Sponsored guest post by Jackie, Less Litter
It all started with one cat.
One evening, a big white, fluffy creature showed up at my door and demanded to be let in. I had no previous experience with cats, and I was a bit scared, but I let her in. She walked in like a realtor, inspecting every room in the house. She then settled on my sofa and gave me what I’ve come to understand as the “where is my dinner?” look. And before I knew it, she had adopted me.
I picked up some cat food and a plastic litter box. Litter boxes came in a variety of sizes, colors, and shapes but they were always made of plastic. I didn’t question much because it provided me with an immediate cheap solution. Up until that day, I had never even heard of the word “litter” or was aware that cats eliminate their waste in a box called a “litter box”. So I accepted plastic litter boxes just as they came until I found myself throwing away six litter boxes in less than a year just to keep the box hygienic and looking “fresh”.
The problems with plastic litter boxes
Plastic litter boxes are not designed to last forever. Cat urine is acidic and erodes plastic over time if it sits in the box too long. Bacteria from urine and stool can get trapped in scratches and scuff marks. Cats have more than 200 million odor sensors (humans have just 5 million,) and a box that may smell “just fine” to a human might smell offensive to discerning feline noses. Keep in mind that cats are much closer to the bottom of the box when they do their business than humans!
I felt irresponsible throwing away six plastic litter boxes every year. I wanted to do my part to reduce my negative environmental impact, but it was impossible to find sanitary and sustainable litter boxes. Plastic litter boxes go straight into a landfill. Was there anything more sustainable and durable?
The simple answer was – no. It surprised me to find that in the age of the ocean plastic crisis, electric cars, and increased environmental awareness, there still isn’t a litter box that’s made of sanitary, durable, plastic-free, and sustainable material. It made me feel even more uneasy when I pictured all six tossed plastic litter boxes located 1,000 miles off my beloved California coast, and that they will be sitting there for 20 to 500 years, depending on the type of plastic used. I decided to come up with a way to make a sustainable litter box.
The right kind of stainless steel
I researched how toilets in homes, national parks and prison cells were made. All roads led me to stainless steel – but not just any kind of stainless steel. Medical-Grade/Marine-Grade stainless steel seemed to be the answer: the kind that could withstand feline urine pH, provide a clean environment for my cats, be accepted by veterinarians, and could be melted down to something useful at the end of its life.
I quickly learned that producing anything in steel was costly and complex. It was even harder to make in the U.S. because we don’t have the capacity and human skills to produce at a certain level in this country. This explained why it didn’t make economical sense for pet companies to make non-plastic litter boxes, but cats’ wellness and the environmental impact made sense for me, so I dug deeper.
In the early phase of vetting out manufacturers in China and getting the raw material certified by a Swiss organization (a certification that is required for Germany and other EU countries), I was met with an unexpected obstacle: the factories kept rejecting my idea of a Medical-Grade Stainless Steel litter box. Instead, they insisted that I produce a $8 low-grade stainless steel buffet tray, mark it up as a litter box and sell it on Amazon for $50 because that is “good enough for Americans”.
The Swiss organization which is the third-party certifier for raw material said I was wasting my time because “Americans doesn’t value high quality or even care to understand the difference in low and high-grade stainless steel”. They insisted that I’d make an “American version” with the low-grade steel (which is not accepted in German healthcare environments but is accepted in the US) and a “European version” with Medical-Grade steel. I never considered lowering my standards to make two different versions of the same product.
About Less Litter
Less Litter is an independent company based in Laguna Beach, California. We are committed to sustainability and producing biologically-appropriate products for cats.
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For more information, please visit LessLitterEarth.com.