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Cat Litter - We must resolve this!

 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi,
I'm looking for a great brainstorming session here. I'm really tired of buying and using cat litter and tired of the cats tracking it through the house.

There must be a permaculture solution!

So, I live in a single family house in typical track housing in Southern California. I have covered the back yard grass with mulch (about a year ago) and I'm starting a food forest.

I notice my cats love to use the mulch outside to poop and pee in when they are outside. But funny enough I have never come across or smelled any poop out there when I'm digging in new plants. I only let me cats out for a few hours at the most a day.

Anyway, in the past I tried a kit to get them to use the toilet (this was 3 years ago and it ended in disaster when I went on a business trip and they let my mother-in-law know they didn't appreciate the toilet by pooping on my kids bedspreads a few times)

I tried using shredded paper - kind of annoying to wet it up, dry it and scoop it but I have to say it was better than having litter all over. I tried it a few times and stopped but can't remember why I didn't like it. I think because you couldn't just scoop it - you had to throw it all out at once.

I'm now thinking of trying mulch (since they seem to like it outside anyway) and maybe even adding some worms to the cat litter box. I have a feeling it might not smell as much as some other methods but I don't know. I may have to sift the mulch since it is breaking down and I'm not really wanting dirt tracked through the house.

Anyone tried this. Any other ideas. I have to figure this one out.

Any mulch I dump after they use it would be tossed into ornamental areas.

Sheri
 
Bill McGee
Posts: 185
Location: Southeastern Connecticut, USA
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I have 2 indoor cats. My current cat litter solution may not work for you, and is probably not a permaculture solution. It involves a throw rug, 2 plastic bins (more than twice the size of standard cat litter bins) that sit on larger lids from other plastic bins (to catch clay and urine overspray.
- I use standard cheap clay litter from the supermarket. 25 lbs for $3.00 (non clumping, no fragrance)
-I change the clay~ every 10 days.
- it gets added to a large pile of leaves
- my property needs fill, so I can use this clay/leaf humus
- daily the poop gets added to my humanure compost pile. (Felinure?)

I did try converting the cats to a 50/50% clay/wood pellets litter but they started revolting at 50% (my goal was 100% wood pellets) I then decided I like burning the pellets and need the clay (it lasts longer without odor.
- I roll up the rug and shake it outside to get rid of tracked clay particles.

Thats my current solution. The cats and me produce compost and a clay humus leaf mold.
 
Alder Burns
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Location: northern California
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We do humanure here, and I use a fine mulch of semi-decayed wood chips (made by letting a pile of woodchips and leaves given us by the power company tree trimmers sit for a year and then screening it through a 1/2-3/4 inch mesh) in both our own buckets and the cat litterboxes. Odor is minimized by adding about 10 % wood ash to the mulch, moistening it a little, and putting the cat box outside every day for a few hours. The dog comes along and cleans up any poop. I stir up the wet spots in the mulch. Each cat box accomodates 2 cats for a week or two between changes.....
 
Sheri Menelli
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Thanks Bill and Alder,

Ok, I think I will try some of these ideas. I don't have a dog to clean up the poop but I'm thinking maybe if I add worms it might help take care of it. We'll see what the cats think.

I'll repost in a week or two after I experiment.

Thanks for taking the time to respond!
 
Ronnie Ugulano
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Location: Zone 9, CA
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Stove Pellets, any brand.

Get a 40lb bag of stove pellets for $10 or less. Scoop up about a quart or so, and toss it into a standard-sized catbox. It will look like a pitiful amount, but don't give into that urge to use more! Take a spray bottle and spray the pellets with water about 10-20 times. In a few minutes, many of the pellets will disintegrate into sawdust, perfect for cats. As the cats use the box, any remaining pellets will disintegrate into sawdust, and you will have a box full of fluffy litter that kills the smell.

Dump the used cat litter in a special corner for used cat litter, or at the outer reaches of your property, as you desire, and refill your box with fresh pellets.

We found that the stove pellet method doubled the amount of time in between cat box changes.
 
Sheri Menelli
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Awesome - I'll probably try the stove pellets too.

Think my first experiment is the mulch and worms.

 
Kim Schmidt
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As you experiment, just be careful to do so gradually and possibly also offer a box with the litter the cat is used to. If your cat doesn't like your new litter trial, they may reject the litter box entirely and sometimes it is a lot of work to get them back to a litter box again.

 
Cindy Mathieu
Posts: 241
Location: near Houston, TX; zone 8b
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Tractor Supply sells horse bedding which is pine pellets. We use this for cat littler. Bags of these are a lot less than $10.
 
Matu Collins
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Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
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Our cats just go outside
 
John Polk
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I tried the pine pellet stuff, and all of the cats rejected it.
They wouldn't go near it.

