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Cat Litter: Traditional vs. Clumping

Believe it or not cat litter products have only been around for approximately 63 years! Traditionally people used any material that was readily available to them including sand, garden dirt, ashes, and shredded newspaper. Then, in 1947 in the UK, a young man by the name of Edward Lowe gave his neighbor an absorbent called Fuller’s Earth. Edward worked for his father’s company Fuller’s Earth Union (FEU), later to become a part of Laporte Industries, which sold industrial absorbents. Edward began marketing this clay as “kitty Litter” and its popularity quickly grew, creating a brand new industry.

Scoopable clay cat litters made with sodium bentonite entered the market about forty years later and instantly became a success.

Today, approximately 69% of the cat litter market is clumping cat litters.

Traditional cat litter is made from very absorbent clay minerals that also help to bind the odors found in cat urine. Clumping kitty litter, on the other hand, is made from sodium bentonite clay. The benefit of sodium bentonite clay is that it clumps together when it is moist, allowing only the soiled litter to be removed and replaced.

The reason that most people prefer clumping litter is due to the fact that traditional litter must be replaced frequently while scoopable cat litter allows the solids and clumps of urine to be scooped out and discarded and a small amount of new litter to be added each time. A cat litter box using clumping litter may last up to a month without the litter being completely replaced.

Although there is no scientific data or study to prove this, there is discussion surrounding potential risks involved with the use of scoopable litter for kittens. There are some reports that clumps can lodge in kittens small digestive tracts and cause health problems. Kittens can ingest the granules during routine grooming and develop intestinal blockages. Dehydration and lack of nutrient absorption have been reported in kittens that have accidentally eaten clumping litter. For this reason many people tend to avoid clumping kitty litter however the lack of scientific data to prove these claims leaves the decision up to each individual’s judgment.

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The Invention of Kitty Litter

George Pitt was the first to begin packaging the ashes from burned wood for use in cat litter boxes. This worked, however, cat owners found that this product created quite a mess, as their pets tracked the ash all around the house.

When asked by his neighbor for a replacement for these ashes, Edward Lowe suggested the use of an absorbent clay. This worked wonderfully, and so, kitty litter was born!

In 1947 Edward Lowe, who, after serving in the US Navy from 1941 to 1945, worked for his father selling industrial absorbents. He began packaging absorbent clay in 5 lb bags to sell in a local pet store as “kitty litter”. While the store owner was not convinced that the product would sell, especially for 65 cents per bag, Edward was a determined man who believed that this product would be successful. He talked the store owner in to displaying his “kitty litter” and giving it away. As Edward expected, the customers soon began coming back to purchase more!

After this first success, Edward Lowe continued to distribute kitty litter from the back of his car while traveling around the country. Edward would even clean the cat boxes at cat shows in exchange for booth space in order to demonstrate his kitty litter at the shows.

Eventually, Edward Lowe Industries, Inc. was founded to mass produce and distribute Edward’s successful kitty litter products.

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Fleas: What You Need to Know to Eliminate & Prevent an Infestation

Over 2,000 species of fleas exist! Of these species there are a few common types, all of which have nearly the same life cycle. In order to understand how to effectively eliminate an infestation, it is first important to understand a flea’s life cycle, what it needs to survive and where fleas can be found. Upon learning this crucial information you will be able to better treat an infestation or prevent one from developing.

An animal may pick up fleas when he or she comes in contact with another infested animal or an infested environment. Adult fleas live in the animal’s fur, where they feed on their host’s blood, mate and lay eggs (female fleas lay a few eggs per day and several hundred over the course of their lifetime). These eggs do not stay on the animal, but rather, they fall off and remain in the environment near the host animal until temperatures are suitable for them to develop in to larvae. This development often occurs during Spring or inside your home when the central heat has been turned on.

Flea eggs and larvae can be found both indoors and outdoors in carpeting, animal bedding, furniture, under porches, in dog houses, in cracks at wall-floor junctions, floor crevices and in other protected areas with high humidity where the infested animal may have been resting or playing.

