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Cat Litter and Litter Boxes

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The field of cat litter doesn’t end at granulated vs. clumping clay. The shelves at local pet supply emporia also hold an array of litters made from eco-friendly materials, including recycled newspaper, corn cobs, peanut shell meal, processed orange peel, wheat, pine sawdust and shavings, and hardwood and cedar chips. All promise to be superior odor controllers, long lasting and earth-friendly. What to choose, what to choose...?

In 1990, Dr. Peter Borchelt, an applied animal behaviorist, ran three 10-day tests to determine feline litter preference using a comparison of 14 types of commercial litter as well as topsoil mixed with clay litter and playbox sand. Each cat had 6 boxes to choose from; midway through the testing, the boxes were moved to prevent placement preference from overriding litter type preference. In test after test, fine-grained clumping litter was used more than twice as often as its nearest competitor, with boxes of wood chips, grain litter and recycled paper litter going completely unused. Borchelt concludes, “These data support the clinical observation that an important factor in cats’ preference for litter material is its texture, granularity or coarseness. Everclean, a finely textured clay, was preferred to clay with larger particle sizes. But playbox sand, which is also finely textured, was not preferred much more than coarse clay, perhaps because of the weight of the particles.”

What to choose? You control the purse strings, but the ultimate choice is up to your feline friend. For if he does not like the smell and feel of the litter, he will take his business elsewhere.

This article was written by Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion Animal Programs Adviser, ASPCA National Shelter Outreach. It originally appeared in the Spring 1997 issue ofASPCA Animal Watch, and was updated in November 2006.

Did You Know?

Many scoopable cat litters are processed in such a way to remove as much of the fine dust as possible. If you find that you or your cat is particularly sensitive to airborne dust particles, you may wish to consider using an alternate form of litter.

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