Training Your Cat to Wood Pellet Litter
Wood Pellets As Cat Litter?
Wood pellets, sometimes called wood stove fuel pellets or pellet fuel (and brand names like Feline Pine cat litter), can make a great replacement for regular cat litter, and have many advantages over the traditional clay stuff.
Why switch over?
- Clumping litters, if ingested when licked off paws, can create gastrointestinal obstructions
- Clay is obtained by strip-mining, which is bad for the environment
- Clay does not absorb odors well. Pine smells good. Everyone always tells me, "I can't even smell that you have cats!"
- Clay is heavy, and cleaning litterboxes can be a difficult chore. Wood pellet litter turns into a light, fluffy powder after the cats have peed on it. It's very light and easy to clean.
- Soiled clay litter cannot be composted. Scoop poop from wood litter, and you can use put the litter in compost or around plants you don't bond with often. ;0)
- Wood pellets are cheap. You can buy the wood stove type very inexpensively, or you can buy Feline Pine brand litter, which is a little more steeply-priced but is still very economical.
- Poop can be thrown in the toilet and flushed (environmental advocates do not agree with this because it can spread toxoplasmosis gondii to sea otters, but that is your prerogative). Wood pellets don't clog up your toilet in small amounts.
Step One: Choose a Litter
Purchase either a bag of fuel pellets or a bag of Feline Pine.
- The advantage of fuel pellets is that they are extremely cheap at hardware and farm stores. Fifty pounds of litter can be purchased for roughly $4. The pellets do not have a strong wood scent. They are seasonal, so some stores will only carry them in winter. Also, it may be difficult for smaller people to carry fifty pound bags.
- Feline Pine can be bought at pet stores and some Wal-mart or Target stores for about $15 for twenty pounds. It has a naturally strong, pleasant pine scent. The bags come in different sizes, starting at ten pounds, which is not too hard to carry.
Get an extra litter box
You will need an extra litter box. If you transition your cats to pellet litters too quickly and they don't like the texture of the litter and have no alternative to the litter, they may decide to create their own litter box in a location of their choosing.
You can start by placing about 1/2 an inch's worth of pellets (this is all you need, ever!) into the new litter box and placing the new box next to the old one.
- If the cats start using that one regularly, great! You're a million miles ahead already. Start transitioning their other litter box as mentioned below.
- If your cats won't use it, put the litter away and start transitioning the new box as mentioned below. Leave their regular litter in the old box.
Transitioning the Litter Boxes
- Remember that you want an alternative box for the cats as long as possible. If your cats are using the wood pellet only box, transition their old clay litter box. If they don't want to use the wood litter at all, transition the new box until they get the hang of it. When they do, you can switch their old one out.
- Fill the transitioning box with regular litter, a few scoops of dirty litter from the other box, and add one cup of wood litter. Mix it with a litter scoop.
- Each day, scoop out a bit of litter and add just a tiny bit more of the wood litter. A good amount to add is only about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup. Most cats need a LOT of transition time, and rushing it can push things back a lot.
- After a while, if you see the cats are using the litter box regularly and the litter is mostly wood, you can try switching it to 100% wood pellets.
- Observe carefully. If the cats backslide or stop using the new litter box, go back a few steps and add the regular litter back to the box. Start over until the cats are using the wood litter reliably.
- I cannot stress enough how important it is to go slowly with adult cats. Kittens may transition easily, but adult cats tend to be very set in their ways.
- Some cats, especially declawed ones, may never want to use this sort of litter. Declawed cats may feel pain in their paws on pellets. An alternative for cats that hate this is to use Feline Pine's pine clumping litter.
- Keep the box smelling its best by removing poop daily and stirring the litter to keep it dry.
- Change the box completely when most of the pellets have dissolved into powder.
- There are many alternative litters on the market. If your cats dislike pellets, look around for different types.