Hey there, cat litter crazies! Skye Blake here again, checking out a new type of cat litter… yuca and sugar cane! What will they think of next???
Follow These Trails for More…
What is Yuca?
Yuca (YOO-ka) (Manihot esculenta) is the root of the cassava plant… not to be confused with the yucca (YUHK-a) ornamental plant. Cassava is a woody shrub from South America.
People use yuca root (cassava) worldwide as a staple carbohydrate food similar to potatoes. It’s similar in size and shape to yams.
Yuca is used in many dishes… tapioca, cassava cake, savory cassava pie, bread, fries, just to name a few. It’s especially popular in Latin American and Asian cuisines.
“Cassava is predominantly consumed in boiled form, but substantial quantities are used to extract cassava starch, called tapioca, which is used for food, animal feed, and industrial purposes.”1“Cassava”, Wikipedia
Dealing with Toxins in Yuca
There are sweet and bitter varieties of cassava, with an important distinction between them… sweet are safer to eat than bitter. Neither variety can be eaten raw, but sweet varieties are eaten after peeling and boiling.
Bitter takes much more preparation to be eaten safely due to high concentration of toxins. This is true for both people and animals.
“… improper preparation of cassava can leave enough residual cyanide to cause acute cyanide intoxication, goiters, and even ataxia, partial paralysis, or death. In its prepared forms, in which its toxic or unpleasant components have been reduced to acceptable levels, it contains an extremely high proportion of starch.”2“Cassava”, Wikipedia
Bitter cassava roots are peeled and grated, then soaked for a long time in water.
This “allows leaching and fermentation to take place, followed by thorough cooking to release the volatile hydrogen cyanide gas. Cutting the roots into small pieces, followed by soaking and boiling in water is particularly effective in reducing the cyanide content in cassava.”3“Cyanide Poisoning and Cassava”, by Ms. Joey Kwok, Scientific Officer, Risk Communication Section, Centre for Food Safety, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Food Safety Focus (19th Issue, February 2008)
Companies who make cassava-based products like flour and tapioca, process the cassava until there is a very low, safe cyanide content.
Farmers use yuca (cassava) tubers and hay for animal feed, a good source of roughage. Various parts of the plant are also used for biofuels and other products. Cat litter is a newer product made from it.
Will Yuca & Cane Cat Litter Poison My Cat?
Some people have concerns about yuca (cassava) in litter since cats can eat it or lick it off their paws and fur. This article explains more about the issue: “Cyanide Poisoning and Cassava”.
It says processed products made from cassava (yuca) are accepted as having such low amounts of cyanide that they’re no longer dangerous.
I have not yet uncovered any scientific data about yuca having any effect on cats. The cat litter manufacturers claim it’s safe to use.
As with anything else, you can decide based on your comfort levels and knowing your cat’s behavior. If your buddy tends to eat food-based litters or digs excessively, creating clouds of dust, you may want to err on the side of caution and use clay or silica litter.
It’s best not to use yuca litter for young kittens since it’s a clumping type. Kittens will eat litter and can get intestinal blockages and/or be dehydrated from it. Both are life-threatening situations!
Yuca is Not Yucca
Yucca (YUHK-a) is “a genus of perennial shrubs and trees in the family Asparagaceae, subfamily Agavoideae“44“Yucca”, Wikipedia. It has long, stiff, spiky leaves and is commonly found in desert and semi-desert landscapes.
The yucca flower is the state flower of New Mexico.
Yucca has edible flowers and stem tips but the root cannot be eaten. It’s main use is in landscaping as an ornamental plant and is not related to the yuca (cassava) plant.
What is Sugar Cane?
Sugar cane (Saccharum Andropogoneae) refers to “… several species and hybrids of tall perennial grasses… that are used for sugar production. Sugarcanes belong to the grass family Poaceae, an economically important flowering plant family that includes maize, wheat, rice, and sorghum, and many forage crops.”5“Sugarcane”, Wikipedia
Yuca & Cane Brands and Reviews
Since yuca and cane cat litter is a newer product in the U.S., there are only two brands available that I could find (both at Chewy.com).
Earth’s FINEST™ confirmed the litter is safe for cats, but I wasn’t able to get details of the types of cassava or process used in making it. ECO CANE™ was unavailable to confirm.
There are two others that are a mix of yuca and corn. See “Corn Cat Litter” for more on Garfield Clumping Cat Litter and Sustainably Yours Natural Cat Litter.
Earth’s Finest™ Four Paws Cat Litter
Earth’s FINEST™ Cat Litter is made with the roots and fibers of yuca (cassava) and cane.
This litter uses the starch in yuca that bonds very well and creates good clumps that don’t fall apart. It lasts longer since it clumps well.
One 3.6 lbs. bag = 9.5 lbs. of clay or 7 lbs. of corn litter.
Cane is fibrous and used for its excellent ability to absorb liquid. The combination of yuca and cane makes the litter extra-absorbent. It soaks up to 5 times more liquid than clay and 2.5 times more than corn litters.
Earth’s FINEST™ litter ingredients are farm-grown, renewable and biodegradable. It has very good odor control even in multiple cat households.
This litter is 60% lighter than clay and 50% lighter than corn litter.
When I checked, there were only five reviews of this product. All mentioned how well it clumps and doesn’t break apart, making it last a long time. There’s a slight natural odor but wasn’t a problem for the reviewers.
Everyone liked that it was lightweight, wasn’t dusty and didn’t track. It’s a bit pricey but lasts well.
A couple people had trouble with it sticking tightly to the box and their scoop. The others didn’t mention any problem with that.
Eco Cane™ Cat Litter
Eco Cane™ Natural Clumping Cat Litter is made from yuca and sugarcane fiber. It’s completely renewable and has no dyes, chemicals or added fragrances. It absorbs and clumps very well, has good odor control and is 99.9% dust-free.
This litter is made in Brazil and comes in packaging made from renewable materials. I was unable to contact them to verify the safety issue.
When I checked, there were only six reviews. All agreed it lasts a long time but there was disagreement about the smell and dustiness of the litter.
Some liked the natural, grassy smell, others didn’t. One person said it was very dusty. Others said there was no dust.
Some reviewers mentioned their cats took to it immediately. The cats tend to fling the litter out of the box because it’s so lightweight.
Eco Cane™ clumps well but sticks if the litter’s not deep enough or if it’s not scooped daily.
More Litter Options
Follow these trails below if you’re curious about other litters…
Related Pages of Interest
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary. Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are original and directly referenced. Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. However, sometimes they refer to primary sources. Thus, when I use secondary sources most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
Please note that some of the sources listed below sell litter products or link to places that do. These are for your convenience only. I make no money from them.
List of Sources
“Cyanide Poisoning and Cassava”, by Ms. Joey Kwok, Scientific Officer, Risk Communication Section, Centre for Food Safety, The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Food Safety Focus (19th Issue, February 2008)
“What Is It? Yuca (Cassava) Root”, Lakewinds Food Coop, March 29, 2016