Cat Litter | Clump, Dust and Hidden Deaths
From Lowe to Landfills
We’ve heard of Edward Lowe, the inventor of cat litter – or Kitty Litter, as he named it.
See if these names ring a bell as well: Thomas Nelson, William Mallow…. No? Well, Nelson created the first version of the clumping cat litter from sodium bentonite in 1984. Mallow perfected the clumping formula.
If you knew that already, congratulations, you are a true Litterbuff !
There is a huge difference, however, between Lowe’s Kitty Litter and what Nelson and Mallow created (the clumping clay litter that you buy today).
In all fairness, they were both trying to create a better litter, the best cat litter they could think of, and probably had no idea at the time that clumping clay cat litter could kill cats.
More on that later (but if you are feeling impatient, click here to open a new tab and read a detailed review of this particular cat litter).
Originally, Lowe had intended to sell a special type of clay to local farmers for nesting chicken.
The farmers were not interested. When a local woman named Kay Draper came along looking for sand for her cat’s litter box (she had brought the cat in from the January cold), Lowe offered her some of the unsold clay. (Source)
Cliched or not, ‘and the rest is history’ is apt in this context. Thus it all began in 1947.
Incidentally, Bloomberg Busienessweek , in its anniversary issue (December 2014), mentions Kitty Litter or, more precisely, the birth of Tidy Cat litter in 1954 as one of the 85 most disruptive ideas in our history.
A disruptive idea is one that displaces an existing market and creates a new market with completely different networking. systems. This could be a technology or an idea or an invention, but it must lead to a change that is unexpected, and create an irreversible impact.
Kitty Litter and rise of the indoor-only pet cat
Cats were loved and fed by humans before Kitty Litter came to be but having cats at home was not nearly as much of a commonplace as it is today. Cats cannot be put on a leash like dogs and taken out to relieve themselves at specific times of the day. Consequently, there must be a litter box at home.
Pre-Kitty Litter boxes contained ash, dirt, sawdust or sand for litter which could not effectively mask the noxious odor of cat urine. Add to that paw prints covered in wet ash or dirt all over the floor and the bed, or sand tracking all over the house and you had a full-time cleaning job with even a single cat for pet. If you were late with the cleaning of the litter box, urine would pool at the bottom or even leak out of it.
With Kitty Litter, there was finally something that was super-absorbent compared to all previous litter materials. It was a whole lot better at masking odor as well. At the time, it was the best cat litter available (indeed, the only thing that was sold officially as cat litter).
Edward Lowe’s discovery effectively made way for cats as indoor-only domestic animals. Today there are more pet cats than dogs in the US and the difference is in millions.
Automatic Litter Boxes
There are a number of cat litter boxes available in the market. Some of them are as simple as a tray, some of them are Automatic Litter Boxes, also called Self Cleaning Litter Boxes.
The difference between simple litter boxes and automatic litter boxes is that in the former, you have to dispose of the soiled litter manually, and in the latter, the box does it for you.
Even though it is not that simple (it never is!), automatic litter boxes like Cat Genie andLitter Maid do make life more comfortable than most other cat litter boxes.