The scoop with kitty litter

Having an animal companion these days raises all sorts of environmental and ethical questions. Very few humans actually need a cat or a dog as a working animal.

Having an animal companion these days raises all sorts of environmental and ethical questions.

Very few humans actually need a cat or a dog as a working animal.

Gone are the days when a cat would contribute towards a household by protecting the grain silo from the ravages of mice and rats.

The same can be said of dogs, although they do fill a role in providing a form of burglar alarm and some do provide value as sport companions in the form of dog-mushing and skijoring.

But the emotional value they provide is incalculable.

It is also a two way flow of support.

Pets comfort us, and humans try to return those feelings.

To that end humans tend to over cater to their pet needs.

This ranges from food to the associated waste disposal when that food ends up as urine and feces.

While dogs tend to do their business outside, and their owners are meant to clean up after them, cats are in a different ballpark.

They require an indoor place to defecate and that means a kitty litter bin.

This is where an environmental concern comes in.

The main environmental problem with kitty litter is not the smell caused by what is deposited it in.

Nor is it the mess it makes when cats track it through a home.

The big issue problem is where it comes from.

The raw ingredient

for kitty litter is mined in large open-pit operations.

Most kitty litters available are composed of clay.

Clay absorbs moisture, so it makes an ideal substance to deal with the waste products from the furry little bundle of joy that is known as the house cat.

Clumping kitty litter is derived from a special type of clay, sodium bentonite, but it still a clay.

Clay is extracted from the ground in a fashion familiar to anyone involved in the mining business.

It is strip mined, which means removing vegetation and top soil, and then digging a large shallow pit to get at the required mineral.

After the mine has been exhausted of profitable material, attempts to remediate the pit back into something resembling the pre-mining condition are often required.

As most Yukon residents can attest, the land usually never looks as good nor functions in the same manner as it was prior to the mine.

That means the joy of having a little tiger on the hearth rug is resulting in strip mining somewhere else on the planet just to keep the little beast in kitty litter.

It is similar in concept to human toilet paper.

Trees have to be cut down somewhere to provide what, at least in North America, is considered an essential piece of hygiene material.

Now there are alternatives.

Humans can choose to purchase toilet paper made from recycled paper.

They can also use what the majority of the world does, either a bowl of water and a hand or reusable rag.

Similarly, humans can purchase environmentally better forms of kitty litter.

These consist of a wide variety of products.

Typically, they are made from some organic product, such as wood pellets or processed paper products.

They function in a similar manner to clay kitty litter.

Moisture is soaked up and odours are absorbed.

Some of the materials have clumping properties, some do not.

Regrettably, none of the products clean the litter box themselves.

The real problem is the user of the kitty litter might not approve of what the human companion has chosen to fill the litter box.

This humble scribe has two little tigers on his hearthstone and they seem to be just as picky about what the human companion puts in their litter box as to they

type of food they will eat.

They are currently comfortable with a corncob-derived kitty litter product.

Those familiar with their toiletries will note the subtle irony.

In some parts of the world, corncobs are used by humans instead of toilet paper.

According to the packaging the corncob kitty litter is a renewable compostable resource.

The renewable aspect negates the need for clay based kitty litter, thus removing the need of a clay strip-mining operation somewhere on the planet.

Disposal is not easy to do in an environmentally responsible manner.

In Whitehorse do not add kitty litter, even if it says it is compostable, to the city compost pickup program.

Cat

feces can contain all sorts of unpleasant pathogens and there is the possibility not all will be destroyed during the composting process.

Place kitty litter in a sealed bag and put it in the garbage.

Kitty litter is not very environmentally friendly.

The least people can do is ensure the source is not an environmentally destructive kitty litter mine.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

d
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for March 3, 2021.

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read