Pros: Cheap; pleasant smell; fun.
Cons: Hard to work around the pellets when dealing with solid matter.
Hearing good things about its effectiveness from several people, print ads, and even Epinions, I picked up a four-pound bag of Feline Pine pellets at the pet shop. The owner had an open bag, from which she showed me the product's look before and after use (using water, silly). Plus, it can be used in conjunction with regular litter. So I was sold.
What It Be?
Feline Pine is essentially pellets of pine mulch, tightly packed, that can replace the kitty litter you normally use. In theory. It's also got a pleasant aroma to ward off nasty cat pee smells.
When the cats pee on the pellets, they swell a little, eventually decomposing into what looks like, strangely, unpacked mulch. The Nature's Earth (as opposed to whose Earth?) folks say "sawdust." Whatever. This mulch eventually sifts to the bottom of the box, leaving the intact pellets above to do the dirty absorption work.
A four-pound bag typically, at least if I'm typical, will cover the bottom of your average cat box four to five times at the recommended one-inch depth. The directions state to mix it in over time to help the cats acclimate to the new-style litter.
The Mix Experience: Add, Scoop, Repeat
For the first use, I decided to use it as a bed of pine nuggets under a little less litter than usual. Concentrating the pellets where the cats tend to urinate was the goal.
My experience with mixing two types of litter is, um, mixed. Combining the two types of litter doesn't exactly produce the desired results. The cats took to the litter as if nothing had changed, although you wouldn't believe how far they can kick the pellets out the box hatch.
Scooping up the cat poop requires sifting away the unused-as-yet pellets. A regular clay litter scoop does not handle this task well, as the pellets are far larger than the holes in the scoop. I could throw it all away, but that's kind of a waste, even though I'm sure the Nature's Earth people wouldn't mind. This is less of a problem, naturally, in a box that is all Feline Pine as a new scoop with bigger holes would do the trick.
The piney aroma overrides the pee ammonia quite well, so the clumps of cat urine-laden clay litter don't smell as unpleasant as before; and the Feline Pine mulch-plus-clay then scoops away easily leaving sweet, sweet pine nuggets behind in the clay litter. This part was fairly straightforward, and I'm inclined to always keep the Feline Pine in there under the regular litter instead of switching totally to the Pine.
All Feline Pine: Not So Excited
A full inch of pellets lining the box did exactly what I expected. The cats were a little cautious at first, as the Feline Pine must feel odd compared to the normal litter. Digging, naturally, makes nuggets start flying, and while they don't stick to cat paws, they do a fine job of rolling away.
The wet mulch did not impede either cat, who continued to hunker down and enjoy their respective visits seemingly as much as ever. They didn't appear to be interested in covering after, however, preferring just to scratch a bit beforehand and knock a few pellets free. The cat who likes scraping the inside of the box's lid continued to do that, so we think he's a little OCD, not just fastidious.
Half-used pellets typically litter this top layer of pellets, so it gets a little dicey for the cats when they step in and hit a partial pellet. They don't seem to like that much. With the clay litter, they're fairly good at avoiding past clumps unless I've been really lax with my chores.
The Feline Pine is certainly economical. At $4.99 for a four-pound bag, this stuff lasts about half as long as the 25-28 pound gargantuan boxes of scoopable kitty litter I usually buy which cost four times as much. So, bargain.
The cats weren't particularly wary with this change, so that's a plus. However, from a human standpoint the poop needs to be cleaned out at least daily -- may the gods have mercy on you if you cater to more than two cats -- which makes life a little less easy. I have to remember to clean that box daily or risk the cats throwing more than just pine nuggets out the cat box door, accidentally or no.
The mulch that does settle isn't designed to be scooped, it's designed to be carted out all at once, like non-scoopable clay litter. But this goes against every thrifty bone in my body - if some of the nugs are still dry, they should be allowed to stay behind. This is very not easy to achieve, though, and in the interest of spending less than ten minutes with the cat box at a time, out go the pristine pellets. Fortunately there's a scoopable Feline Pine now, and I'll be testing that on the cats once I find it in the pet store.
For now, though, I'm back to the regular scoop litter. It's not as good at hiding aromatics, but it's no more messy and the cats like it better than Feline Pine. But I certainly am willing to give this another shot.