Green Little Cat

Green Home

Stacking Up Catty Stacks: Eco-Friendly Cat Furniture That Looks Good Too!

Green Little Cat recently had the opportunity to review Catty Stacks, stackable, eco-friendly cat furniture. We were lucky to get the inside scoop from Catty Stacks’ creator, Frank Callari.

Furball loves cardboard boxes as much as any cat–and so does my preschooler. Boxes are cozy, great for hide-and-seek and basically, you can imagine them to be whatever you want. So what’s not to love?

Well, they’re butt ugly for one thing. When we were in full-on box mode, my living room looked like the packing department for Amazon. I once had someone ask me when I was moving, that’s how bad it was.

When guests came over, I’d frantically grab all the boxes and stack them in a corner. I couldn’t throw them out because my kid would notice if even one out of the ten boxes went missing.

Frank Callari, creator of Catty Stacks eco-friendly cat furniture, experienced some of the same frustrations when he got the idea for making Catty Stacks. In his words:

“The idea for Catty Stacks was born out of necessity. I am very particular with aesthetics, so I wanted to find something that would not be an eye-sore in my living room. I set out to find the most beautiful cat furniture on the market and was very disappointed in just about all of my options. Not only are most cat trees ugly, but they are also bulky, heavy, and expensive.”

It was during the holiday season that Frank noticed that his cats, Tito and Stains, loved all of the big boxes that arrived when he was buying gifts. As a result, he got crafty, cut doors, started stacking and built a kitty castle. But, he still had a few problems.

Frank said, “My cats were thrilled, but there remained several fundamental problems with what I was doing. First, regular boxes and duct tape remained ugly and was nothing that I cared to display in my living room. Next, the whole process of cutting, stacking, and securing was very time consuming. Lastly, most of the regular boxes that I was using would not last very long, as they would eventually collapse from the big boy jumping up and down while chasing his smaller sister.”

Over a couple of years, Frank created many prototypes until the final Catty Stacks eco-friendly furniture was born. He created sturdy, modular, easy-to-assemble boxes that could be stacked in a multitude of ways and rearranged whenever your cat (or you) got bored.

Most importantly, Catty Stacks are damn fine looking. They blend attractively with your decor, without making your living room look like the loading dock at UPS. Catty Stacks are also eco-friendly. They’re made with post-consumer recycled fiber, printed with vegetable-based inks and they’re 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recyclable.

Frank was kind enough to offer to send us a couple of Catty Stacks to review. When I told him my kid would probably fight with the cat to play with them, Frank generously sent an additional two boxes for my son.

My preschooler was enthralled with Catty Stacks

When the Catty Stacks arrived, both Furball and my son were so excited. Assembly was a breeze, even with a “helpful” preschooler. As I predicted, my son hogged the box for a few hours before Furball finally got a turn to play. In terms of the fuzzy review of Catty Stacks, let’s just say Furball loved his Catty Stacks. The box was a safe little cocoon for him to hide in and when I poked a wand toy inside, he was in kitty heaven.

Furball finally gets his turn and loves it inside the Catty Stack

Most importantly, I can proudly display the eco-friendly Catty Stacks in full view without upsetting my sense of design aesthetics. Now, if only there was something that could make the children’s toys scattered all over the living room look good…

Catty Stacks are available in five fashionable and eco-friendly colours including Sky Blue, Chocolate Brown, Snow White, Pistachio Green, and Tickled Pink. And, you can buy them individually so that you can create the purrfect cat home in your home. You can find Catty Stack on Amazon for under $15.

Disclosure: The link to Amazon is an affiliate link. If you choose to make a purchase, I will receive a teeny tiny commission of about 60 cents. I’m sharing this link not because of the commission, but because Catty Stacks are an awesome eco-friendly alternative to ugly boxes and overpriced “Made in China” cat furniture. Your support also helps me to continue growing this site and sharing eco-friendly news and ideas with the world. Thank you.

How to Create a Homemade Holiday Card From Old Greeting Cards

Transform an old Christmas card into a holiday scene of a cat or dog eagerly awaiting the treats inside their stocking. Here’s how to make your own homemade greeting card.

