Is clay cat litter biodegradable? (5 factors to explain how sustainable clay cat litter is)

This article covers important questions regarding clay cat litter and will help study the environmental impact of clay cat litter. The following topics are addressed:

  • Difference between clay cat litter and other types of cat litter
  • Safety of clay cat litter
  • Biodegradability of clay cat litter
  • Environmental impact of clay cat litter
  • Alternatives of clay cat litter
  • FAQs

Is clay cat litter biodegradable?

No, clay cat litter is non-biodegradable. Although clay is a natural material, it is not organic which is why it is of no benefit to microorganisms so it is deemed as non-biodegradable but natural. Being non-biodegradable does not essentially mean harmful. 

Due to the fact that they are non-biodegradable, it means that they serve no purpose in the soil as they won’t degrade to provide essential nutrients to the soil as well as to the plants so both clumpy clay cat litter and non-clumping clay cat litter are not compostable.

The most appropriate thing to do when it comes to disposal is to bag it up and throw it in a trash can. That way its harmful effects will be contained. This is perhaps the best option that we have until new ways to degrade this product come into the market after research.

There are many plant-based cat litters available in the market which are biodegradable, non-toxic, compostable and eco-friendly. The only problem is that they are often so expensive that the customers ignore the benefits they offer and they go for cheap clay-based cat litter.

Is clay cat litter safe for your cat?

Yes, it is safe but a few precautions are necessary. Both clumping and non-clumping clay can become dangerous for a cat if the cat eats it. Now, this may sound weird but it happens.

Cats are very gentle and clean creatures and they put clay onto their faeces after they are done and afterwards they clean their paws with their tongue. Now in nature, this wouldn’t be a problem as they would be choosing different places every time to do it.

But in the case of the home litter boxes and clay litter. It comes to notice that the clay contains faeces and especially clumpy clay is very fine and dusty and will form a sludge so it becomes very dangerous for a cat. Even humans who inhale or ingest bentonite are known to have respiratory and other problems.

Is clay cat litter biodegradable?

Biodegradability of a product means that it is completely made from or most of its ingredients are made from natural substances that can be degraded in nature in less than a year, unlike synthetic non-biodegradable products which can remain on the planet for thousands of years and harm the environment.

Although bentonite and other forms of clay are natural materials they are not organic which is why they are of no benefit to microorganisms so they are deemed as non-biodegradable but natural. Being non-biodegradable does not essentially mean harmful. 

A non-biodegradable substance only becomes harmful when it interferes with the normal functioning of the body of animals and plants or it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces rather than degrading.

Bentonites and other forms of clay are not harmful to marine life so they are safe but still, these materials do not belong to the soil. Bentonite, as discussed earlier, is found in volcanic ash due to which it is unsuitable to be mixed with soil hence clay cat litter should not be thrown in the trash. 

There are mainly three types of cat litter: Clay cat litter, Silica crystal cat litter and plant-based cat litter. Plant-based cat litter is made from plant waste which is obtained from industries that use wheat, soy etc. It is biodegradable and non-toxic. Silica crystal cat litter is made using silica and is non-biodegradable and even toxic if ingested.

Clay cat litter is further divided into two types namely: Clumping clay and non-clumping clay cat litter. Clumping clay is mainly made of bentonite which is an abundant earth substance and is found in volcanic ash. It is hard, heavy, non-biodegradable and very dusty and is not recommended to be used for kittens.

Non-clumpy clay cat litter is made of clays other than bentonite and it is lighter than clumping clay which is why it is easier to move around but it is difficult to clean and may require to be cleaned multiple times a week.

Is it compostable?

No. The fact that they are non-biodegradable, means that they serve no purpose in the soil as they won’t degrade to provide essential nutrients to the soil as well as to the plants so both clumpy clay cat litter and non-clumping clay cat litter are not compostable.

Composting is the process of making compost from waste. This compost can be used as a natural fertiliser that can replace synthetic fertilisers. 

Composting is a green alternative because it offers a number of benefits that include: 

  • Increased soil fertility 
  • Increased water retention profile
  • The increased organic content of the soil
  • Better yield
  • Decreased use of agrochemicals

Can it be reused in any way?

