Litter things that create a new life

by Bob Tracy

It was all “oohs and ahhs” and such when we carted the kiddies through security at the airport in Paris when we moved to Italy.  My husband and I were more focused on the task of getting the whole lot of us to the family restroom on the other side of the security wall, but the kiddies (actual spelling “kitties”) were enjoying their time out of their travel cases after about 7 or 8 hours and soaking up all of the cuddles and snuggles from the airport security staff. We looked at this and had a rush of resentment layered onto the whole mix of other feelings and anxieties that moving three cats to Italy had conjured up: Seriously!  We never got treated like this when going through airport security!

Letting go of that “me, me, me” moment, we herded the herd into the family restroom and pulled out the container of precious grains: our travel stash of biodegradable, corn-based cat litter.  Our travel “pawtners” (sorry, the pun could not be helped) had other interests. Swirling water in a toilet always gets top billing with one of them, and the other two settled for playing with the drip out of the faucet.  You would think after a long international flight that cat litter might be of some interest, but no. It just got scooped up and reloaded into its travel container.

Good thing, too. We knew the move to Italy would mean piecing together a whole new life. In fact, that was part of allure; the adventure of really shaking things up for our retirement act. We just underestimated the minute details of everyday life that were going to need reconstruction. Finding cat litter hovered around the top of the list.

On the prowl

Knowing the small supply of litter we carried on the plane was not going to last for long, we made a priority stop at Esselunga. Using our bad Italian to sort the cat food bags from the litter bags we managed to find the one biodegradable litter offering on the shelf; the brand was ‘Best’ and the smallish bag was claiming a €7 bounty.  This was not exactly what our retiree household budget had in mind. We desperately snatched a few bags and hoped the product would meet the awaiting texture test from the twelve paws that were waiting for us at home.

Mission accomplished.

The immediate need addressed, we welcomed the first of many waves of doubts about our decision to pack it all up and move from Saint Paul, Minnesota to the village of Petrognano in Capannori. “At home” in Minnesota, even our pets had big box suppliers to choose from! We could go to PetSmart, or PetCo and whoop it up scouring our way through the big-bag eco-litter options. Should it be pine shavings, wheat kernels, multi-corn, grass seed, hemp, wood pellets? We (and the cats) tested them all and finally settled on the wheat kernels as the new household favorite (Of note:  The wood pellets literally sent one of the cats climbing the basement walls to find SOMEPLACE suitable to relieve his bladder. A total mistake!). But, we left all of those options behind to make a new home in Tuscany.

Knowing that ‘Best’ from Esselunga was not going to work as our long-term solution, we started combing ArcaPlanet, a couple tiny pet stores, and on-line suppliers like ZooPlus and ZooExpert to find the replacement for all that we had left behind. This anxious search ended at Carrefour.  There it was:  the corn-based, biodegradable magic of EcoMiao; acceptable, accessible and at under €5 a bag, affordable. Buying a bag, or two, or four of EcoMiao anytime we hit the Lucca Carrefour is as routine as picking up a four pack of Lavazza Crème e Gusto whenever it is on sale.

Civic duty with a payoff

We made the shift to biodegradable cat litter because of the waste created by the more common clay-based litters or other strange and seemingly toxic options. But, according to the Comune of Capannori and ASCIT, it was a smart move economically, too. Who would have expected that our local government and recycling company would launch a campaign to get cat owners to shift to biodegradable litter? 

Yup.  That really happened. 

Recently, Capannori and ASCIT introduced the Gatti Sostensibili initiative to as part of their ongoing commitment to removing nonrecyclable waste from the system. Italy has about 1.6 million cats (no surprise there) that can each sniff and paw their way through about 220 kg of cat litter a year. In an effort to introduce cat owners to biodegradable litter options this new education campaign comes with a free, 6-liter bag of NatureCat barley-based liter. 

The great thing about these biodegradable products is that they last longer (if you manage your sh*t properly when scooping) at one bag per cat for three to four weeks. So, while the cost is a little more per bag than the other stuff, you use less. 

Check out the web site for details. Sorry folks, the program is only operating in Capannori, for now.

Corn over barley

We got our free bag of city-supplied cat litter, but we have not risked using it, yet.  The cats are all settled and content with their new home and all that goes with keeping them alive, well-eliminated, and happy. The details of their lives are in order. Facing the task of managing a change from corn-based to barley litter is just too overwhelming for us. We still have work to scratch and claw our way through that pile of tiny details that still need sorting until we feel all settled in our new home and lives, as well.

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