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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Peoria, Illinois » National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research » Functional Foods Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #367143

Research Project: Evaluation of the Chemical and Physical Properties of Low-Value Agricultural Crops and Products to Enhance Their Use and Value

Location: Functional Foods Research

Title: An odor-reducing, low dust-forming, clumping cat litter produced from Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) wood fibers and biochar

Author
item Vaughn, Steven
item Moser, Jill
item Berhow, Mark
item Byars, Jeffrey
item Liu, Sean
item Jackson, Michael - Mike
item Peterson, Steven - Steve
item Eller, Fred

Submitted to: Industrial Crops and Products
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/7/2020
Publication Date: 2/20/2020
Citation: Vaughn, S.F., Winkler-Moser, J.K., Berhow, M.A., Byars, J.A., Liu, S.X., Jackson, M.A., Peterson, S.C., Eller, F.J. 2020. An odor-reducing, low dust-forming, clumping cat litter produced from Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana L.) wood fibers and biochar. Industrial Crops and Products. 147:112224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.112224.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indcrop.2020.112224

Interpretive Summary: Cats are among the most popular pets in the U.S., and the majority of these animals are kept indoors where litter boxes containing some type of absorbent litter material are needed. Multiple companies in the United States are marketing biobased cat litters made of a variety of materials, as many cat owners are concerned with disposal problems encountered with traditional inorganic clay-based litters as well as the fact that cats might harm themselves by ingesting these litters or by inhaling clay dust. Several commercially-available cat litters contain wood from Eastern red cedar (ERC). ERC wood contains essential oils that have been shown to be toxic to fleas and ticks. ERC fibers were produced by milling and sieving ERC wood flakes to produce fiber sizes optimal for use as cat litters. ERC biochar was produced from ERC wood flakes and combined with ERC fibers at 0, 1, 5 and 10% (w/w%) relative to ERC fibers. The 10% ERC biochar formulation had excellent suppression of the major cat urine noxious odor compound. With the addition of guar gum as a clumping agent and mineral oil to suppress dust, a formulation was produced with excellent physical and chemical properties for commercial development as a biobased cat litter.

Technical Abstract: Multiple companies in the United States are marketing biobased cat litters made of a variety of materials, as many cat owners are concerned with disposal problems encountered with traditional inorganic clay-based litters as well as the fact that cats might harm themselves by ingesting these litters or by inhaling clay dust. Several commercially-available cat litters contain Eastern red cedar (ERC), Juniperus virginiana L., wood fibers as a major constituent. ERC fibers contain sesquiterpenes that have been shown to be toxic to fleas and ticks. The objective of this research was to determine if ERC fibers combined with ERC biochar at 1, 5 and 10% (w/w%) would produce an odor-reducing, biodegradable cat litter. Sieving ERC fibers and adding mineral oil significantly reduced release of dust (< 10 µm) particles. Addition of juniper biochar reduced headspace levels of 3-mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol (MMB), the major offensive cat urine volatile odor compound. Addition of 250 ppm copper sulfate to the litter formulations did not result in a significant decrease in headspace MMB compared to the litter containing 10% ERC biochar. All litter formulations had high hydration capacities (the ability to absorb liquids), and with the addition of guar gum as a clumping agent the litter formulation containing 10% ERC biochar had the most desirable physical and chemical properties for development as a commercial cat litter.