Wood Stove Pellets – Compostable Cat Litter AND the Ultimate Worm Bedding?

I am REALLY glad I decided to start up my little pet waste vermicomposting project recently. Not because the project itself is particularly earth-shattering (although, it’s definitely going to get a whole lot more interesting!)

No, it was the information shared by RWC readers – namely, Paul L., “Kim from Milwaukee”, and “Priswell” – that completely changed things for me on this front! Paul and Priswell, in particular, told me about the potential for using stove pellets as an earth-friendly litter.

And here I was all set to continue (reluctantly) using clumping clay litter. I ASSumed there really weren’t any affordable eco-friendly alternatives – only to learn that these pellets are even cheaper than the cheapest (“No Name Brand” for those of you up here in Canada) clumping cat litter – $5.99 for 18 kg of the pellets vs $8.99 for 18 kg of litter!! Beyond that awesome potential, it gets even better. I think these pellets may even represent a viable alternative to worm bedding materials like coco coir!

As you can see in the image, the particular pellets I’m using (perhaps Paul will chime in and let me know if he’s using the same ones) are called “CANAWICK Hardwood Pellets”, created by CANAWICK Ecological Fuels. I think they are focused primarily on the Canadian market (I bought the bags from Canadian Tire – a major department store chain up here), but I see on their retailers page that they are also available in parts of the U.S. I’m sure there must be some similar products out there as well.

I would have ASSumed (lol) a product like this would:

A) Contain chemicals to improve burning etc (or just generally added during the pellet-creation process) and/or
B) Not really be eco-friendly since requiring wood (i.e. trees)

As it turns out, these ones (and maybe most of them on the market) are chemical-free and are made from waste sawdust “originating in supply sources compliant with SFI and PEFC standards”.

When I first set eyes on the pellets, I still wasn’t sure how they could possibly work as a kitty litter material (let alone a composting worm bedding). They look like rabbit food pellets when they first come out of the bag. I actually missed a key piece of information Priswell shared about spraying them down with water before use – but it didn’t take me long to figure this out anyway. My cat did (surprisingly) start using the box containing the pellets, and they started breaking down as they became moistened. I also put some in a cup and added water to see what would happen, and was pleasantly surprised to see the cup fill up (quickly) with a beautiful, fluffy moistened bedding!

I’ve been adding some of it to my VB48, and the trays down below, and the Euros seem to really like it! I also want to explore the possibility of making a sort of “food” out of it by mixing it with nitrogen-rich liquids (eg yeast suspension, food waste slurry etc).

I need to crunch some numbers, but I am pretty sure this stuff is cheaper than coir, and I have a sneaking suspicion the worms are going like it even more (in my experience, worms aren’t super crazy about coir – but maybe it’s just me! haha).


I will write more about using these pellets as a kitty litter soon (FYI -I’ve been very impressed thus far) – including the little extra twist I plan to implement, thanks to the info provided by “Kim from Milwaukee”! As you might imagine, I am going to be in need of a pretty serious pet waste vermicomposter upgrade now that I will be composting the litter itself – so you can expect to see a post on that topic pretty soon as well.

Thanks again to all my awesome readers who chime in with information and ideas!
🙂

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Comments

    • Ben
    • June 19, 2013

    Worth noting for those itching to try it… some cats REALLY don’t like this kind of cat litter. Test it, but be aware you may end up cleaning cat poop of the walls/floors/ceilings around the litter box if you have a grumpy/picky cat.

    Okay probably not the ceilings… let’s just say the cats I’ve housed were VERY unhappy about the pellets, even when I mixed them with clay cat litter to try to acclimate them to it. I did not, until this article, know you could spray them down beforehand. Maybe that was my mistake…

    Also, Bentley, you appear to have a very tolerant cat. 🙂

    • Bentley
    • June 19, 2013

    LoL – what’s funny (well, not really) is that before I started using this stuff I had started finding delightful-deposits elsewhere in the room where the litter boxes sit! It seems one of my (two) cats – still not sure which one – has become a bit fed up with the clumping clay stuff. I’ve actually kept one of the clumping litter boxes going at the same time, just in case, but one or both of them are using the new box, especially now that the pellets are turning into sawdust.

