Friday, April 15, 2016

Great Litter Box Solution for Cats!

We have seven cats (six adults and a kitten).  I hate clay litter - it's dusty and retains smells even after being cleaned out.  I've used the pine cat litter sold at pet supply stores for quite some time, both the sawdust clumping type and the pellets.  It's made from pine trees and pine has an amazing ability to hide or absorb cat urine odor.  The cats all prefer the the sawdust type, but they did get used to pellets and pellets are a bit cheaper.  The brand of pine cat litter I was purchasing was $42 for a 34lb bag of the clumping.  The pellets were $39 for a 40lb bag.  It does last a really long time, but that's still very expensive cat litter.

One day I got to thinking, I wonder if there is any difference between wood burning pellets and these cat litter pellets?  I did some research on the net, and found that many shelters and rescue centers use wood pellets for this very purpose!  And there is a significant price difference....I bought a 40lb bag of softwood pellets for $5.49 at Kent Building Supplies.  I tried them out for a couple of months and I actually like them better than the pet store pellets.  I used hardwood pellets too and they work just as well.

I then wanted to create a sifting type of litter box to make cleaning easier and make the pellets last much longer.  The first thing I did was find some trays to use as bottom catch trays that would be slightly smaller than the litter box that was going to sit on top of it.  I only had one that was smaller so I just used what I had around the house but they were larger than the litter box so I had to use some pieces of 2x2 wood to suspend the litter box off the bottom.  The ideal situation would be to find a lower tray that fit snugly to the litter box and left about a 3" or 4" space in the bottom.  I used a drill with a 11/32 bit and drilled holes in the bottoms of all my litter boxes (which are actually totes) like this:


Next, I used two pieces of 2x2 to suspend the litterbox over the catch tray.  I sprinkled some cat litter deodorizer in the bottom.


The litter box is then placed on top of the tray.  Since this sets the litter box up a little higher than they're used to, I also made them a little step to make getting in and out easier.



Every time a cat urinates on the pellets, it turns them to sawdust.  See an example of a urination spot below:


Every day, I scoop out the poops into a covered bucket.  I then stir the pellets around vigorously in the litter box, and this causes the sawdust to fall through the holes into the catch tray.  When you're done stirring it's like you've got fresh pellets again.  Every two weeks, empty out the catch trays.  This is what one looks like after two weeks: 


Catch tray emptied into the waste bucket:


I am now into one month of using this litter box system.  I have four large litter boxes and used one 40lb bag of wood pellets to fill them.  The catch trays had to be emptied at the two-week mark.  This is what the litter boxes look like after one month of use (the third litter box is upstairs):


See how many pellets are left?  That's amazing!  I think I'm going to get another two weeks out of this bag of pellets.  And remember - that 40lb bag of pellets only cost me $5.49 + tax for a total of $6.31.  It lasts six weeks for seven cats.  Total cost of cat litter per month is $4.20.  Another thing I love about this is that the cats don't track the litter when they leave the box (pellets are too big)...so your litter box room stays cleaner longer.  If you don't sift daily they will track the sawdust out though.

Cats don't like change - so it's best to mix new cat litter with the old for awhile until they get used to it.  Gradually put more pellets in with their old litter until you're completely onto pellets.  Don't drill any holes in your boxes until they're converted to pellets.  Another method I used was I left one clay litterbox and set up three pellet litterboxes.  The clay one got used heavily but gradually some cats started using the pellets.  I started mixing that last clay box with pellets and eventually got rid of the clay altogether now we're 100% on wood pellets and sifting boxes.  It has made my life so much easier and we're saving money too!

To sum it all up, here are the pros and cons of both litter types (wood pellets and clay clumping):

WOOD PELLETS

Pros:
  • Dirt cheap
  • Superior odor control
  • Less tracking
  • Dust-free
  • Long-lasting

Cons:
  • Can take some time to get cats converted to using it.
  • If a cat has urinary issues you will not be able to monitor urine clump sizes.

CLAY CLUMPING LITTER

Pros:
  • If a cat has urinary issues you will be able to monitor urine clump sizes.
  • Cats take to it easily.
Cons:
  • Can be expensive.
  • Stinks all the time - clean or dirty.
  • Dusty.  The room where the litter boxes are will have dust everywhere.
  • It sticks to their feet and they track it outside of the box.