Is fresh step cat litter biodegradable? (5 components of fresh step cat litter).

This article shall answer the question of the biodegradability of fresh step cat litter.

I’m addition, it shall also look into other sub-topics such as:

  • The components of fresh step cat litter.
  • The composition of cat urine.
  • Toxicity of cat urine.

Is fresh step cat litter biodegradable?

No, fresh step cat litter is made up of chemical compounds which are not susceptible to microbial degradation.

The components of fresh step cat litter are chemically synthesized and therefore they are not easy to break down due to the activity of bacteria and fungi.

Let’s take a quick look at the process of biodegradation.


Biodegradation is the process by which naturally occurring organic materials are broken down by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi into small particles which are not harmful to the environment.

Biodegradation is carried out by different agents such as UV radiation, light, wind, and water but the most effective agents of biodegradation are bacteria and fungi.

Biodegradation occurs in three distinct stages: biodeterioration, bio-fragmentation, and assimilation.

The biodeterioration process loosens up the structure of the organic substance. For instance, the cell wall of plants is weakened by light, wind, water, and UV radiation.

Bio-fragmentation involves the breakdown of organic matter into smaller, nontoxic particles by bacteria and fungi, releasing water and carbon dioxide in the process.

Assimilation is the last stage of biodegradation and it involves the microorganisms taking up the products of bio-fragmentation into their biological machinery to be used to make energy.

Biodegradation can either involve the microorganisms using oxygen, aerobic biodegradation or it can involve the microorganisms which do not use oxygen, anaerobic biodegradation.

Aerobic biodegradation breaks down organic matter into small biomass, producing carbon dioxide and water.

Anaerobic biodegradation breaks down organic matter into small biomass and in the process carbon dioxide and methane gases are produced.

Aerobic biodegradation occurs at a faster rate than anaerobic biodegradation whereas anaerobic respiration is more efficient and produces more gases and other products.

What is fresh step cat litter?

This is a substance that is used to absorb the bad odor of a cat’s urine.

The cat litter uses carbon and clay to absorb the urine and remove odors.

The litter clumps absorb the urine and prevent urine odor from spreading in the house. 

Fresh step cat litter does not work like chemical cat urine removers. 

Chemical cat urine removers contain enzymes that break down urea in the cat’s urine into carbon dioxide and ammonia, these gases evaporate very fast, leaving the cat’s box and the entire house fresh.

The disadvantage with chemical cat urine removers is that they exhaust very easily and need to be replaced now and then, let’s say daily.

What are the components of fresh step cat litter?

Fresh step cat is made up of non-scoopable clay which is made up of sodium bentonite, limestone, activated charcoal, Febreze fragrance, and borates as antimicrobial agents.

Sodium bentonite.

This is one compound of bentonite clay. Bentonite clay occurs in different forms such as calcium bentonite, sodium bentonite, and potassium bentonite.

Sodium bentonite is a compound that expands when wet, making it absorb more fluids to a size several times bigger than its initial one.

Sodium bentonite is used in fresh step cat litter for its ability to expand when it is wet. It makes it easy to absorb the cat’s urine, preventing the spread of urine odor.


This is a type of carbonated sedimentary rock. The main source is lime. It occurs in two forms, calcite and aragonite.

The chemical component of limestone is calcium carbonate.

Limestone is used to prevent the accumulation of ammonia in fresh step cat litter by reacting with it. Calcium carbonate would react with ammonia in urine to form carbonate of ammonia.

Activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal contains carbon that helps to neutralize urine odor. The activated charcoal absorbs the urine and helps to reduce the amount of odor produced by ammonia.


Borate compounds have been known for a long time to be able to kill pathogens. The antimicrobial activities of borate compounds make it an ideal antimicrobial agent in fresh step cat litter.

What is the composition of cat urine?

Cat urine contains several chemical compounds. Some of the chemical compounds disintegrate into ammonia which produces a bad odor.

The chemical substances in cat urine include the following:

  • Urobilinogen.
  • Creatinine.
  • Uric acid.
  • Urea.
  • Sodium chloride


This is a colorless chemical that is released through the reduction of bilirubin.

The urobilinogen is reabsorbed to the liver, where it enters the circulatory system and is taken to the kidneys to be excreted in the urine.

