Cat Litter – Is Pine A Good Alternative?


EDIT 20070628 20070815: We’ve been doing trial with Silica Gel for the past 3 4 months as our noses, yes, Philly’s too, started reacting to the clumping litter dust. Detailed verdict writeup pending here, but the long–and-short of it is: we like it… BUT…

(Related: Cat litter – the bin)

Well, if you’re concerned about clumping litter, even or especially after reading Cat Litter – To Scoop or Not to Scoop, here’s a poser: If not clumping litter, what? (You might also want to refer to Cat litter – So what’s out there?)

That was what we asked ourselves too, when we first became embroiled with the hysteria over clumping clay, after encountering the web site of one individual, Marina McInnis, in her article, Clumping Clay Litters: a Deadly Convenience?

It resulted in our determination to change. Our trials for an alternative led us… back to clumping litter. Sit back and read our experience, which I hope will help you in your choice – for the health of both your cats and your family.

We began with pine. We’ve tried both Pinnacle and Feline Pine – popular pine litter here. At that time, our brood was away on fostering while we put house issues into order. So we saw them only on weekends. For Philly, who joined the brood during this sojourn, we were learning his habits and quirks. We knew he was a compulsive burier – he kept an inordinate amount of time in the bin with the pine, trying to bury his and his housemates’ output. He was too duty-conscious though, and because pine doesn’t clump, we kept getting perfect, wet pyramids of pine. This upset the others as outside the pyramid perimeter, the bin was always bare and they hated peeing and getting wet, and pooing and not being able to bury. Output decreased dramatically, so we started worrying that they may be choosing to hold it instead of relieving, and that may lead to all sorts of other health problems.

The burier boy himself, quite prudently, refuse to touch the poo and pee outside the pyramids. The resulting smell from the unburied output, quite frankly, rather defeated the purpose of using pine.

Philly also seemed very prone to watery eyes and runny nose. We worried it might be flu caused by living arrangement changes. Later, we just settled for the likelihood that he’s chronic. It runs in our family, rhinitis does, so why not cats?

We left it at that, until they came home. Soon, my dad was complaining the litter was causing him breathing problems as the dust irritated his lungs. Actually, he wheezed. btmao and I thought at first that it was a matter of getting used to having the slackers home and their new litter. But then our problems started, runny noses, bouts of sneezing, watery eyes…

Philly, as ever, was burying waste through his runny eyes and watery nose.

Another unpleasant side-effect was that the burier ended up with consistently pee-perfumed paws, so the others hated it when he tried to play and warn or swipe him away, and he LOVES his mock-wrestling. Also he had the habit of snuggling up to us and touching our faces with his paws… So, as you can imagine, it was a miserable time for everybody.

We decided to change brands, but no, we still wheezed, our eyes watered, and our noses ran.

Then we changed again, and this time we converted to Swheat Scoop, as recommended by McInnis.

All in all, our experiment with pine at home lasted about 5 weeks, and we didn’t even finish off our stock – our dad’s wheezing was so bad, we had to negotiate for an exchange of the unopened packs to other stuff.

As for the verdict on Swheatscoop: it is, imo, over-rated. It doesn’t control odour all that well, and because it behaves like a pine/clumping litter hybrid, as in it doesn’t clump as much as clumping litter, but neither is it as disintegrative as pine, our burier boy still overworked, and offended everybody with his pissy paws, aside from upsetting every other cat with his pyramid tendencies. Also he still had watery eyes and runny nose, though not as bad as on pine. I think this is, again, caused by the powdery state of the material. I guess like the cereals people eat, the wheat does tend to ‘settle’ and residue/powder results. So I think the powdery part of the gig is what we have problems with, both our cats and us. And so for us, we were definitely not getting the rightful bang for the buck we laid down for the thing.

We were on Swheat Scoop for maybe 2 months before we gave up. It was better than pine, marginally. We were tired of expensive alternatives (Swheat Scoop is NOT cheap) that didn’t work for us. Pine is out, it seemed the only option was for us to return to clumping litter.

Fortunately, we found a clumping litter that is less dusty (and controls odours well), through our regular supplier and all the wheezing and watering stopped pronto, even Philly’s.

Our cats are all much happier with the new litter too. Much! Given the situation, I didn’t blame them one bit.

The results of going back to clumping litter also meant one thing – Philly was sensitive to pine and shweat scoop dust! Just like us.

