Until 1947, people used whatever was easy, and what was easy was letting the felines poop and pee outdoors.
Actually, take a careful look at that year. A lot of things changed in the mid forties, in the USA and elsewhere around the globe. WWII was over, and the world changed nearly overnight. I may do a post on that sometime.
In the meantime. Let’s look at some basics. Kitty Litter is a 2 billion dollar per year industry, according to Wiki. (Don’t forget to donate to them. They aren’t perfect, but are generally a good repository of general knowledge)
This sprouted from one guy who was trying to find uses for waste products like barite. Anyway, litter boxes nowadays are filled with top quality clumping or non-clumping amalgamations of bentonite, barite, and other clay bases, as well as added ingredients for odor and mold elimination. Sometimes they are scented with silly stuff that makes the cats not want to use them in the first place.
Being where I am, and not wanting to take on extra weekly spending, I decided to go my own route. These four will all be outdoor kitties once they are big enough to fight off the local riff-raff or hide from it on their own. They’ve already taken to running off to chase birds, bugs, and rabbits the second I let them escape to the outdoors, and are sometimes reluctant to come back inside, even after the sun goes down. The last thing they need is clumping litter to confuse them. Wild cats (genus Felis and not native to my country) aren’t far removed from stray and feral cats, and they are predators by nature.
In fact, their nature is what enables such easy potty training. Cats are both predator and prey in the wild, and masking their presence by burying their poo is an instinct that keeps them safe.
Anyway, onto the litter box.
I’ve tried a few mixes, but generally what seems to work the best for my non-clumping cat litter is sawdust and baking soda. I think I discussed this in a blog about the new kittens, but I wanted to make a post dedicated to this topic.
If you live near a lumber mill, sawdust can be free. There’s a mill straight down the road here that works mostly with pine and oak. Sometimes I get oak, sometimes pine. The kittens prefer oak. I imagine this is because pine is heavily scented with a sterile smell of turpentine, and they don’t like it. But pine is what they were cutting last week, so that ended up in my bucket.
The next ingredient can be found in the baking section of the supermarket (supermarkets also spawned out of the mid-forties). It’s baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate for you chemistry types.
It doesn’t take much, and I was actually experimenting with replacing it with wood ash, which is another good deodorizer. Unfortunately, at least one of the kittens disagreed with pine dust and ash, and let me know by dropping some fecal matter away from the litter pan. I immediately returned to baking soda, and even with the pine, they all go in the proper spot. I can hear one of them digging as I type this.
Cheap Litter Pans
I’ll take a brief intermission to discuss the litter pan. If it costs more than a couple of bucks, you are wasting your money. I got two huge plastic totes from Wally World’s home goods section. These are generally used as clothing storage for under the bed. They’re big, which is good. Commercial litter pans are tiny and that isn’t what your kitty wants. I have two of them, which satisfies my four growing kittens for the moment, though more may be added eventually. Cats don’t care about the tub, they care about the sand that they can use to cover their feces.
I don’t really use measuring cups. I pour sawdust in the pan to about an inch to an inch and a half thick (3-5cm). Then I add a sprinkle of baking soda above that, and usually mix it in to some degree. I cover this with another half-inch to an inch of sawdust (1-3cm).
That’s it, but that isn’t it.
A touch of ash, added in slightly heavier measure to the baking soda, will actually allow the urine to clump better, which makes for easier cleaning, but this isn’t clumpy litter. It’s very loose, and requires daily changing. I take the whole pan out to the compost pile and dump it.
The downside: that’s a lot of sawdust. To keep the kitties happy with clean litter takes a good amount of wood shavings. For me, it’s pretty easy. I take a trip to the mill once a week and fill up either one or two 30 gallon trash cans. It’s free, and they’re happy to be rid of it to anyone who can use it. Baking soda runs a couple bucks per week. I haven’t priced everything out compared to the normal way, so regular litter might actually be cheaper. The ash comes from my wood stove, and isn’t off-putting to the cats, but it should be considered a third ingredient and not a replacement for baking soda, unless all of your kitties are good with that, in which case it works quite well. The little bits of charcoal help absorb odors as well.
If you don’t have an evergreen supply of sawdust, this probably isn’t a good way to go. Buying sawdust bedding at a store will probably drive you mad. It’s pretty incredible what people charge for that stuff, especially the larger chips used as bedding material. But if you have access to it, it makes a great litter. True, it’s a bit more work than simply scooping a couple times per day, but it also leaves less overall mess in the pan. You don’t need to worry about when the litter has “gone bad” if you change it daily.
If you decide not to change it daily, or not have enough litter pans, you do so at your own peril. Kitties want a clean place to do their business, as do we all.
Just a thought. That’s how I do it. Non-clumping cat litter more closely resembles loose dirt, which they will use outdoors, so there’s no substitute really for barn cats, even if I’m keeping them protected in the house for the moment.