The litter box was invented in 1947, which had a lot to do with people keeping more pet cats indoors. Litter may not seem like an interesting topic, but we've dug up some facts and fantasies that might change your mind.
Litter is made of minerals, such as clay, natural ingredients like pine, wheat, and corn, or synthetic crystallized silica. While not poisonous to humans, pregnant women can get a parasite called Toxoplasmosis if exposed to infected cat waste or if they inhale litter dust while cleaning out the litter box. While researchers have differing opinions about this danger, some studies show that infected pregnant women can pass the Toxoplasmosis onto their fetus, which could cause congenital disabilities or even death.
While uncommon in other species, researchers have found Toxoplasmosis can create permanent brain changes in rodents. Sometimes called a "mind-controlling effect," this parasite can cause mice and rats to like the smell of cat urine and even lose their fear of cats.
"The parasite is able to create this behavior change as early as three weeks after infection," said Wendy Ingram, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study.
The use of litter isn't confined to cats. Other animals also use it for toiletry duty, including rabbits, ferrets, pot-bellied pigs, skunks, rats, guinea pigs, pygmy goats, hedgehogs, and even birds and ducks.
When the litter box first appeared on the scene, people used materials like sand, sawdust, and fireplace ashes as fillers. Unfortunately, none of those choices were very absorbent, and all were quite messy. Therefore, the quest began for the perfect litter, and we now have many options. Deciding which type of litter is best is an often-discussed topic among cat people. The synthetic crystallized silica mentioned above seems to win approval from the majority. It is biodegradable, which is good for the environment indoors and outside. Silica also prevents bacteria from forming in the litter and infecting your cat, preventing issues such as UTIs.
Speaking of the environment, several studies have revealed that 1.2 million tons of cat poop are dumped into landfills every year, and that's just in the U.S. There are a couple of green ways to dispose of your kitty litter. First, you could compost it (just the litter, not the poop) and then use the compost on your flower beds. Or you could scoop it into a biodegradable bag and place it into your garbage can.
Litter is a versatile product. Even if you don't have a cat, litter can remove the nicotine smell from stored items, clean stains off your garage floor, dry flowers, sprinkle icy pathways and stairs, provide moisture for plants, and much more.
Quote to remember: "Why couldn't the cat read a book? Because he was il-litter-ate!" - Unknown
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