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The Scoop on Litter 

Before the advent of kitty litter, cat boxes were filled with newspapers. Entrepreneur George Plitt came up with the idea of packaging ashes from burned wood for cats to use. The cat litter industry had its birth one day in 1947 when one of Edward Lowe's neighbors who was tired of dealing with sooty paw prints, asked for some sand. Edward's father owned an industrial absorbents company in Cassopolis, Michigan so instead of sand, Lowe suggested using absorbent clay. The neighbor loved the product and soon returned for more.

Realizing that he was on to a good thing, Lowe filled 10 small bags with ground clay, called it Kitty Litter and approached a local pet store. The shop owner was skeptical because sand was available for next-to-nothing and he doubted that anyone would pay 65 cents for a five-pound bag of Kitty Litter. "So give it away," Ed told him. Soon customers were asking for more and were willing to pay for it. Lowe visited cat shows and traveled to pet stores across the country selling Kitty Litter from the back of his 1943 Chevy Coupe. By 1990, Edward Lowe Industries, Inc. was the nation's largest producer of cat box filler with retail sales of more than $210 million annually.

The next major advance in cat box filler came in 1984 when Thomas Nelson, Ph.D., an enterprising biochemist, developed the first clumping litter. While studying organic chemistry, he investigated the molecular structure of clay. He discovered that some types of clay trapped urea through hydrogen bonding and prevented it from breaking down. Consequently, there was no offensive ammonia odor. He found that clays that were dried but not baked were very absorbent and would form a clump when the cat urinated on them. The clump could then be removed, thereby getting rid of the urine in the litter box and making the jobs of litter box cleaners everywhere much easier.

Between the two men, a wildly competitive and every-growing industry was spawned that is expected to bring in an astounding $765 million by 2003.




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