This article is from the WSSF 2010 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Karen Robbins, Winnetka, CA
Purr & Simple™ is a new cat litter on the market and the company had a booth at the America’s Family Pet Expo this year. Being always on the lookout for new products to try on the rats and mice, when I saw this product that is all natural and had virtually no odor, plus by their ammonia test where they were comparing it to other cat litters in a side-by-side smell test—it was tops compared to the other products, I had to get some to try out. The only thing I noticed that would potentially be a problem with the rats and mice was the size of the pellet as over the years I’ve found a smaller diameter pellet works better for the smaller critters.
This is a 100% natural product made with the walnut membrane (the inside separating the nut halves), walnut shell, and some almond shell. I’ve tried many plant-based products but this was going to be the first using nut shells. It comes in 8-pound and 20-pound bags.
Purr & Simple™ 20-pound bag. Photo by Karen Robbins.
It is made by a family-owned nut farm in northern California. They were originally marketing this product for the wood pellet stoves as fuel. When a humane society up there got some of their product (when it was still marketed for wood stoves) to use for their many cats, they found it drastically cut down on the odor and health issues in their cats. So this product suddenly found a new market with cat owners. They also claim there is no dust and no tracking but the sales rep said it breaks down to a powder. With rats and mice I would really be testing out not only the odor and absorption factor, but the no-dust claim since they would be in this 24 hours a day compared to cats who just use their litter boxes a few times a day.
The company graciously supplied us with several bags of this product so we could distribute it to others in the club willing to try it out with their rats and mice.
After the Pet Expo, the bags sat in my car for 2 weeks until I was able to unload everything and there was only a faint smell when the door was opened, where normal bedding would be overpowering sitting cooped up that long.
The bedding I currently use on my rats is NEPCO Aspen Chips with PaperChip® pellets in the corners under the chips. The mice get NEPCO Aspen shavings with aspen pellets under the flakes in the corners. So I would be replacing these two kinds of pellets in the corners of the cages with the Purr & Simple™ and the aspen on top.
The first rat cage I put it in had one male and one female; the male smelled the new bedding in the corner “Buried treats!”, dug down, grabbed a piece, and started to chew on it then dropped it when he realized it was not food. He then picked up another piece “Maybe this one is the treat,” started chewing, and dropped it when he finally realized this really was not food, then wandered over and finally grabbed the real treats in the cage and started eating. The female had no interest in the new bedding, but went straight for the treats. I didn’t find any other rats (or mice) trying to eat the product after that.
During my many months of testing this out on both rats and mice, I found it did cut down on odor quite well in most all of the cages. I found I could go a few days longer to twice as long before the cages needed cleaning. This in turn cut down on my time involved cleaning cages and the amount of dirty bedding filling up the trash bins.
With the rats, it ranged from no smell at all to the usual smell from dirty cages. I had a couple cages that either had no smell to just a little smell that would have normally stunk and had ammonia if they had gone that long with the regular bedding used. In some cages there was no smell at all until you broke open the pee corner and then it wasn’t at all overpowering. Others had just a very slight smell where the pee corner was or just had some dirty cage smell.
With the mice, it did work well. It ranged from no smell, to some smell, to just “male mousey” smell, to no smell until the pee corner was broken open.
The biggest drawback I found was how quickly it broke down into a powder. And this was a finer powder than what I’ve experienced with other plant-based fibrous beddings such as aspen pellets. Aspen pellets will absorb the moisture, swell up, then break down to a powder or take a little longer to break down just from the animals moving around the bedding. Most of the Purr & Simple™ pellets would be broken down to a powder within a day or two. I did try it out in one rat cage with aspen shavings instead of the chips but it was still very dusty. Because of the powder factor, I did not use it in any cages that had babies in them. I do not find any issues using the aspen pellets with the aspen shavings on all of my mice regardless of age, but with rat babies, they get no pellet bedding with the shaving/chip bedding because dusty bedding can give them a dirty nose and cause sneezing/respiratory issues.
There were two cages of rats that had dirty/runny noses after just a couple days on the new pellets. Once I put them back on the normal bedding, their noses were clean again.
“KK2046-A,” Black Variegated male that died while on the Purr & Simple™ bedding test with a wet, bloody-looking bottom; owned by and photo by Karen Robbins.
I did notice two of my rats that would rattle occasionally, begin to rattle all the time while on this and once returned to my normal aspen chip/recycled newspaper pellet bedding, went back to just occasionally rattling.
After 7 weeks of using it on my rats, I did find one of my males suddenly dead in the cage with a very wet, bloody-looking bottom like he had bladder problems, a runny nose, plus he looked like he had suddenly lost weight. He had shown no signs of anything wrong prior to this and his health and weight had been very good. I am aware of the bladder problems associated with Tailless, but I do not breed or have any Tailless. I don’t know if perhaps some of the powder got into his urethra, but nothing had been changed during this time except for the addition of these pellets to their bedding. Just prior to his death, I did find 3 of my females in other cages with a “wet bottom” but were okay a couple days later and have shown no recurrence of this issue. These rats were the first I’ve experienced with what looked like bladder problems by having a “wet bottom.”
The nose and mouth of a Champagne Satin mouse showing the “dirt” from the Purr & Simple™ powder; owned and bred by Karen Robbins. Photo by Craig Robbins.
Even though I had some health issues with the rats, I did not find any with the mice during this testing period. However, in taking photos for a separate topic, I found those housed with Purr & Simple™ had “dirty noses and mouths” from the bedding powder being stuck around their noses and in their mouths/teeth.
Because of the fine powder, it made the critter room very dusty and I was having to vacuum a lot more often than normal.