Flea larvae feed on fecal pellets of dried blood that are excreted by adult fleas. These pellets of digested blood are excreted by the adults into the host’s hair where they eventually fall off into the environment. Due to the fact that the larvae depend on these fecal pellets for survival, they are unable to live in places that do not supply them with enough of these pellets. For example, flea larvae are unable to live in lawns or other outdoor areas unless the infested animal is present in these areas often enough to provide the larvae with a sufficient amount of food.

Once the larvae become adult fleas they leave their resting place and jump on to another animal to begin the cycle again. However, if a host is not present, adult fleas are able to live inside their cocoons for up to several months until they sense the presence of a host.

The complete life cycle of a flea from egg to adult can occur in as little as 12 days, allowing large infestations to occur in a very short period of time.

It is very important to treat both the infected animal as well as the environment when trying to exterminate an infestation. Without proper treatment to both the animal and the environment simultaneously, a flea infestation cannot be eliminated. Exterminating an infestation of fleas takes time, patience and planning. Along with treatment of both the animal and the environment, areas frequented by the infested animal must also be regularly cleaned and sanitized in order to minimize the amount of eggs and larvae that are present and prevent re-infestation.

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Fleas: Common Types

Fleas can be very destructive and frustrating pests. In many parts of the United States fleas are active all year round creating a constant problem for pet owners.

Although there are over 2000 species of fleas in the world, only a few common types affect domestic animals in the US.

Below is a list of host animals and the most common species of fleas that affect them.

    • Swine – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Chicken – Sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacean)

    • Ferret – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Dog – Dog flea (Ctenocephalides canis) or Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

    • Cat – Cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis)

Cat fleas are the most common type of flea found on both cats and dogs in the United States. Reports indicate that 95% of fleas found on both dogs and cats are cat fleas. Very few differences exist between the two species, in fact, they are so similar in appearance and biology that they can be treated as the same pest.

Cat fleas can be very harmful to their hosts. When a heavy infestation of cat fleas occurs on an animal, blood loss may be great and can lead to negative health effects and even death (especially in young animals).

Flea bites are very irritating and itchy, causing the animal to scratch and adding to the irritation. Sometimes continuous scratching can create open wounds that are susceptible to infection. Many dogs and cats develop flea bite dermatitis, an allergic condition that can be brought on by a single flea bite. When extreme infestations occur, animals may develop “hot spots” or “acute moist dermatitis”. These “hot spots” are highly inflamed areas that the animal is continually scratching, creating conditions for bacterial infection.

Sticktight fleas most commonly affect chickens and other birds however they can also occasionally infest dogs and cats as well, especially those which have come in contact with barnyard fowl. On poultry, these fleas will sometimes be found in clusters around the eyes, comb, wattles, and other bare spots. On dogs and cats they will commonly be found around the outer ear or between the toe pads. Both horses and humans have also reported being affected by sticktight fleas.

Sticktight fleas are dark-brown in color, have their heads embedded in the host’s flesh and cannot be brushed off.

The attachment of these fleas can lead to secondary infection and irritation produced by feeding. Infection from the fleas along with the large number that may be present can cause the host’s eyes to swell shut and may even cause the animal to starve to death. Young animals, especially, can develop anemia produced by the fleas’ feeding.

For more information on the lifecycle of fleas and how to exterminate an infestation, please see: Fleas: What You Need to Know to Eliminate & Prevent an Infestation

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Cattitudes: The Secrets Behind Strange Cat Behavior

Cats can be strange animals, exhibiting behavior that is often elusive and bizarre. Cats appear to be quite intelligent and so we tend to blame their actions on vindictive and premeditated thoughts. However, as with all animals, there is a different explanation for these behaviors. But what are the reasons cats do what they do?

Check out some of these CATTITUDES:

Excessive Meowing

Meowing is a form of communication. When your cat meows at you he or she is trying to get your attention. There may be a problem, a want or a need that the cat is trying to get across or they may just be bored and wanting some human interaction. Constant meowing, unless related to a medical problem, should be ignored otherwise you may encourage your cat to continue, creating a behavioral problem.

