From my "Random Slice of Life" file . experiences, advice, happenings, and glorious results of a misspent youth.
The Straight Poop on Environmentally Friendly Cat Litter . .
I'm still not entirely sure how cleaning the cat's litter box became my responsibility. When my then-fiancee (now my wife) and I moved into our first apartment in the late 1990s her big, furry, lovable cat "Lester" naturally joined us in our new adventure, and as we slowly figured out the division of labor around the apartment during those first few weeks of cohabitation, somehow it was decided that the odious chore of litter box maintenance fell under my jurisdiction. "How did I wind up with this gig? He's YOUR cat!" I protested, to which my significant other would reply, "Yeah, but the cat poo goes in the garbage, and taking out the garbage is YOUR job." I couldn't argue with that logic, but on the other hand, I still think I got hosed. (Is there an appeal process for this sort of thing?)
A Much Needed Change
Either way, fifteen years (and one additional cat) later, the cat box chore still remains part of my regular "to-do" list. Over the course of those fifteen years, we've tried just about every type and brand of cat litter under the sun: clumping, non-clumping, name brand, store brand, litter in a bag, litter in a box, litter from a jug, you name it. Some of these litters, of course, performed better than others in terms of cleanliness, ease of use, and funkiness control. We had been using a supermarket brand's "clumping" litter over the past several years because it was fairly cheap and seemed to work well enough, unless the box wasn't scooped out at least once per day (and let's be honest, cat lovers: we've all "forgotten" to "scoop the poop" once in a while, haven't we?). If even one "scoop" session was missed, the cat box odor would quickly become overpowering, to the point where you could smell the litter box in the upstairs bathroom even if you were downstairs!! *GACK* Obviously, a change was needed.
Enter the Pine!
Most litter box fillers are made of granulated clay mixed with some baking soda and other fragrances to cover up odors, but over the past several years pet store shelves have become clogged with so-called "green" or "natural" cat litter products. These litters are usually made from shredded wood, recycled newspapers, or other organic material and have cutesy names like "Purr and Simple," "S'Wheat Scoop," "Cedar-ific," etc. Till recently I had only been familiar with such products from their TV commercials, and I was always skeptical that they would truly be up to the task of controlling those sometimes-demonic Litter Box odors. Besides, it seemed kind of silly to spend good money on something that looked like nothing more than a simple bag of sawdust. (I figured someone at a lumberyard or saw mill was getting rich simply by sweeping their floors at the end of the day and bagging up the results.)
That changed about a month ago when my wife returned from the supermarket toting a box of "Feline Pine" clumping litter, which we'd never tried before. "Since when do we use this stuff?" I asked, and her response was "Since it was on sale, and I had a coupon." (There's that unassailable wife logic, again.) Thus began our Feline Pine Experience.
So What's the Scoop?
Feline Pine is composed of—well, shredded pine, obviously, plus "natural guar bean gum," which, according to the back of the box, is an "all-natural fiber" that helps the pine particles clump tightly together around cat waste. The pine itself, we're told, naturally neutralizes ammonia (which is a major ingredient in kitty wee-wee and the main culprit in litter box odor), as well as the odors caused by - ahem - The Old Number Two. The Feline Pine package promises that if you "simply scoop and discard waste daily, you'll enjoy a fresher, healthier home." Of course, my inner cynic responded "Yeah, well, we'll just see about that. You may think you're tough, but you've never met MY kitty" (whom we affectionately call "Doctor Funken-Cat" behind her back).
"Wow, This Stuff Is Good"
Lo and behold, however—within a day or so of our litter box being filled with Feline Pine's woody goodness, I noticed that our upstairs no longer seemed to have that slight air of kitty funkiness about it that I'd grown used to over the years and had chalked up to the price of cat ownership. Wow, this stuff is good.
The Lightweight Alternative
Another major "pro" for Feline Pine is how lightweight it is—no more back-breaking trips up the stairs with a big, heavy container of the "other" litters, which at my age is perhaps the best thing about this product.
