What is cat litter?
The origins of cat litter date back to the early 20th century when people used ash, sand, clay, and mud to soak up their cat's urine - each one had varying degrees of success based on odor, non-clumping, sticking to feet, difficulty in cleaning, and so on. In 1940, Edward Lowe discovered that granulated clay could trap odor whilst absorbing moisture. After receiving positive feedback from his family and friends, Lowe turned this into a business idea. He filled 5-pound bags with granulated clay and called it 'kitty litter'. And this was the start of what is so commonly used today in every cat household. A few years later, Thomas Nelson discovered that bentonite clay is cheaper and more effective than granulated clay. It clumps when wet and leaves the rest of the litter dry, unlike granulated clay. This 'clumping' cat litter soon replaced expensive granulated clay. Whilst the cat litter manufactured today contains silica as its main component, they also contain added silica to help with faster odor absorption and moisture-lock properties. Some brands are now using carbon, baking soda, cedar, pine, jasmine, and vanilla to mask the smell but not pose as a hindrance to a cat's sensitive sense of smell.
What is cat litter used for?
In the wild, cats instinctively bury their urine and feces. Cat litter was borne of the same idea - to allow cats to dig and bury their urine and feces in one place, thereby making it easier for people to remove and throw out the waste. Back in the day, clay cat litter was the only available option that allowed cats to practice their natural behaviour of burying waste whilst making it easy for parents to scoop out and throw away that waste. Today, quick absorption isn't the only characteristic of cat litters - odour control, low-dust, clumping/non-clumping ability, scent or lack thereof, and material are increasingly appreciated when purchasing cat litter.
Clay Cat Litter
Clay is the oldest form of cat litter. It comes in two varieties - clumping and non-clumping. Clumping clay litter is easier to clean, has better odor control, and is long-lasting, however, it is dusty, leaves tracks, is not bio-degradable, cannot be flushed, and may contain carcinogenic silica dust. On the other hand, non-clumping cat litter is more affordable and requires lesser scooping, but matches its clumping counterpart when it comes to disadvantages.
Tofu Cat Litter
Tofu cat litter is steadily gaining popularity amongst cat parents around the world. This litter is made out of soybean fiber, is biodegradable, dust-free, low-tracking, lightweight, easily flushable, and clumps adequately. However, given its all-natural state, the litter is prone to spoilage from mould leaving it with a low shelf life and a higher price.
Silica Cat Litter
Silica cat litter is litter that is mined from quartz sand. The sand is then mixed with oxygen and water, thus producing highly absorbent crystals. These crystals allow water to evaporate so that they can continue to absorb liquid waste for up to a month. Silica cat litter is low-dust, lightweight, has excellent odor control, is low-maintenance, and non-toxic. However, this type of litter is easily tracked, doesn't clump, requires daily stirring, and is expensive when compared to other types of cat litter.
Paper Cat Litter
This cat litter is made from, yes - paper. Paper cat litter is eco-friendly, unscented, low dust, low tracking, bio-degradable and non-toxic. But, it isn't always the most popular choice because it can be hard to clean, requires frequent changing, and has mediocre odour control.
Corn Cat Litter
This litter is known for its compostable nature, paw-friendly texture, good odor control, low dust, and clumping ability but isn't the best choice among cat parents because of its vulnerability to spoilage and tracking.
Clumping litter binds when wet. This type of litter is made from bentonite and at a 5% moisture level, this litter has enough internal spaces to soak up its equivalent in weight. When ammonia, NH3, in the urine evaporates, it binds to charged hydrogen atoms in the litter, forming ammonium ions, NH4. These ions do not readily evaporate and thus remain bound to the clay surface making it easy to scoop out.
Is cat litter harmful to humans?
Many cat litters contain silica dust which is often known to cause upper respiratory issues in both cats and humans with suppressed immune systems. If you live with people with a weak immune system, it is best to look for natural, unscented cat litter.
We hope you enjoyed learning about cat litters! Now off you go to choose the best litter for your cat!