Maintaining a healthy cat litter box is a big part of feline ownership. While it may seem pretty simple at face value, much more goes into creating the perfect litter box than simply providing a container and litter for cats to relieve themselves in. There are several different types of cat litter to choose from, and not every kitty has the exact bathroom needs. Finding the best cat litter is the process, and for some owners can be challenging. This is especially true for cats with dietary sensitivities, anxiety, or other issues that may complicate using the litter box.
Choosing a cat litter that does not use many chemicals is healthier for your cat. One part of the equation is understanding the different kinds of litter and how they work. Owners also need to observe their feline companions and note how they respond to different types of litter and boxes. On top of that, keeping a clean litter box is critical, regardless of the kind you use.
A few different types of kitty litter and products are available on the market. We have looked at the various options and some specific products to guide our readers and help make this process easier. Read on to learn more about the different types of cat litter and the best choice for your sweet kitty.
At A Glance: Best Cat Litter
Note: Clicking the above links may take you to one of our affiliate partner’s sites, where you can get additional product information and customer reviews. If you make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
Why Do Cats Use Litter Boxes?
Felines have a natural instinct to bury their waste. They dig, bury, and cover waste in the wild to hide their scent. This is a protective measure to keep other animals from knowing they were there. In domestic cats, it’s a taught or observed behavior. However, most kittens instinctively know to use a kitty box to cover their waste. Kitty litter is similar to sand or dirt due to its granular texture, and they should have enough in the box that they can adequately bury and cover waste.
Felines are naturally very clean creatures and can be very particular about their litter box. Because of this, it’s essential that owners always provide fresh litter and service the box regularly. This does not mean it needs to be entirely changed every single day, but owners must scoop out solid waste and clumps daily. This is important so that cats will want to use the litter box and also so that your home does not smell.
Expect a full box change out as often as once a week. The frequency you need to do this depends on your pet, their habits, and how many cats you own. Homes with multiple cats need to change things out more often and should also provide more kitty boxes.
Types Of Cat Litter
Most people are familiar with the traditional clay cat litter. However, some may not realize there are several more types to pick from. Traditionally there are two types, clumping and non-clumping. Clumping kitty litter means that the contents, including urine and feces, stick together and form lumps. In non-clumping varieties, the particles do not mesh together, remaining as separate pieces. Many feline owners choose clumping options because it helps clump together urine, making removing it easier. Solid waste is less affected by clumping or non-clumping products and is easier to remove from the kitty box.
Clay cat litter is an incredibly popular and widely available choice. It is relatively easy to find, even in most grocery stores, and comes in scented and unscented options. The clay absorbs urine, which then turns into a gooey, almost cement-like mixture. Clay litters can come in clumping and non-clumping varieties. Clumping is widely preferred, as non-clumping clay can be incredibly messy and have quite a nasty smell when needing to be changed.
Clay does have some disadvantages, including that it gives off a lot of dust that cats and humans can breathe in. Additionally, it is not very environmentally friendly, and even the scented variety can smell quite foul. Clay, both kinds, is very messy and often tracked outside the kitty box. It is a very affordable option, and many owners do not know they have other choices, so it gets widely used.
Clay options often contain sodium bentonite, a naturally expanding clay used as a clumping agent. Never flush clay, as sodium bentonite can clog and block the pipes. You do not want your pet to ingest or breathe in clay dust or particles. Also, watch out for crystalline silica, which kitties can breathe in. It will settle in their lungs and is considered a cancer-causing element. This is often used in cheap, low-quality clay products.
Pine kitty pellets are a natural choice that comes in both clumping and non-clumping varieties. Some owners prefer pine pellets because they have no chemical additives, are made from pine trees, have a pleasant woody smell, are low in dust, are highly absorbent, and are soft. Pine is also significantly less messy than clay and lasts longer. Pine pellets come in soft, compressed pellets that break apart as cats urinate on them and then paw around. The clumping variety is already broken down and made from ground-up pine wood.
Paper litter is environmentally friendly as it is made from recycled newspaper. This option is good for kitties with injury or sensitivity to their paws. It is very soft and has no dust or debris. Paper usually has no fragrance or added ingredients. They are quite absorbent but do not control odor at all. Nor does paper clump well, so it is often not used long-term unless necessary. Newspaper pellets do not hold up as long as most other options, so it requires changing more often.
