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Wood pellets, who knew?
Ok! So it's no secret that wood pellets may be the answer to the perfect kitty litter medium we've all been looking for. Is it true? There are some things y'all should know, as it differs greatly to the nasty clay litter we are accustomed to using.
In this article i will share with you all my experiences with using this amazingly wonderful stuff.
Here we go!
Wood pellets are an environmentally friendly way of managing your feline's feces, and urine. Wood pellets are the wood chips, and sawdust left over from industrial wood cutting operations. They are compressed into little pellets and burned for energy in wood pellet stoves anfd furnaces. Even if the supply of materials to make wood pellets is no longer from industry by-product and virgin hardwood is used, it is still a renewable and sustainable resource as long as responsible logging practices are utilized.
Clay for clay based litter is comes out of the earth through giant strip mining operations. Clay is a finite natural resource, it is abundant but it is not being replenished. Material we are taking from the earth will not be replenished. That's just not cool, bad earth karma y'know? Clay also poses a health risk. The inhallation of clay dust is harmful for you and your kitty's lungs, clay dust contains free silica that is too fine and heavy to be expelled from the lungs. This can cause fatal silicosis if inhaled over extended periods of time.
Let's now look the at the way we intend to use these materials and the type of waste they prodce.
Clay. Clumps of urine and feces are scooped out of the medium using a sifting scoop then disposed of in the garbage. You should not flush it. Cat feces contains a single-celled parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. You should not compost it. It must be incinerated, sorry, i see no way around this one. Flushing or composting this stuff will spread the Toxoplasma gondii and cause Toxoplasmosis. Most healthy humans can fight off this parasite but pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems can become very sick from it. Sea otters of the coast of California are also succeptible to this parasite. It's just nasty. It is said that almost 40 million americans are already infected with this parasite. Infection can last for a lifetime without showing any symptoms.
Wood pellets. So, for me no difference really. I would definately not put this stuff in my garden due to all the scary toxoplasma stuff mentioned above. Check with your local municipal composting service pickup as to wether or not their facilities composting process is capable of killing parasitic organisms. If not Garbage bin. The only real advantage i see to wood pellets is ease of cleaning, less stuff to throw away, and no clay dust coated in toxoplasm living in your lungs untill you die.
If using a sifting litter box(we'll get into that next) the cleaning process is way quicker. Every day or two, I'll go in and remove the poo and shuffle the pellets around to sink the spent pellets. The urine is taken care of by the pellets. The urine soaked pellets absorb the liquid and turn to dust, the dust then falls through the holes in the bottom of the litter tray. At least once a week I'll empty the used pellet dust and add a scoop or two of new pellets.
22.7kg of clay litter costs me around $9 at Costco. It lasts me about 1 month per litter box if i don't want it to smell. If i'm super careful I could stretch it out to two months. I have four litter boxes for three cats. Yikes!
One 18kg bag of hardwood pellets costs between $5 (on special) to $7 (regular price) and will last and last and last! The litter that isn't disintigrated is still good! I'd say a bag is good for six months, and I'm using four huge litter boxes. I find that the wood pellets work better when applied in a thinner layer than clay.
Did I mention that the wood pellets are also easier to clean out and there's less lung damaging dust in your lungs?
Big wnner: wood pellets.
Which wood pellets?
You don't need to buy the pet specific wood pellets. They are often made with pine wood. It is believed that pine wood is toxic to cats, however I'm sure these products are safe for cat use? The reason I would buy the hardwood pellets meant for burning is that they are cheaper and of better quality. They last longer than the pine pellets, the pine would break down much quicker. I have never tried the pine, I can not tell you that I'm 100% sure of the longevity of the pine. I just didn't want to spend more than I had to. Hardwood.
Best litter box for wood pellets
To get the most out of using wood pellets instead of clay a litter medium, you must use a different method of "scooping". Traditional clay medium required the waste to be scooped out of the box using a sifting scoop. Wood pellets behave differently. Feces is dehydrated by the pellets and is removed directly, possibly with a set of old salad tongs. The pellets exposed to urine turn to dust, therefore a sifting box is ideal.
There are many wonderful sifting boxes out there, all of which i find terribly over priced, and often times to short and to small. Multiply that by the amount of boxes required if you have multiple cats... to expensive.
I have tried almost all the boxes out there. I thought they were all great, but my cats didn't.
Being a cat daddy, you have to listen to your little guy, or gal. However cute they are, your cats don't communicate with their words, they communicate with their excrement.
I'm a sucker for a rescue cat with a sad story. So when I booped the nose of my latest arrival before really getting to know her, she promptly got up and went and left me a present on my pillow. (See photo above, of the kitty, not the poo) We've made amends since then. Same thing goes with litter boxes, if the kitty does not like his or her litter arrangement, they will find somewhere else to go leaving you little clumps and puddles telling you so.
With a little handywork, you could make your own custom sifting litter box(es). Talk to your kitty, they will tell you what they want. Usually they want a clean, dark, and quiet place out of traffic to do their buisness.
I am using huge Sterilite 114L bins with an entrance cut out in the front. See photos. My three cats have the choice four litter boxes to use. They get together and decide who goes in which one, or maybe one is only for peeing and one is only for poo... I don't know, i never got a meeting invite, I just clean up afterwards. The sifting action is created by using two bins nested into each other. The inner container has one million 3/16" to 1/4" sized holes drilled in the bottom in order to allow the spent pellets to sift into the second bin. You can also use a soldering iron to burn a neat little hole in the bottom of the bin. It is best to burn the hole from the bottom up so the excess melt will stay on the bottom. Try it, you'll see what I mean.
My kitties love it!
Training your cat to use the wood pellet litter
Cats are creatures of habbit. They do not like change. Any cat can be easily trained to use wood pellets. A gradual transition is required from the clay based to the wood pellets. What I have done was add one scoop at a time to the clay box. Depending on how it goes I could almost span this out over two weeks. These will be a difficult two weeks my friends, The wood pellets and clay litter do not play well together, The good clay is like sand, but the spent wood chips are also dust... So, lots of "good" clay is thrown away with the spent wood pellets.
Before starting this process it might be a good idea to have your new sifting boxes ready to go. Once you feel the kitties are ready, ditch the clay and go with the sifting box. Remember, with the wood pellets you're sifting out the bad spent pellets in dust form, and keeping the good pellets on top. Less work than clay.
Of my four boxes I had three running wood pellets, the last still has the half and half mixture.
At the end of this process the cats are like, "ok, ok, we'll use the wood stuff".
My rebel cat, I mean rescue cat, the one who's nose I booped and then shit on my pillow, came up from the shitter one day and she smelled of wonderful wood pellets. I knew she had finally used the new box.
At this point i feel confident enough to switch out the fourth box, except I don't have the sifting layer ready yet.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Ardot