People love their pets. In the United States alone (the world’s biggest lover of our feline friends), there are an estimated 75 million pet cats. However, 75 million cats can create one humongous mess. For your cat’s hygiene and the collective safety of everyone in your household, you’ll most likely use cat litter to keep your house clean and dispose of your cat’s waste. Cat litter has been around for the better part of the past century, and it continues to be improved as new materials are discovered or designed to cover the scent and become more efficient in a given volume than previous types of litter. In many ways, it is the single most important foundation of your cat’s health in addition to a proper diet.
From the Origins to Modern Litter
In the first few years after World War II, a man by the name of Ed Lowe designed and sold the first mixture of cat litter to families. He became so successful that his company, built entirely from this one product (and expanded later), was worth half a billion dollars by his death in 1995. That’s how important this product is to families today. At first, sand was primarily used in cat litter, but clay quickly became the standard because of its superior absorbency. Then, clumping cat litter was invented. Cat urine and feces cause the tiny particles to clump together so that it can be easily scooped out and replaced without having to change out all of the cat litter at once.
New advances such as biodegradable and silica gel cat litter promise even more options for cat owners. There are a couple of reasons why cat owners should absolutely consider what type of litter is best for their pet. Cost is a consideration for the vast majority of families out there, so it’s important to keep litter cheap enough for people to purchase. This generally means that litter technological advances are slow and far apart as functioning, cheap products already exist. There simply isn’t a great demand for new types of cat litter, although biodegradable litter was a large concern several years ago.
Cat litter is primarily used to cover up the foul odors associated with fecal matter and urine, and it provides a safe product to handle to get rid of those wastes from your household. However, there are some concerns with the use of litter. Flushing litter down the toilet can introduce the tiny parasite Toxoplasma gondii into the water ways, possibly harming a variety of marine life such as otters and sharks. Also, pregnant women should avoid handling cat litter if possible as T. gondii can harm the early fetus. Also, environmental concerns continue to linger about the estimated 2 million tons of litter that gets deposited in US landfills each year, so further research will be conducted into how to combat these various problems.