How Green Is Your Kitty's Litter?

Ellen Nulf, for the Shuttle

Try Newspaper for a DIY Solution

There is always the option to create a homemade litter if you have old newspapers. Follow these steps:

  1. Shred newspaper in a clean/unused litter box
  2. Soak the paper in warm water mixed with a few squirts of biodegradable dish soap. The shredded paper will take on a cooked-oatmeal consistency and the water will turn gray.
  3. Drain the water and repeat soaking process with water only.
  4. Sprinkle baking soda liberally on the wet paper. Knead it into the mixture.
  5. Squeeze remaining moisture out until it’s as dry as you can get it.
  6. Crumble over a screen and allow to dry for a few days.

Fill the cat's litter box to a depth of 2 inches. Scoop daily and change weekly.

A simpler homemade solution is to add a few extra litter trays lined with a few sheets of newspaper. When the paper is wet, simply replace it. You'll still need a traditional litter box somewhere because kitties tend to only urinate on the paper, but you'll buy (and discard!) far less litter.

— Ellen Nulf

Many cat litters work well and may even be perceived as eco-friendly, but you might want to take a closer look. Switching to a truly eco-friendly litter isn’t only good for the environment, it’s good for your cat too.

More than 2 million tons of sodium bentonite clay is mined in the United States each year just for kitty litter. Sodium bentonite can be harmful if cats ingest it, which can happen accidentally when they clean themselves. Likewise, the silica dust in many litters may contribute to respiratory problems for your kitty and you. Fortunately, there are many options, and Weavers Way Across the Way carries a wide variety. Here are some of them:

Swheat Scoop: This natural wheat litter contains no chemicals and no clay, is biodegradable and flushable, doesn’t create dust, is made from a renewable resource and is 100 percent compostable for non-vegetable plants (after scooping). The wheat enzymes naturally neutralize odors.

Blue Naturally Fresh Litter: This is a flushable multi-cat quick-clumping litter made of walnut shells. It is chemical-free, grain-free, clay-free and corn free.

Cedarific Soft Cat Litter: This all natural, biodegradable litter is made with wood fibers grown in the United States. It contains no chemicals, is lightweight and dust-free, and has a soft texture for your kitty’s paws.

Premium Choice Carefree Kitty: This litter company claims its litter “won’t harm the environment,” but it is based on mining. This litter uses bentonite clay from Wyoming and is unscented.

Arm & Hammer Feline Pine: This is a 100 percent natural-pine clumping litter. It contains a “clumping agent” and mineral oil. It creates no dust and contains no artificial scents. This litter doesn’t actually clump; solid waste can be scooped but once liquid hits the litter, the pellets break apart into sawdust. The box can be shaken so the sawdust settles at the bottom, and the litter can be changed when it is close to 90 percent sawdust.

Arm & Hammer “Naturals”: This litter is a corn-based clumping litter, containing a “plant-based clumping agent,” baking soda (of course) and mineral oil.

Cat Tails: 100 percent clay-based litter containing no chemicals. This product packaging does not give information about where the clay comes from.

World’s Best Cat Litter: This is the priciest, but users seem to appreciate that it clumps, is (technically) flushable and dust-free. It is made of whole-kernel corn and comes an all-natural lavender-oil-scented variety. World's Best is sold in Chestnut Hill as well as at Across the Way.

Purina Yesterday’s News: Known as the gentle pellet litter for kittens just having had surgery, Yesterday’s News calls itself the “#1 Recommended Eco-Friendly Cat Litter.” It is made with recycled newspaper, is dust-free, unscented and three times more absorbent than clay.

One thing that needs acknowledging is the potential problems that can result from flushing "flushable" litter. Some cats harbor a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii (especially outdoor cats that eat raw meat), and sewage treatment does not kill this parasite in cat poop. World’s Best's label has a disclaimer from the state of California urging users not to flush the waste, and the Sea Otter Alliance also urges cat owners to never flush cat waste because it may be harmful to marine life. This parasite is also potentially dangerous to people who have vulnerable immune systems such as pregnant women, elderly and people with serious illnesses, who should never handle cat litter at all. So if you choose a "flushable" litter, the best practice is to put it out with the trash.

Obviously, this is a lot to consider! It may take some trial and error to find the best litter for your home, but of course your cats will love you for it.

Ellen Nulf is a member of the Weavers Way Environment Committee. Email her at