Biting

Cats may bite while being petted. While we assume that this is nasty behavior it is simply the cats means of telling you to stop when he or she cannot figure out another way of letting you know that they have had enough. This can be avoided if you are aware of the signals that precede biting. For example, wildly flicking tail, ears laid back, dilating pupils, or a tensing body. If you recognize an indication that the cat has had enough stop touching him or her and let them move away on their own.

Bumping You With Their Head

This behavior may seem strange however this is a sign of affection. It is a popular misconception that a cat shows its affection by rubbing its head and body against you however the cat is only marking its territory by doing this. “Head bonks” or “bunting” is the only behavior that a cat exhibits that truly suggests they are being affectionate.

Clawing

While we may assume that a cat is acting out when he or she claws at the furniture or carpet in actual fact it is a natural instinct. By doing this the cat is marking their territory to which they will return later and claw again. As with any natural behavior it may be tough to control therefore providing a scratching post and trimming your cat’s nails to lessen the damage is important.

Beelining to People That Don’t Like Them

Isn’t it always the case that a cat heads straight to the one person in the room that is afraid of them or dislikes them? While we may interpret this as odd, a cat simply sees this person as friendly and non-threatening. Others who are looking to the cat and calling out to him or her may come across as threatening and therefore they will always choose to go to the person who wants them least!

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Pet Care: Holiday Safety Tips

During the holiday season it is important to keep a close eye on your animals, especially around food and decorations. Here are some common hazards to watch out for.

    • Rich, fatty foods, like gravy or grease. If consumed by animals, this can cause problems
       such as an upset stomach and even pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas resulting
       in pain, vomiting and dehydration). As well, bones can be very dangerous and even fatal
       to pets if swallowed.

    • Alcohol. Many dogs are attracted to the sweet taste of some alcoholic beverages
       however, if consumed, your pet can become easily become intoxicated. If ingested, your
       pet may become weak, ill and may even go into a coma. A dog can die from only a small
       amount of alcohol therefore it is important to keep drinks out of your pet’s reach and to
       clean up glasses and left over drinks after a party.

    • Chocolate, coffee, and tea. All of these contain dangerous components called xanthines,
       which cause nervous or urinary system damage and heart muscle stimulation.
       Consumption can cause problems ranging from diarrhea to seizures and even death. Be
       sure to place all fudge, candy, chocolate and other potentially harmful food and drinks
       out of your pet’s reach.

    • Uncooked yeast dough. Consumption of baking materials such as this can cause expansion
       and the production of gas in the digestive system; this will cause pain and can even
       rupture the stomach or intestines.

    • Grapes and raisins. These contain an unknown toxin, which can damage a pet’s kidneys
       and should therefore not be consumed.

    • Macadamia nuts. These nuts also contain an unknown toxin that can affect the digestive

       system, nervous system and muscles of dogs.

    • Holly (leaves and berries). If ingested, holly may cause stomach upset, nausea, vomiting
       and diarrhea. Holly can be potentially fatal to both dogs and cats.

    • Mistletoe. If consumed, mistletoe will upset your pet’s stomach and can cause heart
       problems.

    • Hibiscus. If ingested hibiscus may cause diarrhea.

    • Poinsettias. These plants have an irritating sap that can cause blistering in your pet’s
       mouth as well as stomach upset.

    • Lilies. If ingested, lilies can cause kidney failure in cats.

    • Ribbons, yarn, and string. These can cause intestinal obstruction and bunching of the
       intestine along the length of the string. Conditions such as this require surgery and may 
       even be fatal.

    • Tree needles. These can be toxic to your pet and cause mouth and stomach irritation.
       Even the needles from artificial trees can pose a problem.

    • Tinsel.  If consumed, tinsel can cause blockages, which often require surgery to remove.

    • Angel hair, flocking, and artificial snow. These products are only mildly toxic however, if
       consumed in large amounts they can cause blockages of the intestine.

    • Electrical cords, including light cords. If chewed on, electrical cords can cause problems
       including burned mouths, electrical shock and death by electrocution.

    • Glass ornaments. Sharp ornament hooks and glass decorations can become embedded in
       your pet’s mouth or esophagus and can cause serious lacerations to the mouth.

