Kitty Litter is the trademarked brand name of the first cat litter, invented by Edward Lowe in 1947. Before that, cat owners put the cats outside for the night or used boxes of sand, sawdust, or wood shavings, which were not nearly as efficient, since "cats, whose constitutions were adopted for arid desert climes, make such an efficient use of water that they produce a highly concentrated urine that is one of the most noxious effluences of the animal kingdom." (Thomas).

Lowe, aged 27, was working in his father's sawdust business in Michigan when a neighbor, Kaye Draper, came by and asked to buy some sawdust for her catbox. Lowe had the great idea of offering her some kiln-dried granulated clay that his father sold as a fire-proof alternative to sawdust for sopping up grease spills. Draper came back for more, saying it was much more absorbent than anything she had used and tracked less over the rest of the house, and Lowe decided to try selling the product in 5-pound bags for 65 cents each. Sand sold for only a cent a pound, so Lowe had to give out sacks of his product at first, but cat owners loved it and asked for it at pet supply stores by the name he had handwritten on the bags -- "Kitty Litter."

Lowe's visits to pet stores and cat shows soon got his product's name known widely, and the business (which later included Tidy Cat brand litter which was sold in grocery stores) made him a multi-millionaire. He sold his litter company to Ralston Purina in 1990 for 200 million dollars plus stock, five years before he died; not bad for a man who recalled growing up so poor that his family burned corncobs to warm themselves in the winter.

Thomas, Robert McG. "Edward Lowe, Cat Owners' Best Friend." 52 McGs. Edited by Chris Calhoun. New York: Scribner, 2001.

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