I would be interested to know if anyone that uses litter pans in their rat cages rather than having bedding covering the entire cage floor, what they found with this bedding since it would be in a small container and not where the rats would be able to constantly move it around and be in it.
It is great on odor control, but because of the dust issue I found with my animals, this is a product I have concerns using with standard bedding use that covers the cage floor.
I’ve heard a lot of great comments using this as intended and that is for cats, but since I no longer have a cat, can’t give it a try there.
Ken & Connie Van Doren, Happy Go Lucky Rattery, Whittier, CA
We tried the Purr & Simple™ cat litter underneath the aspen shavings in our rat cages. We first put a layer along the entire bottom of the cage, and the rats just moved it all around. A lot went to waste so we tried putting it just in the corners of the cage. The rats still moved it around, but it seemed to work a little better that way. In our case, the litter didn’t make much of a difference in the male’s cage, as they tend to use their entire cage (from top to bottom) as a litter box. The females, however, are more polite and usually stick to using the corners. In these cages we could go an extra day or two before cleaning. The litter was not dusty, took a long time to break down, and was even eaten, with no ill effects.
We also tried the litter in our mouse cages. We have one cage with five females and one with a single male. The rearranging of the litter was an even bigger issue with the mice. They moved it around so much that it was evenly mixed with the aspen chips. The male’s cage is where we noticed the biggest difference in odor (or lack of). We could go an extra 3 to 4 days before cleaning these cages.
While the use of this litter in conjunction with the aspen bedding did lower the smell a little and gave us a couple extra days before we had to clean, we feel the extra cost of the litter really isn’t worth it.
Geri Hauser, Riverside, CA
Since I no longer have rats but have two cats, I tried this litter in the cat pans. The cats are indoor/outdoor and they don’t use the pans very often, so I haven’t had much experience with this litter. I mixed it with a paper pellet and slowly went to all Purr & Simple™. I think a smaller pellet would be better for cat litter—it seemed like they didn’t like stepping on it. It breaks down pretty fast once it is wet but does absorb well and is easily scooped out of the pan.
Rachel Miller, Moreno Valley, CA
I would not recommend this bedding for rats. This bedding that starts out as a solid turns into a powder that is not, in my opinion, safe for the sensitive lungs of rats and mice. For cats, it did not perform well in my case. The bedding was used for a mother cat with young kittens. She had a bit of intestinal difficulties (e.g., loose stool). The bedding did not absorb the odor at all, nor was it easy to scoop out even solid feces.
Gina Pomeroy, Escondido, CA
I tried the Purr & Simple™ litter and found it to be OK. I put the litter in the cage which had 2 boys [rats] in it. I didn’t really have any odor until two weeks. I didn’t have any dust until it broke down. I kept on scooping out the wet spots once a day.
Carol Lawton, Escondido, CA
Purr & Simple™ is a new pelleted kitty litter product made from tree-nut by-products. Initially, several of us were excited about their claims of superior odor control but we soon discovered that this was a product that could cause serious health issues in rats. After much discussion regarding the fate of our donated samples, I decided to move forward and test it as a kitty litter and I volunteered to give it one careful test as a litter box base for the smelliest animals in the house . . . my bunny and guinea pig, Bambi and Phoebe.
My primary concern was that Bambi and Phoebe would try to eat the Purr & Simple™. To prevent this, I carefully prepared the litter pan with a layer of Purr & Simple™ underneath their usual layers of aspen shavings with hay on top. Bambi and Phoebe normally ignore their litter pan, but this time they were instantly interested and started sniffing the box, which was immediately followed by a flurry of digging, kicking, and flinging. Their hay, the shavings, and the Purr & Simple™ went flying in every direction. It took less than a minute before the litter pan was empty and Phoebe had picked up a Purr & Simple™ pellet to see how it tasted. This resulted in prompt evacuation of both rabbit and pig to their carrier, and a thorough cleaning of their pen and the entire room (Purr & Simple™ is apparently quite aerodynamic and will fly up to 12 feet when properly launched by a 5 pound mini-rex).
The cat litter trial was a little more encouraging at first. I thought the cats might be put off by finding a litter pan full of rather large pellets so I offered them a pan of regular litter as well. While all of the cats were a little skeptical the first time they stepped into the box, only one of them appeared to dislike it and opted for the “perch on the edge so you don’t touch the litter” method. The issue with the litter became apparent after all four cats had used it for about a day . . . the litter was so heavy and the pellets were so large that the cats couldn’t cover anything. They would dig at the litter but the best they could do was fling around a couple pieces. After about 3 days of constantly removing smelly uncovered kitty poo with little pellets perched on it, I gave up and hauled the extremely heavy pan of litter to the trash. The next test with the litter pan involved putting a layer of Purr & Simple™ on the bottom and some regular litter over it. It solved the problem of the uncovered poo and reduced the odor from it, but I didn’t notice any better odor control than the regular litter offered. During this time their pan of regular litter was being used as often as the Purr & Simple ™ pan but still hadn’t begun to smell either. After a week or so, I gave up my cat litter obsession and went back to using our usual brand in both boxes (and Jada stopped perching on the edge).
I think that Purr & Simple™ is an excellent product concept which quickly absorbed and controlled urine odor and reduced the amount of tracked litter around the litter pan . . . but it does have some very real issues during use. First, the pellets are so large that the cats couldn’t properly cover their poo which neutralized any of its wonderful odor control properties. Second, it’s extremely heavy and doubled the weight of the litter pan, and in a four-cat household with two pans that are dumped regularly, that’s a big issue. I understand that Purr & Simple™ has since reduced the size of their pellets . . . but I have not yet tested the newer product and probably won’t.
NOTE: Purr & Simple™ is now called Blue Naturally Fresh®.