Environmental impact and sustainability
Each year, five billion pounds of mined clay is consumed as cat litter in the US alone. That is quite alot.
Clay litter is usually sourced from strip mining. According to Greenpeace, “…strip mining damages and pollutes ecosystems”. You can read more about the environmental effects of strip mining here.
Sourcing cat litter in this way is not sustainable in the long run, as it does not come from a renewable material. Cat litter made from clay is also not biodegradable, adding to the country’s landfills.
When it comes to eco friendliness, the natural cat litter options take the crown. Frankly, without clay giving them much of a challenge.
Natural alternatives solve both the issues related to sustainability, and those related to waste – as they are made from renewable sources that are compostable. Some are even made from recycled by-products from other industries.
Examples of this are paper pellets made from old newspapers, and coconut litter made from coconut shells that would otherwise not be utilized and treated as waste. Repurposing these materials benefit the environment on several levels. Not only providing better litter options, but also giving a new life to what would otherwise have been waste products.
Clay: No (Not renewable, not biodegradable) | Natural: Yes (Sustainable materials, compostable)
Best natural cat litter
The top rated natural cat litter on Chewy.com is the World’s Best Cat Litter Clumping Formula, made from corn. The litter is rated 4.5 out of 5 stars, and has received 1227 reviews (last updated 17.07.19).
One common health concern associated with clay litter is that it often contains crystalline silica, more commonly known as silica dust. This is categorized as a carcinogen in the state of Calefornia.
“A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that promotes carcinogenesis, the formation of cancer.” – Wikipedia
This is something both you, and your cat, will be breathing in when you are in proximity of the litter box. Cats may also get it into their digestive system from licking it off their paws.
More and more cat owners are now looking for healthier alternatives, that do not contain silica dust. Especially cats, or cat owners, who struggle with asthma could benefit from swithing to a new type of litter. The most hypoallergenic litter is recycled paper litter, such as Odor Control Paper Pellet Cat Litter from SoPhresh, or Yesterday’s News from Purina.
Simply switching to a less dusty cat litter could also be beneficial, as long as you and your cat are not allergic to the material that the new litter is made from.
Whenever you swithch to a new litter, there are some things you should look out for in your cat, in case they get a negative reaction to it. Read the “Should you use wood pellet cat litter for your cat?” section in this article to find out which signs you should monitor.
Kittens could also be among those who would benefit more from a natural litter. Some kittens tend to eat their cat litter, and this will sometimes cause digestive problems.
Clay: No (Contains silica dust) | Natural: Yes (Unless allergies)
Price and affordability
Price is a major reason for people not switching to natural litter. It is certainly true that some brands are more expensive per pound, but natural litter options are generally more absorbent than clay, and will last longer.
The least costly natural alternative, which is wood pellet litter, is actually cheaper than clay. This could especially be worth considering if you are currently using a non clumping clay litter, and want something that is healthier and sustainable.
If you are unsure about how this would work, and if it could be a good fit for you and your cat, you can read the article “How Wood Pellet Cat Litter Works – And How To Use It“.
Clay: Yes | Natural: Yes (some)
Can you flush cat litter?
To flush or not to flush, that is the – controversial – question. The reason for this controversy is a parasite, by the name of Toxoplasma gondii.
It will usually not affect most healthy people in any significant way, but it could be a health hazard to pregnant women, as well as sea life.
Cat feces may contain this parasite, so cat owners should therefore think twice before flushing their cat’s poop down the toilet. It will not be eliminated by sewage treatment, and could spread and infect both people and animals.
Cats will usually catch this parasite by eating animals that they have hunted while being outdoors. If your cat is allowed to go outside, she or he could be infected, and you should not flush your cat’s poop.
If you have an indoor-cat, however, flushing your cat’s feces could actually be ok, provided that your cat has been indoors for at least two weeks. This is how long it take as for Toxoplasma gondii to leave your cat’s system.
Your cat’s diet should also avoid raw or undercooked meat, as there is a chance of catching the parasite this way.
Can toilet pipes really handle cat litter?
With the question of the parasite out of the way, we will focus on the pipes of your toilet.
So, can you flush clay based litter? The answer to this question is pretty easy to give for any cat litter that contains clay. In one simple word: No.
The clay would likely end up clogging up your toilet, possibly putting you in the unfortunate position of having to make use of the litter box yourself! Nobody wants that.
Flushin cat litter has really only turned into an issue after natural litter started to become more commonly used, due to the fact that several brands advertise this as a benefit.
So, can you really flush natural litter? Several brands of litter claims this to be true, even for clumping types.
The state of your toilet’s pipes should be central when considering this. If you have had problems with the pipes, especially when on a regular basis, this might not be the best idea. Again, nobody wants a clogged up toilet…
Another thing to consider would be what kind of natural litter you decide use. Even though it is supposed to be ok, a natural litter that clumps might have a higher chance of clogging than a non-clumping one. This is simply because some non-clumping litters, such as wood pellet litter, are supposed to dissolve.
Clay: No | Natural: Yes (maybe)
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