Posts tagged strip mining

The cat’s out of the bag

“Remember when atmospheric contaminants were romantically called stardust?”Lane Olinghouse

Most people don’t sit around pondering where their toilet paper comes from. Certainly cats don’t stress about their litter. While it’s not a cat’s job to think about his bathroom business, an owner should to know where that litter came from. And chances are, it didn’t come from somewhere good.

According to a Green living tips article, “The most common cat litter in use today is made from a natural clay, also known as ‘diatomaceous earth,’ or sodium bentonite.” You might think that because clay is a natural material, no harm is being done. Well, you might be wrong. The article states that as it turns out, the clay used in popular litter is targeted by strip mining. As its name implies, strip mining consists of digging and drudging away the land’s surface, typically to access and extract coal, but also clay. It’s a practice that is no stranger to environmental concern; in fact, as far back as 1971, Time magazine spoke against the perils of strip mining and painted this ugly, but true, picture:

The bleakest landscape in the U.S. can be found where miners have torn away the earth’s surface to get at coal deposits. Huge piles of gray debris, aptly called “orphan soil banks,” stand like gravestones over land so scarred and acidic that only rodents can live there. The sight is not rare. Using dynamite, bulldozers, great augers and earth movers, working on the surface rather than below ground … After such mining, the land is usually abandoned.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Strike one against litter: It’s ripping up and destroying our earth.

Strike two: This litter is also destroying our feline friends. Marina Michaels, writing for, says that “clumping clay kitty litters may be related to a wide variety of seemingly unrelated cat health problems, included diarrhea, mega-bowel or mega-colon syndrome, unexplained lethargy, unexplained vomiting (especially frothy yellow vomit), irritable bowel syndrome, kidney diseases, respiratory problems, eye problems, general failure to thrive, anemia, and even death.”

You don’t have to be a cat lover to find that distressing. So what can you do if you own a furry friend? Try a different litter. Litter made from recycled newspaper or reclaimed wood makes a great alternative to the clay-based, trouble-causing traditional litter. Treehugger recommends Swheat Scoop, which is made from natural wheat, and can actually be licked or digested without serious consequences. There’s also Feline Pine, a brand that uses all natural pine instead of chemicals.

Even if you don’t have a furry friend, you may find yourself using cat litter for other purposes, such as cleaning liquid spills, adding traction on ice, and getting rid of foul-smelling entities. Whatever reason you use it, unless it’s an eco-friendly version, the litter is simply doing more harm than help. Next time you clean up a mess, or a box, clean up the environment, too.


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