More often than not, some of our favorite buys are small, how-didn’t-I-know-about-this products that solve an everyday problem. That’s what we’re highlighting in our Little Lifesavers series: cheap, simple purchases that you’ll use on the daily. Hit “Add to Cart” and thank us later!
Problem: Since plastic bag bans have taken effect, it was time for me to officially stop using plastic shopping bags to dispose of cat litter.
Solution: Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter is flushable, biodegradable, and eliminates the need for waste bags.
I always knew my plastic-bag hoard was problematic. We’ve all cringed at the photos of wildlife tangled in unrecycled shopping bags, and we know plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down, and even then they degrade into toxins that continue to contaminate the environment. So why did I — someone who takes pride in composting food scraps, recycling textiles, and opting for eco-friendly products — still have a plastic bag dispenser chock full of these harmful, non-biodegradable plastic bags?
Two words for you: picky cats. When we rescued our middle-aged kitties, Chewie and Lumpy, they were already set in their ways. Let’s call them extremely confident with sky-high self-esteem — personality traits we can all aspire to, right? With felines who resist change because they’re certain their routines and preferences are perfect just the way they are — thankyouverymuch — it was all I could do to slowly replace their food with the grain-free variety.
The last thing I planned to modify was their litter brand because why would I tempt fate and risk anger-fueled "accidents" on my precious couch?
For 5 years, I used a popular clay cat litter because it was affordable, quick-clumping, and got the job done. I tolerated the billowing gray cloud that erupted every time I topped off the litter box, even though I knew letting that dust circulate in the confined space of my small, Manhattan apartment wasn’t ideal. But it was my dependence on plastic bags to dispose of cat waste that continually bothered me, so when New York began enforcing a plastic bag ban earlier this year, it was the final push I needed to figure out a more eco-friendly solution.
After researching biodegradable poop bags hailed by dog owners and all sorts of pine, corn, wheat, and paper-based litters, I came across Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter, which is made entirely out of finely ground walnut shells. I had no idea it was even possible to train a cat to do their business on walnut shells, but since no one in my household is affected by nut allergies, I was intrigued to read on. When I saw that the litter could be flushed down the toilet, my heart skipped a beat at the possibility of finally cutting my plastic bag usage from two per day to zero forever.
After seeing over a thousand 5-star ratings on Amazon and skimming passionate review titles ranging from “NO DUST. NO SMELL. NO GOING BACK” to “Best litter in the universe!” (hey, Amazon reviews aren’t exactly known for restraint), I placed an order for the 26-pound bag and hoped my persnickety cats wouldn’t throw a fit over the clay-to-walnut litter transition.
When the heavy package arrived, I was so eager I threw caution to the wind and immediately dumped out all the clay litter instead of mixing the old and new litter together like Naturally Fresh suggests. I poured the fresh, dark brown walnut shell litter into the cat’s open-air litter box. The granule size was tiny, which I hoped my cats would prefer since it would feel similar to the fine clay granules they were used to, and I was delighted there was no erupting dust cloud I would have to mop up later. But who cared if I loved it — I needed the cats to be convinced.
Thus the waiting game began to see who would notice the change of litter box vibes first, and I was armed with a pep talk and Greenies treats if either of the fluffy kids were not having the unfamiliar scent, texture, or color of the new litter.
Lumpy, who puts the doll in Ragdoll, was the first to cautiously step in. Her pink nose went a mile a minute sniffing the walnut shells until she seemed satisfied and did her business. I was so relieved I had half a mind to scoop her up and hug her, but she could sense I was in the doting mood and promptly scampered away.
I considered the battle nearly won, since I reasoned once Chewie smelled her pee in the box, he would recognize it was the same safe and familiar place for potty breaks he'd always known and loved. Sure enough, an hour later, he hopped into the litter box without an air of suspicion. He took an extra minute to dig around and then did his thing without filing a single complaint against me for toppling his sense of normalcy. Victory!
I scooped the waste and was pleased to find the clumping power and odor control were virtually identical to that of the old clay litter. But I wasn’t certain the best way to transport the clumps of litter to the bathroom until I settled on repurposing a storage canister that was wide enough for the litter scoop and easy to pour into the toilet without making a mess.
A post shared by Naturally Fresh Cat Litter (@naturallyfreshcatlitter) on Dec 4, 2019 at 12:07pm PST
The first time I tested flushing the litter, I worried it might cause stress on the plumbing, but everything went down easily. I can only speak to my experience, but in a pre-war apartment boldly claiming to be gut-renovated (I think not, y’all), I have been flushing this walnut shell litter for months now without incident. I believe this is indicative of how quickly the natural granules release the clumps and break apart in water, but I’m also cognizant to scoop the litter box twice a day so I’m not pouring too much waste into the toilet at a time.
A word of advice to keep in mind as you’re making the switch to Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter: Yes, this is the best cat litter I’ve ever used, but adjust your expectations if you think it’s going to be less messy than your current litter. While it claims to be low-tracking, that is incredibly dependent upon your litter box setup (closed vs. open-air box, if you lay a litter mat down, etc.).
My cats are wild at heart and have a tendency to leap out of their litter box and gallop away from the scene of the crime, which means they’ve always tracked litter around, and this is no different. However, the darkness of the walnut shell litter is easier to see on my tile floor and Lumpy’s pristine white paws. But since the litter is natural and harmless, I don’t worry about it and view it as motivation to actually sweep the floor with regular consistency.
Now, it’s been months since we made the litter transition, and I’m happy to report that life on the side of this flushable, biodegradable solution is still greener. Hey, I’d love a viral, toilet-trained cat, but that’s a bridge too far for my babies who are easing into their retirement years and shan’t be learning any new tricks.
Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter is the next best thing and has truly changed the way I think about environmentally friendly pet care. After quitting my plastic-bag hoarding cold turkey, effortlessly convincing my fussy felines to accept that times are a-changing, and feeling better about the litter both my cats and I are interacting with, it’s safe to say I will never go back.
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