Thursday, June 21, 2012

Litter matters.

Some people train their cats in using the toilet like humans do. This is not a great idea as it goes against the natural way cats like to bury their pee and poo and for other reasons that will be mentioned later.
An uncovered or covered litter box should do the job nicely (I use covered ones myself). Cats who have access to a garden will do most of their business outside, but some of it still inside.
Pet shops sell various types of litter: scented, clumpy, biodegradable, silicone, wood, etc. So what kind of litter is the right kind to use? In my opinion you should stay away from clumpy clay litter. The dust is bad for cats’ lungs and can cause cancer in cats as well as humans. There is no such thing as dust-free clay litter, even when it says so on the bag.
Don’t go for scented either. A lot of cats don’t like it and there is another reason that I will mention later. Just burn some incense or a smelly candle in the room where the litter box is if your cat stinks the place up.
My choice is wood litter. It is biodegradable and it won’t harm cats when they clean themselves afterwards. You don’t want them to lick any clumpy clay litter traces and get that in their stomachs. Now, in the animal welfare sanctuary where Orla and I help out on Sundays, they use wood litter but they gave us a great tip to save money.
In DIY or builder provider shops you can buy Brites wood pellets. These are wood pellets that are meant for burning as fuel in biomass boilers. They look and feel the same as the wood litter pellets and also absorb in the same way. The difference is the price. We just bought ten bags and the guy in the shop gave us a discount, so instead of €4.40 per 10kg bag, we paid €3.81 per 10 kg bag.
It smells of pine which is nice anyway.  In pet shops you pay about €10 for a 12 kg bag. So count your blessings and go for the Brites pellets.

Cat Daddy Jackson Galaxy (the brilliant cat guy from the Animal Planet programme “My Cat From Hell”) is against cleaning the litter box too excessively with disinfectants.  He explains in one of his videos on youtube that cats use poo and pee for marking their territory as well. That’s why cats on the toilet is not a good idea either, as they can’t mark their territory.
You can just simply scoop the poop and the pee, but don’t remove the subtle smell markers that will be still there for cats to smell but not for humans. He says that he only disinfects his litter boxes maybe once every 6 months. It makes sense. Just scoop, if necessary clean out any smears with some kitchen towel and replace scooped out litter. 

I earlier mentioned that scented litter isn’t a great idea. Cats often don’t like it but it will also be in the way of their scent markers. Another reason is the fact that poo and pee can be indicators for if there is something wrong with cats and they need to see a vet. When urine smells stronger than normal it can be an indication that there’s trouble with the kidneys. Scented litter is therefore not a good idea as you are less likely to notice the change in smell.
It's also another reason not to toilet train your cat. Just let your cat be a cat. A litter box is already compromise enough.

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