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Making the case for flushable cat litter

Ever since Kitkat learned how to use the litter box, I have been trying to test different types of cat litter. With the exception for cat food (which I refuse to scrimp on), probably the next most expensive consumable relating to having a pet cat is the cost of cat litter. I know what you may be thinking: there are definitely a lot of more affordable options out there and flushable/biodegradable cat litter is somewhere on the top of the price range. However, I found the convenience in my particular case outweighs the added cost. Putting the individual preferences of your cats aside (don’t get me wrong, ultimately they do have the last say whether the type of cat litter is acceptable to them since they will simply just refuse to use the litter box if they do not like it), there are a lot of options out there when it comes to providing your kitty with a clean bed of substrate in which they can bury the evidence of them doing their business and a place to soak up urine. This ranges from the ubiquitous basic clumping clay cat litter, to the more expensive scented types, to odor absorbing crystals and ones that are made from recycled paper, corn, pine wood, tofu (yeah that is not a typo they do have cat litter made from tofu available in the market) and a whole lot of materials that I haven't probably heard of yet.

Different brands of biodegradable and flushable cat litter

As mentioned earlier, putting aside your cat's individual preference aside (without underestimating the importance of this, although there are techniques to gradually introduce your cat to new litter available out there online), the way I see it, there are 5 major criteria in choosing cat litter: cost, odor control, liquid absorption, ease of cleaning the litter box, and ease of disposal. Each person will have different priorities and can compromise on criteria that are of lesser importance to them. The list is by no means exhaustive and I only included my top 5 priorities. Some would include the tendency of the litter material to spill all over the floor or what they call as "tracking", safety (especially if you have kittens that may inadvertently ingest the litter material), dust generation, being green/earth friendly (or sustainability), and of course availability.

This is not an endorsement for any particular product and I do not claim that what works for me will work for everybody else. All I want to convey is that using flushable cat litter works for me under my specific circumstances and if anybody out there has similar circumstances then I urge them to give flushable cat litter a try. There is no one size fits all solution. Other concerns may be lessened by other mitigating factors. Odor control for example can be lessened by using a litter box with an enclosure or flaps, using baking soda or litter deodorizing powder. Similarly, cost can be lessened a little by purchasing in bulk , sourcing from a cheaper retailer, or switching to a different brand.

I have always hated using clumping clay litter. Not only is it very dusty to handle, there’s also the problem of disposal. Personally, I do not like the idea of cat litter becoming a part of landfills since they do not biodegrade over time (coupled with the concerns for the non environmental friendly process of mining for bentonite rich clay which is the primary ingredient). Since Kitkat joined the household as a very young kitten (abandoned by the mother, you can read all about the story of his birth in this link), I heeded the warnings that clumping clay litter is not a good idea for young kittens since they might accidentally ingest the stuff. I did try to use clumping clay litter as an emergency fall back when I suddenly ran out of my normal litter when Kitkat was old enough but I found the cleaning after when he tracks litter material all over the bathroom floor such a dreadful experience. I miss the time that Kitkat and I would have our own separate toilets, he uses the common toilet outside while I use the one adjoining the master bedroom since it was just the two of us living in a 3 bedroom house. During that time, we lived in a detached house with a yard surrounding the house and I would dispose of the used litter in holes that I would dig up in the backyard near some mango trees. The lawn grass didn’t seem to mind it that much. In fact they seemed to thrive even better.

A throwback photo of Brat the cat doing his business. You are missed.
Now that we have relocated to a small 30 square meter condominium unit, having to dispose of spent litter every day is such a hassle. It is so much more convenient to scoop solids and sieve clumps and be finished in a few minutes without having to carry anything out of the toilet/bathroom. I do not do full litter replacements often, mostly just incremental top ups and just control the odor with litter deodorizer (baking soda will work in a pinch) so as not to overwhelm the plumbing. This by the way is also a very important point to consider. Can your sewerage system handle it? Most flushable litter disintegrates into material resembling sawdust when wet. So you need to take this into account whether your toilet goes to a municipal sewage treatment facility or into a septic tank. Note also that while some litter may claim that the material used is biodegradable, that doesn't mean that it can be safely flushed. You can do your own experiment on how the litter material breaks down by soaking some in water.

Probably the best type of litter I have used in the 3 years that I have taken cared of Kitkat is a litter made from recycled paper pellets that has excellent absorption and clumping properties with the added bonus of the material turning a shade of blue when wet. Sadly I have forgotten what the brand was but I bought it somewhere in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia**. I have also heard of some people online that swears on using poultry feed crumble as a cheap alternative (they claim that it is not only cheap but fulfills the clumping, liquid absorbent properties and breaks into fine powder). I am a little hesitant to try though since it might attract unwanted bugs and pests inside the house. Another alternative worth looking at in my opinion is litter material made from coconut coir pellets although I suspect that it does not clump when wet but instead disintegrates into fine powder (similar to wood pellet types) so you will need to have a litter box cleaning system suitable for that kind (a finer mesh and the ones that passes through are the one that gets disposed.

In the future, I will be posting some actual reviews of litter that we have tried in terms of the aforementioned criteria.

**[edit] I have found the litter I was talking about earlier in Rakuten. Here's how it looks like:
Image courtesy of Rakuten online store

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