The Environmental Impact of Clay Cat Litter

We’re adopting a kitty!

As my stepkiddo ponders the perfect name (she’s stuck between Blueberry and Charlie), I’m wondering about the ecological impact of adding a kitty into our ecoden

There’s a lot to consider: the eco-friendliness of his food, the materials in his toys, and, most importantly:

How do I dispose of her waste in an eco-friendly way? 

In the past, I’ve tried a few eco-friendly options simply because clay litter was clumping in my previous cat’s fur and there were grey paw prints all over the hardwood and the cleanliness monster inside me couldn’t deal.

At the time, I didn’t know the environmental impact of clay cat litter, but now that I do, I honestly won’t ever consider it again.* 

So what’s wrong with clay cat litter?

environment and ecology - clay cat litter environment impact

The environmental impact of clay cat litter

Clay litter production depends on ecologically-destructive sodium bentonite surface mining. During this process, layers of earth up to 50 feet deep are lifted, the material extracted, and then further processed through energy-intensive methods. 

Surface mining has a hefty carbon footprint and desecrates the land and surrounding ecosystems, contributing to groundwater, air, and noise pollution, biodiversity loss, and species displacement. 

According to MIT, “The effects of this damage can continue years after a mine has shut down, including the addition to greenhouse gasses, death of flora and fauna, and erosion of land and habitat.”

All this ecoimpact occurs before processing the clay into litter. 

After extraction, the raw material has to be crushed and, when necessary, activated with the addition of soda ash.

Next up is drying, purifying, and treating with either acids or organics, depending on the proposed product usage. Finally, odour-busting synthetic fragrances are added (unless in the case of unscented varieties).  

In the end, resources are further spent on reclaiming the mined land and attempting to restore its fertility and vitality. Or, in many cases, the land is just simply abandoned.

environment and ecology - cat health
Unsplash cat is not happy about all this.

All this destruction for something we use temporarily and then toss into the trash? It seems silly. Unsustainable. Unnecessary. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. 

Ecoconscious pet parents have already paved the way for eco-friendly solutions to the clay cat litter problem. There are actually several alternatives like recycled wood and newspaper pellets.

All that’s left is to decide which makes sense for your household, and I can help. 

Check out my post on the best green alternatives to clay cat litter. In the post, I break down the eco-friendly options by cost, rating, and material sourcing. I also let you know which option we chose and why. 

*In the post on alternatives, I’ll also explain why saying things like “I’ll honestly never consider it again” is a bad idea.

Cover image credit: Unsplash


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