What You’ll Need:

  • A blank greeting card made from recycled paper OR old cardstock OR an old file folder or something similar
  • An old Christmas card
  • Scissors
  • A tiny square of corrugated cardboard
  • Non-toxic glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Marker or pen

1. Create Your Canvas
Use a blank greeting card made from recycled paper as your creative canvas. I’ve found them at Michael’s. For the card featured here, I used some old cardstock that my mother-in-law was saving for my nieces for arts and crafts projects. You can also make your own card blank by cutting an old file folder into a the shape of a card.

2. Make a Colourful Rug
make homemade greeting cardMeasure the width of your blank card and use this measurement to cut out a trapezoid from an old Christmas card. You can also cut one out of old wrapping paper. Why a trapezoid and not a rectangle? The angle will help to create more movement and interest in your final design.

3. Make a Stocking
A simple sock-shape can be turned into a stocking. Feel free to cut one out freehand or if you’d prefer, draw an outline on the back of the old Christmas card for you to cut out. Just remember that the finished stocking will be a reverse image from what you draw.

4. Make a Pet Silhouette in Duplicate
To create your cat, do an online search for “cat sitting silhouette.” Alternately, if you want to feature fido, search for “dog sitting silhouette.” Trace or print the silhouette onto a sheet of paper and then use this as a pattern to cut out TWO shapes.

I held up the paper to my computer screen and traced the outline using a washable marker. DON’T DO THIS AT HOME unless you are sure that you won’t dent your screen by pressing too hard with the marker AND you’re also sure that the marker will not bleed through the paper onto your screen. If you’re not sure, just print it out.

Use your tracing to draw and cut out TWO identical cat shapes (or dog shapes if you’re making a dog card).

5. Arrange Your Holiday Scene

Before pasting anything down, arrange your shapes on your card so that your cat (or dog) is sitting on the rug and looking at the stocking. Paste down the rug, the stocking and ONE cat (or dog). You should still have one pet outline remaining.

6. Make it Pop Out in 3D

how to make a homemade greeting cardTo create a 3D effect of your cat (or dog) ready to jump off the card, cut out a tiny square of corrugated cardboard. This you can definitely find by raiding your recycling bin. My mother-in-law’s happened to be empty, so I cut a sliver off the inside of the box she used for storing old Christmas cards and you can’t even notice it’s gone. That’s how small this piece should be. You will affix this to the back of the remaining pet silhouette.

Now paste the second cat (or dog) on top of the previous. Place it just a smidge offside of the original to create the 3D effect.

7. Add a Holiday Greeting
Use the marker or pen to add a holiday greeting to the front of card. Lay it out in your mind’s eye first so that there’s enough room to write your entire greeting. Note: Some markers may smudge or not write well on the cardstock. If you think that might be the case, simply skip the greeting on the front of the card and start writing your words of love inside your homemade greeting card.

A Delightfully Creative Way to Upcycle

Green Little Cat reader, Laurie, sent us this picture of her cats’ newest pawsome hangout. She used her creative flair to transform an old speaker into a fun place for her cats to play and catch a catnap. Check out how much her cats are enjoying their new space.

Here’s what Laurie had to share about upcycling:

I used a very old and not working speaker….you know those coffee table size ones. I took the speakers out of the box, cleaned it up a bit, then used some extra carpet and wrapped it around the outside of the box. The holes the where the speakers weight loss were are great for playing hide and seak or to just curl up for a catnap.

The possibilities are endless with the different size and shapes of the old speakers. I can vision a whole wall of them attached with some old lumber…like a walking plank from one to another and zig zag up a wall.

Want 15 minutes of fame for your kitty?

Let’s shine the spotlight on your cat—she/he deserves it! Simply send us your creative green tip and a photo of your cat(s) to furball [at] greenlittlecat.com. We’ll publish all the pawsome ideas that we receive.

Where to Recycle Stuff

Eco-friendly cat
I always find that the new year is the perfect time for reflection and new beginnings. In fact, it was on New Year’s Day 2009 that I decided to make a gift to the planet by challenging myself to find one new way each day for 30 days to make my cat’s lifestyle just a little bit greener.

