My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I confess, we are cat crazy in our home.  We have six, yes six cats.  Each and everyone is unique, but they all do what cats do and therefore there is a cost tied to having the little darlings. It’s a larger cost than most people consider when they see those little free kittens at Wal-Mart.  But the total cost of pets is for another post.  I personally am a big believer in pets helping to lower your blood pressure and bring a lot of joy into your life.  So we bite the bullet on the cost, but I want it to be a 22 caliber rather than a 44 caliber.

Four of the cats have outdoor privileges, while the youngest two do not. However, that still means a lot of litter boxes in the house.  I don’t know about your cats but ours don’t do the same business in the same box.  Plus because they are individuals they also have different tastes in cat litter.  It means at our house we have six boxes for 6 cats (one of which is not the world’s best about hitting a litter box—we’re working on that.  More in a bit on that.

Two of the cats prefer clay litter, while the rest love the Breeze system by Nestle/Purina.  As far as ease to clean I MUCH prefer the Breeze system.  It has less tracking, no dust and is a snap to clean.  However, it can get VERY expensive with six cats using it. 

For those of you not familiar with the Breeze it has a two part system.  The top part contains ceramic like pellets that set on a mesh grid that allows liquids to drain through to the lower part that is lined with an absorbent pad. 

The pellets we change about once a month, sometimes a little longer if we keep the solids scooped out on a good regular basis.  The pad in the bottom is changed 1-2 times a week.  This is where the big expense comes in.

At our local Wal-Mart the pads are roughly $1.25 each when you add in sales tax—which I always do when calculating costs of anything, it is after all cash out of my pocket.

This means every week we spend $6-$12 for keeping those boxes fresh (there are 4 Breeze boxes at our house).  That is on a month that the cats stay mainly in the house nearly $25-$50 per month or $300-$600 per year on just the pads!  Then you add in the $7 for a bag of the pellets or another $84 a year.  UH OH! This upsets my tightwad heart! Almost $700 a year for the first four boxes plus the two clay litter boxes!  OUCH!

There is no getting around the pellets that I have found, but dh and I have started looking hard at the pad costs. 

We experimented with the idea of cutting up newspaper, but the odor protection was not there, not to mention who wants to pick up urine soaked paper?  With newspaper we also had to wash the tray out that lines the bottom section every time we changed the pad due to the moisture.

Plus there was the time consumption of going to a friend’s house to pick up her newspapers because we don’t subscribe to one, cutting them to fit and dealing with the ink on our hands and the mess from cutting it up.  Not to mention the fuel to go pick up the newspapers.  So newspaper was not a good option for us.

I considered cloth liners made out of old towels, but that meant dealing with laundering soaked with “cat smell” towels.  Something I just could not deal with.  This is strange I know because I am a big believer in using cloth for “drying” in the human bathroom, but those cloths aren’t soaked and therefore do not have the smell cat towels would.

So for a while we’ve been mulling over other options.  Today we got on the discussion again as we started our next grocery shopping list.  I suggested puppy training pads.  So dh grabbed up his android phone and started checking prices at all our various places we do our shopping.  The puppy pads were going to work out to be about $.15 each—not bad, but they were bigger than the Breeze pads and would need a lot of trimming to make them fit.  Because of the way the Breeze pads are made there is a plastic rim all the way around them to help keep the moisture in.  Trimming on two sides MIGHT have its drawbacks.

We continued to look, dh came across adult protective pads, or as many of us call them, puddle pads.  When he saw them on the web, at Sam’s Club,  he thought he had found bulk Breeze pads because they looked identical.  However, the size was hugely different.  So was the price!  The pads were big enough that if we used our paper cutter to cut them with just two cuts we could have three almost exact fit “Breeze” pads out of each singular protective pad.  The cost would be $.05 each, now that is more like it! 

But we are concerned about the cut edges of the pads. 

Time to drag out the old Seal a Meal or the Foodsaver, whichever is handier, we have both.  Our plan is to heat seal the raw edges to help block leakage.

We’ll try these different ideas to see what will work best.

1.     Just doing a heat seal flat across the cut edge.

2.     Folding the plastic backing up over the raw edge to form a barrier

3.     Using those tail end sections of the foodsaver rolls to make an ‘end cap’ on the pads.

I personally think the second one will be the best option. 

It will be a week before he visits Sam’s Club for our weekly shopping again, but when he does he will pick up a box of the puddle pads and we’ll give it a try.  If it doesn’t work I can always donate the pads to a local nursing home. 

It’s worth a try.  I will report back how it works out, even if the pads are slightly thinner and we have to change every 3 days instead of 4-7 days at a $1.20 per pad savings it would be worth the little bit of time it would take to adapt the adult protective pads.

Now about other litters and Amy Jo, our no-no kitty.  First Miss Amy Jo.  She was a feral cat before Street Cats received her.  She’s short fat and gray and we love her little round body to pieces, but Amy simply will not use a litter box.  We have come to the conclusion that it’s because her little belly drags in the litter and it’s hard for her to get in and out of the hard tall sided litter boxes.  If we put newspaper down for her in the utility room she generally will go on it.  So she is trainable.  But then we are back to soggy newspaper, plus if newspaper is in the floor four of the cats use it.  That means quickly soggy paper and little black paw prints everywhere.  NOT an option with me if I can avoid it.

Our latest endeavor is to adapt a litter box for her.  Dh took one of the cheap litter boxes and cut the end down to very low so she could enter without having to jump into goodness knows what.  We are experimenting with putting a thin layer of clay litter in it to see if she’ll use it.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Because I am willing to bet we aren’t the only ones in this world with a ‘no-no’ kitty.

Now about clay litter.  This too we’ve tried different things with.  On one hand I like the clumping litter, but then I worry about the cats ingesting it, but most of the other clay litters are so dusty you can write your name on the utility room appliances after changing the boxes. 

We’ve tried various things like Feline Pine, cats didn’t like it and it and it was expensive.  After trying the rolled up newspaper litter like Yesterday’s news we tried shredding newspaper and junk mail.  Not a real good option.  See the previous objections to newspaper.   Plus add that solids and shredded newspaper combined are often hard to get out of a litter box.

Pan liners, we don’t use.  My cats, all but Amy, are ones that “cover” up their business and pan liners get shredded and are worthless for the bag and carry they are designed for.  Plus the cost of doing two boxes can add up quickly.

Another cost with cat litter is the disposal of it.  For some it’s not a problem because they aren’t charged extra by their trash removal service, but for those of us who don’t have trash service it can become a problem VERY fast.

This is another reason I like the Breeze system, we can burn the pads and we only change the pellets 12 times per year.  A bag of pellets isn’t very big either.  The clay litter is another problem. 

Despite having 90 acres we do not dump on our land.  Some people in our area have wells, wish I did, then there are our numerous ponds and wet weather creek to consider.  We do not want to pollute our ground water. 

As a result we have to end up refilling emptied litter buckets with the used litter, which it never seems to all fit back in.  So other buckets are often called into action as well.  These we must haul to the dump.  I certainly wish we had another option.

So that is how we are working on cutting the cost of cat litter boxes.  What are your suggestions.

Jan who loves her furbabies, but tries to keep the expense of them at a minimum in OK


  1. Yes, when you have that many cats the expense does add up quickly. I might look into the breeze system for our two cats. It might be worth it!

    1. The initial set-up is a bit pricey, but the boxes generally contain a starter kit and coupons for more. I really like the no dust and less tracking of them. There seems to be far less odor with this system than with clay litter as well. Four of our six prefer the Breeze system.