Posts tagged cats

Should Pets Go Green?

Last summer when I kicked my greening initiative into high gear, I decided that my two cats needed to jump on the bandwagon as well.  This became even more urgent when I learned a little more about where cat litter comes from and the impact on the environment (a good discussion of this can be found at http://nydogsworld.com/articles.aspx). While I didn’t really know what my cats would think about this, I just assumed that they were totally on board.  In hindsight, I should have tried to get a little more buy- in before initiating the change (more about this later).

I went to a local branch of a national pet store chain and was pleasantly surprised by the selection of green litters they had.  After reviewing my options, I settled on one that was made from recycled pine shavings. The cat litter looked a bit like rabbit food or chopped up pretzel sticks, but it smelled good, and had very little dust.  In addition, it was very light, making it a lot easier to handle than the 20 pounds tubs I was used to buying.

I got home and replaced the clumping clay litter I had been using for years with the new pine litter.  It seemed like the cats liked it pretty well.  I scooped debris from the box every day, and there were no accidents outside the box.  Pretty good, right?

My first sign of something strange happened about a week into the experiment.  I was scooping debris from the cat box and found what can only be described as a human sized poo.   Yes, a human sized poo.  For those of you with cats, you know that this is highly unusual.  Even on their most productive day, my cats’ poo is really not that big.  One of my cats was recovering from some minor surgery, and I attributed the change in poo size to the antibiotics he was taking to prevent infection.

The cat poor cat who didn't like the pine litter :(

The poor cat who didn't like the pine litter

I kept an eye on the cat box over the next few days, with nothing unusual to report.  At the same time, however, my calico cat, was becoming more and more lethargic.  While it was not unusual for her to sit on top of the kitchen cabinets, she had gotten to the point where she was spending all of her time there.  She was sleeping more and more, and wouldn’t even come down when I ran water in the kitchen sink.  This was highly unusual.  In fact, she even stopped responding when I called her name (also highly unusual).

I was about ready to call the vet to bring her in when I found yet another human sized poo in the box.  Hmm.  Didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that something was up.  A friend suggested that I switch back to the old litter and see what happened.  I made the switch immediately and within 24 hours the cat was back to her active, affectionate self.  Mystery solved.  My poor cat hated the pine litter so much that she let herself get totally impacted : (

I realize that I could have handled the transition to the new litter a lot better.  In hindsight:

  • I should have gotten “buy-in” from the cats.  Okay, I know its a bit strange to say that I should have gotten “buy-in” from them, but most people would agree that the reason many projects fail is that the people in charge don’t get the agreement of the people being affected.  I guess this is true for cats as well.  While there was no way to talk to the cats to get them to agree that green litter was better,  I could potentially have achieved something similar by by adding the new pine litter to the old litter a little bit at a time so they could get used to it.  This is the method suggested on Green Little Cat, which has a great post on how to handle the transition (http://www.greenlittlecat.com/?p=23).  I wish this post had been available last summer.  I’m not sure it would have changed the outcome, but it would have increased the odds that the cats would adapt to the new litter.  Even with this knowledge, I’m hesitant to try changing the cats’ litter again.  Instead I freecycled what was left of the big bag of pine litter.
  • I should have tried a litter that was more similar to the clay litter the cats were used to. There are plenty of natural litters on he market, each with a unique look, feel, and smell.  I may try to find one the cats like sometime in the future.  For now though, I think I’ll leave my cats alone.  They didn’t ask to go green.

There are also a lot of different ways to help your pets live a greener life, changing cat litter is only one option. Green Little Cat had a wonderful series “The 30 Day Green Cat Challenge.”  Check it out to see what else you can do to help your cat be more environmentally friendly.

To answer the question: “Should pets go green?” the answer is yes if your pet will tolerate it, no if they won’t.   Any effort to green your pet should be done with great care.  Even changes that seem pretty minor can have a huge impact on it’s health and well being.  Your pets’ health and wellbeing is just as important as the environment, and as their stewards we need to balance their needs with our wants.

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