The United States Geological Society estimates around 2.54 million tons of clay used each year, with approximately 85 % used for pet waste - cat litter having the first rank. Clay sounds natural and biodegradable, but it is not. This clay is mined after stripping the surface off the earth and living it virtually lifeless for years, even decades. After mutilating the earth, the clay is transported to factories to be heated at extremely high temperatures to be fit for cat litter with its wonderful clumping properties.
This clay is Sodium Bentonite, and the finer granules of it that cannot constitute cat litter finds its way to the human face as part of the cosmetic industry. The ecological damage, the cost of transportation and heating the clay which again exhausts fossil fuel and the non biodegradable nature of the cat litter thus produced is a gigantic waste, ironically, for waste removal.
Strip mining for coal is deemed a necessity by some even though it reduces vast tracts of land into lifeless terrain. Dasgupta quotes Deputy Mayor Claire Detheridge(Cape Breton, 22 MacMillan Road, Sydney, NS B1L 1B1), 'Strip mining is destructive to the point of creating unstsustainability. Strip mining destroys "Natural Capital", i.e. clean air, fertile soil, and usable water. Only the mining companies will benefit, but yet our communities will be destroyed. Provincial governments are selling us out. It is wrong! Politicians listen to the people, protect our Island, our farming , our fishing, our tourism and the island's natural beauty, remember it cannot be replaced.'
Strip mining to obtain bentonite clay for cat litter is hardly essential in view of the fact that there are so many organic and eco friendly varieties of litter available in the market today. As for the kitties, bentonite clay, with its powerful clumping properties that can block plumbing when flushed, blocks the interior of the stomach and eventually kills the creature. Cats will ingest the litter through inhalation and licking every time they visit the litter box. Symptoms resemble those of diarrhoea, and unless diagnosed and treated immediately, the cat will die a painful death. And the cat owner may never know what mysterious disease killed her pet. Dasgupta, who has been working for stray animals for the past decade in Calcutta, finds this completely meaningless:
Organic and eco-friendly alternatives made from various biodegradable material like wood, wheat, corn and even recycled newspaper are readily available for use. However, the clay clump litter continues to thrive mostly because pet owners are unaware of the damage it causes all the way from being manufactured to finding its way to landfills. It is the buyer's choice that creates the market for bentonite and other harmful constituents for cat litter. The good Professor is hopeful that a little more awareness and a more informed choice could certainly make for a better world - literally.
Dasgupta, currently occupying the Principal's Office in an undergraduate College in West Bengal, India, is a life member of Calcutta Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In addition to the shelter, he also caters to stray feline and canine regulars that come twice everyday for food but refuse to stay inside the shelter. Over the last ten years, the shelter has housed hundreds of homeless cats, kittens, and even puppies until they are adopted by pet owners. In a country like India where most law enforcement agencies are blissfully unaware of the Prevention of Cruelty Act and the need to enforce it, this shelter is a blessing for strays that are regularly being pushed out of their natural habitats with the ever increasing encroachment of apartment buildings.
Readers interested in more insight into this topic may contact Professor Dasgupta. Direct line: +919874121169 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other helpful information regarding hazards of cat litter can be found at http://www.kapush.net/