Pet Tips

Cat Litter and the Environment – Pet tip 178

Did you know that in the United States alone there are 100 000 trucks of kitty litter dumped in landfills every year? That’s over 2 million tones of clay, or silica, that sits in landfills almost forever. In this article we will uncover why kitty litter seems to be a permanent inhabitant of landfills, different types of litter, and litter related health concerns for people and pets.

Most kitty litters today are made of clay or silica. These two materials do not break down in nature, thus, they don’t break down when used in kitty litters. What are clay and silica made of that give them this almost indestructible quality? Let’s begin with clay for both non-clumping and clumping litter. Rocks are gradually worn down over time. Upon doing so, depending on the environment, clay is formed. Other than kitty litter, ceramics and bricks are a few items that are made from clay. These objects are known for their durability and ability to last a long time without wear. So you can see how massive amounts of kitty litter in landfills can be a huge problem. To further this point, landfills actually use clay to make a bottom lining that protects the ground from leeching toxic chemicals. Moving on, silica is found in nature as sand. The next time you are at the beach stare at the sand and ponder how long it takes for the sand to decompose. I’ll save you some time; it takes about one million years! Think of all the silica cat litter that can accumulate over one million years.

If the amount of kitty litter we are dumping in our landfills is boggling your mind, there are other types of litter besides clay and silica for you to consider. There are many kinds of recycled newspaper and pine pellets that soak up a lot of moisture and odor. They are more environmentally friendly in landfills than the other two litters we have discussed and fairly similar cost-wise. Many other cat litters are made from recycled plant products such as corn cob, dried orange peel, or wheat bran. Though some of these litters claim to be flushable, this is not a wise idea. Please, refrain from flushing cat litter because it can be fatal to sea mammals. Some cat feces may contain a parasite called toxoplasma that often makes it through sewage treatments to be released into the sea, and has caused the deaths of whales, porpoises, and sea otters.

Not only does cat litter wreak havoc on the sea ecosystem, but cat litter can also be harmful to our pets and us! There have been no scientific studies confirming this information, but there are many anecdotal references to clumping clay kitty litter with sodium benzoate causing serious health issues in our feline friends. The first harmful effect of this kitty litter seems to be in the very thing that is appealing to us as cat owners; that is its clumping ability. This allows the clay to expand when our cats urinate on it and makes it easy for cleaning. Unfortunately, it may also prove a problem if your cat eats a decent sized amount of litter. It could cause a blockage as the clay gets wet inside your cat’s body and expands into a large ball of clay. This is frightening to think about, but the next subject may be even more surprising, as it involves people too. You know that dust your cat kicks up when it is using the litter box? It turns out that this dust may actually be harmful to both us and our pets, getting into our lungs and causing problems there. This dust may just irritate the airways, but it is also possible that it could be causing asthma and difficulties breathing. In California, this dust from clumping litter has been listed as a known carcinogen, though it has not yet been proven.

Looking more broadly at the big picture, any kind of cat litter can cause health problems if you do not keep it sanitary. The litter box should be scooped every day because bacteria accumulate very quickly, and it may cause behavioral problems in your cat. Some examples include urinating and defecating around the house because cats do not like to use a litter box that is not clean.

By Laura Platt – writer

One Response to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar C. Nut says:

    I agree that certain things should not be where they belong. I am 100% for using biodegradable and safe litters…. However there’s a fact that people neglect to realize. The cat littler (clay or sand) can from somewhere to begin with, it wasn’t biodegradable in that state either. So basically we are just taking it from one part of our land and putting it in another. Equal mass displacement. Not a problem- also those clay layers may still have some absorbancy collecting those other dangerous houshold chemicles they are being mixed with and preventing leeching. I would be more concerned with harmful chemicles than clay and sand.

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