This post is by Jackson, on the question of natural cat litter and its benefits.
As far as I’m concerned, it seems silly to even title this post, “The Benefits of Natural Cat Litter.” What aren’t the benefits? What could be better than something that benefits our cats, our homes and our environment? Perhaps it’s better to start by thinking about the benefits of traditional clay litter, or why historically cat guardians have chosen to buy it.
Clay litter was the norm for so long, and for so long that made sense. It is cheap; it is readily available in every pet store, supermarket, bodega and even truck stop; and, for the most part, it does it’s job.
The Price You Pay For Convenience
But this convenience comes at a cost…
1. Many clay litters contain silica, something you can see and smell when you pour the litter as the dust swirls around. This silica dust is kicked up again as your cats bury their waste, scratching around in the box. And, here’s the kicker - Silica is a known carcinogen when inhaled.
2. Most clay litters also contain sodium bentonite, the agent that reacts to moisture and causes the clumping reaction. It also expands to 15x it’s natural volume, and, the flip side of clumping is that it forms the same insoluble mass you see in the box inside your cat if they groom it off of their paws.
3. Again, many clay litters also come with the not-so-pleasant feature of heavy perfume “deodorizers.” You know that unpleasant moment, when you pour litter into the box, and you are instantly choked with the smell/taste of gardenias? Come on, admit it - you hold your breath as much when you pour litter in new as when you scoop it out, used. Obviously this is a pet peeve. Why? If litter has that effect on you, just imagine the effect on your cat’s much-more sensitive olfactory system. Besides, a proper deodorizing litter shouldn’t smell like flowery poop or pee; it should smell like nothing.
4. Environmentally, clay litter is an absolute catastrophe. The Bureau of Land Management estimates that some 8 billion pounds of the stuff winds up in landfills every year. And, here’s the kicker - it is completely non-biodegradable. Which means your cat’s mummified poop clump will be here longer than you or me. Yipes.
So Back to the Original Question
So back to the original question - what are the benefits of natural litter? Well, just take a look at the hit list of clay litter nastiness above. Natural litter has none of that. Big benefit. In my experience, natural litters, while going through the fits and starts of any innovative product, has hit its stride in terms of the cats themselves. Early in my career, when I recommended a change to my cat guardian clients, the cost was prohibitive, they had to conduct a bit of a scavenger hunt to find it, and, sadly, the clumping and odor control was just not up to the standards they were used to.
Now, things are thankfully in a better place. Natural options are available in the same locations as conventional litter, we don’t have to worry about the physical or environmental side effects of clay, and, the cats like it. Now that’s a trifecta we can all be happy about. What’s not to like?