A Bit More Time-Consuming
Scooping the box does take a bit more time than it used to with the old clay-based litters—the sawdust's larger "grain" takes longer to sift through the narrow spaces in a standard-sized cat-box scoop (Feline Pine does offer its own scoop which features larger gaps) and I've noticed that rather than forming a "clump," cat wee-wee tends to collect at the bottom of the box, combining with the pine in what can only be described as an extremely sticky "pancake" formation which takes a few extra minutes to scoop out and remove.
Be Prepared With a DustBuster
You'll also have to put up with the occasional pile of sawdust on the floor around the box, but those are easily taken care of with your DustBuster (assuming you have one). On the other hand, unlike clay litters, Feline Pine doesn't make clouds of dust when you pour more of it into the cat box, which is a definite plus if you've ever experienced a coughing fit caused by cheap, dusty bargain-brand cat litter.
The Kitty Conclusion . .
As you can see from the experience of this former cynic, Feline Pine has many "pros" and no "cons" that I have come across yet. Cat lovers who are trying to "go green" are probably already well aware of the benefits of the product, as it's made from all-natural ingredients and without any harmful chemicals. Whether or not your kitty takes to it, of course, is a whole 'nother matter. Fortunately my cat doesn't really seem to care one way or the other what's in her litter box (as long as there is a litter box) and nowadays when she sits in our laps while we watch TV in the evenings, it's nice not to smell that "funky litter box" aura about her anymore. It's certainly better for your home, better for your kitty, and better for anyone else who might be within smelling distance of the dreaded Litter Box. Feline Pine doesn't make scooping the cat box more fun, but at least it makes the experience just a little bit more pleasant, and that's all you can really ask for with such a chore, isn't it?
© 2011 Keith Abt
Samantha P. on May 20, 2019:
I have been hooked on the one litters for about 16 years! When my family got our 2 cat brothers (passed in the last 2 years), they were our first completely indoor cats so pood a lot more inside. My mom tried feline pine on a whim and we all have our gag reflexes engaged with the clay chemical smelling blegh litter. Amazing! Smells so much better! In my adult life, I've been getting Equisicat pine pellets for my own cat because it was available at PetSmart for cheaper. Before the old brothers passed, my mom had started buying the horse bedding pellets from the tractor store becaus,e like someone said, it's the exact same thing for a whole lot less! I have converted my fiance to pine pellets for his cat as well.
Marj on April 24, 2019:
The feline Pine was meant to be used with a specific litter box. It’s a two part system. The one box fits inside the other box. The top portion has a bunch of holes in it where you put the pine litter. As the cat urinates and dissolves the pain into dust it falls in the bottom box. That way you don’t have pancakes and you save a lot of litter. Unfortunately the shipping cost when you buy the box online is excessive. If you go to feline Pine website you will find the litter box which is the only place you can find it. Another suggestion I use pine horse bedfding pellets which you can buy at a tractor supply. Also country max if you have one in your area. It comes in 40 pound bags for like 6.99.
Aims on April 11, 2019:
Although Feline Pine may not have harsh chemicals, all inhaled wood dust in hazardous to your health.
Pancham on February 02, 2019:
Since Arm & Hammer bought feline pine it has like a powdery grit.to it almost as if you poured baking soda in it. Its pine scent isnt as strong and the price increased( obviously) the cats dont seem as drawn to it and im using more product than i did with the original feline pine. Also while arm and hammers corn/coconut litter smells really good it doesnt soak up the pee that well
Nissala on November 06, 2018:
I am new to having cats. which is better clumping litter or non-clumping litter? Why? I would really like to know! Thank you in advance
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 23, 2016:
Thanx for the kind words Mizbejabbers - good luck finding a suitable "alternative" litter for your feline friends.
