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Old 11-06-2008, 05:07 PM
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Default Cat Litter and Cat Boxes

hi everyone. here's an informative article about litter boxes and all the different types of cat litter.

from this website http://www.worldwise.com/catboxlitter.html

Having a functional and effective litter box is important for all cats and their companions. Nobody likes the smell of a soiled box – especially the cats!

Cat companions generally choose a cat box and litter according to their own criteria: a box that minimizes odors, is easy to change or scoop, limits tracking, and looks nice as part of the home décor.

But cats want a box that is the right size for them to move around in and litter that doesn’t smell and feels good against their soft paws. And they want it clean.

Here’s how to choose a box and litter that will make both cat and companion happy.


THE LITTER BOX
In her book The New Natural Cat: A Complete Guide for Finicky Owners, author Anitra Frazier follows the advice she was once given by her veterinarian: "Stick as close as you can to nature, and you won't go too far wrong." So, what does a wild cat use for a litter box?

Well, nothing…there are no litter boxes in the wild. Many years ago when I had my first cat, a little black kitten named Morgan, it was suggested to me by a man who had three cats that, because I lived in the country, I should train my kitty to just go outdoors. He didn't have a litter box at all and had no problems with his cats. I followed his advice and she soon learned to follow her natural feline instincts -- to claw a little hole in the ground, then bury her natural contribution to the ecosystem. Since then, I've never provided a litter box for my cats -- they all just go outside.

While allowing you cat to use the great outdoors for a kitty box is fine out in the country and in some suburban areas, use your own good judgement as to whether it is appropriate for your cat in the area in which you live. Some sururban and most urban areas do not have sufficient wild or semi-wild habitat, or large garden areas. In addition, there may be too much traffic or other pets that may pose a danger to your cat.

Cats can also be trained to use the bathroom toilet, which also eliminates the need for a litter box and litter.

There are a variety of litter boxes that can be purchased in pet stores.

Newest on the market is the self-washing litter box. It replaces traditional litter materials with washable granules that last more than 6 months. It cleans itself by dissolving cats feces with water circulation, then flushing the water down the drain. Cleaning solution dispensed from a cartridge treats odor-causing materials and a built-in dryer blows hot air on the washable granules, leaving them clean, dry and fresh for the next use. Though it is made from plastic, it sends waste down the sewer, where it belongs, instead of to a landfill.

Self-cleaning boxes are expensive, but seem to be the cats’ favorite in cat preference tests. These keep the box clean by automatically raking the litter and dumping the solid waste into a plastic waste receptacle, which can be easily removed for disposal. Th paw cleaner exit ramp manages to prevent tracking.

Covered boxes keep the litter hidden from view, however, they are commonly a cause of problems, particularly for larger cats. There isn’t enough room to turn around and cover their waste.

When choosing a litter box, look for rounded corners. Moisture that can cause odor gets trapped in sharp edges and in indentations along the sides or bottom

I make a point of minimizing the use of plastic in my home, so when I occasionally need a litter box for kittens, I use a big enameled turkey roasting pan instead. Buy the cheapest big enameled turkey roasting pan at your hardware store. It works great, can be easily washed, and lasts forever.

Placement of the litter box. Because a cat's urine is very concentrated, and the smell is very strong, it can attract predators in the wild. For their own protection, cats in the wild always urinate far away from where they sleep, eat, hunt, or play.

Anitra Frazier suggests a simple system of putting the litter box near the toilet, so you can easily clean it every time you go to the bathroom. Use only one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch of litter at a time, so the wet will hit the bottom and clump. If the litter is too deep, the wetness will spread through the material and make it smell. Keep a large metal serving spoon (with no holes or slits) near the box. If you notice a covered mound or wet circle, pick up the litter box and gently shake the dry litter to one end, exposing the wet clump. Then take your spoon and remove all of the clump to the toilet and flush it away. Once or twice a week, clean the box thoroughly with hot soapy water and rinse well. This procedure should keep the box clean and odor-free, there will be no need to use artificial deodorant sprays.


CAT LITTER
In the days before commercial kitty litter, cat owners used cardboard boxes filled with dirt from the garden. That most were not happy with this arrangement was made evident when the first commercial cat litter was introduced. It was an immediate success.

Litter made from many different materials are available, each more or less good for the health of your cat and the environment. These are available in supermarkets and pet stores, and on the Internet.

