As defined by Merriam-Webster.com,
So, since this is an animal-rescue related blog, we can skip definitions #1a & 1b (although, hey, good to know), #2b (ok, but scientifically-speaking, that is detritus), #4a (oh, soapbox moment: hey smokers! your used-but-still-lit cigarettes thrown out your car windows count as litter. Dangerous litter. Please stop!), and #4b (insert witty comment here about my messy, messy desk).
So, that leaves us with definitions #2a(2) and #3 – the first you purchase for your sweet kitties, the second you adopt because they are irresistibly small and cute. And from our perspective, the first is a sizable chunk of our monthly expenses and the second is what we aim to save but also aim to prevent.
Let me explain …
2a(2) : material used to absorb the urine and feces of animals
So glamorous, we know.
Animal rescue people spend a lot of time talking about the feces of their rescued animals. It can be a great indicator of the health of a particular animal. Solid, mushy, wet, runny … and oh the different colors and smells! Like I said, glamorous!!
But, back to the idea of the litter you put into your cat’s “potty” …
This is a personal choice that has to work for your home as well as your cat(s). It’s also personal because, again (sorry!), we are talking about pee, poop and the location of such material. And if you think your cat doesn’t care about where he/she “does her business” – you are mistaken.
In the wild, a cat will go to great lengths to cover or hide their bowel movements (BMs for the semi-accurate) or “poop” for short). Poop is a neon sign for predators that says “hey, over here!” and “look, I even have kittens for you to eat!”. Yuck. So, momma and poppa cat cover that unpleasantness. Momma-cat will eat her babies poop so that a predator can’t find them – no joke, now THAT is real love!! Urine – pee – spray, on the other hand, is displayed/sprayed with pride in the wild. It says “stay away from here, predators! I’m able and willing to kick your butt!” <insert your own expletives because we all know cats have trashy mouths>
Anyhow … let’s get back to the pesky litter box(es) that you keep in your home … the kitty-cat toilet …
One of the more natural litters is best for all cats (even baby kittens): the kinds made from corn or wheat. We have found that the World’s Best Cat Litter really lives up to its name: traps odors, clumps well, minimal dust, and it lasts longer than the clumping clay litters. And, kittens under 8 weeks should never use clumping litter … never, ever, never!!
Oh, the history …
Now for some practical advice:
It is best for the cats to use unscented litters. Cats have a very, very strong sense of smell and the scented litters can overwhelm them. Scooping at least once a day is also critical (but really, more is better – just think about how many times you flush the toilet in one day!).
(this image is from www.icanhascheezburger.com – cute pictures with funny captions (in LOL-speak)).
Guidelines for the number of litter boxes needed:
1 per cat plus 1 extra and/or 1 per floor plus 1 extra
The more litter boxes, the cleaner they all will be … for the cat(s) and for you.
Completely empty and wash the litter boxes about once per month. Use soap and water to scrub the boxes – avoiding harsh chemicals that can etch the plastic or leave residual odors behind.
Placing a plastic mat under the litter boxes can help contain any messes – liquid or solid. Occasionally, cats have been known to just plain “miss”. If this becomes a habit, make sure that there are no underlying health issues. Urinating outside of the box can sometimes be an indicator of a urinary tract infection and/or kidney stones.
Shall we quit the poop talk now? (email us if you have more questions)
If you would like to donate litter for our kitties, it is listed on our amazon.com wish list – however, if you are local, it is much more cost-effective to buy it from the store (World’s Best Cat Litter or Exquisicat Corn Formula).
Now on to our other definition of litter:
3 : the offspring at one birth of a multiparous animal
Multi-what? Multiparous: producing many or more than one at a birth. (ahh, another big word that we’ll all quickly forget!)
So that would be cats, dogs, and sometimes humans (amongst others).
As most of you know, this organization has been very cat-focused – there is a lot of work to be done in NJ on behalf of the beautiful feline. A female cat can get pregnant at the very young age of 6 months old (still a kitten!!) and she can have multiple litters of kittens each year. Cats are survivalists – in that they will produce offspring with their family (momma, poppa, brotha, sista, oh my). Couple this with the majority of New Jersey towns/municipalities’ lack of care/concern for the feline and you have a population of cats at a critical point.
So, what do YOU do if you find a litter of kittens?
1. Decide if you can take them in temporarily. A crate in a spare room or bathroom will do – think about how small they are – they do not need your whole house! And, actually, baby kittens are safer in a crate … no hiding, etc to be done in a crate = the ability to socialize them so they like people. Strike that, so they LOVE people. This e-how post does a decent job of presenting the basics about newborn kitten care. In short: warmth, kitten replacement formula (no cow’s milk!!!), and you have to play momma-cat to make them go potty.
And this page has a great deal of information on newborn kittens.
***Kittens should not be vaccinated or tested for FeLV/FIV until they are 8 weeks old/2 lbs in weight AND they are in good health (no colds, runny eyes, etc). Which also means you need to keep them separate from any other kitties.***
2. Can’t take them into your home because you are “at capacity”? Find a friend that can. Help them with the resources they need – food, litter (corn or wheat please!), crate, knowledge.
3. Start calling/emailing your local rescue groups. But, please, don’t just ask them to “take” the kittens. Find a way to foster the kittens until homes can be found for them. Many organizations will consider the idea of you being an independent foster home. It is not because rescue groups don’t care … it’s because they are more-than-likely already strapped for space and funds. They WANT to help you – but they need you to take that first step.
4. Can’t find a rescue group to help you? Again, it’s not because they don’t want to – it’s because they are full and just don’t have the space. (They hate that answer more than you do, trust me). Research the shelters to which you are considering giving the kittens. Do they have an established medical protocol? What is their euthanasia policy? (some consider the sniffles grounds for killing) Do they have a spay/neuter program? Will they call you if “your” kittens are in danger? Do they have a foster program?
Whew, that was a lot of writing – I’m off now to clean the litter that my litter of kittens has messed!