In order to protect your pet from these holiday dangers be sure to put food away immediately, and pet-proof your garbage. Place plants well out of your pet’s reach and make sure to unplug decorative lights when you are not home. Place any small, shiny or breakable ornaments high up on your tree and do not decorate with food. If you take your pet to friends or families homes be sure to keep an eye on them, especially around food and decorations.

From all of us at Absorbent Products Ltd., have a safe and happy holiday!

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Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

According to the ASPCA, one in every 10 cats will exhibit inappropriate elimination in his or her lifetime. This lapse in litter box use is most often due to a common problem or circumstance and can therefore usually be corrected. It is important, however, to consult a veterinarian in order to identify the problem and rule out a medical condition.

Some of the most common (non-medical) reasons for inappropriate elimination include:

1. The litter box is not cleaned often enough.

2. Your cat does not like the brand or type of litter. Often this can be determined to be the case if your cat is not digging in the litter, if he or she is shaking their paws after leaving, trying to eliminate while standing on the edge of the box or running out of the litter box immediately after using it.

3. Your cat does not like the scent of the perfumed litter.

4. The litter is too shallow. The litter should be kept at a constant depth of at least 4 inches.

5. The location of the litter box has been changed. If you move the litter box, your cat may continue to eliminate in the original location, or he or she may select another spot and continue to use that area.

6. The old litter box is removed and replaced with a new one.

7. Too harsh of a cleaning product has been used to clean out the litter box.

8. The location of the litter box is too busy or not private enough for your cat. High traffic areas and locations near loud appliances or other equipment are not recommended.

9. The home is too large for just one litter box or there are too many cats and not enough litter boxes. Ideally, your home should have one litter box for every cat in the house, plus one.

10. Your cat is kept from using the litter box by another animal in the house.

11. Your cat is stressed by a change in routine or environment, including a new baby, new furniture, work schedule changes, vacations, overnight guests or a move.

12. Your cat has developed a litter box aversion. This can occur if he or she experiences an unpleasant event while in the litter box. This can include pain associated with urinary tract inflammation or constipation, or being frightened by a dog or another cat.

13. The use of box liners, hoods and plastic underlay is deterring the cat from using the box.

It is important to note that inappropriate elimination and territory marking are completely separate issues with different characterizing behaviors.

What Can I Do to Address Inappropriate Elimination?

First, it is important to rule out medical problems by consulting your veterinarian. If your cat’s inappropriate elimination is due to a behavioral problem there are several ways of trying to address the issue:

1. Determine what cat litter your cat prefers. Present your cat with different litter choices in order to discover if there is a product that he or she prefers over the present litter you are using.

2. Make the litter box as attractive as possible. Scoop it out daily and clean the entire box every week or two with mild soap and water, making sure to rinse thoroughly.

3. Ensure that the litter box is large enough for the cat. It should be approximately 1 1/2 times the length of the cat and sufficiently wide enough for the cat to easily turn around.

4. Make sure there are enough litter boxes in the house (one per cat, plus one) and that they are spread around the house.

5. Consider the litter box location. Cats don’t like to be disturbed while in the litter box, so ensure that litter boxes are in quiet, low trafficked areas. As well, be sure to keep litter boxes away from your cat’s food and water dishes.

6. Try to discourage your cat from using the inappropriate area for elimination. For instance, place a litter box in that area then gradually, once your cat is using the box consistently, move the box, inch by inch, to a more appropriate area. As well, you could try placing your cat’s food or toys over the area. Another option, if possible, is to make the inappropriate area inaccessible, at least for a while, so that you can retrain the cat to use the litter boxes. If this is not practical, try to create an aversion to the area by placing tinfoil, heavy plastic, deodorizers, or cologne in the area. Please note: residual odor in the inappropriate area can attract your cat back to that area. It is therefore important that it be thoroughly cleaned and any odor removed.

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Cat Behavior: Inappropriate Elimination vs. Urine Marking

Inappropriate elimination and urine marking are separate issues with different solutions. It is therefore important to be able to identify which problem you are dealing with. In order to distinguish between these two problems, it is important to pay close attention to your cat’s behavior as well as the locations in which your cat is eliminating.

