The Cat’s Meow: 4 Sustainable Kitty Litter Alternatives

Heeeeere kitty-kitty. You know that clay cat litter we’ve poured in your box for what seems like forever and a day? We’re finally giving it the heave-ho once and for all. Oh, sure you know why. All those chemicals. All that tracking throughout the house. All those airborne particulates. You want another reason? Let’s just put it this way – your cat box filler has a carbon footprint the size of Antarctica! It’s time for us to walk the feline walk, so here are a few of the more sustainable ideas that we’re considering in order to ensure that our smoogley-woogley kitty bear can hold his chin up high.

Encourage Kitty To Use Mother Nature’s Garden

This suggestion isn’t going to work for those who share their homes with 100% indoor felines, but if your kitty walks on the wild side while the sun is shining, it’s admittedly far more eco-friendly and cost-effective for them to relieve themselves outside than to set up a full-time indoor litter box. Many moons ago, our forefathers regarded whiskered kitty cats as an attractive distraction relegated to the barn due to their extraordinary rodent-snagging prowess. Getting down to business behind a shrub was efficient and precisely what Mother Nature intended, so all parties were happy indeed. The idea of sharing a neat-and-tidy household with such wild, fang-bearing beasts was unheard of… plus there was really no such thing as kitty litter – that is, until Edward Lowe began selling a clay-based material to those who were besotted with their beloved whiskered companions. That was a mere 64 years ago. Today, however, you’re lucky if you can get away with spending $10 on a box of cat box filler, and chances are pretty good that it’s made with a combination of strip-mined clay, crystalline silica, sodium bentonite (that clumping wonder) and montmorillonite or attapulgite, all of which place a notable burden on our environment.

If you don’t like the idea of subjecting kitty to the perils of an urban landscape – which is certainly understandable – you might instead consider building a semi-outdoor enclosure underneath your deck or right outside your doggie door in an area with pliable soil. Run a length of chicken wire around/on top of it for your cat’s safety and overall protection and then breathe a sigh of relief knowing that aside from scooping/flinging their deposits into a feline-only compost pile, you’ll be taking the heat off of Mother Nature while conveniently cutting your expenses.

Train Kitty To Use Your Bathroom Facilities 

As utterly insane as this idea sounds, conduct your own internet search and you’ll be blown away by how many people have successfully converted their felines over to a full-time flushable elimination plan. As the dedicated mother hen to four of my own cats, I speak from firsthand experience that unless you train them young, you may find yourself fighting an uphill and rather sloppy battle.

The basic premise is that by placing a conventional cat litter box right next to a (preferably infrequently used) toilet and slowly but surely elevating it so that kitty becomes accustomed to taking care of business somewhat high in the sky, before you know it, they’ll be a-okay with straddling the seat when the urge strikes. Countless YouTube videos abound of cats in the act, and as chuckle-worthy at it seems, it is nevertheless a brilliant way to cut the cat litter factor entirely out of the picture. A word of caution, however. Make sure you target your toilet training toward furry family members that are whip-smart… and be prepared to use some of the money you’ll be saving on eco-friendly antiseptic wipes to tidy up the seat, because, you know… accidents happen.

Fill Kitty’s Litter Box With Recycled Materials

While exploring the great outdoors, cats are totally happy pawing around in the soil as they cover up evidence of their waste products, but that enthusiasm doesn’t exactly translate well in the human household. First problem – who wants them tracking dirt across the floors and upon the countless surfaces they vault onto? Second problem – did I mention that it’s real dirt we’re talking about? Amusingly, even when our pets use cat litter, they leave a trail of dust in their wake. We just can’t see it as easily, which somehow helps us cling onto the notion that our homes are still miraculously immaculate.

Barring dirt and clay, what other options are there for homemade and preferably sustainable kitty litter? Sand is worth consideration, as are shredded newspapers, chicken scratch (a farm/ranch store staple that can be purchased in bulk for considerably less than mainstream corn-based alternatives) and even natural wood fiber (also known as horse bedding). Most of the aforementioned alternatives are readily available at home improvement or farm supply stores, meaning that you’ll be saving some serious buckeroos. As for the perennial issue of odor control, you might appreciate this DIY recycled newspaper cat litter tutorial which infuses baking soda and biodegradable dish soap into the mix.

Purchase Eco-Litter Box Alternatives

Clay based cat litter is not the only game in town, and it’s by no means the greenest, either. That eco-distinction actually belongs to far more sustainable alternatives such as recycled shredded newspaper, dried corn, non-food grade wheat hulls, compressed wood sawdust pellets and yes, even sand. An ever-growing array of manufacturers sell these greener versions in natural food stores, pet markets and even big box stores – just expect to pay a premium. Even recycled, dried orange peel cat box filler was on the market – and what a breath of fresh air it was, too! – but sadly, it’s gone the way of Keebler Magic Middles. (Although you can still purchase 100% natural orange peel air freshener, which is an excellent way to combat those earthy scents wafting from a cat box filled with natural materials.) The bad news with the majority of the eco-alternatives on the market is that there are specific flaws to contend with – for example, felines occasionally like to snack on World’s Best Cat Litter due to its sweet, malty fragrance and Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter can often solidify into concrete-like deposits that require serious elbow grease to excavate. But, in the grand scheme of things, they’re far better for our environment and safer for kitty/human, too.

Image via MowT 

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