So we find that in considering which litter to use, you have to think about your health and your cat’s too.

Pine, while being an economical alternative to clumping litter, has two problems for us sensitive nose types:

  1. the smell – i’m not sure if the natural pine smell alone is the problem or even if the natural woody fragrance of pine was enhanced for odour-control, but the smell definitely causes us problems.
  2. the fine pine saw-dust that results when pine disintegrates after getting peed on (the effect of pee-marinated saw dust dancing in the air is not to be overlooked). The thing is, we tried pine because of powdery clumping litter, but we still get powdery sediments with pine. It was, to use a very crude colloquial term, an exercise in LPPL we really did not need.

Soooo… whither thy choice? All I can say is: read up, decide for yourself, and assess the result on both yourself AND your cat(s).

(Related: Cat Litter – To Scoop or Not to Scoop , Cat litter – So what’s out there?)

(Created: 15 Oct 06)

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12 responses to “Cat Litter – Is Pine A Good Alternative?

  1. Interesting.

    My cat’s using clumping litter as well. It’s not too dusty and I’ve mixed the scented lemon litter with those that have no smell as the lemon smell was too strong.

    Worked out well.

    Question, would cats share the same litter box? My cat is one fussy cat. She had refused to use the litter box before when the dog went in. And my dad had to wash the whole thing out before she went back in again.

  2. Marilyn,
    What brand are you using? Lemon-scented sounds like something we tried before.

    Most cats would share a litterbox. However, there may be minor scuffles if two or more cats happen to want to visit at the same time. If you have many cats, it’s only wise to set up more boxes. We have 2 for 6 cats. *fingers crossed*

    Sometimes, it’s not the sharing that’s the problem for the cats. The litterbox may not be in a location that’s compliant with some meomancy rules, or they don’t like the litter etc.

    Your cat’s not too bad, I know someone who has to completely wash out the litterbox every single day.

  3. Can’t remember the brand name at the moment. It’s the one with Heathcliff (the cartoon cat character) sitting on a toilet bowl on the packaging. It isn’t too expensive. About $8/pack.

  4. Hi Marilyn

    Heathcliff sitting on a bowl is Jewelry. It used to be unscented but now that they’ve made it scented, the fresh litter has become overpowering. We’ve switched back to FussieCat litter which is unscented and works as well 🙂

    And the good news is…collect 10 barcodes in exchange for a free pack!

  5. Hmmm, same with the Heathcliff. Collect 10 barcodes and get 1 pack free. I actually mix the lemon-scented with the unscented to tone down the lemon smell. It works out well this way. Just enough scent to cover the bad smell but not too overpowering. :o)

  6. Oh, you know what. My dad recently switched to pine as he said he can’t stand the smell of the clumping litter.

    Seems like the pine is working well for both kitty and daddy. hahahah.

  7. Good that pine works for you. Too bad we’ve all got runny noses that gets aggravated by pine scent 😛

  8. Great that you found something which works for you. Thanks for sharing your experience. We have been going pretty much the same cycle… clumping – pine – clumping pine – clumping… i’m recently thinking of trying pine again, but yea… i should probably stop and stick with the clumping sand.

  9. Hi Ivy,
    If you’re using clumping litter, honestly, might as well consider recycled paper pellets.

  10. My cats play in the water so much their paws are usually wet. Than they use the clumping litter and end up with like concrete in their paws. I switched to the pine and it works great. They like it better. I like it – no smell at all. No dust. With two boys, I clean the box twice a day and all is great.

    I personally would be careful of the scented stuff as so much of the scented or coverup stuff that is made for people is so toxic. Fabreze messes up my nervous system, thinking, etc.

  11. I switched to pine litter and my cat absolutely refused to use it. She would look into the litter box, touch the litter with her paw, and then recoil back and run away. She ended up holding it for as long as she could and then using the bathroom outside of the litter box. I tried giving her time to adjust but she just kept holding it and I did not want her to get sick. When I refilled the box with clay litter she literally jumped over me before I was done filling the box to use it.

  12. Nermal, that’s to be expected when changing brands of anything with cats – food, litter, even cat toys sometimes. Lots of cats simply don’t like change, and when you transition you have to do so slowly and carefully.

    If your cat had been raised on pine litter and you wished to switch to clay, you might have ended up with the same problem.

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