The good news is that they would now rather go outside even when it is raining or snowing.
They are descendants from a cat my daughter had that was outside most of the day, rain or shine.

The bad news is that they will come home at night in a rain storm, and then hop onto my bed soaking wet !

 
Gioia De Amanti
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Hi Sheri,

I realize that this post is a little older, and you might already have found the ultimate solution.
- If so, - please advise: ) !

Just to add my 5 cents, - We currently have 8 cats.
Only the first of them came to us intentionally, when her old owner wanted to euthanize her
because of a sudden pee-&-poo-everywhere problem... when the old owner adopted another (very bossy male) cat.
Long story short, the issue got eventually resolved, she used a regular litter pan, and she never had a flashback since..

The other two cats were strays from the neighborhood, whom we intended to "neuter and release", but who instead decided
to stay with us more or less closely. (- One of them turned out to be already pregnant when we wanted to neuter her,
so she had her 5 kittens in our house before we got her and them fixed)

One of the two is living mainly outside, mostly coming in for food only, or a little warmth in winter.. She uses litter boxes
(with or without litter) when necessary, but prefers to do her buisiness outside.

The Mama cat still likes to go outside to relieve herself, - but only for that. - She never wants to stay outside for more than a few minutes.
All the young ones are living indoors full time, as well as our oldest cat.

Latest with this many cats, we needed to find a solution to the litter question.
We tried to train them to use the toilet, and while that has not had significant success with the toilet itself,
(although they are still very interested in figuring out what that thing is good for) the trial got all cats in our house trained
to use empty litter boxes or the bath tub. Most are using the bath tub to pee, - since this allowed them to develop a technique to keep their feet dry, -
and small boxes without litter, in the corner beside the toilet, for the poo. They especially like a paint pan,
the slant of which also allows to keep paws dry, if a cat prefers the box over the tub.
Even our oldest cat, the one who had the litter box issues, has accepted the paint pan
(however, in her old litter pans location, - not in the bathroom).

The neat thing about the litter free boxes is, that you can effortlessly collect the pure urine, if you want, for diluted use as a fertilizer,
or just dump it in the toilet right beside the box, flush the light little box under the faucet for a few seconds, and you're good to go,
without litter tracks, or costs, or hauling or shoveling…
If you don't care for collecting urine for fertilizer, the bathtub is not too bad either. (If we had a shower, I would prefer that,
and install a little faucet with infrared sensor at cat height, which flushed shortly after the cat left the tub.
That would be the most perfect solution. …As soon as we own our own place, that's on the list….)

We do have several little boxes beside the toilet, since, without litter, they don't like to go in a spot
where another has already relieved herself.. We are usually emptying the boxes out as soon as they have been used.
(This is not too much of a challenge since most of it happens very timely after feeding them in the morning and evening,
times when we are in or near the bathroom anyway..)

The one thing that could be considered a downside of this solution is, the smell coverage.
In our case, it actually helps with keeping the boxes clean at all times, - right after they go. -
The act of cleaning them is really so negligible and swift this way, that I don't mind it at all, - as opposed to
having to scoop & refill the box, dispose of the stuff in my garbage, and vacuuming litter tracks all day long…
...and still feeling little stones, or sawdust, or mulch-pieces under my feet all he time...
(- But an automatic flush at cat height in a shower tub would certainly take this all to yet another level entirely." ) -

Blessings,


Gioia.


 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi,

Still haven't come up with a great solution so thanks for your post.

I have to revisit the litter box ideas and start trying some of these.

Has anyone done Bokashi? If you can compost meat and dairy with it, I'd think you could also do the same for cat poop.



 
Rebecca Norman
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It's true that some few people have successfully trained their cats to use the toilet, or as the previous poster has done, an empty box. But the easiest thing is that cats naturally like to have something loose they scratch in, that is similar to dry loose soil. I have seen they are perfectly happy to use regular old sawdust just as well as commercial litter.

Here in Ladakh where commercial cat-litter is unknown and sawdust is a bit too valuable, we simply fill a cardboard box with plain old sandy soil from outside, and every few days empty it down the composting toilet. If the box itself gets dirty, we just throw the box right down and start a new one. Our cats are normally outdoors, but every winter, they like to stay in the school kitchen overnight so we have to keep something there for them. By the way, the whole litter box concept is extremely foreign and funny to people here, kind of like the catfood aisle of the American supermarket or doggy-sweaters. But after cleaning the carpets a few times, they were receptive to my exotic suggestion, and our cats all knew immediately what to do, so it has worked out well.

If you use plain old sawdust, sandy soil, wood pellets, etc, you can throw them right in your compost bin.
 