    I’ve been REALLY impressed with how little odor is coming from the box as well. It’s been left longer than I would normally leave a clumping litter box, yet still no foul odors. Maybe it’s the increased air flow? I dunno.

    Anyway – yeah, definitely do some testing and – if you can -keep a regular box going during the transition stage!!

  1. I got the idea of using stove pellets several years ago when I ran across this website for Woody Pet http://woodypet.com I tried to find Woody Pet locally, but was totally unable to do so. Discouraged, I put the idea on the shelf for a while, until I was in a hardware store one day and saw a bag of stove pellets that had broken open leaving scattered pellets on the floor. *Ding!* The stove pellets and woody pet pellets were pretty much the same thing, so I bought a 40lb bag for our cat. She transitioned very easily, and she used stove pellets for the rest of her life, and composting them after changing the litter.

    Now, regarding the worms, they don’t like their bedding to be 100% sawdust, but I do add up to about 25% total volume of the pellets because they’re fluffy and make the bed easy to turn. They are also very absorbent, if the bedding gets too wet, and they solve that problem right away. If I were going to use stove pellets as the bulk of my bedding, I’d put some in a bin outside and let it age for at least a season or two, maybe even a year, to make them more comfy for the worms.

    • Bentley
    • June 19, 2013

    Very interesting! Gotta love “ding” moments! lol
    Your mention of using it as more of a bedding substitute actually makes good sense. I usually refer to coir and peat as “secondary” bedding materials since they tend to be lacking in one of the key qualities (in their case, good air flow). I’ve tended to think of sawdust in a similar light -but always assumed that it was also a lack of water holding capacity that might be an issue with it.
    Anyway – the key here (before I officially label it as the “ultimate” bedding – haha) is that I need to do some testing! I have a gut feeling that it will work great on its own, treated in a similar manner to any other bedding (ie. moisturized and mixed with food wastes) – but we shall see!

    Thanks again for sharing your experiences, Priswell! I owe ya one!

    • John W
    • June 19, 2013

    So you just have to mix those with horse manure and you’re set for life!

    • Simone
    • June 19, 2013

    I use the pellets in rabbit litter tray. This stuff is amazing at keeping odors down, so amazing, in fact, that i used to forget to clean the tray as often as i should. Word of caution- as soon as litter is uncovered, run for the hills! It will smell. 🙂

  2. Hi Bentley
    In Denmark the treepellets are increasingly being used as bedding for horses this gives a less sticky bedding compaired to strawbased bedding.
    But as substitut for catlitter I hadn’t thought of it, I will give it a try.

    • Tim in PA
    • June 20, 2013

    We use a similar bedding in our horse stalls. So, when I scoop the horse manure, it already has this woody bedding in it. It makes a WONDERFUL addition to my bins.

    • Bentley
    • June 20, 2013

    JOHN – absolutely! And the more I think about it, the more I’m thinking I should have referred to this as the “ultimate” secondary bedding (or store bought bedding). The possibilities for mixing it with other bedding/food is limitless – but completely left on its own, I know there are other materials the worms would likely prefer for their habitat. I really like Priswell’s idea of using it as a water wick – as I’ve seen, it really soaks up liquid like a sponge!
    ———–
    SIMONE – thanks for sharing! Yeah, I’m still getting a feel for how exactly I am going to clean the litter. Doesn’t scoop nicely and I still have nice usable pellets in there I don’t want to waste. Thanks for the warning about the smell – so far I’ve been baffled by the lack of odor. But we’ll see! lol
    ———–
    LOUISE – over here they use something similar for horse bedding, but I am pretty sure it is pine (not hardwood). Still seems to be agreeable with worms when mixed with manure and left to age though!
    ————
    TIM – do you know if your pellets are pine or hardwood?

    • Tim
    • June 20, 2013

    It ism pine. Actually the above mentioned Woody Pet.

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • June 20, 2013

    Bentley, when I used the pellets in the past the way I scooped it was by sifting out the whole pellets and setting them aside, then just use a dustbin to scoop out the ‘used’ damp sawdust. Add more pellets and you’re set.

