2013/01/15

Tea in the litterbox

Tea leaves are not cheap - well, compared to other vices out there tea leaves are very cheap, but I'm a cheapskate. I try to get the most out of ever cent I spend, and before I throw something away I try to make some more use out of it.

I steep my tea leaves at least twice, most of my favorite teas are flavored and I like them strong so after my first steeping there is not much flavor left. By the third steeping usually all I can make out of it is lightly colored hot water. Sometimes I'll add a little fresh leaves to the old leaves to help give them some flavor but usually not.

If it was spring I would toss the used leaves in the garden. But it's winter and there is several inches of snow over where my garden was. So I went online and looked up other uses for used tea leaves. There are quite a few and I don't feel like listing the many amazing uses for used tea leaves so go search for yourself, today I'm only writing about one use for used tea leaves (two if you count tossing them in your garden).

Tea leaves absorb odors and moisture so some people scatter them in their cats' litter boxes. According to some websites:
Not the litter box
"Put used dried tea leaves in your cat's litter box and scoop every day and it will absorb odors."

I've been raised by cats and have lived with cats my entire life. When you live with cats and don't want to appear on Animal Cops as an animal abuser you address the issue of where your cat goes to the bathroom. Some people treat their cat like a dog and have it do its business outside, some have succeeded in training their cats to use the toilet and kudos to them. But the rest of us use litter boxes. Over the years I've looked into several odor control tips:
  • Sprinkle baking soda into your litter box and scoop it daily to control odors
  • Use/add silica crystals in your litter box and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Use our special litter and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Use this filter/air freshener and scoop it daily to control odors.
  • Shred twenty dollar bills, mix it in the litter and scoop it daily to control odors.
Notice a pattern here? Scooping the litter box daily is the real secret to controlling odors. Some litters are better than others of course (Our favorite is Arm & Hammer super scoop) so long as it absorbs and clumps decently and you scoop it often enough it won't smell like the Crazy Cat Lady's condemned residence but a litter box is not a rose you want to stick your nose in.


I know all this but I hate to waste anything, even used tea leaves so I decided to try drying out the leaves and putting them in the cats' favorite litter box. What do you know, I scooped it every day (well, okay, one day I couldn't be bothered but only put it off by one day, there's 3 litter boxes to 4 cats so one day won't be so bad) and the area doesn't smell like cat poop and ammonia. But then again the area did not smell like cat poop and ammonia before because I scoop the litter box regularly.

Used dried tea leaves
Anyways I'm going to keep drying and putting the used tea leaves in the litter boxes until I can access the garden because I hate to waste anything. It gives me a feeling of self satisfaction and I can pretend I'm saving the world. 

Adding used tea leaves to the litter won't hurt the cats, as long as they don't eat the leaves. Cheeto has stolen a bit of milky tea from my cup when it's cool but never showed any interest in the leaves themselves, and she's not going to eat something in her litter box so I am not worried about that. If any of the cats started eating anything in their litter box the tea leaves would be my last concern. My only concern is adding so many used tea leaves to the litter box that there's more tea than litter in the box and the cats start associating tea with relieving themselves.

Give that a second to sink in.

Ever have a cup of tea that tasted absolutely horrible?

I'm not posting a picture of a litter box so here's a picture of what happened when I squeezed a teabag too hard and the damp leaves shot out both ends. Isn't that gross looking? Like kitten poop. Another reason to prefer loose leaf tea.
Okay, I won't add so many tea leaves to the litter so it gets to that point.

Now the challenge is drying out the used leaves. I don't want to throw still wet or even damp tea leaves to the litter. Clumping cat litter is designed to clump when exposed to the ammonia in cat urine, if you add water to clumping cat litter it turns to mud (which is why you must never use clumping cat litter on icy/snowy driveways and roads hoping for traction, it makes matters worse) so if I throw wet tea leaves in the litter box I'll make tea mud in the cat's litter box which will be disgusting, the cats won't want to soil their paws in that and I'd have to clean it up. That is the opposite of improving a litter box.

So after I've steeped the last bit of tea from my leaves instead of throwing them away I put them in a shallow bowl on the stove and let them sit there for a while, hoping the heat from the stove will help dry them a little then I forget about them until someone asks me what I'm doing with those leaves on the stove. Then I take the leaves to my room and spread them over a plate. I would like to put the leaves in a sunny window but my mother's plants have dibs on window space. So I put them on my desk where some sunlight reaches them.

Drying the leaves on my desk is not working very well. Pout decided that the plate is an excellent place to take a nap and roll around then tracks the leaves everywhere. And of course all four cats go out of their way to tromp over the leaves like an army.

Pout didn't want to be photographed sleeping on the plate, so here's a Tabby loaf on the plate.
It took me about a week to come up with the idea of putting the leaves on top of my bookshelf where even a skinny cat cannot fit. There is no sun and little ventilation but it will have to do until I come up with a better method. I know I could dry the leaves on a shallow pan in the stove and may resort to that. It would make the house smell nice and help avoid any mold growing on the tea.

Now I'm being asked about what is burning in the stove. I can't win.

I've also read that tea has antibacterial properties, so possibly less germs. But please wash your hands after scooping the litter box. With soap and water... Not just tea.

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