Sheri Menelli
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Hi Rebecca,

It is so funny how when you grow up one way, you can't imagine that there is another way to do things. Or more accurately, you don't think about other solutions because it is just the way it is done.

I'm 44 years old now and I've had cats since I was a toddler and didn't know of any other way. Didn't even ask myself what others did in other parts of the world.

You alluded to cat food in the supermarket. What do others do to feel their cats? I have an idea but I'd rather stay open and just ask.

Sheri
 
Rebecca Norman
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Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Well, normally people in Ladakh just feed pet cats and dogs food scraps. They'll happily eat rice and dal or torn chapattis.

I even fed an American cat rice and beans for a couple of weeks, but later fed it catfood, and once they get used to fish there's no going back. The noisy demands are unbearable. Also in the US, if you feed your cat vegetarian scraps, he or she will go and seduce your neighbor, who may hand out nice catfood. So it doesn't work in the US.

Here in our school, the kitchen is vegetarian, with dairy and occasional eggs, so we feed the cats our food scraps and hope that their desire for meat will keep them on top of the mouse situation. The cook, a softy, puts big bowls of fresh milk or yogurt on the floor for them, but some people here find that indulgent. And currently a volunteer who is doting on the latest kitten has bought a tray of eggs and is cooking him one a day.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I know what you mean about not knowing things can be done another way. I had that experience so many times in my first few years in Ladakh. ... Food doesn't need to be refrigerated, you just have to eat it fresh! Eggs, for pete's sake, don't need refrigeration! That total lie that tropical countries developed spicy food to cover the taste of rotten meat and rotten food because, poor benighted fools, they don't use fridges. (No, they eat fresh food, and here they buy meat fresher than you can even find in an American supermarket!)

Likewise, there are so many things that we've been trained to think one can't do without a commercial product. I mean, the call of nature for an animal, do we really need to purchase something? (On the other hand I acknowledge that keeping a cat or other animal indoors is an artificial situation and may require special solutions. But in this case, try sawdust -- if it works you're all set. If your cat turns up his furry little nose at it, then I'm sorry, try something else. They can be picky.)
 
Mountain Krauss
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Location: Northern California
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Any form of dry dusty carbon will work great. We have access of free sawdust and wood shavings, but wood chips should work fine if your cat considers them comfortable enough. Dry leaves that our chickens have broken down work great, too.

You can dump daily, or whenever a smell develops-- your preference. Just dump it near lavender or sunflowers or whatever ornamental/pollinator-attracting plants you have growing.
 
Gioia De Amanti
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You are right, Rebecca,
Cats naturally love to scratch and make sure to cover up any smell before they leave the place.
We have also had cats for all of my life, and tried all of your mentioned methods - and then some..

Sawdust in Cardboard box works, pelleted sawdust* or shredded corncob crumbs work even better,
- in terms of dusting & tracking a little less. (A friend had constructed a pellet press for his stove..)
And, with a little added baking soda, they both do a halfway decent job in inhibiting smell.
However, like Sheri said, since it doesn't clump, you always have to scoop out a lot each time,
and empty the whole amount out every few days, which is using A LOT of said material,
and the tracking inside a house is still quite an annoyance.

Newspaper in a box is very beloved by cats. (Just try letting a cardboard box with your recycling-bound papers
sit around for a minute or even just a half without looking before bringing them out... - They'll be in there faster than you can look!)
But still, that creates a LOT of waste, since you have to throw out everything every time, - with NO smell inhibition whatsoever.
Sand, while cheap in some areas (we'd have to haul it from the beach ten miles away or buy it in the store..)
is in this regard not much different. Since it doesn't clump, but on the contrary drains especially well,
it soaks very quickly all the way through, - when you have cardboard underneath, saturating the cardboard before wetting the floor..,
if you have it in a plastic box, forming a lake at the bottom.. - and thus has to be exchanged completely, almost every time,
- all while providing very little smell inhibition.

With that, all of these methods have their challenges which, with more than two cats, over time, are rather tough to brave.

This led us to the entire elimination of the litter, eventually. Which, as said, works well for us with no sustained costs and minimal time effort.
The cats might need to be younger to accept the change well (like with most any other change to their routine, - they really cherish their habits).

But when they accept it, they seem pretty happy with it. We tried a box with their old corncob litter again when we had to leave for three days,
and more than half of the cats still preferred their empty box/bathtub they had meanwhile gotten used to.
They do scratch on the sides of the empty boxes or in the tub, but are ok with the result, since - I made it a point to clean up right after them,
whenever I heard them scratching, and caress them whenever I saw them going in there.
(Which - due to the incomparably greater effort rquired, I hadn't done with the litter in the box.)
They seem to have understood, that this way they have a clean space to go every time they need to, and they very evidently do appreciate that.