    I had a 55 gal bin with the used sawdust and in a year it composted by itself into beautiful dark humus, just like on a forest floor.

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • June 20, 2013

    http://www.felinepine.com/ if you want more information about pine pellets for kitty litter.

  3. I’ll wait this one out. Lol! I bought some of that corn based litter. I thought it would work good. Did the first day. After that even trying to sleep i was dreaming the litter box needed cleaning. Even with baking soda it still smelled. Gotta be better than coco coir in a bin. Mine never liked coir either.

    • Dan
    • June 21, 2013

    Feline Pine Pellet Cat Litter = Horse Bedding Pellets =Softwood Stove Pellets
    All three are the same thing, often produced at the same wood pellet plant.
    There is a local pellet plant that produces all three different types of products and all they do is change the bag each is packaged in.

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • June 21, 2013

    Yes, they’re all the same, but they sure don’t sell for the same price!! Only on the east coast do they sell stove pellets….I’ll stick to my chick feed for now.

    • Bentley
    • June 21, 2013

    KIM – cool! Thanks for sharing your approach. I am going to test out the pellets once converted to sawdust, and mixed with a couple of other things (including your recommended chick feed). Will see if this makes them a bit more appealing for the cats (jury still out it seems), and provides other advantages as well. Hoping to get a post up about all this today.

    I agree, it’s really amazing how pricing can differ from one application to the next!

    I still can’t believe I am getting hardwood pellets for less than the cheapest clumping kitty litter!! I think the horse (and pet) people end up getting hosed a bit (although I need to price out the horse stuff – will be interesting to see how much it costs).

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • July 1, 2013

    Bentley, I’m interested to see if the chick feed clumps when mixed with the sawdust. It would make a nicer balanced mixture to compost, but I’d hate to lose the clumping factor which makes the litter so much easier to keep clean than the sawdust alone.

    Please keep us updated. 🙂 Sure seems to be a lot of cat lovers on this page, doesn’t there?

    • Bentley
    • July 1, 2013

    Hi Kim,
    I’m definitely shifting towards more of the chick starter – it is a lot more like actual litter so the cats seem to be much more accepting of it. I think the sawdust will be more of a filler material so I don’t have to use as much of the starter (which is considerably more expensive). One thing I’ve realized is that using weight as a comparative measure doesn’t make sense. The clay stuff is I think $8.99 for ~ 40 lb and the chick starter is about $16 for ~ 40 lb. But it suddenly dawned on me that the VOLUME is considerably different. The starter mix is much lighter so it must be at least twice the volume of the clay stuff.
    In other words, still a great deal!!
    LOL

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • July 1, 2013

    I personally refuse to use clay. I’d use sand and wash/dry the stuff before I go back to clay. Such a waste of resources and it’s not good for the kitties to breathe the dust, let alone the landfill contribution factor.

    I have heard of people reusing the clay by rinsing it and drying it….but still, the dust….

    I did find the sawdust pellets for $6/40lb at my farm supplier though….much better than the pet store price!

    • Bentley
    • July 1, 2013

    I understand why, Kim! It’s terrible stuff – that’s a big part of why I am so excited to find something so much better (and light years better than even the previous compostable stuff I tried).

    Rinsing and drying the clay stuff sounds borderline insane to me! Haha

    Your pricing on sawdust pellets sounds identical to ours (the ones for wood stoves, available at our large department store chain). I say steer clear of pet stores for anything if at all possible! lol

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • July 1, 2013

    Ok, this is how my crazy mind works….I wonder if you could clean the clay and reuse it by adding straw and making it into bricks for compost bins or cob ovens?? LOL

    • Rhonda
    • August 20, 2013

    I have been cutting up cardboard and than shredding it for the rabbits bedding and worm bedding! It takes forever to get it all cut up and goes so quickly. Using pellets as an alternative when I do not have the time for the cardboard shredding is perfect!

    • karen narcaroti
    • August 4, 2014

    august 4,2014..1:27 pm

    I purchased pellets used for horse stalls..however i’ve read conflicting comments that pine is extremely toxic to cats..some say oui some non…please enlighten me as my oldest fancy face is 12yrs…she”s my little darlin..

    merci

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