Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Eco-Kitty: Our New Addition

Andrew and I are officially parents. Kitten parents that is!

Yep, we bit the bullet and got ourselves the cutest little terror from the SPCA. Now that our place is big enough to handle a cat, we had a few weeks of discussions, some research (ok, Andrew did all the research and I said things like: 'Yeah, but can't we just go and get one NOW?') and last Tuesday made a trip to the shelter.

Having never actually owned a pet since grade 2 (for both of us) we were a little uncertain what to look for. Andrew however, pointed out this little black lump of fur and said: 'Him'.

He is named 'Atreyu' (for all you '80s' children ;) ) and other than missing the litter box (ahem, THREE times, once on our pants) and generally being a crazy hyper kitten, he has been great. I guess being a premature kitten and taken away from mommy cat to be 'incubated' (kinda) messes up your ability to figure out where to go. Which means our litter box is in the middle of the living room currently. Beautiful.

In any case, the past week has been a flurry of spending. And I have never felt so terrible about the ridiculous amount of plastic and waste. 

1. A cat carrier (which is WAY too small for a grown cat I might add... Andrew's assurances it would do into adulthood... until he saw a ginormous cat at the vets...). Plastic... but 30% post consumer recycled!! (sigh).

2. A litter box... that is too big for him. ANOTHER litter box in which we removed the lid, as little Atreyu likes to do his business in the open air. Both plastic.

3. Litter- According to Ecoholic 2006, nearly 200,000 tons of pet waste are trashed every year (his poo is flushed and the litter composted). First attempt was clay. A bit more research later and Andrew vetoed that option (ahem, silica dust and such) and pine litter was purchased. Truly, I wanted to buy the recycled paper- Yesterday's News- litter. But after a 50% pee-in-litter success rate, I'm a little nervous about switching. Eventually, recycled paper litter is my goal. Andrew assures me that pine litter is made from scrap cuttings and pressed sawdust- so not really wasteful and in the meantime, completely compostable.

**please check with your local sewage treatment on whether you can flush cat poo... Andrew assures me that we can flush the cat poo (not litter) here in Halifax... I need to check on this one. 

UPDATE: HRM does not in fact support composting kitty litter pellets... and I have yet to find specific info on flushing the poo down the toilet. GAH. What complete utter waste. All this biodegradable pine going to the 'land where it will never biodegrade in anaerobic no oxygen plastic wrapped bag existence'. Awesome.

4. Toys- I dug in my heels and bought these 'Eco Terra Toys'- a weird fish and white sponge dealy. I figured Atreyu would hate them. Nope! The fish is his favourite toy! Honestly, the toy department has been the easiest eco- transition as his other favourite toy is a piece of string and some paper we had lying around. No new plastic toys for my Atreyu :)

5. Monstrosity of a Cat Tree. They were 70% off on sale... so we bought the less-ugliest one and I swear that once things have settled it's getting shoved into a corner. At least Atreyu adores it and attacks our feet and new couch... less. I had visions of making our own... or more likely asking my dad to make us one out of scrap wood and old rope he had at home. LOL. I am sure that would have went over well.

6. Water fountain. YEP Atreyu gets his very. own. water fountain. I'm sure he thinks his poo doesn't smell. I guess cats don't ever get enough water, since they despise drinking out of still moving bodies of water (i.e. plates-bowls etc). I gotta say, although I think it's SUPER wasteful (continuously running and all) the motor is small and he drinks a ridiculous amount of water. Concession #45628.

7. Food. If you see the word 'by-product' in the ingredient list, think stuff humans wouldn't touch like- 4-D animals: diseased, disabled, dead or dying (Ecoholic, 2006). And grain.. there is SO much grain in pet food. Which we all know how harmful corn and soy are to the environment.

This one I am happy about. We bought Orijens cat food which is Canadian made from healthy, non-grain (or minimal grain) ingredients that are regional (to their plant in Alberta) and sustainably sourced, with no sketchy preservatives or additives. This includes things like free-run chickens, lake fish and heritage pork. Pricey, but we are currently weaning Atreyu off the Iams and onto the Orijens (via scale... did I ever tell you that Andrew was a big weirdo when it comes to food and weighing stuff? Atreyu gets 28 grams per meal...lol).

What we still need? A brush... and to return the litter box and clay litter.

Finally- the best way to clean cat pee and get rid of the underlying odor they can detect? Water and vinegar. I have that down!

I will eco-fy Atreyu Mr. Kittens with all my Eco-Heart! Or accept the fact that I will see a whole lot of Wal-Mart (shudder) in the next few weeks.