Sheri, while I don't know about Bokashi, you can certainly compost cat manure. (That's what happens with outside cats' droppings anyway.)
Cats feces are already far more "composted" than raw meat, and not subject to putrefaction anymore.

We use a water flushed composting toilet for humanure. (The toilet pipes run through a simple strainer basket outside, and the runoff is sent through
contained blackwater planters and the already very clean runoff of that thereafter into a leach field. The output of the leach field far surpasses
the very stringent quality requirements for swimming lakes in Germany). The fermentation of the solids in the strainer basket (in a chamber under the soil)
can be aerobic with vent pipe up to the roof and thus completely smell-free.
Or it can be done anaerobically in a airtight tank, with the methane gas from the fermentation made available for cooking...
The humanure solids composted in this manner take about two years to decompose into a rich inert soil, which can be used in the gardening.
(The strainer basket is separated in half vertically, and turned around 90 degrees, when one side is full after one year,
so that the fermentation can complete for one year without added new material.)

We flush the cat feces into that system, too, and they decompose with the humanure.
But, since, with litter free box method, the cats usually use different boxes for wet and dry business,
you can easily just throw the solids, which are nicely separated from the liquids that way, down any compost toilet
(or just dig it somewhere under the surface of your compost heap, or even a specially assigned compost heap, if you wish)
and treat the liquids as you do yours or thin them down for use as highly efficient free N-fertilizer,
(that does not, like straight cat pepee, burn the plants and soil life).


To the food question, - Cats are - due to the very different make up of their intestinal tract
(very short and smooth, with little surface for flora to adhere to minimize putrefaction of meats) -
meat eaters by nature. And trying to force a vegetarian or mainly vegetarian diet upon them,
that would be ok and healthy for humans (with our long rough and extremely folded intestines
which relay on nurturing a rich intestinal flora to break down herbal material), would NOT be healthy nor natural for a cat.
Especially grains and pulses (legumes like beans) the overeating of which already produces enough problems in people,
is anything else than natural, let alone healthy, for cats (Imagine a cat harvesting grains or cooking beans!... -
(The fresh beans would anyway kill her before she could make it a habit..))
Of course, if your cats still get their main sustenance from hunting for mice, they might survive that kind of vegetarian supplement,
but it is not healthier or more natural for them to eat than a highly processed mainly flour & starch &/or sugar based diet for humans,
- with a very similar poor long term outlook.

Fish is good, - as long as it is the kind of fish would be able to catch themselves.
Big ocean fish on the contrary who are far higher on the food chain do, due to the large amounts of
heavy metals and other toxins they accumulate in their tissues, have a very detrimental long term effect on cats.
Cats also do need to eat WHOLE fish, since they depend on the minerals from fish bones, the vitamins and minerals
as wel as secondary micro-nutrients from organs and blood.
A neighbor fed his cats almost exclusively tuna cans, and all of his cats died within one year on the diet.
(They were all adult when he got them. And he got each one the after the death of another.)
(He finally switched to giblets, sardines, salmon, tilapia & beef heart, the last cat became 18 years old and is still strong.)
(While sardines, salmons, chickens & cow organs are not the most natural prey for house cats either,
the more varied mix seems to at least provide what the cat needs to live a long life.)

As to milk and cream, - Almost ALL cats are highly lactose intolerant after weaning time
(They just don't ever get to milk a cow or goat or sheep in Nature..),
and the resulting bloating and often violent diarrhea dairy consume causes them, is painful
and not a particular act of love to provide them with.
Water is really best for them.
(Since cats on a natural diet get about 80% of their water needs from the meat they consume,
they need a lot more than feral cats, once you feed them things that differ from their natural diet/ are not meat.)

All the best!

Gioia.



 
Wyatt Barnes
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I will belatedly add my voice to the sawdust kitty litter users. We switched almost two years ago and compost with the humanure. I just finished cleaning the litter box and here is what is involved. When the toilet bucket gets about 2/3 or 3/4 full I dump all the contents of the litter box in, put a lid on the now almost full pail and swap in a new one. I open up the sawdust reserve container next to the toilet and remove the scoop, leaving the container open. Next I rinse the plastic litter box out two or three times in the bathtub and return it to its usual spot in the bathroom. I then put fresh sawdust in the litter box, a bit in the bottom of the pail and fill up the reservoir container. Put the scoop back in, lid on, toilet seat and lid down and remove both the full pail and whatever sawdust is left in the storage bag. In and out in about 5 minutes. I find that with sawdust the litter box is very easy to keep clean, nothing much sticks to the bottom, I can rinse with no problem and since the material is free I tend to change the litter more often than needed which the cats appreciate.
 
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http://www.FoodForestCardGame.com
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