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A litter box, sometimes called a sandbox, sand box, litter tray, litter pan, catbox, or cat box, is an indoor feces and urine disposal box for cats (as well as rabbits, snakes and other pets that naturally or through training will make use of such a repository) that are permitted free roam of a home but who cannot or do not always go outside to relieve themselves. Many owners of these animals prefer not to let them roam outside for fear that they might succumb to the elements or get hit by a car, so a cat litter box makes it possible to shelter pets from these risks. In the wild, cats naturally excrete in soft or sandy soil for easy burial. To simulate this instinctive desire, a litter box’s bottom is filled typically with an inch or more of cat litter. Litter box filler is a loose, granular material that absorbs moisture and odors such as ammonia. Some litter brands contain baking soda, to absorb such odors. The litter material also satisfies a cat’s instinctive desire to use an easily-dug material. The most common material is clay, although recycled paper “pellets” and silicon based “crystal” variants are also used.
One of the first commercially available cat litters was Kitty Litter, available in 1948 and marketed by Ed Lowe. This was the first large scale use of clay in litter boxes; previously sand was used. Clay litter is much more absorbent than sand, and its larger grain makes it less likely to be tracked from the litter box. The brand name Kitty Litter has become a genericized trademark,[where?] used by many to denote any type of cat litter. Today, cat litter can be obtained quite economically at a variety of retail stores, including “dollar” retail outlets. Conventional clay litter is indistinguishable from clay-based oil absorbent (used to clean oil spills); as the latter is far less expensive, it is often used as a substitute. Non-clumping cat litter is often made of zeolite, diatomite and sepiolite.