The History of Kitty Litter

Before 1950, most people used ashes, sand or dirt in their cat boxes. Edward Lowe, whose family owned a chemical absorbents company, came up with a better idea. They had a product called Fuller’s Earth, which was an absorbent clay. He suggest that a neighbor try the absorbent clay instead of ashes or sand in her cat box. Soon, his neighbor would use nothing but the absorbent clay.

Ed had a hunch that other people would want to use the clay rather than the traditional ashes or sand. He filled up 10 lb bags of the absorbent clay and called the local pet store. The pet store was doubtful that anyone would want to spend money for his product when sand was so much cheaper. He suggested that the pet store give away samples, and soon people were asking for more and were even willing to pay for it!

In 1964, Ed created Tidy Cat, which was openly sold in grocery stores. It soon became one of the most popular brands of kitty litter. With his devotion to good customer service and his satisfaction guarantee, and even today, that hasn’t changed. Edward Lowe Industries, by 1990, was the largest producer of kitty litter with $210 million dollars in sales annually.

In 1984, Thomas Nelson, Ph.D., developed the first clumping litter. While studying organic chemistry, he investigated the molecular structure of clay. He discovered that some types of clay trapped urea through hydrogen bonding and prevented it from breaking down, which did away with the offensive ammonia odor. He found that clays that were dried but not baked, were very absorbent and would form a clump when a cat urinated on them. The clump could then be removed, getting rid of the urine in the litter box.

In 2000, Tidy Cats introuced Tidy Cats Crystals, which is a silica gel, a porous granular form of sodium silicate, has the highest absorbancy of any litter, and has excellent moisture and odor control. Just 4-5 lbs of the silica gel litter can absorb moisture for 30 days, while traditional clumping litter would take 20-30 lbs to do the same job.

And of course, we can’t forget the variety of natural cat litters, such as Sweat Scoop, Feline Pine, and Yesterday’s News. Sweat Scoop was founded in 1994 by Mike Hughes of Pet Care Systems (PCS). Swheat Scoop is an all-natural scoopable litter that’s made from naturally processed wheat. Its natural wheat enzymes work continuously to eliminate odors, no matter how many cats you own. It also tracks less and is naturally biodegradable and non-toxic.

Feline Pine was founded in 1992 by Ken Simard. He found that people were looking for an alternative healthy cat litter, and he got the idea from a friend who worked in a lumber mill. Feline Pine is sawdust that has been compressed into pellets. When the pellets get wet, they turn into sawdust. The litter is virtually dust free and controls odors easily.

Yesterday’s News cat litter is manufactured by Purina. It is made of recycled newspaper that has been formed into pellets. Liquid is absorbed by the newspaper, which expands when wet and can easily be scooped away. It is said to be 300% more absorbent than traditional clay litters.

So there you have it! The short and sweet history of kitty litter!

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3 thoughts on “The History of Kitty Litter

  1. gordianphock says:

    Hi there,
    Do you happen to know anything about the history of litter boxes? I wonder when people first started training cats to go to the bathroom indoors? It must have been a truly momentous day for human-cat relations!

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