Mizbejabbers on June 23, 2016:
While it's true that anyone who can make an article on cat litter interesting is a very good writer, I read it because of content. I still think you are a good writer. You have made me want to try an alternative litter again. We tried the natural litters years ago, including the pines and even shredded corn cob, which didn't work at all. Notice shredded corn cob isn't on the market anymore?
Anyway, our cats didn't like the natural litters, but we've had a complete cat turnover in our house since the last time we tried a natural litter, so it might be worth it to try again. What disgusts me the most is when litter is flung from the box and if water is accidentally spilled on it, it turns into the caliche from whence it came. Anyone who has ever lived in a caliche area knows what I'm talking about, sticky muck that is difficult to clean up.
AB on June 10, 2016:
Looks like she had caught the best of it.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 09, 2016:
Hi AB - I wish I could help with your question, but I wrote this article several years ago. Sadly, our dear Kitty (the one in the photo in this piece) has since gone to the Great Litter Box in the sky and I am currently catless. Therefore I am unaware of any changes to Feline Pine.
AB on June 08, 2016:
So, how has it changed since A&H bought it?
I am seeing complaints from old users.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on February 24, 2016:
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on April 28, 2014:
Hi R Tracz - glad you enjoyed it. I never thought of putting the "sawdust" in my flower garden, that's a good idea. Thanks for the tip.
R Tracz on April 26, 2014:
This was an EXCELLENT review. I was wondering how the clumping formulation worked. My kitty uses the original formula and she does quite well with it.
I agree with you about the odor control. It's amazing how well it stops that "funky litter box" smell. When I pour it out of the bag it reminds me of the scent of new pressed wood 'furniture' that I've put together. I don't have to hold my breath or make sure I only breathe through my mouth when cleaning the box either!
I also like that I can just dump the 'sawdust' into my flower garden. I do have their special litter box with the sifting bottom so it's very easy to dump just the sawdust when it gets full. (I wouldn't put it in a vegetable garden, though. There are pathogens that could be transferred to the veggies. As far as putting it in compost used for a vegetable garden, I wouldn't put it in there either unless your compost gets REALLY hot enough to kill any pathogens.)
I will continue to use the original for now, but I do have a coupon and rebate form to try the clumping for free, so I will give it a try.
Thanks again very a well written and informative review!
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 23, 2013:
Hey Georgie... it was a bit of a challenge to write about $@ without actually saying $@, haha.
Cool that you're going to be joining the ranks of Cat People. Sadly, our kitty Shadow (her pic is in this Hub) passed away a few months ago, we miss her terribly but her legend lives on. Good luck with your new kitty!!
GH Price from North Florida on November 23, 2013:
I think the best thing about this Hub is the creative way in which you avoid saying s&^%. I am about to get a kitty, so I will try the piney stuff. :)
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on June 29, 2013:
I'm glad you enjoyed it, Marie, thanx for stopping by.
Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on June 29, 2013:
I just stopped by because of a recommendation on a HubPages Forum.
This hub works really well because it is a practical problem with which you had a long-time experience. You expressed your experience in a logical, chronological manner, and you have your own brand of humor.
I did't quite understand why "pancake" got linked, but that was probably something beyond your control. (I've only had one hub that came up with a linked word.)
And, although you have two videos, they are really short, compliment each other, and drive home your topic.
I think the Amazon ads were overdone, but you are probably making a little revenue from such practice, so more power to you.
We're worlds apart on topic interests, though, so I won't be requesting a follow. Thank you for the read. You did a good job on this hub.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 23, 2011:
Not in my experience thus far, Joe. My guess is that the urine flows to the bottom of the box, where it settles and eventually forms the "pancake."
We also have a small throw rug/mat under our litter box so that when the cat climbs out, any particles that might be stuck to her feet fall off before they get tracked around the house. Thanks for your question.
Joe "Chewie" Baca on November 23, 2011:
So this sticky pancake stuff doesn't stick to their paws for them to track around the house???