When choosing a litter, consider its health and environmental effects and also your cat’s preferences. They may not be aware if their litter is going to a landfill, but they may be finicky about how their litter smells and feels. Your cat will tell you they don’t like it by their behavior, so if you are having problems in this area, a switch of the type of litter you are using may solve it.

Remember that your cat’s nose is right down in the litter, so choose one without artificial scents and without much dust. If their litter box irritates their noses, they are not likely to want to use the box when needed.

Given the choice, most cats prefer a litter that feels the most like sand over pellets, chunks and shreds. Find one that your cat likes and enjoys digging in and scoop it frequently.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a cat litter:
Is it biodegradable?

Is it flushable?

Is it easy to maintain?

Is it relatively odor-free?

Is it free of chemicals, perfumes and dyes?

Is it safe for you, your cat, and the environment?

Is it affordable?

Does it produce a minimal amount of dust and/or tracking?
Does it have a texture that appeals to your cat? Read product labels carefully and don’t buy any litter that does not reveal the material from which it was made.

Clay. The first commercial cat litter, and still the most common and widely available today, was introduced in 1947. Made from natural clay, extruded into pellets and dried, it is sold just plain and unscented, or with additives such as baking soda, chlorophyll fresheners, alfalfa, and essential oils.

In 1984 it was discovered that when cats urinated in a particular type of clay, sodium bentonite, the clay would form a clump, which was easier to remove from the litter box. This product became even more popular than the original clay pellets and today 90% of all litter sold is made from clay.

The problem with these products is they produce a lot of dust (although some brands claim that the type of clay they use produces a dust-free product), which contains silicon particles that have been established by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a known human carcinogen. Clay particles tend to cling to your cat's fur and in-between their toes. In addition to leaving dusty cat prints on your floors, breathing these particles can cause respiratory infections.

A recent study actually found clay-based litter silica dust in cats’ lungs, and that cats with respiratory disease had up to six times the amount of silica in their lungs as healthy cats.

A product made for humans called Moltan Absorbent is also made from the same ground clay as cat litter. It is manufactured for use in garages to absorb oil. This product must carry a warning label that reads, in part, “Aggregate contains crystalline silica. Crushing, grinding, or creating dust may cause exposure to a respiratory silicosis or cancer health hazard.”

Since a study has now confirmed that this dust is present in the lungs of cats, it would be a prudent preventive measure to at least try another type of litter. It doesn’t matter what type of clay is used – all clay contains crystalline silica.

The clumping capability of sodum bentonite is due to its ability to swell to 15-18 times its dry size when exposed to liquids. This charactertistic is used to advantage in the absorption of cat urine, and as a sealant for ponds and dams. But when cats lick themselves clean and ingest the clay, it can prevent nutrient absorption and cause intestinal blockage as it swells when exposed to intestinal liquids. Many veterinarians recommend not using clumping cat litter as the first litter for inexperienced young kittens, as they may experiment with the litter and eat it.

Environmentally, much of the clay is strip-mined -- the US Bureau of Mines estimates that in 1994, approximately 1.5 million metric tons of clay were mined to make the absorbent type of cat litter alone.

In addition, some clumping-type clay litters cannot be flushed. The same characteristic that causes the clay to clump also causes it to clog pipes. It then ends up in the trash can, which is not designed to contain animal waste, and eventually in the landfill, where it will never break down. Some industry sources claim that cat litter accounts for more volume in landfills than disposable diapers. Check labels carefully as some contain sand so they can be flushed while others may clog pipes.

Silica gel. New to the market is litter made from silica gel, an odorless mineral that is used in little packets to control moisture in packages containing vitamins, cameras, binoculars, and other products where moisture might cause damage.

Silica gel litter is made from silica dioxide sand (the same material found in quartz), oxygen and water. The gel contains millions of tiny pores that can absorb up to 40 times their weight in moisture. It comes in spheres (also called “pearls”), half spheres and crystal shapes. Some manufacturers add dyes and scents, so you want to watch out for, and avoid, those.

Manufacturers claim the "pearls" to be nontoxic and bacteria resistant. While it is initially more expensive than other type of litter, it is it actually more cost-effective and labor-saving. Because the silica gel absorbs and holds moisture inside the balls, the same litter can be used odor-free up to a month for one cat without changing the material (the only maintenance needed is to remove the poop). The lightweight bags are easy to handle. This type of litter can be flushed.

Cats like silica gel pearls and it doesn’t track.

Recycled newspaper. Litter in pellet form is available made from recycled newspapers. It is biodegradable, flushable, and burnable, and 99% dust-free. And it doesn’t track like clay litters.