Ideas on eco-fying a cat? :)

article and photographs copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. Kitty! I swear out life has improved 1000X since we got our two rescue cats (even with the occasional inconveniences.)

    Really though, you're doing a lot better on the pet-eco-train than I am. We can't flush our litter in LA (won't get processed), we do occasionally well on the food (if there are coupons. If not, we can't afford the great stuff for them all the time.) Toys - organic catnip makes anything a toy. Plastic - nearly a lost cause, though we do have a fabric kitty carrier. Also, we use this for water (http://www.petsmart.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2751255&ab=hp_ln_cat) plastic-full, but no motor.

    If you need other supplies, check craigslist. We got some stuff secondhand, and I felt good about that.

    Also, here's the worst part - fleas. There's really no good way to handle this in a completely eco-friendly manner. Our cats are indoor cats and still got them. So now we need to give them monthly pesticide treatment (Frontline or Revolution) to keep the fleas away. And we only got rid of the fleas with a month-long campaign (vacuum everything 1x per week, every item of fabric got washed (don't forget sofa cushions and curtains), borax on every surface... all multiple times). At least the campaign was eco-friendly. But for sanity's sake, I really recommend NOT having to go through it.

    And lastly, love the heck out of your little furball. Ours are the best things in the entire world.

  2. I love him! congrats on adding to your EcoFamily. : )

  3. yay kitty!!!! woot!! and i know EXACTLY where the name came from....;)He is sooooo cute. And evidently rather spoiled. That cat tree rocks...from a cat's perspective, anyway. yay for environmental enrichment.

    ahem..if i may chime in (i do have credentials, if you'd like to see them).....lol

    DEFINITELY go with the Yesterdays News....if he'll use it. I made the same decision re: clay litter..EEK! strip-mining..EEK!!

    A word about cat toilets -- sorta the same word for your toilet -- CLEAN. I use the YN for our kitties -- just enough for them to scratch about it and the boxes get dumped daily and washed -- just with water. Contrary to popular belief..vinegar does NOT dissuade cats from peeing somewhere..actually is a bit of a magnet. And to excuse his accidents..he's only little and might not be able to find the toilet in time...sorta like a toddler. :)

    Food...watch the fruit and veg content --cats are carnivores, too much fruit and veg = undesirable urine pH = crystals, stones, blockages. And I must say, it does my RVT heart proud to hear you're measuring his grub. FYI - if you can get him eating wet food, his (future) waistline will thank you. ;)

    There are some super cool eco-cat toys out there...one could go a bit crazed in the purchasing of Really Cool Stuff....all under the excuse of enriching his environment, of course.

    SO excited for you....as you can tell from my essay....you are in for some kind of fun...


  4. Well u seem way better at the pet ecofying than I was with the dogs. Maybe just another reason cats are easier than dogs? Also I think I read it's not necessarily ok to flush cat poo bc of toxoplasmosis?

  5. @Becca: haha- yes i am looking forward to being 1000x improved :)
    fabric kitty carrier???? COOOL.
    I have read some things in Ecoholic about fleas- soaking in soapy water, dusting with diatemaceous earth and onlynaturalpet.com. but then, I'm really (obviously) not an expert-
    Thoughts Mel?? :)

    @Jamie: aww, thank you!

    @Mel: ya know, i am shocked as to how many people have no clue (and people my age! like Andrew for example lol).
    Thanks for the tips on YN and cleaning. Actually- he LOVES his 'Chicken soup for the kitten's soul' wet food we give him every once in a while. And Andrew felt vindicated that you were happy about his weighing lol.

    so vinegar isn't really great huh? sigh. I'll have to try something else. Also, just enough to scratch, even though the bag says 2-3 inches? I'm assuming that's so we'll use more and buy more then...

    what Andrew really liked about Orijens is how they actually list the percentage of fruit-veg, grain and protein content on the bag, as well as ingredients. :)

  6. Oh Man, the cat litter thing is rough (2 current, aging cats at our house). For us, we had to go with what Bunny and Milo found acceptable, rather than eco-friendly.

    There was a really interesting episode of the Diane Rehm show about a month ago about pet food and book written about it by Marion Nestle and another prof. at Cornell. Look for it, because it sounded like, with some care, you can basically feed pets human food, but you have to be very careful about nutrients.

    I'm not sure about the eco-cred, but Anti Icky-Poo is a microbial cleaner that gets rid of the pee smell (microbes eat the urine), if that continues to be a problems.

