I always knew my plastic-bag hoard was problematic. We’ve all cringed at the photos of wildlife tangled in unrecycled shopping bags, and we know plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to break down, and even then they degrade into toxins that continue to contaminate the environment. So why did I — someone who takes pride in composting food scraps, recycling textiles, and opting for eco-friendly products — still have a plastic bag dispenser chock full of these harmful, non-biodegradable plastic bags?
Two words for you: picky cats. When we rescued our middle-aged kitties, Chewie and Lumpy, they were already set in their ways. Let’s call them extremely confident with sky-high self-esteem — personality traits we can all aspire to, right? With felines who resist change because they’re certain their routines and preferences are perfect just the way they are — thankyouverymuch — it was all I could do to slowly replace their food with the grain-free variety.
The last thing I planned to modify was their litter brand because why would I tempt fate and risk anger-fueled “accidents” on my precious couch?
For 5 years, I used a popular clay cat litter because it was affordable, quick-clumping, and got the job done. I tolerated the billowing gray cloud that erupted every time I topped off the litter box, even though I knew letting that dust circulate in the confined space of my small, Manhattan apartment wasn’t ideal. But it was my dependence on plastic bags to dispose of cat waste that continually bothered me, so when New York began enforcing a plastic bag ban earlier this year, it was the final push I needed to figure out a more eco-friendly solution.
After researching biodegradable poop bags hailed by dog owners and all sorts of pine, corn, wheat, and paper-based litters, I came across Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter, which is made entirely out of finely ground walnut shells. I had no idea it was even possible to train a cat to do their business on walnut shells, but since no one in my household is affected by nut allergies, I was intrigued to read on. When I saw that the litter could be flushed down the toilet, my heart skipped a beat at the possibility of finally cutting my plastic bag usage from two per day to zero forever.
After seeing over a thousand 5-star ratings on Amazon and skimming passionate review titles ranging from “NO DUST. NO SMELL. NO GOING BACK” to “Best litter in the universe!” (hey, Amazon reviews aren’t exactly known for restraint), I placed an order for the 26-pound bag and hoped my persnickety cats wouldn’t throw a fit over the clay-to-walnut litter transition.