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 23, 2011:
Thanx Holly! Good luck with your two new additions... hope they like the Pine!!
Holly Ennist Stewart on November 23, 2011:
Terrific piece, Keith. I enjoyed your humorous interjections as well as your play-by-play breakdown of the Feline Pine. I tried it once years ago but my cat refused to use it. She's gone on to the Great Litterpan in the sky now, however, and I'm adopting two 6 month old kittens next week, so perhaps I will give the product another whirl.
Keith Abt (author) from The Garden State on November 23, 2011:
Thanx for stoppin' by Brian, as always...glad you enjoyed it...
Brian L. Marshall on November 23, 2011:
I wish you could write professionally, Keef. You made an article about kitty litter interesting to a guy who HATES cats. :) Another success!
Pine Pellet Cat Litter Pros and Cons: Is it Really Worth Using?
Alternative litters are catching on in popularity as people are seeking out more environmentally and budget-friendly options. Since I tried this with my cats, I want to discuss the pros and cons of pine pellet cat litter. It might seem like a great solution, but the reality is it may not work for everyone.
At a Glance: Pine Pellet Cat Litter, Pro vs. Cons
(Check current prices here)
|Cats won’t be drawn to it (naturally)|
|Environmentally Friendly||Not all cats will use it|
|Hides cat pee smell||Does not hide poo smell|
|Less dusty||Much more work to clean/manage|
As you can see, for every advantage to using wood pellets as cat litter, there is also a disadvantage. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if it’s right for you and your cat.
How does pine pellet cat litter work?
Pine pellets work by turning back into their original state – sawdust – when exposed to moisture. So when your cat urinates on the pellets, they’ll simply turn to sawdust and won’t stay wet.Wood pellets turn back to sawdust after getting wet, so you’re not left with a wet, stinky box
The wood naturally absorbs the odor as it turns to dust, so you won’t get that foul cat pee smell left in the box.
However, you still need to keep the box cleaned regularly and either sift out the sawdust or dump the contents altogether because it will eventually get oversaturated and stinky.
Cleaning wood pellet litter boxes
There are different methods people use to clean out litter boxes with wood (pine) pelleted litter. It’s important to know, however, that cleaning this litter is a bit more work than a traditional clay clumping litter.
Cats won’t bury their poop in pine pellets, and they also don’t absorb the smell. So you need to keep the poop picked out daily from the box.
To clean out the sawdust, you can either use one of these methods:
Method #1: Sifting box
The easiest way to clean them is to use a sifting litter box (or make one yourself). This way, you can pick up the top box and shake, and the sawdust will fall into the bottom and you can easily dispose of it.
In the video below, this guy shows you how he made his own sifting litter box system using plastic tubs.
You can also just buy a sifting litter box though, like this Arm and Hammer one.
Method #2: Reverse scoop
If you don’t want to buy new litter boxes or make your own, you can do it with your regular ones too. This girl shows you how she “reverse scoops” her pine pellet litter…
Method #3: Dump out contents with each cleaning
The third option would be to simply dump out the entire box each time you clean it, just like you would with any other non-clumping litter. However, if you throw it outside make sure you properly dispose of the poop first.
You’ll go through the pellets a lot faster this way, but it also makes cleaning the box a lot easier.
How to transition cats to wood pellet litter
One of the important things to realize if you’re thinking of trying this litter out is that cats aren’t naturally going to want to use it. The smell may not be appealing to them, and the texture is unlike what they’re used to.
In order to transition, put 2 litter boxes next to each other — one with regular litter, and the other mostly with regular litter and pine on top. Each day, gradually add more pine pellets while reducing their normal litter.
You could also just fill one box full of pine, and the other their normal litter to give them the option.
You can read about my attempted transition here. My cats are old and stubborn, so it didn’t work for them. If you’re doing this with a kitten, it will most likely be an easier transition. The older the cat, the more they may resist. It may have a lot to do with the personality of the cat as well.