Urobilinogen is the component in urine that gives urine its characteristic yellow color. Urobilinogen is also reduced in the intestines to form stercobilin which is excreted through the feces, giving feces the characteristic brown color.

The levels of urobilinogen in the human urine may indicate the following scenarios.

  • Low urobilinogen may indicate one is suffering from complete obstructive jaundice, or one has been treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics such as azithromycin, which destroy the intestinal all-important flora.
  • Low urobilinogen levels may result from hyperbilirubinemia syndromes, or from treatment drugs that make urine acidic, such as ascorbic acid and ammonium chloride.
  • Excess urobilinogen may indicate an excessive breakdown of red blood cells, a condition called hemolytic anemia.
  • Other causes of high urobilinogen are overburdened liver, re-absorption, in the case of a hematoma, restricted liver function, liver poisoning, and liver cirrhosis


This is a waste product made by the breakdown of creatine phosphate in muscles and protein metabolism.

Creatinine is taken to the kidney where it is excreted in the urine. Creatinine is excreted by the body at a constant rate, and therefore, a change in creatinine concentration in the urine may indicate a defect in the kidneys.

Serum creatinine is an important test used to check on the normal functioning of kidneys.

Creatinine has shown some antibiotic properties and is therefore used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Since Creatinine does not affect fungi and yeast, it can be used to culture them in a medium and separate them from bacteria.

Uric acid.

Uric acid is a chemical compound that is formed when xanthine and hypoxanthine; produced from purines, are broken down by the enzyme xanthine oxidase.

Purines are structural compounds that are found in DNA and RNA.

Uric acid is taken from the liver to the kidneys where it is excreted in the urine.

High concentrations of uric acid in the blood may lead to gout; a condition that involves the accumulation of uric acid in joints, and kidney stones and might also cause diabetes.

This is an organic amide molecule with the chemical CO(NH2)2. It is also called carbamide.


Urea is the main molecule in the metabolism of nitrogen-containing compounds in animals. It is the molecule that is central to the synthesis of urine in mammals and uric acid in birds.

Urea contains the following toxic effects.

It irritates the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.

Prolonged contact with skin causes dermatitis.

It can cause tissue damage when it is in high concentration in blood.

It causes algal bloom to produce toxins, its high nitrogen content also increases the blooming of toxic algae.

It breaks down under high temperatures to produce toxic fumes.

It reacts with nitrites, inorganic chlorides, and chlorides to cause fire and explosion

Is cat urine toxic?

At first, cat urine is nontoxic because the components of urine can be degraded by bacteria into nontoxic compounds.

However, when there’s too much cat urine, the urea and uric acid break down to form carbon dioxide and ammonia gas.

Ammonia gas is harmless when it’s in low concentration, when the concentration rises and one gets exposed for long, ammonia becomes toxic.

According to a study, Ammonia fumes may cause skin and eye irritation, and inhaling a lot of it causes respiratory infections like asthma.


This article has answered the question of the biodegradability of fresh step cat litter.

It has also addressed other areas such as:

  • Composition of fresh step cat litter.
  • Functions of different components of fresh step cat litter.
  • Composition of cat urine.
  • Toxicity of cat urine.

For any questions or comments please use the comment section below.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Is fresh step cat litter biodegradable?

Is feline fresh cat litter biodegradable?

No, fresh step cat litter is not biodegradable because it is made from mineral compounds such as borates, limestone, activated charcoal, and clay which can not be broken down by microorganisms.

Which cat litter is the most environmentally friendly?

Any cat litter made from natural organic materials such as plant products is environmentally friendly. Non-plastic cat litter is biodegradable and does not emit toxic fumes to the environment.

What can I use instead of cat litter?

There are several alternatives to cat litter, they include:

  • Newspapers.
  • Sawdust.
  • Wood shavings.
  • Sand.
  • Poultry feed waste.
  • Potting soil.

But it is worth noting that these materials may not be as effective as cat litter.


Dr. Ernie Ward. Cat Pee 101: Is My Cat’s Urine Normal?.

Retrieved from:,or%20difficult%20to%20see%20through.

Joe Schwarz, Ph.D. ( 20 March 2017). Why does cat urine smell so bad and what can I do about it?

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McDonald T, Drescher KM, Weber A, Tracy S (March 2012). “Creatinine inhibits bacterial replication”. The Journal of Antibiotics. 65 (3): 153–156. doi:10.1038/ja.2011.131

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