Monday, October 15, 2007

The Accidental Afficianado

This is Midna*. She looks like she has a guilty conscience, doesn't she?

That is probably because a split second before Anna took this picture, she most likely just took a dump behind the couch! Or perhaps she recently peed by the front door...


It was when she started leaving *presents* RIGHT NEXT TO THE CAT BOX that we were left with one of the following conclusions:

1. Having never lived with a cat that didn't catch-on to the box within about 10 seconds of being introduced to it, she was obviously severely brain damaged.

2. She was acting out her extreme angst over our blatant favoritism for her little sister.

3. Said angst had rendered her maniacally suicidal.

4. She didn't like the cat litter.

We had always used clay litter until I, on a visit to our local she-she pet boutique, read an article posted right there on the glass of the kitty-love-a-thon room that clay is supposedly very bad for the health of your cat and, not too surprisingly, that of the owner changing the cat litter. Seems the dust gets breathed in and all that wonderful clumping power works its own special brand of Voo-Doo on the dewy-moist lining of the lungs. Also, since cats aren't inclined to hop into the shower with their kitty-sized bar of handmade lavender soap, they also get it into their digestive system where it can wreak havoc.


Being the ever vigilant cat owner I began a quest for the best non-cat-killing litter I could find to assure a safe potty experience for all our cats, but especially Ashly's soon-to-arrive litter of kittens. ("Cat litter" ... "Litter of kittens." Coincidence? I *seriously* doubt it.)

First, I tried "S'Wheat Scoop" made from ground up wheat kernels. Lovely idea though obscenely expensive. It worked pretty well except for two things: The gluten in the wheat is what makes for the highly-touted "natural clumping action." This is also why you can use flour and water to make GLUE. Not so bad when kitty only piddles in the top inch of the litter, but most cats love to dig... hence, imagine cleaning four cat boxes with sticky pee clumps inexorably adhered to the bottom...

And as if that weren't pleasant enough, the wheat has a smell that one normally associates with food, of course. Nothing is quite so appetizing as the perfume of fresh baked bread slathered in newly minted cat poop. MMMmmmmm YUMMY!


I wasn't willing to do litter "pearls" or any of that chemically, high-tech junk. Please. They're cats. Cats poop in dirt, NOT on a freshly strewn bed of fragrant white marbles.

My last resort was to try "Feline Pine." Basically, it's sawdust that comes in pellets and now, "New Scoopable!" I knew my cats would have a hard time adjusting to pellets and, well, the loose kind just made more sense to me, so I got it.

This stuff is GREAT!! Yes, it tracks, but all cat litter does, really. The thing that is so amazing about it is that we never** smell the cat boxes even when I'm changing them! I think it smells like "new house in progress." You know, the scent of freshly sawed lumber? To me, that's a happy association. The litter clumps really well though, because it is very light, you have to jiggle around the little scooper thing to separate the solids from the clean stuff. Not a huge deal in my book.

So. Here I am, thinking I have struck kitty litter gold! The Old Cat's frequent, spontaneous vomiting had stopped except for when he actually had a hairball (a VERY welcome change, I might add, especially since he spends 99% of his life in our bedroom...) and the other cats took to it immediately. Super!

Bring on the next challenge!

Stupid, stupid girl.

Fast forward to the present. Of Ashly's six fuzzy little offspring, we kept two: Midna and her little sister, Winky. Naturally, there were a few accidents around the house as the kittens were learning the ropes, but someone was exhibiting a severe learning disability! We were never sure exactly who it was, because we never caught her in the act, but had suspected Midna as I had regularly seen Winky leaving the cat box.

I was NEVER without my Kitty Clean-Up Kit within easy reach.

Damned cat.

Finally, timing was on our side and Midna was exposed as the resident vandal. Every time she would slip up, we threw her in the cat box or outside and thoroughly cleaned the accident spot, but she just wasn't *getting it.*

I was sick of spending my *free* moments inhaling kitty fumes.

James, who can hardly stand two magazines resting askew on the coffee table, let alone kitty bombs regularly defiling his domicile, gave me a week to figure it out or Midna would become an outdoor cat. Where we live, given her minuscule size (even at seven months old) and lack of experience in the "wild" this translates directly into "Coyote Food."

Did I say "bring on the next challenge?" Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

It wasn't until I noticed that she would sometimes poop NEXT TO THE CAT BOXES that it hit me. James, in reading about "Feline Pine" when we switched, had mentioned that a certain percentage of cats don't take to it. The pine aroma is just too strong to them or they don't like the way the particles feel between their pads... who knows.

In a last-ditch effort to save this cute, friendly, if *frustrating*, little creature from the maw of a violent, predatory death I decided to try the clay litter again in one cat box.

I put her inside it and dragged her tiny paw across the clay in a hope-filled demonstration of Remedial Cat Box Training 101... "First we scratch the surface..." Clearly oblivious that her very life was at stake, she walked off with a swagger of indifference. My heart sank but I crossed my fingers anyway.

Lo and behold! Since her introduction to the potentially hazardous glory that is clay litter, Midna has not had ONE accident! HALLELUJA!!

We are ALL very relieved.

Yes, I have to clean that particular box out at LEAST once a day or the smell drives me out of the house***. And, while I tried to find the least harmful litter I could, I do hold by breath and turn on a fan when I change it. However, until Midna starts showing signs of ill effects, I will consider the compromise worthwhile as my carpet, the kitty and my marital bliss have been saved.

Scientific conclusion: ratio of cats who love "Feline Pine" to those who would rather risk being eviscerated than use it: 6:1.

Bring on the next...! OH, would you just SHUT UP!!

*Yes, for all you "Legend of Zelda" fans, thanks to James, she is named after Link's impish "Twilight Princess" cohort. I had named her Mojo, but he thought it sounded too masculine. *Whatever*

**Okay, so , when someone has been eating too many mice and you walk by the box after they've just stepped out of it the aroma is, shall we say, pungent... okay, ASSAILANT, but it is soon overtaken by the clean, fresh scent of pine trees!

*** I have the olfactory senses of a freakin' Bloodhound.


Risa said...

Hi, Angelene.

My furs and I are also devotees of the Feline Pine. I'm always shocked at the dust kicked up by clay litter whenever I'm cat-sitting and have to scoop that non-biodegradable stuff. I did briefly try Swheat Scoop and Yesterday's News, but had less than satisfactory odor control with both (especially the newspaper - I still cringe when I think about it), and as you mentioned, I'd have to mortgage the cats to afford to keep three of them stocked with the wheat stuff!

Yes, the Feline Pine does track (although not as bad as some other litters I've tried), but I've nipped that in the bud by purchasing these Clevercat top-entry litterboxes. It took the cats about 5 days to switch over from the traditional litterboxes, but it makes all the difference in the world! :o)

-Lisa >^..^<

Anonymous said...

I never dreamed SO MUCH could be said about Cat Poop! :-) OR the litter for that matter.