Researchers develop a ‘greener’ type of cat litter

A new type of ’greener’ cat litter has been developed by researchers at Imperial College London in partnership with a leading supplier of pet products.

Currently, the biggest selling types of cat litter products are low-cost brands that are primarily made from clay minerals such as bentonite and sepiolite, which are mined and imported from quarries in Mediterranean countries. However, these products have a significant carbon footprint and high product miles because they have to be transported over long distances.

The Imperial team, working with the pet products company Bob Martin, has developed a new type of low-cost cat litter that is made from waste material already available in UK quarries, making the cat litter more sustainable.

The new cat litter does not have to be transported far to be either processed or sold, reducing its impact on the environment. It is expected to be available in leading supermarkets from 2012.

One of the challenges for the team was to develop cat litter with the absorbent qualities of the minerals used in imported cat litter products.

For that reason, the researchers augmented the quarry waste material — which primarily consists of limestone — with an organic binder and a small amount of absorbent polymer used in nappies to soak up waste. The ingredients were then mixed and dried to produce the granular cat litter product.

’We had to develop a product that was absorbent and robust enough so that it didn’t end up as pulverised dust when tipped out of a packet. We even had to make sure that cat litter did not stick to paws and leave cat tracks throughout the house,’ said Dr Chris Cheeseman, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, who worked on the project.

The team behind the new cat litter believes also that the engineered granule technology it has created could be adapted for use in a range of other applications, including de-icing grits for roads, soil supplements to increase the efficiency of water irrigation and speciality horticultural products.

The project was supported by the Technology Strategy Board’s High Value Manufacturing fund and by Imperial Consultants, the college’s knowledge-transfer company.