Wednesday, August 1, 2012

How to Keep a Natural Litter Box and Other Cat-Related Nonsense

In light of my posts on The Toxic 12 and Creating your Own Chemical Free Sanctuary, I thought all of you cat lovers may appreciate this post by Crunchy Betty!

She even uses 3 of my favorite, all natural, non-toxic, household products to create a kitty version of a chemical free sanctuary!  

Since I don't have grandchildren, my kiddos have blessed me with grandpets, Consuelo, Fizzy Biscuits, Pants, Maggie, Bonnie and Clyde!  So this post is especially for Consuelo and Biscuits . . . 

With Love,

Mimi (aka, Dr. P)

Posted: 31 Jul 2012 10:14 PM PDT
Did you know that you can train a cat to use a toilet? It’s a real thing, and real cats who have brains can do this; they don’t even need opposable thumbs or current issues of National Geographic. They are just fine with back issues.

I’m thinking about doing this with my cat, but given our recent interactions, it will just give him one more reason to sit on my head. Here are his other reasons: he’s hungry, or I’m asleep, or it’s less than 86.5 degrees outside, or I’m breathing.

We’ll get to tips in a minute; first there will be rambling.

But let’s be honest, there’s really only one natural litter box, and it happens to be “the earth.” While I do sometimes feel in my heart that cats would be happier (and our personal waste would be less) if they were just allowed to roam free about the neighborhood, many neighbors would highly disagree. Mountain lions around here, on the other hand, have engaged in a sign-waving “Free the House Cats” protest on street corners.

It isn’t going very well. Mountain lions have terrible handwriting.

I’m not convinced that all house cats want to be outside. My friend has two cats who are allowed to do anything they want, including feasting on all the butterflies they can find in the backyard, but all they do is sit around in the sunroom, drinking tea and reading the newspaper while commenting on current events.

“By golly, Muffins. That’s a fine mess those French have found themselves in this time.”

“Why, you couldn’t be more wrong, McFluffhead. Their fiscal policy is as strong as the string on your Feather Squeaky Boing Boing. Now, let us retire to the couch arms. I’m feeling a powerful fur shed coming on.”

So, anyway. Cats can learn how to use the commode, and I’m about to force the schooling on my cat, even if it means tying each of his little paws to the toilet seat while screaming profanities at him in German. Eventually, he’ll just pee out of complete and utter fear, and I’ll give him a Fancy Feast and he will graduate forever.
Before we embark on this new chapter in his life, though, I wanted to share these natural cat litter box care tips with you guys, because they really do come in quite handy. And, yes, I know the box, itself, isn’t very natural, but I challenge you to find a litter box that isn’t made of plastic or some other space-age material.

How to Keep a Natural Litter Box

These are the five important things you’ll need. Six, if you want to count your cat.

Choose a Natural Cat Litter

The first thing you’ll want to do is choose a type of litter that is natural and doesn’t have any stinky synthetic chemicals  or other things you don’t want in your home. How do you know if a cat litter has stinky synthetic chemicals? (Hint: It won’t say “stinky synthetic chemicals included” on the box.)

Look for “clumping cat litter” of the clay variety, or cat litter that is scented, and then don’t buy them. Those are the ones that contain special formulations and other fancy marketing words. Also, clay cat litter (even the regular, non-clumping variety) really does add to the waste in landfills and it does NOT biodegrade.

If you don’t think that’s an issue, the fact that clay cat litter doesn’t biodegrade, consider this: In 1993, at least 2-million TONS of cat litter ended up in landfills according to the book In Defense of Garbage. That was in 1993. Imagine how many more crazy cat ladies there are in this country now. A lot, when you take into account the baby boomers growing older and getting divorced and finding all the love they need in owning 5 cats each. That’s a lot of cat litter waste.

So, anyway, find a natural cat litter. It will be made of newspaper, pine, corn (though the corn type is likely GMO, if that matters to you), cedar, or sawdust. It will also be located directly above a price sticker that makes you say, “Seriously? I’m going to pay that amount for something my cat’s going to poop on?”
Ignore that voice in your head. It really is worth it, both in its impact to the environment and to your very own household.

My favorite brand (and, no, I’m not affiliated with them, they have no idea I’m posting this, and I’m not some sneaky undercover spokesperson) happens to be SwheatScoop. I lovingly call it “sweat scoop,” because sometimes I have the maturity level of a 10-year-old boy. We’ll talk more about SwheatScoop in a minute.
Let’s move on to the tips, because this is getting long, and you’re getting bored.