    I've had cats most of my life and find them the most delightful pets. Welcome Eco Kitty!

  7. Figured I'd post this here to so others can see it.

    Litter: Wheat or corn litters-work well for a 1 cat home and are compostable! Various pet stores sell them. Large chain stores may have them as well and they would be cheaper if you can find them!

    Toys: Paper is most cats favorite tbh. *lol* Um if you do the occasional McD's cheeseburger (the small burgers that get the paper wrappers) they make the best paper balls. One of my cats will fetch them and brings them back and they can be thrown a good distance. :)

    It seems like cats don't get enough water but they tend to drink out of the still stuff when humans and other animals are not looking (also their kidneys are efficient so they don't drink as much as other animals especially if you feed soft moist food with the hard diet) I have 1 cat here that I never saw drink for a year. The weather warmed up and I've caught him several times since then. Though some will 'urk' take a sip from the toilet as its cold and out of the way from traffic or sneak a sip from your glass etc. (drinking water hidden away or when almost no one is around is a holdover from their wild days, going near water sources was dangerous as they had to come out of cover to do so) Basically if the concession with the fountain picks at your ecoconscience you don't have to worry and can get your little guy used to a bowl. I change mine twice a day and they get soft food in the evening.

    Your food option sounds fantastic. I never heard of that brand. I will be looking them up.

  8. Yea!! Congrats on getting a kitty to love! And he's a cutie.

    This might sound horrible but spray bottle with water will do wonders for keeping him off drapes and from clawing furniture.

    They also make these amazing scratch pads from recycable cardboard that you can put on the floor.

    We use the pineshavings cat litter. Sometimes they track a bit but they both use it well. Switching the litter around can throw cats off sometimes and they can protest but it sounds like you plan to proceed with caution.

    We pretty much stopped buying toys cause the cats will play with pretty much anything and turn it into a toy....pens, the computer mouse, a wad of paper.

    And you can never go wrong with a potted cat nip plant. ;)


  9. So frickin' cute! He will stop peeing outside the box soon.

    I can't help you with the cat food thing, because the sort of cat food that we feed ours is British only but I will say go with the paper litter. Cats love it. To change over start to mix more and more in with his current litter until he is all paper. The paper litter is much softer on his paws and also soaks up the smell much better.

    Always use ceramic bowls especially for water. Cats shouldn't drink otu of plastic anymore than we should. And ditch the water fountain. All our cats ever did with it was make a huge mess. They drink as much water as they need when you're not looking (cats really don't need that much water, in fact I'm not convinced humans need the gajillion litres a day that we're recommended either).

    And finally. Grow catnip. It really is the best toy your cat will need and completely eco :)

    Woah, I sound like the cat police. Sorry, I didn't mean to :/

  10. LOL -- just like having a new baby, huh? Lots of advice...;)

    Fleas -- yep,no 'green' way to do it....i will (and here's my secret shame) admit to NOT treating our cats -- I treat the dogs (who obviously go outside) and ride the odds on the cats. I'm not a fan of pesticides but there really is no truly effective natural remedy IF you already have fleas...preventive, well, not sure on that one. I will say, however, VEHEMENTLY - do NOT use pyrethrin on a cat..ever. It's a chrysanthemum extract which sounds enviro-friendly but it can be extremely toxic to kitties.

    Yeah, agreed on the fountain. Some cats will only drink from running water so there isn't much choice but.....I would recommend a large dog-size water bowl...surface area is the key -- think lion drinking from water hole -- they don't like their whiskers to touch anything while they drink. If you feed more wet food than dry, he'll get much more moisture from his food anyway. (one more vote for wet food). The other down-side to fountains is that you can't really tell how much they're drinking -- which can be an issue for various disease processes. Also -- sometimes they'll drink in excess from a fountain, just cos it's fun.

    As far as a cleaner -- there's one made by Earth Friendly Products called Stain and Odour Remover -- it used to be called Nature's Miracle (?) - and I"m sure I saw it in big gallon jugs at PetSmart. It really does need to be something that biodegrades -- a cat *sees* with his nose so it's very sensitive. Anyway - that's the cleaner i use and the one we use at the Cat Hospital -- if it can kill tom-cat pee smell (blech!), it'll handle Atreyu stinkies...:)

    I could give you another short essay (or a long one) on pet food labels...but i won't...but really, really, really -- research that one. Nudge, nudge...ie. my shoe leather is protein and corn is actually a high-quality source of certain nutrients. It's a mine field. It really is.

