The Litter Box Shuffle

Cat owners have a preoccupation with waste disposal that rivals only that of sanitation workers. Indeed, only a fellow cat lover could understand. The ultimate litter solution seems to elude us like the search for the Holy Grail. We know it's out there. And we know it should cost something less than a mortgage payment. Like Pavlovian subjects, our ears prick to attention and our wallets fly open at the mere hint of an easy and odorless answer. The irony of this fixation lies in the fact that of all animal species, cats have a preeminent position as being among the cleanest. How many pets do their business and then spend an equal amount of time covering their tracks? Even people forget to flush. Hand a cat a roll of toilet paper and it would probably ask for a moist towelette. For their owners however, going one on one with a toilet bowl and brush seems to offer less chance of fecal matter contact than the litter box shuffle. Whether we rake it, scoop it or crystallize it, we still feel incomplete. A little wistful, perhaps, as we eye Fido bound into a litter free abode after his morning sprint. For every hour spent taking the dog for a walk, there are four engaged in litter shopping, hauling litter in and out of the car, pouring it into the box, scooping clumps, smoothing it out, splatter management (don't ask) and carpet treatments for wayward torpedoes and seeping ooze. (Again, don't ask). Not to mention the incalculable cost of passing out from the ammonia fumes of an overdue litter box. Rousing from a toxic coma with a pooper-scooper in your hand and fecal waste down your pants does something to your self-esteem years of therapy can't erase. Before many cat owners even contemplate how to handle the waste, they lose themselves in contemplation of the perfect litter box. Cat owners are faced with options that vary from motorized trays complete with motion detectors that purport to automate the process of separating the fecal clumps from the unused litter without mangling the cat to sifting litter boxes that allow you to shake, rattle and roll the waste into a neat little package. However, even the perfect box won't get the waste from the receptacle to the local landfill without that human touch. And that's where things really start to get messy. Who knew that emptying the litter box could be a lesson in the chemical break down of amino acids? The interesting thing about kibble is that though it starts out as a solid with a sizzling bacon aroma, it ends up a semi liquid reeking of rank sulfur. And it sticks to everything. Everything. So whether your box sorts and separates like the postal office or rocks like Elvis Presley, the icky sticky bits make for litter box hell. What's a cat owner to do? You can't strap your cat to a catheter. (Can you???). In my torment I took to gazing at Petal (my cat) in the hope of any wisdom she might impart regarding litter management. After weeks of lurking in doorways and peering into her Kitty Kondo, Petal relented. Though the sight of my fumbling around in the litter box had become the source of endless cat entertainment, she considered my recent behavior tantamount to stalking and an invasion of her right to privacy. So, after extracting a promise of cat treats (and a restraining order barring me from the Kondo), she informed me that the solution was not only cost effective, but simple. Let the cat use the toilet and dump the litter box altogether. Sound strange? Well, it's no stranger than shelling out $200 for a motor that spins waste into a plastic container. For less than $20 you can buy a toilet training cat kit that will have most cats going potty in a few weeks. For the more cynical, Petal suggests tossing the pooper-scoopers and giving up on extending the life of soiled litter. Who came up with that idea anyway? If there's waste in the box, the litter is dirty. All of the litter is dirty. Would you sit on a toilet seat with just a little bit of splatter? Slap some baggies on your hands and toss the whole thing. If you want to save on litter, then don't put so much in the pan. Your cat doesn't need to tunnel her way out of the box. It's a litter box, not an amusement park. She wants out of there as much as you do. So you buy a few more pan liners and extra litter each month. Your nose and your lungs will appreciate the investment. Copyright 2004. Sophistication Alley Ltd. All Rights Reserved.