Is pine litter safe for cats?
Some say pine pellet litter is dangerous for cats due to the pine oils contained in the wood which may cause respiratory and liver problems. However, the pine oils are destroyed in the manufacturing process, leaving the pellets safe. It also may be better for cats with allergies, as the pellets aren’t dusty like clay.
But note that people are using a variety of different products for wood pellet litters, which may or may not be produced the same.
Pine Pelleted Litter vs Horse Bedding vs Wood Stove Pellets
There are different wood pellets available that work as cat litter. Some people use cat-specific brands of pine pellets such as Feline Pine, others use horse bedding, and yet others say they simply use wood stove pellets.
Feline Pine and other brands of pine pelleted cat litter – This is specifically manufactured and marketed to be used as cat litter and you’ll find it in the pet section at your local box stores or pet stores (and online, too). The dangerous oils are eliminated in the manufacturing process through kiln drying.
The advantage to just purchasing actual pine pelleted cat litter is that it’s made specifically for cats, so you know it’s absolutely safe. Another plus is that it’s really easy to find, unlike other options such as horse bedding, which can only be purchased in very large quantities at stores like Tractor Supply.
So if you don’t have that option or can’t go out and get it, you can find lots of options for pine pellets available here at Chewy for the best price.
Horse bedding – pelleted bedding for horses, also called equine bedding, can also work for cat litter even though it is not specifically marketed as such. However, it is made of 100% pine, just like the cat litter brands and it’s much less expensive. You can find this stuff sold at places like Tractor Supply. These are either kiln or rotary dried.
Woodstove pellets – these may be more widely available than horse bedding as you can find them at most hardware type stores, like Lowes or Home Depot (and even Walmart).
However, they’re not pine pellets – they’re actually a mix of different wood types which could vary depending on the region in which it’s produced. In general, woodstove pellets are made from hardwoods (pine is a softwood). Some brands also may contain chemical additives like accelerants, since they’re meant to burn in wood stoves and not specifically be used around animals. While they work pretty much the same as pine pellets, you should check to make sure they don’t have additives.
Equine and woodstove pellets work but aren’t specifically marketed as “safe” for cats
All 3 of these work the same, but if it makes you feel safer to be using a product that’s actually made for cats specifically, you can go with a specific litter type (like Feline Pine, or any other brand).
However, the horse bedding is 100% pine and made to be safe around horses, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be safe for your felines as well. The manufacturing process also greatly eliminates the pine oils.
The woodstove pellets, on the other hand, aren’t typically made of pine wood at all. They’re probably OK to use, too, but just make sure they’re not coated in chemical accelerants.
Cost of using pine pellet cat litter
The cost of pine pellets varies a lot depending on what you’re buying.
The plus side of going with the horse bedding option is it’s much cheaper than branded cat litter pellets. Feline Pine and other pine litters cost over 3x as much as alternatives like horse bedding. A 20 lb bag of Feline Pine costs around $10, depending on where you purchase it. A 40 lb sack of horse bedding only costs $6.
However, I’ve only seen horse pellets and woodstove fuel sold in 40 lb sacks, while the Feline Pine comes in 7 and 20 lb options. If you don’t need to keep so much on hand, or can’t physically handle 40 lbs, it may be better to opt for the branded cat litter.
Bottom Line: All in all, considering how long pine pelleted litter can last, it’s overall a cheaper option than most clumping clay types even if you buy the branded pine pelleted litter.
Pros vs cons of using pine litter
While there are plenty of reasons why you should use this type of litter for your cats, there are also equally as many reasons why you may opt not to.
- Cheap – one of the major advantages of using this type of litter is cost. You can buy a 40 lb bag that some owners say lasts between 3-4 months, for only about $6 if you purchase the equine, or horse bedding pellets from Tractor Supply. Even if you use cat litter specific brands, it’s still a cheaper alternative.
