coconut shells, coconut litter is considered hypoallergenic. Many cat owners can use coconut litter on their flowerbeds and yards, making it virtually a zero-waste product. A negative of this litter is that it does not clump well due to the fineness of the pellets. Coconut litter is also often higher in price compared to other sustainable and traditional cat litter options.
5. WOOD SHAVINGS –
A DIY option for many woodworkers or crafters, wood shavings are a perfect replacement for cat litter. It’s also biodegradable so you can use it in your garden beds. The biggest issue with this using wood shavings are making sure the type of wood you use is safe for cats. Aspen and wood stamped with heat treatments are acceptable, but there are some wood and products that are toxic to cats. Be sure to do research before replacing your litter with this option.
6. OTHER DIY LITTERS –
There are many DIY litter options that are tried and tested. Mixtures of chicken feed, baking soda and cedar shavings (great for absorption, but it does attract rodents!) or dish soap, water, shredded paper, and baking soda (Usually items you already have, but takes a long time) are just a few combinations. With the DIY options you can find online, you might find the right combo that works for you.
Whether you’re briefly testing out a new brand or making a permanent switch to your cat litter, always do research and contact your vet if you have any questions before testing products on your cat. Every cat is different, and there may some litters that aren’t quite the right fit, while others they may love. Happy experimenting!