Clay cat litter is not compostable or biodegradable which means that it won’t convert into anything else. It intrigues a consumer’s mind that it may be reused but this is not the case.

As discussed earlier, there are a lot of risks involved in using clay cat litter due to the fact that the cat may accidentally ingest bentonite clay silica or any other harmful chemicals or substances. 

So if the cat were to use recycled clay cat litter, it would significantly increase the health risk for the cat as well as for humans as we know that clumping clay is very fine and dusty and inhaling them can give breathing problems to humans.

What is the environmental impact of using clay cat litter? (5 factors to explain how sustainable clay cat litter is)

Clay cat litter is used all over the world and not just for cats only but all sorts of pet animals so it is a very common use product. The things amount environmental impact is that it has to take several things into account:

  • Production method
  • Raw materials 
  • Scale of usage
  • Method of degradation
  • Waste management

So every product has to be assessed on these four points. As we know that the most widely used cat litter is clay cat litter due to it being cheap and easy to use so the scale of the product is huge.

Although clay cat litter whether it be clumping or non-clumping are safe for animal and marine life despite being non-biodegradable, it should not be thrown in your backyard as they are uncompostable and will not mix with household clay which can affect your plant’s growth.

It can be assumed that there will be a significant impact on the environment since clay cat litter is non-biodegradable in nature. Therefore, it will contribute to the waste problem which is already quite exacerbated due to the burgeoning consumerism and commercialisation. 

How to properly dispose of clay cat litter?

We know that clay cat litter is neither biodegradable nor compostable. Hence the most appropriate thing to do is to bag it up and throw it in a trash can.

That way its harmful effects will be contained. This is perhaps the best option that we have until new ways to degrade this product come into the market after research.

Are there any eco-friendly alternatives available in the market?

Yes. There are many plant-based cat litters available in the market which are biodegradable, non-toxic, compostable and eco-friendly. The only problem is that they are often so expensive that the customers ignore the benefits they offer and they go for cheap clay-based cat litter.

This is perhaps common in every green product that they are more expensive and so people generally avoid buying. This has to be overcome if we are to bring any significant change. 

What qualities should be present in the best biodegradable cat litter?

The best biodegradable cat litter should have the following properties:

  • It should be made using plant waste only
  • It should not contain any other harmful substance.
  • It should be scented.
  • It should be cheap.
  • It should degrade as quickly as possible.
  • It should be easy for cats to use.
  • It should not contain any allergens.

The above-mentioned points can be taken as blueprint points that can be of good cat litter that is not only good for utilitarian purposes but also good for the environment. 

However, as we have seen in our case, clay cat litter is not readily biodegradable and it also can not be composted. Therefore, many people and environmentalists will hesitate to call it an eco-friendly product. 

On the contrary, a preference needs to be sketched towards plant-based materials used for cat litter as these alternatives are not only biodegradable but also compostable. 

Conclusion

It is concluded that clay cat litter is non-biodegradable. Although clay is a natural material, it is not organic which is why it is of no benefit to microorganisms so it is deemed as non-biodegradable but natural. Being non-biodegradable does not essentially mean harmful. 

Due to the fact that they are non-biodegradable, it means that they serve no purpose in the soil as they won’t degrade to provide essential nutrients to the soil as well as to the plants so both clumpy clay cat litter and non-clumping clay cat litter are not compostable.

The most appropriate thing to do when it comes to disposal is to bag it up and throw it in a trash can. That way its harmful effects will be contained. This is perhaps the best option that we have until new ways to degrade this product come into the market after research.

There are many plant-based cat litters available in the market which are biodegradable, non-toxic, compostable and eco-friendly. The only problem is that they are often so expensive that the customers ignore the benefits they offer and they go for cheap clay-based cat litter.

Frequently Asked Questions: Is clay cat litter biodegradable?

Is clay cat litter made from natural substances?

Yes, clay is a natural but not an organic substance. It is considered non-biodegradable because it can not be used by microbes as a source of food. 

Is it cheap?

Clay cat litter is cheaper than the biodegradable options which are plant-based materials dependent. 

References

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