Right after the holidays, my boyfriend and I went to Denver for a short trip. While we were gone, my sister watched Charlie and Trigg. Ironically, at the same time, she was also taking care of my cousin’s cat, a friend of mine’s cats and my Aunt’s cats. And one of the first things out of her mouth when I asked how it went was that she loved my cat litter compared to everyone else’s. She said it was easy to scoop and clumped well. I cannot agree more – I have tried all different cat litters from corn to wheat from nut shells to pine. I use Precious Cat litter made by Precious Cat Litters. I love it so much that I wanted to reach out to Dr. Elsey, the founder of Precious Cat Litters, to learn more about the history of his business and what made him create my favorite cat litter.
Thank you to Dr. Elsey for taking the time to do this interview.
How many cats do you personally have?
Right now, my wife and I don’t have any cats – our last two kitties Mickey and Minnie, who were dumped off at the clinic’s doorstep with ringworm, both died at 19 of compromised kidneys.
We do have two Welsh Corgis, named William and Fergie.
How old were you when you got your first cat?
I actually wasn’t that young – I was 14. My parents had had dogs before that. First cat’s name was Bob, because Bob had no tail. Bob had a really severe upper respiratory condition. He was a great cat, a friendly cat.
Did you always know you wanted to be a vet?
I had always entertained the idea of being a vet starting in Junior High. As time went by, I felt better and better about the prospect.
How long had you been a vet before you created Precious Cat Incorporated?
About 11 years, actually.
What made you want to start Precious Cat Litters?
It was 88-89; the only litter at the time was the non-clumping type of litter. They had just introduced a clay that did not clump. However, I was aware of a type of clay from where I grew up (Garden City, Kansas) that was a stickier clay that would stay together. I started to package it in gallon containers in my garage and see how my clients liked it – and they thought it was great and so it went from there.
What is one of your favorite products that you make/sell and why?
Cat Attract far and away would have to be my favorite product. The reason is because in my practice, I would often come by people relinquishing or requesting cats to be euthanized because of improper elimination behavior. And to do something to address that issue has been rewarding personally.
What is the biggest mistake that cat owners make about litter and litter boxes that ends up causing improper elimination?
One of the things that we try to do as a company is put ourselves in the cat shoes/paws – if owners do that, we can get kitties to think inside the box again. The most common mistakes are cleanliness of the litter box, number of litter boxes, and location of litter boxes and there’s a whole grocery list of things that are important, so much of it is good husbandry.
- Cleanliness of litter box – When I say the cleanliness of the litter box, I am referring to how often the litter box is scooped out as well as the actual box itself. Plastic litter boxes over time pick up an odor that is aversive to the cat – it is important to get rid of those old plastic litter boxes and get new ones. You need to replace them once a year. It is also important to scoop the litter box, ideally twice a day.
- Adequate number of litter boxes – the general rule is 2 cats = 2 litter boxes plus 1
- Location – People often put a litter box where the kitty doesn’t want to go. For example, if you are an old person do you want to go up and downstairs to go the bathroom? Or would you prefer to go the bathroom on the main floor where you spend the majority of your day? We would often get complaints at my practice where people would be complaining about their senior cat going the bathroom behind the coffee table on the main floor. Once a litter box is placed on the main floor, then the senior kitty used it. Similarly kittens once they have eaten, are going to be looking for a litter box – they are not going to go across the house to find it. Also, if you have any kind of inter-cat conflict going on (and people don’t always pick up on the fact that there is an alpha cat and that the other cats are a little bit afraid of it) – it can make it difficult for them to get over that fear and use the litter box. Some cats don’t like litter boxes next to washing machines, furnaces – because they all of a sudden turn on and scare the cats.
What you’ve got to do is think as if you’re the cat, would you rather go into a porta potty at a county fair that it warm from the sunshine and the odors that come with it, or would you rather go in a nicely maintained restroom with no odor? Your cat is no different.
What have you learned about cat litter in the years since starting Precious Cat Litters?
We had just a clumping clay litter for our first product, we have also done a pine product that we got away from and then we also have a silica gel. I think the clumping clay litter has the majority of the market share, there are other alternative litters out there – corn, wheat based, pine and silica gel.
As far as there being a perfect litter…if you look at everything from a sustainability standpoint, you would want a litter made from a product that there is no other use for – if you look at it from a broad standpoint. Even corn based, even if it is made from a byproduct, that can be used for cattle feed, for example.
Sodium Bentonite is a great cat litter – I don’t think there’s a significant downside to it. For years, sodium Bentonite has been use to pelletize cattle feed– you can buy human supplements that have it in them because it has been indicated that it aids in digestion. In fact, from a digestion standpoint, it can be very safe.
In my years of practice, I never really saw and issue with it clumping in cats’ tummies.
Silicosis – any kind of dirt will have some sand in it – and microscopically it does have sharp edges on it – so you have to address that in some way shape or form. Any kind of dust can be irritating to some; from an allergy standpoint it makes sense to inhale a mineral product rather than an organic product and lung cancer in cats in very rare.
Are there still solutions that you are looking to make and add to the Precious Cat Litters line?
We are always kicking the tires on things and looking for problems that are out there – we are always on the outlook, trying to make kitty ownership easier for the guardian, if you will. We are also trying to make life better for the cat – trying different avenues to make that happen.
Is there anything else that you’d like to add/mention?
Yes, there is something I’d like to mention – it’s more like a pet peeve of mine - I really think cats need to be on canned food. Cats get twice the amount of moisture from canned food than they do from dry food.
Kidney failure is the number 1 demise of cats, and while I cannot prove it I have to think there is a correlation there.
A cats’ urine on dry food has a higher specific gravity. In other words, it’s thicker, so they are in a chronic state of dehydration their entire life. I think it’s hugely important for longevity and to eliminate urinary issues we are always dealing with – like crystals and more.
The other issue with dry food is that there is a lot of carbs in it. Cats are obligate carnivores and dry food is not a natural diet for the cat.
Some vets think dry food helps to clean a cat’s teeth. This simply doesn’t make sense because the way that cats chew their food is different than the way we chew our food – we can move our jaw back and forth, it’s more of a grinding motion for us – whereas a cat it’s more a up and down motion. There is not a significant way to prevent tartar with dry food given the way they chew.