I, Rochester, am a very intelligent cat, even by cat standards. I am also a very “senior” cat, with vast experience in the ways of the world and of human behavior. That said, it should come as no surprise that someone should ask me to evaluate a new product. Actually, they asked a member of my staff to do it, and that person committed me to the project without so much as asking me. I’m a little irritated that she took such a liberty, but she’s been with me for many years and her level of service is usually acceptable, so I relented and agreed to do this small favor.
I should preface this review by saying that the people who made this product, and those whose job it is to promote it, were very polite and helpful. I wanted to be able to say good things about it. However, I am first and foremost a cat of honor, not to say nobility, and if I must find fault with a product, I will do my duty, no matter how unpleasant that might be.
The product is Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators. The idea behind its development is a pretty good one. The Arm & Hammer folks spent some time watching people cleaning their cats’ litter boxes, and noticed that they didn’t make a particularly good job of it. They missed clumps of used litter, and had a tendency to leave litter in the box long after it had outlived its usefulness. The company decided to develop a litter that would change color on contact with urine, so that people could easily see what needed scooping. Also, as colored litter builds up in the box, it signals when it’s time to dump the old litter and start anew.
My staff and I tested the product for several days. It does indeed do what its developers intended: the indicator crystals change color when I urinate on them. It isn’t dusty and it doesn’t track onto the floor. The color crystals didn’t stain my paws or the carpet. That said, I must also say that our tests were not the unqualified success we were hoping for.
The first problem was the fragrance. I prefer unscented litter myself, although I will accept some mild fragrance, especially in winter when the other feline member of the household (I call him “the stupid baby”) is using the litter boxes as well. Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators is too fragrant. It’s not an unpleasant aroma; it’s just far too much aroma. I can see why one would need a visual odor indicator, because there’s no way one could detect any other odor emanating from a cat box with this product in it. We asked if an unscented version might be on the horizon, but there are no current plans to develop one.
I’m a pretty tolerant sort of cat most of the time, and I can accept the idea that some people might like this fragrance. I can’t really imagine a cat enjoying it, but I suppose anything’s possible. Some cats would rather eat beef than turkey, too. Different strokes.
A second problem with the litter is that it doesn’t really dry… at least not here in coastal New England. My staff isn’t especially fastidious, but they are reasonably good about tending to the litter box, because they know dirty litter is one of my pet peeves… if you’ll pardon the expression. At any rate, although they had no trouble finding the clumps, the litter didn’t dry well enough for them to remove the clumps efficiently. The product coagulated into a gray, mud-like substance with bits of blue crystals in them. The mud stuck to the bottom of the box, and the clumps crumbled at the edges when the staff tried to remove them.
This wet litter proved to be something of an annoyance. I got up to relieve myself late one night and accidentally brushed my tail against one of the wetter clumps. Stupid of me really, but I just don’t have the coordination I had as a young cat and I lost my balance… it happens sometimes. I pulled myself together and stepped out of the box, then realized that my tail was smeared with perfumed mud. I had to wake the staff to have my tail washed. They’re used to answering the after-hours call to action… after all, it’s their job… but I must say that I’m not of an age where an impromptu tail washing in the dead of night does anything to lighten my mood.
On the morning after the tail-soiling incident, I directed the staff to set up a test box in the basement, and to pour a quarter-cup of water in it, to see how long it would take to dry. We started the test at noon on Sunday. It was still very wet, and somewhat crumbly, on Monday night. On Wednesday morning it was still quite wet, but was at least a solid clump.
Another thing we noticed is that in the humid basement, even the crystals in the “dry” area of the test box turned blue. This did not happen with the litter box in the house proper, but it did suggest that if one lives in a very humid climate and does not have air conditioning, the product might have limited usefulness as an indicator of just how dirty the litter box is.
Alas, there’s nothing more to be said. We feel badly about having to give this product the “paws down”. Like everyone else in the world, we use Arm & Hammer products for many household tasks, and we wanted to be able to recommend this latest offering. It might work well in a drier climate, but it didn’t work well for us.
Photo: Patty Richard