The Science of Sustainability

What's the Scoop on Kitty Poop?

  • share this article
  • Facebook
  • Email

What are the options for eco-friendly cat litter?In researching this blog post, I continually ran across the word "conundrum" – which is defined as a puzzling question or problem. Used in a sentence, one might say, "I am a cat owner who cares about the environment. What to do about their poop presents quite a conundrum."

Let's explore the facts around this puzzle.

Fact: There are approximately 88.3 million companion cats in the United States, according to the Humane Society of the US.

Fact: All of them poop. The poop and the kitty litter must go somewhere.

Fact: The traditional clay litters have been criticized for being resourced through strip-mining, and may contain harmful chemicals that cats can lick from their fur.

These three facts alone are reason enough to feel the effects of a conundrum, but let's explore further.

Fact: Flushing cat poop down the toilet is an option once suggested by environmentalists, but is now an eco- No-No. Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat's intestines, can be passed through the feces.

When flushed, the T. Gondii travels with the toilet water from your house to a treatment center (where it resists treatment) to the bay to the Pacific Ocean and into the habitat of many sea creatures, including the Sea Otter.

A UC Davis study of otters that live in areas near freshwater runoff, found that 42% of live otters and 62% of dead otters tested positive for T.  Gondii.

In fact, recent legislation will require kitty litters bags to include warning labels about flushing.

(Editor's note: QUEST's very first TV story, ""What's Killing the Sea Otters?" – 2/6/07- " covers this topic in detail.)

Now that we are clear on the conundrum, let's explore some options.

Reclaimed Wood Litter: Litter made from reclaimed wood is an greener option. Pine and cedar sawdust that would normally end up in landfills is concentrated without the use of dangerous chemicals to produce environmentally safe litter. Feline Pine, Nature's Earth and Catfresh are options.

Recycled Newspaper Litter: Try litter made from recycled newspapers. The paper absorbs just as well and re-uses resources. Two great brands are Yesterdays News and Good Mews.

Plant-based Litters: Plant-based litters are made from materials such as corn, corncobs, cornhusks, wheat by-products, wheat grass and beet pulp. These biodegradable materials, have no odor, are very absorbent and don't produce the same kind or volume of dust as clay litters.

Biodegradable Bags: These are available at most pet stores. Use the biodegradable litter with them.

Composting: Being a Zoo employee, we are BIG composters of our herbivore poop, creating rich and wonderful soil to grow our botanical paradise at Knowland Park. NatureMill, makers of the pet-friendly composter claim that it is possible to compost pet poop, as well.  This composter, made from recycled and recyclable materials, is an easy to use alternative. Just add food scraps and the computerized composter heats up the ingredients to the 140 degrees (the EPA suggests over 130 degrees). Out comes soil for your flowerbed.

Make Your Own Kitty Litter: The DIY-crowd may even wish to attempt a hand-crafted solution.

These are all great alternatives that, of course, present more questions. Like all environmental issues these days, each solution may lead to a new puzzle or conundrum for us to wrap our greening brains around. Let's keep on exploring!

37.7772 -122.166595

Related

Explore: , , , , ,

Category: Biology, Health, Partners, Sustainable Health

  • share this article
  • Facebook
  • Email
Amy Gotliffe

About the Author ()

Amy Gotliffe is Conservation Manager at the Oakland Zoo. She is a Detroit transplant, enjoying the good Bay Area life for 17 years. She has a degree in communications, holds several teaching credentials and has a Masters Degree in Environmental Education. She has worked at various Bay Area educational and environmental institutions, teaching second grade, working on campaigns, planting pollinator gardens, producing earth day events and generally spreading the word about wildlife and green living. She currently works at The Oakland Zoo where she serves as the Conservation Manager. There, she coordinates support for international, national and local conservation efforts, produces a Conservation Speaker Series, produces the zoo's Earth Day event, leads eco-trips, teaches the various educational programs and heads up an on-site Green Team. On her list of other passions are travel, photography, music and the lindy hop. :-)
  • http://www.freshairelitter.com April Jennings

    Thanks for the great blog.

    FreshAire With Bio-Filters™ cat litter, launched this Spring, is the new environmentally conscious choice in cat litter. It is available in all U.S. PetSmart stores, FreshAire is 100% American made and naturally controls odor without chemicals or fragrances.

    FreshAire uses hybrid technology to deliver a litter that is all-natural, safe and neutralizes odors. It is the first litter to combine both clay and kiln-dried recycled soft pine, using 40% less non-renewable surface-mined clay than traditional clumping litters. Due to the unique combination of soft pine and clay, FreshAire weighs a third less than traditional litters, which means using less fuel to get it to market and which makes it easier for shoppers using bicycles or public transit to get it home.

    You can get more information at http://www.freshairelitter.com

    Thanks for the great blog

  • Amy Gotliffe

    Hi Betty Jo.
    I would contact your liocal shelter, pet store or vet for issues specific to kitties. Good luck!