    Oh! Cat grass...they dig that too!!

    stopping now

  11. Welcome to the wonderful world of kitties! They are such great entertainment and a joy to have around. I sleep with ear plugs now so the kitty meowing doesn't wake me up in the middle of the night! I get the best sleep now. We used to get woken up several times every night from meowing, exhausting! (We have 2 cats. One was born deaf and meows extra loud when he really wants something.)

    I did a ton of research when we got our first cat. We feed ours Orijen too! Our cats love it and I feel good about feeding it to them. I would love to try feeding them real food like chicken and brown rice/potatoes and veggies, if I wasn't lazy and if I knew they'd eat it. (I'm a veggie now, so we don't actually buy any meat anymore except for the meat that's in Orijen cat food.)

    We scoop into paper bags. We are using clumping litter, which prob isn't the most eco, but I wanted something that didn't stink after a day. (Bathroom is far away, don't really want to flush the stuff.) We tried World's Greatest Cat Litter (corn based), but our cat didn't like it. We actually had to replace our carpet upstairs because of kitty pee smell, so we need to use litter that the cats will use. Kitty pee smell is disgusting! We don't have community composting, so we don't compost our litter. I wouldn't dare try composting litter at home for fear of parasites and e. coli and stuff.

    Have fun with your kitty!

  12. Congrats on the kitty, and I'm so happy that you got an all black cat because those cats have the lowest adoption rates:( poor kitties

  13. The thing about cats, that makes them especially different from dogs, is that they know what they like, and if they don’t like it it’s Your problem. So, I wish you luck on finding a litter that works for you! If you notice that he’s getting a little antsy or is acting like he has to go, just put him in the litter box, keep him in there until he does something, and then reward him.

    Toys are definitely the easiest. If you can crochet, knit, or sew (or if you can learn one simple stitch) you can quickly and easily make mice, fish, balls, and catnip pouches out of scraps. Also, take old paper bags or boxes before they hit recycling, cut a small hole in them (just big enough for his paw), and watch the entertainment for hours! And strings and ribbons are the favorites of some cats (tying them to a stick makes it slightly safer for your hands). Just make sure you don’t let him play with string unattended. Cats can get tangled and can choke on them.

    I second A Los Angeles Love: watch out for fleas. Prevention is really the best, because if your cat (even if he is an indoor cat) gets fleas that means You get fleas. And check secondhand sources. I bet you could find a brush at a yard sale in no time.

  14. Ah, the things we do for our pets! It is so amazing how they just become part of the family. Are you guys talking for him yet?

  15. Ah, the joys of kitty-hood. We also have an all black wonder, sadly with only three legs, it's a long story, a trilogy really, involving dogs and curiosity... anyway my two cents on eco-fying a cat.

    Food: we feed him raw fish scraps cut up once or twice a day - you can cut a bunch up and freeze it in portions for convenience. Then we leave a bit of dry food in his bowl overnight, all we have access to at the moment is cheap filler filled dry food so it's partly a way of protecting him from some of that but also saving our wallet when we do find a local supplier of the fancier organic type stuff. Here we can just get fish whole or fish scraps from the boats so it's easy and raw fresh fish really has no real smell.

    Litter: not so much of an issue in a hot climate where everything is open, it's impossible to keep a cat inside here. His missing leg is a back leg so he can't pounce and jump as well as an able bodied kitty so he's not really a big bird killer but still great with small rodents.

    Wildlife: The bird thing was definitely my biggest eco-guilt issue when we first got mr. cat. There are these collars online that claim to have a big deterrent effect - can't remember the name now - so I was seriously looking into them for a while pre-amputation.

    Toys: Apart from the occasional catnip we try not to buy anything for him because what he truly liked best was destroying my old yoga mat and knocking around anything that rolled - like old ping pong or tennis balls and anything that dangled that we could drag around for him - a palm leaf or a small branch full of leaves was always a huge hit. And we tried to make sure he always had little nests and perches on out shelves to rest away from the tormenting puppy that we had at the time.

    I think that's everything... Frontline is unavoidable as far as I can tell, essential oils are no good for cats although they sometimes work for dogs. Vinegar doesn't work so well for the smell of cat pee, we had many accidents druing the time of multiple hospital visits and sedations and I tried everything and eventually ended up throwing a pair of my favourite hemp pants out and a bunch of old towels - it was pretty bad. He should get the hand of the box soon - easier than housebreaking a puppy that's for sure!
    Happy cat parenting!