The kick-off of my 30-Day Green Cat Challenge really helped to launch GreenLittleCat.com and promote greener living for cats and cat lovers around the world.  This year, I wanted to share some of my favourite ways to help you de-clutter your home and welcome 2012 with fresh and open energy.

While this list for where to give away and recycle stuff is mainly geared for us humans, I hope you’ll find it useful for starting your new year off on a green foot.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle Your Stuff Here:

1. Cat Food

  • If the food hasn’t expired and hasn’t been opened, do a web search for a “pet food bank” in your town or city.  They’ve been popping up all over the country in recent years as people ride out the economic shifts.
  • If you have a large bag of opened dry food that your cat won’t eat, that’s a little trickier to give away. Many people would recommend not giving it away, but there are people out there who don’t have the money to feed their cats and would welcome the food. If you do decide to give the food away, there always seems to be someone on Craigslist who will gladly take just about anything you have to give away.

2. Old Towels and Blankets

  • Contact your local animal shelter to donate your old towels and blankets.  They’ll use them as bedding or to wrap animals up to keep them warm and comfortable.

 3. Where to Donate Used Books

  • Some libraries will accept used books.
  • If you have paperbacks, try posting them on PaperBackSwap.com.  It’s like a giant online book swap meet.
  • Gently used books for young children are welcomed by Project Night Night, which gives books, blankets and stuffed animals to homeless children.
  • Women’s shelters that support families are also a good place to donate books for kids of all ages.

4. Old DVDs and CDs

  • SwapaCD and SwapaDVD are sister sites for PaperBackSwap.com.
  • Children’s DVDs can be donated to Kid Flicks.  They’ll take the DVDs that your kids have outgrown to creates movie libraries for children’s hospitals and pediatric wards across the U.S.

5. Stuffed Animals

  • While we’re on the topic of kid’s stuff, gently used stuffed animals can be given to Stuffed Animals For Emergencies (SAFE).  SAFE gives your stuffed animals to children during emergency situations such as fires, illness, accidents, neglect, abuse, homelessness and even weather emergencies.  They’ll take your baby blankets too.
  • A local women’s shelter may also be a good place to donate stuffed animals.  I was making a donation of household goods and had a bag of stuffed animals in my car to drop off at Goodwill.  When the women’s shelter worker saw the stuffed animals, she was so happy to scoop them up and told me that they give them to children and to rape victims to help comfort them.

 6. Where to Recycle Cell Phones and MP3 Players

  • Target stores have recycling stations for used cell phones and MP3 players.  They’ll also take your inkjet cartridges, but I like taking mine to Staples (see below).

7. What to Do With Your Used Inkjet Cartridges

  • Inkjet cartridges are worth money to you if you take them to your local Staples store.  When you join their rewards program, Staples will give you 2 Staples rewards dollars for each inkjet cartridge you bring in (up to a maximum of 10 cartridges a month).

8. Where to Recycle Used Brita Filters and Number 5 Plastics

  • Look for a “Preserve” recycling bin at any Whole Foods to drop off your Brita filters and number 5 plastics.

9. Produce from Your Backyard

  • When your friends and relatives start crying, “No, thank you” to that second bag of tomatoes, check out AmpleHarvest.org to get connected with a local food bank in search of fresh produce.
  • In Northern California, if you’ve got fruit trees, Village Harvest will send out volunteers to pick your trees and will donate any excess fruit that you don’t want.

10. Office and School Supplies

  • iLoveSchools.com has a donor board where you can post books, computers and home office equipment, electronics, and office supplies.  Teachers login to the site and check the board for stuff they can use in their classrooms.

11. Odds and Ends

  • Freecycle.org is my go to place for giving away stuff I no longer need (e.g. IKEA lamps, extra tealight candles, tire chains, etc.).  They have local chapters so you know that people aren’t driving 50 miles to pick up your 5 issues of Bicycling magazine.
  • Here are a couple Freecycle tips:  First, give your stuff to the person who writes a friendly and articulate email to you, not the first person to say, “I want it.”  The polite people are the ones who show up on time to pick up your stuff.  Second, leave the stuff outside of your door with a note on it so that people can pick it up at their convenience (and yours too).
  • If no one on Freecycle wants your cat drinking fountain, there’s always Craigslist!