Signs of a cat who is exhibiting inappropriate elimination include:

• The litter box is used infrequently, if at all

• The litter box is used only for defecation but not urination or vice-versa

• Large amounts of urine are deposited in the inappropriate area

• Your cat exhibits a definitive urinating posture (squatting to eliminate)

• Carpets and rugs are often targeted

• Only two to three locations are used

Signs of a cat who is urine marking include:

• Fairly normal litter box use, along with the strategic location of urine marks

• Urination is mostly on vertical surfaces (though cats that are urine marking may sometimes
   mark horizontal surfaces as well)

• Only small amounts of urine are deposited in the inappropriate area

• Your cat displays a typical posture while marking, which includes backing up to the object,
   lifting and often quivering the tail, and treading with the back feet

• The locations of urination are many and varied

For more information on inappropriate elimination and how to address the issue, please see:Inappropriate Elimination in Cats

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Cat Behavior: Urine Marking

Urine marking is a form of communication used by cats in the wild to make statements about what territory belongs to them, how long ago they were there, when other cats can expect them to return as well as information regarding mating. While domestic cats do not require this type of communication for survival, as cats in the wild do, they are still motivated by nature to use these communication skills. Urine marking is therefore not a litter box problem but, rather, a communication problem.

Often cats will urine mark if they are distressed. This helps them to keep unwanted individuals away and to create a familiar environment that they can feel secure in.

Reasons for urine marking may be:

• Your cat is an unneutered male. Female cats and neutered and spayed cats may urine
   mark as well however unneutered males are more likely to do so.

• You have multiple cats in your home. As the number of cats in a household increases, the
   more likely it is that at least one of them will urine mark.

• A change has occurred in the household. Changes that may cause a cat to become
  distressed can range from bringing home a new or unusual object to doing renovations.

• Your cat is experiencing conflict with another cat in the house or cats that he or she sees
   outside.

In order to address a urine marking problem it is important to first rule out medical problems. In the case that your veterinarian has determined that your cat doesn’t have a medical condition, consider the following options:

• Neuter or spay your cat.

• Close windows, blinds and doors to prevent your cat from seeing other neighborhood cats.

• Deter neighborhood cats from coming into your yard with a motion-detection device.

• Make sure to provide a sufficient number of litter boxes. Although marking is not a litter
   box problem, too few litter boxes can contribute to urine marking if conflict arises over
   litter box use. Ideally your home should have a litter box for every cat, plus one extra.

• Be sure that the litter boxes are in low-traffic area with at least two exit routes in order to
   help your cat(s) avoid conflict with other pets in the home.

• Scoop and clean out litter boxes often, in order to reduce the scent of other cats. As well,
   make sure to clean up all accidents outside of the litter box thoroughly with a product that
   neutralizes pet odors.

• Provide multiple sources of food, water, scratching posts, perching areas and toys in order
  to reduce the likelihood of conflict.

For more information on how to distinguish between urine marking and inappropriate elimination check out: Cat Behavior: Inappropriate Elimination vs. Urine Marking

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Pet Waste Disposal

Did you know that most landfills do not allow pet waste to be disposed of at their facilities? Animal waste in landfills can lead to water contamination and methane gas production. Pet waste cannot be left without being disposed of either, as it can cause bacterial contamination if washed into waterways and may harm fish and other wildlife through the depletion of oxygen levels. Pet waste can contain diseases and parasites that can affect both people and pets

So how can pet waste be disposed of safely? Below are some options for proper disposal.

Buried pet waste in the back yard

Note: pet waste should not be buried near vegetable gardens. The best place to bury waste is near ornamental trees or shrubs.

Compost it

Note: do not add pet waste to your regular compost bin, as it can retain odors, attract pests and make your compost unhealthy. As well, kitty litter cannot be composted with pet waste.

Flush pet waste down the toilet

Note: be sure to remove all dirt and kitty litter, as these materials can cause blockages in sewer lines. As well, be sure to check with your local waste water management facility to see if waste bags labeled “flushable, water soluble or biodegradable” can be flushed with the waste.

Use a pet waste management service

As a final note, it is important that you do not put pet waste in storm sewer drains. They do not connect to the waste water treatment facilities that your toilet does and therefore doing so can pollute water and create possible health risks to people and animals.

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