- Environmentally friendly – wood pellets are biodegradable and you can dump the dust into your garden
- Eliminates cat pee smell – the pine actually neutralizes and holds on to that strong ammonia odor of cat pee as it turns into sawdust, and it mostly just smells like wood
- Less dusty
- Cats aren’t naturally drawn to it, they may not like the smell or the way it feels on their paws -you need to train them
- Not all cats will adapt to using it, even with training – you can read here about my cats (failed) transition
- More work to clean – if you want to make the pellets last as long as possible, it takes a little more effort to keep the sawdust cleaned out
Different types of wood litter – are they all pellets?
Wood pellets are a very popular option, especially considering you can get them for so cheap. Wood pelleted litter comes in many brands like Feline Pine, Frisco, and Simply Pine (among others).
But the pellets aren’t the only options for wood litter. They also sell grounded (non-pelleted) wood litter that’s meant to clump. The clumps aren’t as strong as traditional clay clumps, but they still can make the box easier to clean.
Some of the grounded litter is 100% pine, but other types have mixtures of wood and corn (like Tidy Cats Pure Nature).
Pine Pellet Litter Recommendations
If you don’t want to use horse pellets, or you can’t easily track them down… we recommend a few different brands that are specifically produced to be used as cat litter. These are all made of 100% pine with no additives or chemicals.
The Bottom Line
Some people find that pine pellets work great for their cats and don’t mind dealing with them. They can be a great alternative to clay litters and will cost you less too. Just keep in mind that not ALL cats will take to this type of litter.
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How to Use It
Scoop Away manufacturers recommend filling the litter box with 3 to 4 inches of litter. Scoop out solid waste and clumps several times per day and dump them in the trash. You should never flush Scoop Away clumping litter down the toilet, since it can bulk up in your pipes, causing clogs. After you scoop, pour in a little more litter to replace what you tossed out. As long as you keep up with daily maintenance, you'll only have to completely change the litter about once a month. If you have several kitties you may have to swap it out more often.
Kinder for the Environment?
Pine cat litter (aka pine pellet cat litter) is promoted as being better for the environment, as many types use by-products of the wood industry. If you’ve not seen pine cat litter before, it’s like little pellets of wood instead of the clumping clay cat litter that many people are accustomed to. The wood pellet cat litter crumbles when exposed to moisture (read: cat pee). The pellets are made of shavings from lumber yards and similar, which are dehydrated and formed into pellets. So, it’s great to know that these waste products are being used for something useful.
However, I noticed that I had to use a large amount of the pine litter to fill the tray to a level my cats found ‘useful’. Because the pellets are so big, and my cats like to dig, they couldn’t cope with a thin layer. This meant I found myself using more of the wood-based litter than I would of a clay or crystal-based litter. Also, as the wood kind of turned into a weird, wet mush once wet, I wanted to empty the whole tray rather than just taking the lumps out. Ultimately, I would have had to buy the litter more frequently. This means more trips to the store, or more deliveries to my home, thus increasing my carbon footprint. I can’t help feeling that’s going to negate the beneficial impact of using a sustainable product.
Very nice fragrance but not easy to clean
It´s entirely passable because the aroma is very pleasing, but it´s not as easy to clean and maintain like other clumping litters. Moisture Absorption I think this is why it´s harder to maintain. I don´t think it absorbs fast enough and well enough to prevent wastage. What I mean is, a certain amount of the litter should be able to absorb urine into a ball that can be scooped away and the surrounding litter is dry. But here, surrounding litter is affected and bad smells are building up faster than they do with other clumping litters, so I must change the whole lot more often. Ease of Cleaning I must change the whole lot more often and wash the pan more often than I do with other clumping litters. Odor Control Great at first, but after a few days, not so great. Odors build up fast because even scooping daily does not remove all the odors. Ease of Use It´s pretty easy in that all I need to do is scoop it daily, but I have to scoop a lot of it out to control odors and add a lot more every day.