Cat Litter and Other Ethical Dilemmas

by: EJ on 11/17/2010
Posted in: Sustainable Living

When I lived in Australia, I experienced some criticism about the level of my environmental commitment because I was a cat owner. Cats in Australia are in part responsible for the devastation of various tiny and not so tiny marvelous marsupials and reptiles. Owning a cat seriously eroded my credibility as a deep green environmentalist.

Now that I live in Canada, it is not so bad. I am sure cats eat just as many of our precious tiny creatures but for some reason, it doesn’t seem to have the same level of environmental hypocrisy attached to it. Perhaps our environmentalists are distracted from this issue by things like the tar sands or oil tankers on the BC coast.

Except for the cat litter. I use a wonderful type of cat litter. It looks like little clay pellets that clump together and are easy to remove when cleaning the box. These pellets are made from “diatomaceous earth”, or sodium bentonite. The pellets absorb several times their dry weight in moisture. My cats approve and so do I.

Except… sodium bentonite is mined by strip mining. This mining process wipes out thousands upon thousands of acres of land and removes millions of tons of earth; just so that my cats can have a cosy place to do their business as opposed to venturing into the wet and woolly great outdoors. Not only that, the dust from cat litter is made up of tiny silicon particles (crystalline silica) which are a known carcinogen.

Alternatives exist – I was just reviewing a post on recommending Swheat Scoop, an eco-friendly cat litter made from natural wheat starches. I have had a couple of cat sitting gigs in homes where Swheat Scoop and similar alternatives have been used. I was not convinced that these products measure up to my strip mining, cancer causing brand.

Am I going to switch over? Or am I going to say that my environmental hypocrisy line has been reached. There comes a point when I choose to ignore the appeals and data and simply follow my own selfish needs (or those of my cats in this instance). Where do you hit the hypocrisy wall? What industrial, processed, planet destroying convenience are you not willing to do without? You can post your stories in the comment section below.


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