Using wheat for cat litter?

I received the following email today from GLT reader Liz:

“I’m trying to find out where the wheat used in wheat cat litters comes from … I don’t want to be using a product for cat waste that could be taking a needed grain source away from potential human use. So far I can’t find anything about the source of the wheat that is used.”

This was the first I had heard of wheat being used in this application and Liz raises a very good point.

At first I thought what was being used would likely be non-grain wheat waste, but from what I have been able to research in regard to a couple of brands, the wheat used is “secondary” wheat – wheat not usually used for human consumption, but used in feed for animals and birds. However, in hard times secondary wheat has been used for human food.

While normal cat litter has its environmental issues (e.g. strip mining), using a grain like this really concerns me – I don’t think wheat, even secondary wheat, should be wasted in this way as so much of our land is used for wheat production for animals to eat as it is. For example, use of wheat for livestock feed in the European Union alone reached a record 57 million tonnes in 2008-09.

33% of all arable land on Earth is dedicated to feed crop production, crops grown specifically to meet livestock nutritional needs. 

I’m sure the wheat cat litter market is just a tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of that, but every acre counts – particularly with the world’s growing population, the scarcity of land suitable for food crops, deforestation and the increasing trend of turning food into fuel. For any of it to be used to produce a food item to poop in just doesn’t seem all that environmentally friendly to me.
If this issue concerns you too and you use wheat cat litter, check with the company to see what is actually in it – is it the grain, or another form of non-food wheat waste? There are other earth-friendly options, as mentioned in my article on cat litter.

Related: Greening your cat