So, there you have my best recycling, give away and donation suggestions for 2012.  You’re ready to start your clean sweep for the new year!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and abundant 2012,

Holly and Furball

Cat Proof Blinds That Are Eco-Friendly and Stylish

Ever have your cat chew through the cords on your window blinds?  Ever have them chew through the strings that hold the blind slats in place?  What about through the cord for the expensive Hunter Douglas blinds at the place where you’re renting?

Comfortex Roller BlindsIf your cat has been up to mischief gnawing its way through your home’s window coverings, you don’t have to resign yourself to drab cat-hair covered drapes.  Blinds are still an option and not only that, they can also be eco-friendly blinds too.

When we moved into a new home a couple of years ago, we loved the big windows in all of the rooms.  What we hadn’t factored in was that every window needed curtains or blinds.  We realized we had a dilemma if we wanted blinds because Furball is a serial cord chewer.

I wanted to move past the perpetually raised blinds with the cords wrapped up and placed far out of feline reach.  And, while curtains would work in a few rooms, I didn’t want to cover up my entire home with drapes.  I wanted the simplicity of blinds without the risk of my cat eating the cords and strings.

Fortunately, I found a stylish solution that also happened to be eco-friendly.  Comfortex makes a high-quality environmentally friendly blind that also looks  modern and stylish with clean lines and none of that pain relief fussy rustic-blind look with strings and cords dangling everywhere.  And, after two years of having the blinds in our home, I would give them two paws up for being cat-proof too.

Comfortex uses an EcoGreen™ Fabric collection for their Envision™ Roller Shades. It’s PVC-Free, 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} recyclable and LEED certification friendly. Their EcoGreen fabrics are diverted from landfills and reclaimed and contain no volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Their roller shade comes in different levels of opacity and a variety of colours.  I personally love the sheer look for blocking out bright sunlight, and you still get natural light and privacy.  As well, instead of using string, the blinds are drawn using a very light silver chain.  Both the blind and the chain tuck away nicely in a window frame.

I was a little skeptical originally about getting roller blinds.  I couldn’t help but remember the nasty white vinyl ones we had in my childhood home.  The Envision shades roll up nicely by pulling the chain.  No need to pull and yank and hope the blind rolls up when you let go.

Besides being functional, practical, cat-proof and eco-friendly, the bottom line is that these blinds look damned good!  Hope this helps you beautify your home in eco-friendly and cat-friendly style.

P.S.  That’s not my home in the photo.  Wish I was that colour-coordinated!

Watch Out for These Plants!

AloeVeraI came across a list of plants that are toxic to cats.  While this post is not specific to being green, I wanted to share this information as it may help keep your kitty safe.  I’d recommend scanning through the list as many of the plants are commonly found in the home.

Even if you’re very careful about keeping your cat away from the plants, unforseen circumstances  can put your cat in harm’s way.  We kept our plants in the bedroom and always kept the door closed.  It was the one room that Furball didn’t have access to.

The first time Furball had full access to eat the plants, I was selling my condo.  The real estate agent left all of the doors open (despite instructions) and this gave Furball access to the plants in the bedroom.  Fortunately, none of the plants were super-toxic, but I didn’t even know to check for this.

In the second incident, we were moving and the landlady was showing tenants around.  She left the bedroom door open, which gave Furball access to the plants.  Once again, we were lucky.

In the third incident, the maintenance guys for our apartment locked the cat in one of the bedrooms that had peace lilies in it.  I was out of town and my husband was at work.  When my husband got home, he couldn’t find the cat and finally discovered the cat behind the closed bedroom door.

We knew it wasn’t good for the cat to eat plants, but we didn’t realize that the plants he ate were considered toxic.  My husband called me to tell me about the incident.  My intuition caused me to ask if any of the plants were poisonous.  We had gotten some new plants since the last home and it turned out that they were toxic.  A late night trip to the vet ensued.  Fortunately, the plants he did eat, while slightly toxic, were not the worst ones.  Furball was none the worse for wear.

We got rid of the plants right away after that.  I hope by sharing these stories with you that you’ll take a look at this list and the plants around your home.  If anything is on the risk list, just give the plant away on Freecycle.