  16. Oh one more thing... spray bottle with compressed air, you know the kind they use for cleaning computers and camera gear? Best ever cat deterrent for scratching etc... sounds like a giant hiss and freaks them right out... don't spray at them, just a tiny hiss in their direction when doing naughty things... use sparingly when he gets a little older.
    And the inner roll from the toilet paper is still one of the best cat toys.
    And finally, totally agree with James on the water thing - little fountain not necessary in the long run. When our cat was a baby and refusing to drink water in a cup (but loved to drink from old stagnant puddles in the rain) we would collect rainwater which he loved or just put a teeny drop of milk in the bowl - magic!
    So much advice but every kitty creature is a little different so have just have fun :)

  17. Aw! Cute! I'm glad you got him from the SPCA. Just a fyi, for kitty litter, I've been using Feline Pine as it's an all natural byproduct and they use natural gum as the clumping agent. I tried to switch my cat to Yesterdays News and it didn't go over well as it was too different from the regular clay litter. I even tried slowly introduce it but that didn't work.

  18. He's adorable!!

    As a cat mom I recommend love and patience above all - just like with a human relationship, the rest is all suggestion and compromise. And a certain amount of practicing non-attachment to your furniture! ;)

  19. We have two cats at home and we can't imagine our lives without them...even though they can be little stinkers sometimes.

    Case in point, one of my lovely animal children has a problem with peeing on our bed...while we're in it! It's gone from several times a week to once every few months now and it's usually only when she's stressed.

    Having said that, I can recommend Anti Icky Poo as THE BEST PRODUCT out there to get rid of the cat pee smell. Nature's Miracle pales in comparison. Dry cleaning does nothing. Regular laundry detergent can eat its heart out. AIP is the way to go. I have no idea if it's eco, but the smell of cat pee is horrible, so I think it's worth it!

  20. The things we do for love....

  21. Welcome, Atreyu! Aren't you adorable?
    Hang in there. Not sure there's much to do about the plastics, but since you've gotten off to a great start spoiling him rotten (as we all do!), eventually he'll only want a wadded up piece of paper and a cardboard box to play in. You'll spend money and he'll look over at whatever toy it is and go, "eh?"
    And then scamper off to chase his shadow or a piece of dust.

  22. Congrats on the lovely kitten!

    I am surprised to hear of indoor cats getting fleas; where would they pick them up? Our cat is completely indoors (safer for her since we live near some busy roads, and also, we hope, to keep the vermin off her). A previous cat, who did go outdoors, got fleas and when we put the Frontline stuff on her it made her fur fall out in clumps and made her very lethargic, so we vowed never to use it again. Think about it - it is basically putting pesticides into their bloodstream. Imagine how that would affect us.

    Thanks for the tips on different litters. We have clay-based litter (carryover from my husband's previous cats) and it's very dusty. I worry about changing it but will suggest the pine or the paper.

    As for water, our cat drinks a LOT of water. We give her a bowl every day and she drinks all of it and then some. For those who don't want to buy a fountain, maybe you can stand this: we leave the cover off the tank of one of the toilets and the seat down. The cat likes to drink from there because it's cool and relatively fresh, and it's better than drinking out of the bowl like a DOG.

  23. Soooo cute! My cat hated anything but the clay so that's what I use. I have 2 cats now hehe. They will drink out of the bowl, but they also get in the tub after I shower. One cat follows me to the bathroom any time I go and I trickle the tap for him. Sometimes I put ice in their water bowl and they like that!

    My cats will play with almost anything I throw at them. Just be careful he doesn't start eating the string, or you might end up with an expensive vet trip.

  24. Darling, I've thought of more things!! Don't compost the paper litter if you want to grow plants in the compost because the acid from cat pee just doesn't grow good plants :( sad but true. We just wrap it in old newspaper and throw it out.

    If kitty pees where he shouldn't you can sprinkle bicarb of soda on the patch after you've cleaned it up and then sweep up the soda a day later. You might not be able to smell it but kitty can until you bicarb it and he'll keep going back to the same place...

    Yoga mats make great scratch pads so give him the old ones and keep him away from new ones...

    and I think it's been said but when it comes to fleas and worms you have to use the chemicals. Honestly don't believe what people tell you about garlic pearls and essential oils (most essential oils are really really bad for kitty anyway) unless you want to get your house fumigated!! We use frontline spot on and there is a spot on one for worms we use twice a year too (much easier than trying to get a cat to take pills).

    Sorry I'm obsessed with cats, you know that.

  25. Congratulations! Great name choice. Mine was an energetic terror as a kitten, and he still is at 5 years old. Little terrors make cool cats though.


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