Fans of ABC Family’s “Startup U” series, in which students pitch ideas to venture capitalists in hope of obtaining financial backing to launch a business, might recall the appearance of Carly Martinetti and her presentation of Pretty Litter. The cat litter changes color to indicate potential feline health issues.
The product is made of silica gel that absorbs urine. That isn’t unique. It’s the combination of the silica gel and particles, or indicators, that can change color when in contact with an unhealthy cat’s urine that brings about an innovation in what could be deemed a category that has been innovationless for decades.
The particles change color to indicate abnormal levels of acidity or alkalinity or the presence of bilirubin or blood in cats’ urine. These abnormalities might indicate biliary obstructions, bladder infection, cancer, gall stones, inflammation, liver disease, kidney infection, other infections or urinary tract disorder.
“We see [cats] come into the veterinary clinic in advanced or end-stage disease, because they’re amazing at coping with problems,” says Dr. Geoff DeWire, who is an adviser to the company. “They’re stoic. They hide disease. That’s sort of an evolutionary adaptation that they’ve developed, because if you showed disease or illness or weakness, you are more susceptible to predators.”
DeWire says the litter potentially allows a cat owner to find a problem weeks or months before the pet otherwise would see a veterinarian.
Questioned about DeWire’s objectivity—he’s listed on the company’s website as the veterinarian-in-chief—the company’s CEO, Daniel Rotman, tells Consumers Digest that DeWire isn’t compensated, but he could receive shares of the company if it were to be acquired and go public.
DeWire is one of the owners of a seven-doctor veterinary practice. “We have a lot of abnormal samples of urine coming through that we’re testing,” he says. “We can take a sample and actually squirt it on the Pretty Litter and watch for color changes.
“We’ve seen some pretty good results. I’m giving [Rotman] feedback on where we could improve.” Consumers Digest appreciates the qualification, as opposed to market-speak that often gravitates to the definitive or superlative.
DeWire’s suggestions primarily involve more obvious color changes.
“To make sure that [the color] really pops, you need a higher ratio of indicator,” Rotman says. He went to the maker of the cat litter to specify an increase in the ratio of indicator to silica.
Rotman cautions consumers that a change in color doesn’t always signify a health issue.
“There are many reasons why a litter would change color, even though a cat may not be sick,” Rotman explains. “If you see a color change, we want you to wait 24–48 hours, remix the litter and continue to monitor it if there’s consistent color change.”
Consumers will be told that blue indicates abnormal acidity, green indicates abnormal alkalinity, orange indicates bilirubin and red indicates blood, but they won’t be told what illnesses could be possible out of concern that the cat owner will attempt to treat the pet himself/herself. “We’re not trying to replace the veterinary community,” Rotman says. The change of color “is our way of saying to you, ‘Alert. Something may be wrong. We’re catching it way before you can see it.’”
Available for purchase at prettylittercats.com ($19 for a 3-pound bag, $35 for two bags, $60 for four bags), Rotman says the litter is reusable, and one bag should last a month per cat.