Here’s the link to the ASPCA’s toxic and non-toxic plant list for cats.

Greener Alternatives to Grocery Bags for Disposing of Cat Litter

Do you ever find yourself taking the plastic bag at the grocery store simply because you need it for garbage? I’ve done this myself a few times.

I’ll bring my reusable tote to the store, but before I can whip it out, the cashier has already stuffed my purchase into a bag and handed it to me, turning his/her attention to the next customer. Or, I might be at the Chinese grocery store and their English is a little patchy as is my Chinese. The item goes into the bag and it just seems like too much hassle to explain that I don’t need a bag and hope that they’ll understand what I’m saying. I’ve even taken the item out of the bag before, only to see the cashier take the plastic bag and then throw it into the trash.

At the local supermarket, there’s one cashier who insists that I take a bag or she’ll stick a gigantic sticker on my item to show that it’s paid for. In this instance, I debate which is better for the environment — a plastic bag that I’ll reuse or a giant sticker that I’ll throw out.

What tips the scale for me in all of the above scenarios is that I use grocery bags for throwing out my trash. And since I’ve been using reusable bags for over a decade, I’ve already run through the ones I’ve gotten from friends/family/freecycle. As more and more people use reusable totes, I’m facing a shortage of garbage bags.

Here in California, I just learned that it’s illegal to flush your cat waste as a potential parasite in cat poo can is causing serious harm to the sea otter population. So, what’s a girl and a cat to do?

Well, I’ve come up with a number of greener alternatives to collecting grocery bags to dispose of your cat’s litter.  Here they are:

  1. Toilet paper roll packaging: Buy the jumbo pack of 12 rolls, and instead of just tearing off the plastic wrap, cut one end open.  You now have a giant-sized bag for throwing out cat litter.
  2. Ditto for the plastic wrapper on paper towels.
  3. Use a smaller cat litter scoop.  Now you can easily use smaller bags for tossing out kitty’s waste as the smaller scoop will fit inside the smaller bag.
  4. Ask friends with babies (up to 2 to 3 years) to save the bags that the disposable diapers come in.  You’ll have an endless supply.  Yes, in an ideal green world, your friends would use cloth diapers, but as a parent, you learn that idealism and babies do not go hand in hand.  It really depends on the baby!
  5. Ask friends with newspaper subscriptions to save those annoying bags that newspapers are delivered in.  The bags are super narrow, which is where your small cat litter scoop will come in handy.
  6. Produce bags for fruits and veggies are also handy for disposal.  Again, in an ideal world, you’d pick everything loose and reuse mesh bags.  I use a CSA and they insist on sending my organic produce in plastic baggies.  At least the bags are biodegradable.  I asked if I could send back the bags to be reused.  The answer was an obvious no.
  7. Pay attention to packaging.  Bought a new computer?  Guess what?  It probably came in a plastic bag inside the box.  Underwear?  Plastic bag.  Ikea furniture?  Plastic bag.  Spinach?  Plastic bag.  Etc.
  8. Ask friends/family for their produce bags, grocery bags, plastic bags, etc.  In your ideal world, you’d convince them all to use reusable bags, but let’s face it, not everyone is going to do this, so you might as well use their bags.
  9. Post on your local Freecycle.org a request for bags.

The Need for Cat-Friendly Cleaning

Hey, I’m happy and excited to report that I got published in Feline Wellness magazine.  I submitted an article on cat-friendly green cleaning options and they published it in the Spring edition of their magazine, which just came out.

http://www.felinewellness.com/

While researching the article, I discovered that citrus oils are extremely toxic to cats.  This was quite alarming since I used a bunch of eco-friendly cleaners that contained citrus oils.  In the article, I did not mention specific products, but I did discover that Seventh Generation makes a line of products called “Free & Clear” and these don’t contain essential oils.  Also, I use a lot of Wowgreen products since I signed up to be one of their independent distributors.  Their products are enzyme-based as opposed to using citrus oils to clean.

I bought two copies of the magazine at Whole Foods.  Yeah, I know it’s not eco-friendly to buy two.  I’m keeping one and mailing the other one to my Mom.

