All cat parents know the boss of the house is the one strutting on four legs. What cats do on their own time is their business. Unfortunately, their independent nature can keep cat parents in the dark when it comes to illnesses. No one knows this better than "serial entrepreneur" Ramon Van Meer, who will appear on the Feb. 5, 2024, episode of Shark Tank to pitch his innovative health-indicating litter company, Genius Litter.
Van Meer came up with the idea for his company after noticing that his cat was having "a very difficult time peeing," and there was also blood in her urine, he tells Green Matters. "If I wasn't in the room, how would I know?" he recalls asking his vet.
"The vet started explaining how difficult it is for cat owners to see when their cat is sick, or not feeling well, because cats are so independent," he recalls. Startled by the close call, Van Meer, who also founded Alpha Paw, did some research, and discovered the fairly new world of health-indicating cat litter, inspired to create his own.
In conversation with Green Matters Ramon Van Meer spoke about his nerve-racking 2024 experience on Shark Tank, what sets Genius Litter apart from the competition, and the importance of tracking your cats' health.
How does Genius Litter work? Ramon Van Meer talks color-changing technology.
"There's a pH liquid that's mixed into the litter and it basically detects the pH levels in the urine," Van Meer explains. "If it's below a certain number, then it could mean for example, there's a UTI or a bladder issue. If it's above a certain number, then it could mean different health issues." And, a healthy cat's urine's pH will be between 4 and 6.
The nontoxic, non-clumping litter's indicator crystals change color depending on the pH of the cat's urine, detecting abnormalities before it's too late.
Van Meer believes that Genius Litter sets itself apart from similar products because its mineral silica gel particles are smaller; this also makes the litter less dusty, and helps it to track less dust into the house.
He adds that it's also "less painful for the paws of the cats."
Low dustiness is a biggie, as inhaling litter dust can cause irritation and inflammation. However, it's the crystalline silica dust — which is not found in silica gel litter — from clay litter that is considered a carcinogen when inhaled. Because of this, Veterinarian Megan Teiber believes silica gel crystal litter is a good option for both cats and cat parents with respiratory issues, as per Tuft + Paw.
Additionally, Genius Litter donates 10 meals to shelter cats for every bag of litter sold.
Genius Litter is a lower waste alternative to clay litters.
Though both clay and silica crystal litters are made from naturally occurring elements, neither are considered biodegradable. That being said, silica gel (or synthetic amorphous silica) litter is less wasteful than traditional clumping litter.
"You don't need 20, 30, 40 pounds of clay litter every month," Van Meer says. "For Genius Litter, you only need around 6 pounds per month." That's because silica gel comes from silicon dioxide, which boasts water-absorbing properties, meaning you don't need to scoop out urine — only No. 2s.
Ramon Van Meer on the importance of routinely tracking your cat's health: "Cats are notorious for hiding illnesses."
Van Meer's personal experience made him more aware of cat behaviors in relation to their health.
"Once you actually see the cat in pain, or you see the behavior is different ... the cat [has often already been] dealing with this issue for a pretty long time," he explains. "With UTIs, it's really the quicker you can catch it and fix the issue, the better."
Untreated UTIs in felines can can lead to potentially fatal issues like kidney failure or a bladder rupture.
"Cats over 12 years old, every single one will have kidney issues. ... When the cat gets to that age, the vet will recommend bloodwork every 12 months [or] every six months," Van Meer continues. Genius Litter can help cat parents stay updated in between vet visits.
Ramon Van Meer on his long-awaited 'Shark Tank' experience: "I was so nervous."
Though Genius Litter has seen significant financial expansion since its founding, Van Meer still felt a "mix of being nervous and super excited" about facing the sharks on ABC's Emmy-winning business reality series.
"I started watching Shark Tank when I came to the U.S. back in 2009," the Netherlands-born entrepreneur explains. "It is really crossing off a bucket list item for me."
After applying to Shark Tank four times, Van Meer will finally present Genius Litter to the sharks on Episode 13 of Season 15, which will see Good American CEO Emma Grede return as guest shark.
Van Meer went in hoping to impress Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran, both of whom he thought "would be great fits."
So, will the sharks bite? Find out on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024, at 8:00 p.m. EST on ABC.