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Cats Rescued: 311


Why - and how - I switched to pine pellet cat litter

Over many years of having cats, I have switched cat litter habits several times.  I went from scented to non-scented, regular clay to dust-free clay, from covered litter boxes to open boxes.

But if there is one thing I wish I had known about earlier in life, it would be pine pellet cat litter.

I was compelled to use pine litter when I acquired two foster cats from Homeless and Hungry Cat Rescue, as this was what they were accustomed to.  The bag claimed that the litter was low-odour, low-tracking, dust-free, flushable and compostable.  I was skeptical that the litter could do all that, but I kept an open mind while still maintaining the clay litter for my own cats.

After a few weeks of using the pine litter it became apparent that it did everything it promised.  The low-odour (no odour!) struck me when I was on my knees bent over the litter box to coax a kitty and didn't smell a thing.  The pine itself has a mild smell but not like the sickly-sweet smell of clay litter, and I could detect no urine or feces smell even though the box had been used by two cats for almost two weeks.

Daily scooping was also very easy. No need to dig for clumps, just scoop out the solids and discard them.  I also noticed that there were just a few pellets outside the box instead of a thin layer of clay litter as there is around a clay litter box.

Thoroughly converted, I set about switching from clay litter to pine litter permanently.

Cleaning the area
Two years of clay litter boxes had turned the litter room (a storage area the size of a walk-in closet) into a dusty mess despite frequent cleaning.
I thoroughly wiped down all surfaces and steamed the floors.  I emptied and soaked the litter boxes and scrubbed them thoroughly.

Filling the boxes with pine litter
I have four litter boxes (for four cats) and one 20lbs bag of pine pellet cat litter was more than enough.  I filled each box with a 1" (2.5 cm) layer of pine litter and covered that with a couple inches of regular clay cat litter to help the cats make the transition.  Clumping clay cat litter and pine litter don't mix well, so use a non-clumping clay litter during the transitional period.

Scooping was relatively easy (feces only) and I let the cats use that litter mix for a couple weeks, until the pellets were mostly dissolved into sawdust.

Increasing the pine-to-clay ratio
Before the next litter re-fill, I re-washed all the boxes.  I filled them with 1" of pine litter and about an inch of clay litter.  When that litter was used, I filled the cleaned boxes with 1" of pine and just a thin layer of clay litter.

I - and my cats - are now total converts to pine litter. The cats did not seem to mind the transition at all.

Other remarks:

Pine litter is considered a "green" cat litter. It is made of industry byproducts (sawdust) and is compostable. Many pine litter companies are eco-conscious and use recyclable bags for the litter.

The bags are much lighter! A 40 lbs bag of pine pellet litter is huge and goes a long way because you only need an inch at a time.

Because you are discarding solid wastes only, you can use a very small bag for disposal. With six cats, scooping once a day, I use produce bags, bread bags, etc. I used to have to use real plastic shopping bags when I was using heavy clay litter.

This litter tells you when it's ready to be replaced (when it is mostly sawdust), so you aren't replacing it too early or too late.

Solid waste must be removed from the box at least daily. Because it may not be covered as well by the pine pellets, feces can be more fragrant when using pine litter. Luckily, cleanup is a cinch!

Pine litter doesn't track, but the pellets do tend to get flicked out of the boxes.  I still use the bottom half of covered litter boxes which are very deep, and I prefer these.

Some pine litter instructions indicate that you can flush solid wastes, but because of Toxoplasma gondii, I advise simply discarding the litter in a bag. The Toxo parasite is not filtered out of the waste water and can have negative affects on local wildlife.

Pine litter is also said to make good mulch for gardens, but because of parasite concerns, it is recommended to properly and safely dispose of the used pine litter by composting it.

- Zoe Stevens, foster