Plant-based litters. These include litters made from corn, corncob, cornhusks, wheat by-products, wheat grass, beet pulp, oat hulls, and kenaf.

My favorite litter -- the most natural, unprocessed, and effective -- is plain ground corn cobs. They are a renewable resource and "recycle" a material that would have otherwise gone to waste. They have no odor themselves, are very absorbent and provide good odor control, don't produce as much dust as the clay types, and can be flushed.

Tops in the cat litter consumer comparisons is another corn litter, this made from crumbled, whole kernel corn. It has all the advantages of clay – outstanding absorbancy, good clumping, low tracking, great odor control, and cats love it – without the dust. It’s light to carry and flushable. The only minor disadvantage is that mold can grow in a warm moist environment such as a litter box. This is not a problem if you change the litter every few days, a practice that will also keep the box fresh.

Wheat husks are another organic waste product made into litter, mixed with all-natural bonding ingredients. Clumps form, but fall apart when scooped. Very good odor control. Can be flushed.

Kenaf plant is a plant related to cotton and hibiscus. It is also used to make tree-free paper. The manufacturer claims the litter to be super absorbent, non-clumping, dust-free, and biodegradable.

Beet pulp and wheat grass litters are not as good at controlling odors

Pine and cedar sawdust. Another "recycled" litter is made from pure pine sawdust from scrapped pine lumber. It is kiln dried and compressed into pellets that absorb many times their weight in moisture before they break back down into sawdust. Because pine naturally absorbs and neutralizes ammonia, odor isn't just covered up by chemicals and perfumes, it's eliminated.

My only concern about this was that pine is one of the woods that contain resins and other aromatic chemicals that have natural insecticidal and bactericidal properties that can kill insects and the bacteria that cause odor. These same chemicals can also damage the respiratory tract, causing chronic respiratory disease, and asthma. In pine trees, the primary irritant is abietic acid, also known as sylvic acid. While abietic acid itself is relatively harmless, a number of compounds formed by air oxidation of abietic acid are potent allergens.

Since many humans have sensitivities to pine aroma, cats may have such sensitivities as well. The manufacturer states, however, that any harmful aromatic hydrocarbons that might be present in the wood are processed out. Small amounts can be flushed, or used litter can be used as a biodegradable garden mulch.

Cedar is also used to make litter and has similar properties to the pine pellets. While also fragrant, there are no ill affects associated with its aroma.

Odor control. Odor is Nature’s way of signaling that it’s time to change the litter, so you don’t want it covered up or absorbed. Scoop and change the litter frequently and there will be no build-up of the micro-organisms that cause odor. If there is a lot of odor, you might consider changing what you feed your cat.


LITTER BOX LINERS
Litter box liners are intended to protect the clean litter box from the soiled litter. They are designed so you can simply pick up the liner and throw it in the trash. Some of them are even made from recycled plastic.

Sounds like a good idea. The problem is… some of them don’t work and just make a bigger mess, cats don’t like them, and the plastic doesn’t biodegrade. So don’t use them.


PREGNANT WOMEN AND TOXOPLASMOSIS
Toxoplasmosis is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. Though more than 60 million people are infected with this parasite in the United States alone, it rarely causes health problems because a healthy immune system prevents the parasites from causing illness.

However, there is a risk to babies whose mothers are exposed to the parasite several months immediately before, or during pregnancy. Infants who become infected before birth can be born with one or more of a variety of serious mental or physical problems, including retardation, epilepsy, brain atrophy, and blindness.

Because cat feces are a primary host for the Toxoplasma parasite, gynecologists often recommend that women not be around cats, and particularly not empty the litter box, if they are pregnant or plan to soon become pregnant.

However, this extreme measure is not necessary. If you need to protect yourself from the Toxoplasma parasite, here are some guidelines:
Cook meat thoroughly (or become a vegetarian) and wash your hands and utensils after handling meat. Fully half of cases are the result of babies infected by the virus from meat, not cats.

Wear gloves when gardening to prevent exposure to cat feces that may be in garden soil. Wash all garden produce thoroughly.

If you have an indoor cat, it is likely that it is not a carrier.

Have someone else clean the litter box, and do it daily. Since the Toxoplasma parasite can only infect you a few days after being passed, cleaning the box daily eliminates that possibility.


By taking these simple precautions, you can continue to enjoy the companionship of your cat throughout your pregnancy.
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