Wash Your Cat Litter Box Out Well

Before you wash, you’ll need to dispose of your dirty, stinky cat litter properly. Around here, we do a complete overhaul of the cat litter every two to two and a half weeks, depending on how lazy Skip is or how accustomed we’ve become to the smell. (We scoop twice a day, though.) According to the Humane Society, if you use a litter that clumps (not clay, ew, but SwheatScoop and the corn litters clump naturally), you may only need to completely change the litter every two to three weeks.

This means we’re not terrible cat owners.

Disposing of the cat litter: Garbage or compost. You can do either, if you use a compostable litter (look on the packaging). After you’ve disposed of the litter, wash the litter box out well with a gentle soap.
I use castile.

Whatever you use to scrub your cat litter box with (please, for the love of Pete, do not use your kitchen sponge), make sure to launder it immediately afterwards, and use it for nothing else until you do.

Also, it’s best to wash your cat litter box in the bathtub. Not only does this give you ample room to wash in, but it gives you an opportunity to mock your cat as he stares in horror at his Sacred Poop Place filled with water. If you want to add insult to injury, leave the cat litter box full of sudsy water on the bathtub floor and say, “I dare you, cat. Go ahead. Let’s see you poop NOW!”

It won’t affect him much, but it will make you feel very tough and in charge, unlike reality where your cat is the tyrant king of your entire life.

After you’re done washing, and you have a clean bottom (of your cat litter box, not your actual bottom, although I hope that’s clean, too), either let it air dry completely or dry it well with a towel.

This next tip is my favorite:

Apply a Thin Layer of Olive Oil on the Bottom of the Litter Box

This is not unlike buttering a pan before you bake something.
Except you don’t get to eat it when it’s done.
Please don’t eat cat litter.

You don’t have to use olive oil – pretty much any type of cooking oil will do just fine. Why are you doing this, anyway?

Because, a thin layer of olive oil keeps the “clumps” from sticking to the bottom, making it impossible to get a clean scoop. With an oiled bottom, the cat litter doesn’t even get a chance to adhere.
All you do is pour a teaspoon (or less) of olive oil in the bottom of the litter box and wipe it around the bottom and into the corners and edges. It really does work. Really, really well. (Provided you scoop the cat litter more than once a week.)

Pour At Least 3 Inches of Litter Into the Litter Box

This is self-explanatory, but it will give me a minute to talk about why I choose SwheatScoop.
First, let’s learn how to pour litter in. It is very complicated. I will explain it with a picture.

Got it? Good.

Okay, so here’s why we use SwheatScoop. It’s because it’s certified flushable (for both sewer and septic systems). That is why. It comes in very, very handy whenever unexpected company shows up. Five minutes before unexpected company shows up also happens to be my cat’s scheduled visit to the litter box.
It’s also digestible, which means when he gets an errant granule stuck in his paw, it’s fine and dandy if he licks it right on out.

It turns out, though, that wheat (which is all SwheatScoop is made of) also contains really effective natural enzymes that neutralize odors pretty darned well (a LOT better than any clay litter I’ve ever used).
But, even so, I like to double up on odor control by doing this one last thing:

Add 2-3 Tbsp Baking Soda and Shake It Into the Litter

Not long ago, I saw a commercial for (Insert Popular Brand of) cat litter and it said something like, “Mom’s secret for cat litter odor was baking soda!” And then they went on to say how you should buy their doubly expensive cat litter, because it contains mom’s secret.

Here’s MY secret for cat litter odor! Add freaking baking soda to it.

I usually add about 2-3 Tbsp into the fresh litter and shake it around, and then add another 2 Tbsp into it after about a week.

And it works.

What I don’t do, however, is add any essential oils. There are a couple of brands out there that come scented with essential oils (and a WHOLE lot of brands out there with synthetic fragrance). I’m not 100% convinced about the safety of using essential oils directly in or on my cat, which is what would occur if he licks his paws afterwards.
If I want my bathroom, which is where the cat litter box lives, to have a fragrance of some sort or exhibit more odor control, I’ll do something like hang a closet popper, or fill a lemon rind with sea salt and tuck it in a nearby corner, or make a lavender/baking soda air freshener.

Skip the essential oils in the litter box. It’s just not necessary, and may not be all that great for your little furball.

Are You Still With Me ‘n My Cat?

Can you believe how long this post was? It may be one of the longest ones on Crunchy Betty, ever.
Because, clearly, I am very passionate about cat litter.

If you’re still here…
Way down here at the bottom…
I love you.

And you probably love your cat as much as I love mine. And I really do, despite how it sounds. He’s the best cat I’ve ever had in my life, and if it didn’t sound really sad, creepy, and weird, I’d say he was my best friend.
So I’m going to ask you something no one on the internet has ever asked you before and will never ask you again. And I ask it earnestly and with great interest (I’M NOT KIDDING).

Please tell me a story about YOUR cat?

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