Non-toxic cat litter is a wise option for the health-conscious cat owner and those concerned about the environment. Kitty litter with toxic chemical additives increases the chance of respiratory problems developing in both the cat using the litter and the humans who may inhale some of the kicked-up dust. Litter without toxins can be just as effective, or even more so, than toxic litter.
What to Avoid
Common questionable litter ingredients include crystalline silica and sodium bentonite, which often appear in both cheaper and more expensive, well-known brands. So be sure to check the ingredients before you purchase. Crystalline silica, an ingredient in rocks and minerals, and sodium bentonite, a clumping agent, most often appear in clay-based litters. That said, some relatively non-toxic clay litters do exist.
Negative Effects of Toxic Litter
Crystalline silica and sodium bentonite have been recognized as a source of respiratory and allergy problems in both cats and their owners. When a cat uses the litter box she kicks up dust, which is impossible for her and the humans around the litter box not to inhale. Over time, it is possible that this litter dust can affect a cat or human's lungs.
Cats may ingest some of the litter while bathing, allowing the water-absorbing sodium bentonite to potentially build up within her digestive system, causing blockage. Toxic litter also poses dangers to the household dog, who is often attracted to a cat's waste and may also ingest this intestinal-blocking substance.
Sodium bentonite is not a biodegradable product. After flushing or throwing away a clump of clay-based litter, that clump will take up space in a landfill for decades to come. In addition, mining sodium bentonite exclusively for cat litter has caused problems in the topsoil in large areas of Wyoming and Montana, making it impossible for plant life to grow.
Naturally Better Litter
Luckily, there are a number of natural kitty litter alternatives on the market, which includes litter made from corn, wheat, cedar or pine chips, and paper. Unlike most clay, sand and crystal options, natural kitty litter is dust-free, making it an excellent alternative for households with asthma-prone cats and humans.
Benefits of Going Natural
Natural kitty litter is available in both clumping and non-clumping varieties, and it's often as good for absorbing odor as the clay or sand varieties. Some non-toxic cat litter brands are flushable and many, such as corn or wheat litter, are perfectly safe for the cat if ingested while grooming. Natural options like corn or wheat litter are also biodegradable, greatly reducing the cat owner's contribution to landfills.
Other more eco-friendly options are made from recycled materials or materials salvaged from the excess in other production, further contributing to a less wasteful product. When all is said and done, non-toxic litters are the best option for health-conscious pet owners. Try out a variety until you find one your cat is most comfortable using.