Kitty Litter: Yesterday and Today
By Janet Vormittag
Litter Box Guru, Dr. Tammy Sadek, says many cats lose their homes, and frequently their lives, due to litter box problems.
Sadek, owner of the Kentwood Cat Clinic in Kentwood, Michigan, has more than 25 years of experience with treating cats and litter box problems. She is Board Certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners in Feline Practice.
On her website, www.litterboxguru.com, Sadek writes that inappropriate elimination can be due to medical problems, the type of litter box, the type of litter, litter box hygiene problems or stressful situations.
There was a time when people used sand, wood ash or sawdust in kitty’s box. Kitty litter was invented in the late 1940s by a Michigan man.
Edward Lowe, born July 10, 1920 in St. Paul, Minnesota, spent his youth in southeastern Michigan. After serving in the U.S. Navy, Lowe returned to Cassopolis, Michigan and joined his father’s company, which sold industrial absorbents, including sawdust and absorbent clay.
One day in 1947 Lowe’s neighbor, who used ashes in her cat’s box and was tired of sooty paw prints in her home, asked him for an alternative to ashes. He suggested she use clay.She did and was delighted with the results. The clay was more absorbent, it stayed in the box and it also helped control odor.
Lowe had a hunch other cat owners would appreciate the clay cat box filler. He came up with the name "kitty litter" and called on the local pet store. Soon customers were asking for kitty litter. Lowe started visiting cat shows and pet shops and sold kitty litter from the back of his car. In 1964, Lowe created Tidy Cat® brand.
Rick Brazeau, the store manager at Farm, Family & Home in Allendale, said the Tidy Cat brand is their best seller, but they carry more than a dozen types of kitty litter.
“Cats are finicky,” Brazeau said.
There are several options for the fussy cat. There are litters made of clay, corn, recycled paper and wood shavings. There are scented and unscented litters, clumping and non-clumping litters and litters for multiple cats.
The World’s Best Cat Litter is milled from renewable whole-kernel corn. It’s said to be planet, pet and people friendly.
Fresh News Cat Litter is made from 100 percent recycled paper and is said to be more than three times more absorbent than clay.
Scoopable Feline Fresh is a natural pine cat litter, which is flushable and biodegradable. It’s a by-product of the lumber industry––no new trees are cut to make it.
Sadek says the best type of litter and litter box is what your cat likes best. To find the litter your cat likes best she suggests you perform your own litter preference test:
1. Offer multiple litters in open boxes at the same locations and same time for your cat.
2. Observe which boxes she or he uses preferentially over the course of three to four days. Scoop the litter boxes daily.
3. If necessary, this preference test can be performed while the cat is confined to one room if house soiling has been severe to prevent the cat from avoiding all the boxes in favor of carpeting or bedding.
4. The depth of the litter in the box can also "make or break" the litter box's appeal to cats. Certain cats prefer shallow litter while others prefer a deeper layer. Try putting less litter on one side of the litter box and more on the other. Watch to see what side is used the most and then continue with that depth. Some cats even prefer a box that has no litter in it at all!
5. Once you find the litter your cat prefers, stay with it! Do not purchase alternate brands that are on sale as they may be different enough from your cat's preferred substrate to retrigger house soiling.
Sadek says to use the type of litter and litter box your cat prefers, not what you prefer.
She recommends the litter box be scooped every day. Cats have a sensitive sense of smell. Using a soiled litter box to them is equivalent to a human using a port-a-potty that hasn't been cleaned for a month.
“Farm, Family & Home is dedicated to household pets,” Brazeau said. The stores also carry pet supplies including litter boxes and pet food.
Janet Vormittag is the publisher of Cats and Dogs, a Magazine Devoted to Companion Animals. This article first appeared in the April, 2014 issue of the magazine.