Uber Cool Cat Furniture You Can Make

I might be a little late to the party, but I came across this awesome DIY cat scratcher on the Design*Sponge blog.  I love how it doesn’t look like a home made scratcher.  Instead, it looks like something out of a modern furniture design catalogue.

Besides the good looks, it’s also green.  Like a lot of the other eco-friendlier cat scratchers, Design*Sponge used recycled corrugated cardboard to make theirs.  Not only can your cat scratch, he or she can also sit on it.  It’s like a designer Kitty chair.  Detailed instructions for making your own cat scratcher, kitty pad, are posted on the Design*Sponge blog.  Check it out:

http://www.designspongeonline.com/2009/01/diy-project-recycled-cardboard-kitty-pad.html

A Chemist’s Perspective on Chemicals

In a recent post, I was checking out whether Wee Cleaner was really non-toxic and discovered that although I was under the impression that it was all natural, it did indeed contain a number of chemical ingredients.  Then I segued into looking up ingredients with the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.

One of my readers wrote in to share some more insights about the chemical ingredients.  She works as a chemist in a lab, so it was great to gain her perspective.  There’s a radio station I listen to where the morning DJ’s always proclaim that they have the smartest listeners in the world.  I’m thinking I have some of the smartest blog readers!  Anyway, here’s what she had to say:

“It’s true that all chemical suppliers, and labs for that matter, are required to have MSDS’s on file for chemicals but while the idea is well meaning: to have anyone interested in safety be able to find information on a chemical, most MSDS’s now days are packed with legalese and meaningless warnings. In effort not to be sued, manufacturers have put every possible thing down for even the most harmless substances so that you really couldn’t tell apart something harmless from something that you need to watch out for even if you tried. If you would like an example read the MSDS on table salt (sodium chloride), or sea sand. You should apparently run screaming from the kitchen and the beach for fear of being exposed to such harmful substances. No one takes MSDS’s seriously, and they are pretty near useless, except for the lawyers.

About the issue of hydrogen peroxide, it’s actually a great and very safe cleaner! The reason why you have this contradictory information about it is because hydrogen peroxide is not very stable. When you buy Hydrogen peroxide from the supermarket it has a very short shelf life. It will spontaneously degrade into oxygen and water on standing, air and light just speed up the process. So while, yes, you should probably not drink hydrogen peroxide from the bottle, if you apply a little bit to your carpet, by the time it’s dry there won’t be any hydrogen peroxide there to get into contact with. Most of it probably reacts with (oxidizes) whatever stinky stuff your cat left behind to make less stinky stuff and the rest just turns into water and oxygen. Sounds great to me!

I think that’s why you should take these chemical safety scales with some skepticism. What does “safe” really mean?

Sodium laureth sulfate I’m not so sure about, I’ve seen it on my shampoo bottle so it’s probably not that bad, I’d be worried about my kitty eating some though, I would ask what percent composition it is before deciding to put it on my carpet. Maybe at this point I would just go out and buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide to see if that works just as well as the cleaner.

Sorry for the rant, but there is always a lot of misleading information and witch hunts about how bad “chemicals” are. Even though everything is a chemical: water, air, or cyanide, weather or not it’s harmful just depends on how it acts around the environment and your body. Not how “natural” it is.”

Thanks for the insights Anastasia!

I didn’t know that there were MSDS sheets specific to each chemical and it was illuminating to learn that they list every possible risk to avoid litigation. I noticed the EWG Cosmetic Database also listed things such as tea tree oil in a way that made them sound hazardous.

I still do find that MSDS docs for cleaning products contain some interesting gems.  For example, Simple Green is labelled as “non-toxic”, but the MSDS lists butyl cellosolve, also known as 2-butoxyethanol, as one of the ingredients.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0070.html, symptoms of exposure include irritation eyes, skin, nose, throat; hemolysis, hematuria (blood in the urine); central nervous system depression, headache; vomiting” and target organs include: “Eyes, skin, respiratory system, central nervous system, hematopoietic system, blood, kidneys, liver, lymphoid system”.

I think I’ll pass on hemolysis (premature destruction of red blood cells) or the hematuria, even if the risk is low.  We bought some “Simple Green” thinking it was green, but now that bottle is sitting in the garage.