Monday, January 17, 2011

CLUCK Asks: What Pets Pass the Poop Test?

If you read the local section of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune yesterday [Fowl Factions' Face Final Face-Off], you're aware that a resident of Arlington Park has come up with a new criterion for pet ownership in the City. Her test, by implication, is that the City only allow pets whose waste could be brought to the City Commission dais without noticeable odor or a breech of decorum. CLUCK is asking: Could any pet pass that test?

The answer is: Not that we know of. It doesn't matter whether the Creator imbued us with an aversion to the smell of animal feces, or we evolved with it. But we know that are brains are wired to motivate us to avoid animal waste whenever we detect it. That inclination stands us in good stead. 

Many of us baby boomers are old enough to remember a time before kitty litter. You simply let the cat out and hoped the neighbors didn't notice Whiskers in their child's sandbox. But the American entrepreneurial spirit prevailed and Cassopolis, Michigan resident Ed Lowe invented kitty litter, now a $350 million industry that largely hinges on what brands cats will accept and how well those brands mask odor.

Say Lowe: ''It used to be you'd walk into a house, go sniff- sniff, and know they have a cat.'' Adds William Moll, research and development vice president at Oil-Dri Corp., a Chicago-based clay producer and litter manufacturer: ''Time was when you wouldn't want to visit anybody with a cat in August.'' The problem was odor. The 1,800 workers in the cat litter industry owe their $45 million in annual salary and benefits to the fact that cats, being desert- adapted animals that concentrate their urine, produce among the foulest waste products in nature. Behind the cat's quick rise to the status of the nation's favorite pet, according to Moll, was the ability of manufacturers to come up with a filler that could dissipate a powerfully unpleasant smell." 
The fact is the only reason cats have become the most popular pet in America is that people like Lowe found a way to mask the odor of their waste. Put an open margarine container of cat urine or feces on the dais and meetings would a lot shorter.

It is worth noting that we only occasionally smell cat waste outdoors. (Although those toms can really stink up an area.) So bringing chicken (or dog or whatever) waste indoors is not a fair comparison.

By now you must be wondering if there is kitty litter for chickens, and the answer is yes, there is. 

One brand is called Kemira Klasp, which is (Fe 2 (SO4)3•9H2O). This Litter Amendment "is a dry, granulated form of ferric sulfate that contains approximately 20% iron as Fe+3. It is nontoxic, nonhazardous and classified as a GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) substance to be used by the poultry industry in pursuit of best management practices. Klasp Litter Amendment effectively reduces ammonia, sequesters phosphorous and nitrogen and efficiently lowers litter pH while providing a drier house environment."   

Will it be needed by urban chicken keepers in the City? Probably not. The product was developed for those huge industrial chicken houses, but it's nice to know it exists.

Let's keep in mind that six Rhode Island Reds (an average size chicken breed) weigh as much as one English Springer Spaniel (a mid-sized dog). If we can survive our neighbor having a spaniel, we can survive a few hens. 

The Arlington Park resident that proposed the poop-at-the-dais test gets credit for out-of-the-box thinking and a flair for the theatrical. And she should be thanked for considering the decorum of the Commission before trying her stunt. 

But no pet could pass her poop test and the Commission should so acknowledge.

No comments: