Sweet Geek

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Review: Crystal Cat Litter

All he ever wanted was to poop outside
Courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com

Below are my previous reviews of cat litter:

I have been field testing crystal cat litter for 6 months. “Crystal” cat litter is made from Silica, just like those little packets of crystal beads with the warning “do not eat!” you often find in packaging to keep things fresh.

I started with Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Long Haired Litter because I like their clay litter and it was available at my local pet store. It was a bit pricey though and isn’t sold in bulk quantities so I have tried a few others, notably PetSmart’s ExquisiCat Crystals and Petco Crystal Cat Litter.

They are simiar enough that I’m lumping them all together and will call out any important differences.

Clumping

Crystal litter does not clump which is a big difference from most litters. The way it works is that you scoop out any “solids” and the “liquids” are absorbed by the crystals which are replace regularly. FYI, I love euphemisms for poop and pee! :–)

Silica is extremely absorbant and holds many times its own weight in urine. It starts out clear/white and each time you scoop, you stir up any yellow spots to spread it out and prevent their favorite corners from becoming saturated while other parts of the box go unused. After a 2-3 weeks, when the litter is a uniform light yellow, I dump the entire box, scrub it and start over.

Odor Control

Each of the brands include some extra ingredient to deal with urine odors. I don’t notice any fragrance or smell from the fresh litter, which is my preference. I want my house to smell like I don’t have cats, not like their litter, even if it is clean!

None of the brands covered up the smell of poop as well as traditional litters. I believe that’s because the crystals don’t completely coat and cover like clay. I find that after scooping, I have to immediately take out the trash and can’t get away with putting it in a temporary trash can like I could with clay. Not a huge issue for me since it’s 2 steps to the trash chute.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the crystal litter dealt with the urine odor. As long as I stirred the box when I scooped, I never smelled the urine, even towards the end of the “litter cycle” when the litter was almost ready to be changed. Maybe that means I could go even longer between changes but once it looks yellow, I can’t help but change it.

Weight

This is the best part of this litter. It is very light. Normally I put 40lbs of litter in the box at a time (it’s a big box for my Maine Coon) and now I only need about 20 lbs.

One quick note is that many of the brands suggest only using 1.5 inches but I find that is just not enough. So I end up using more per box than what the manufacturer recommends. Maybe my cats are just prolific pee-ers but unless I use about 3 inches, I find that their urine soaks all the way to the bottom of the box which makes cleaning more difficult.

Dust

This is one area where the brands differed. Dr. Elsey’s by far has the least amount of dust, both when pouring and scooping. ExquisiCat came in second. Petco Crystal litter has the most dust, especially when I’m stiring up the pee spots. I would say of all the types of litter I have tried so far (clay, corn, wheat, walnut) that this has the least dust.

Another difference was in crystal size. Dr. Elsey’s has very small fine crystals which is best for fishing out the turds as I don’t have to sift or shake the scoop which helps prevent kicking up dust. ExquisiCat’s crystals were just too big, making it exteremely difficult to scoop. If you go with that brand I recommend finding a scoop with very large spaces between the tines. Petco Crystal litter is in-between. Sometimes I get crystals stuck in my scoop (a litter lifter) but for the most part, the crystals fall through with 1-2 shakes.

Tracking

I have found that the crystals do track out of the box but don’t make it very far before working themselves loose. Traditional litter would find its way throughout my house but with the crystal I only need to sweep the first 10 feet from the box. I haven’t noticed any dust making its way out of the box or sticking to the cats feet.

With both the clay and walnut litter, I had to clean my cat’s feet to remove the dust which clings and clumps in-between their toes. I was briefly concerned that the cats would eat the crystals or have trouble from licking it from their feet but luckily that has not been an issue.

Price

As always, these alternative litters are more expensive than clay… The most expensive litter is Dr. Elseys at $1.8/lb. Which explains why even though it is my favorite, I have settled on the Petco litter, which can be purchased in bulk at $1/lb.

Final Thoughts

I am quite happy with the crystal litter. Overall it seems healthier than the clay as I hear fewer kitty sneezes after they use the box and it doesn’t stick to their feet (and end up eaten when they clean their paws). I do wish that I could remove the urine as well each time I scooped the box but I think that’s a trade off as clumping litters all get stuck in my cats’ fur…

If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it goes or if you find a good brand. I do wish I could find Dr. Elsey’s in bulk as that is my favorite but I go through enough litter than I can’t justify paying almost 2x as much for it.

Coconut Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

Dairy Free? No worries I drink it for you
Courtesy of icanhascheezburger.com

The internet has probably invented this already and with a better name to boot. But I don’t care. I threw this together in my kitchen late one desperate night. See I have been cutting out dairy for the past 2 months, in the hopes that it would help with my chronic stuffed nose. It’s been a rough, mouth-breathing fall and I needed dessert!

Ingredients

  • 1 can of full fat coconut milk, mine has 15g per 1/3 cup serving
  • 2 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1 square (1 oz) of baking chocolate
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 4 scoops (168 mg) of pure Kal stevia

Steps

  1. Pour the liquid from your coconut milk into another container for later. This leaves me with about ¾ of a can of solid coconut fat. If yours doesn’t do this… you don’t have a good brand of coconut milk and should find one with more fat. I am using the Jewel (Albertsons) store brand, which is cheap to boot. Lucky me!
  2. Put the coconut fat in a small food processor or in a container for use with an immersion blender. Mix until smooth.
  3. Melt the baking chocolate in the microwave. Mine takes 1 minute on high.
  4. Combine the remaining ingredients and mix.
  5. I usually add back 2 tbsp of the coconut liquid if it is too thick to mix well.
  6. Taste for sweetness and adjust as you see fit. Also if you really don’t like the flavor of coconut oil (I don’t!), more peanut butter will hide it.
  7. Portion into containers and leave in the refrigerator for 1 hour to set. I usually get 4 ½ cup portions.

It comes out with a smooth, creamy soft fudge consistency. I cannot resist this stuff!

Nutrition Info

I am not convinced that the carb count is correct on this. Maybe it is the high fat but I don’t get a spike as I would expect from ~10g of carbs. Perhaps most of the carbs in coconut milk are in the liquid? I am not sure…

Nutrition Facts
Nutrition info courtesy of Bytes for Health

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Low Carb Gluten Free Pizza

A few weeks ago Tom Naughton from Fat Head posted a recipe for a low-carb gluten-free pizza that is just perfect. I have been making it twice a week ever since and it is real pizza, not some acceptable substitute. Don’t be scared off by the amount of cheese used to make the crust, it comes out sturdy and just like a flour based crust.

Pizza

I have made a few changes and included some nutritional information which you may find helpful.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite mixed cheese, like a Mexican, Italian or cheddar blend.
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups almond flour
  • 1/2 cup of pizza sauce or spiced tomato sauce
  • Garlic salt
  • (Optional) Dried ground fennel
  • (Optional) Dried ground oregano
  • (Optional) Dried parseley

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. My recipe fills an entire 1/2 sheet pan.
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, combine 3 cups (436g) of mozzarella cheese and 4 oz of cream cheese. Microwave and stir every minute until smooth and mixed.
  4. Add some dashes of garlic salt, parsley, oregano and fennel. If you are short on spices, the only one that really matters (in my opinion) is the garlic salt… mmm salt!
  5. Add 2 whole eggs and 1.5 cups of almond flour. Stir like a mad-woman until it is all mixed.
  6. Dump out onto your lined baking sheet.
  7. Now smoosh out the dough to make a crust. I like to put my hand in a sandwich bag and pour a few drops of olive oil onto it so that nothing sticks.
  8. Lightly cover the crust with garlic salt.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes. If you see major bubbles, feel free to attack them with a fork.
  10. Continue baking about 4-6 minutes, until the crust fully cooked and slightly brown on top.
  11. Add the pizza sauce, remaining cheese (1 cup mozzarella and 1/2 cup of cheese blend) and any toppings.
  12. Shake out a wee bit more garlic salt on top… :)
  13. Place back in the oven under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly brown.
  14. Remove from the oven and let it cool in a safe place (I use my cutting board). After 5 - 10 minutes it is ready to cut without causing a cheese landslide.

Nutritional Information

This makes 16 square slices, and I am quite stuffed with 4 slices, or ¼ of the pizza. So my serving clocks in at 15.2 g of carbohydrate (or 10.4g net). The nutrition info below is calculated using the recipe above, with just cheese for the topping.

Pizza Nutrition
Nutrition info courtesy of Bytes for Health
Pizza Macronutrients

Latest Lab Results

I found myself in an awkward situation recently which resulted in me ordering a comprehensive set of blood tests. If you don’t care about my little drama of ordering the tests, skip ahead 2 paragraphs.

I told a chemistry joke ... There was no reaction
Courtesy of memegenerator.net

See I had just quit my job and on my last day they let me know that all the money I had contributed to my FSA (Flexible Spending Account) would be forfeited to my soon to be ex-employer. As I wracked my brain to think of a way to use my my FSA in 1 day, I hit upon direct blood tests. You can go online and directly order pretty much any blood test, they will have their in-state doctor review your information and order the test. So I loaded up my cart with “goodies” and tried to checkout. Lucky me, even though my FSA coverage didn’t end until the next day, my employer had cancelled my FSA early… boo I called up the FSA company and they gave me the news that I could pay for the tests myself and then submit a claim to be reimbursed. My bill was for $1,200 so after a bit of nail biting (would they really reimburse me?!) I went ahead and ordered the tests on my own dime. Wonder of wonders, the check just arrived in the mail. I feel like I won the lottery. :)

The Tests

Okay! Back to the tests. I had ordered some tests that I had heard were critical for diagnosing some of my issues but could never get a doctor to care enough about to order the test for me. Here is what I ended up getting:

Diabetes

I had been diagnosed with Type 2, based on my weight but I had always been concerned that I may be a Type 1.5. So these test would be helpful in finally answering that question.

  • A1C
    Tells me how well I have been managing my blood sugar, I know I had not been doing well so it seemed like a good idea to get a baseline of how bad I had let things get.
  • Insulin
    Tells me how much insulin I am still making and if I have insulin resistance
  • C-Peptide
    Indicates insulin production See Blood Sugar 101’s explanation
  • GAD-65 Antibodies
    Tests for Type 1 / Type 1.5, where your body’s immune system is attacking your pancreas

Celiac

When I learned that gluten is what has been causing me such extreme pain, chronic diarrhea and other bathroom fun, I removed it from my life and am a happier person. However I had heard that if one has Celiac, then it is important to avoid gluten beyond just for the benefits of a happy pooper. If one is regularly getting small doses of it, but not enough to send you do the throne, it can still lead to long term health issues down the road, like cancer. Plus I was tired of people asking if I was just following a “fad diet” or if I had “a real allergy”… grrr

It was a Celiac Disease Comprehensive Antibody Profile, but here are all the items the test for:

  • Deamidated Gliadin Abs, IgA
  • Deamidated Gliadin Abs, IgG
  • t-Transglutaminase (tTG) IgA
  • t-Transglutaminase (tTG) IgG
  • Endomysial Antibody IgA
  • Immunoglobulin A, Qn, Serum

Thyroid

I continue to have issues with weight gain, very cold hands and feet (they turn white), dry skin and hair loss. I also have an enlarged thyroid. My doctors have only ever tested for TSH and total T4, which I have read is not enough to identify all possible thyroid problems, just the most obvious.

  • TSH
    Is your pituitary gland screaming at your pancreas for more thyroid hormones?
  • Total T4
    Inactive thyroid hormone
  • T4 - Free
  • Free T4 Index
  • Total T3
    Active thyroid hormone
  • T3 Uptake
  • T3 - Free
  • Reverse T3
    Unusable T3

Misc.

  • Leptin
    Identifies leptin resistance, an issue with most overweight people
  • NMR Lipid Profile
    Measures the size of the lipoproteins

The Results

I just got the results today and am not familiar enough with some of the tests to interpret the results just yet. However a few jumped out at me:

  • My A1C has gone up from 5.0 to 5.8. Plus my fasting insulin has gone up from 4 to 24. Hello insulin resistance! Proof once again to myself that my diet is not a cure, it is control. Hop back on that wagon silly pants!
  • I came back positive for a few of the Celiac antibodies. Considering I have been strictly gluten-free for 6 months (stupid Christmas…), I do not plan on the standard course of action of eating gluten for weeks then taking a bowel biopsy for a conclusive diagnosis. This is enough for me to say yes I have Celiac and I should never again let myself have “just a bit” during holidays.
  • My GAD-65 (pancreas antibodies) came back as ”< 1.0", hurray for a somewhat working pancreas and a solid Type2 diagnosis!

That’s all I know for now and will report back later when I have figured out the other test results. This has served as the well-deserved kick in the pants go back to my original ketogenic diet and stop listening to all those silly doctors, nurses and blogs out there suggesting that anything other than very low-carb is healthier for me.