Silica litter is made from silica crystals and is a newer product gaining popularity. The silica is crafted from mined quartz sand, is highly absorbent, and is less dusty than clay. Multiple kitty households often pick this because it has excellent odor control. A downside is that it does get trailed around the house. Silica can be dangerous if swallowed, so owners will want to be cautious. Some silica products come with color-changing elements, so owners can learn more about their pet’s urinary health.
Walnut litter is made from crushed walnut shells. It has a more clay-like texture than pine, making it a popular choice for many owners. Walnut shells are much lighter than clay and clump up relatively quickly. A disadvantage is that walnut needs regular stirring for the odor-absorbing elements to work. Despite that, walnut shell works to deodorize smell very well, is all-natural, and is three times more absorbent than clay options. Remember that because these are nut shells, pets or owners with allergies are at risk of a reaction.
Corn kitty litter is made from corn cob, which is highly absorbent and fully biodegradable. It is excellent at absorbing odors, like the smell of urine but also other household liquids and spills. Corn has no dust and is all-natural. Many owners like it because of this. However, corn cob only does a little for odor control, though it does have a naturally appealing aroma. Corn is flushable as long as it does not contain cat poop. This can get covered quickly with urine and feces. Another downside is that some cats may try and eat the corn. The strong scent attracts their interest. Corn can also develop mold, called aflatoxin, quickly. It also attracts bugs and rodents.
Our Personal Experience With Corn Cat Litter
“Corn is another option that I personally would never recommend. I have used this type on more than one occasion. It has always resulted in a rather large, stinky mess. I have multiple cats, and though this is absorbent, it really does not help cover any odor. One of my cats would not use corn but instead tried to eat it. In fact, he has ripped open the bag, which is part of the reason we choose not to use corn.”
Wheat is similar to corn. It is flushable and fast clumping. This product uses biodegradable and often renewable wheat. Wheat requires daily maintenance but is said to last over two weeks if properly maintained. Once the odor strengthens, the kitty box needs rinsing and scrubbing before new stuff is put in. Like corn, wheat can attract bugs and is highly susceptible to growing mold.
Tofu kitty litter uses soya, a protein derived from soybeans. Soy uses no artificial additives and is biodegradable. It has a refreshing and natural fragrance. Soy is less common than the other options and may not be available in chain grocery or big box stores. Tofu is longer lasting than some alternatives and requires changing less often, though, like all types, it requires daily maintenance.
A much less common option than any other previously mentioned, grass litter is another option. The grass is highly absorbent and also clumps, very similar to clay. This fast-clumping action helps keep debris from sticking on the sides and bottom of the tray. It also has low dust and excellent odor control. The soft texture is very light and effortless for kitties to dig into. Grass is a very environmentally friendly option, especially because it’s a renewable and biodegradable material source. This is a fairly new concept, so it may be hard to find.
Why Does Litter Type Matter?
There are a few different reasons why litter type is a significant consideration. For starters, cats must feel comfortable. Remember, covering their poop and waste is a natural instinct. They need something easy to dig through and can quickly cover what they have left behind. Cats can be very fussy about texture. If things are too tough, too large, or do not feel comfortable underneath the paw pads, they may refuse to use them. Felines like soft, textured stuff that does not hurt or irritate their paws.
It is essential to look for an option that has a limited amount of dust. Breathing in dust can trigger and worsen respiratory conditions like asthma. It can also aggravate allergies and COPD. If anyone in your home or any pet suffers from any kind of respiratory concern, it’s best to stay away from any kind of dusty product.
A clean, soft, easy-to-use option that smells good will not only attract cats to use it but make them feel comfortable. This element is essential. If the kitty box smells terrible or is full of urine and waste, cats will not use it. You do not want a kitty to avoid the potty box as it can create much more significant problems. If you have a pet refusing to use the box, take exceptional care to keep it clean, and consider using an attractant spray. Additionally, felines who refuse to use the box may suffer from stress, disease, or a negative association with that litter or box. Resolving these issues sooner rather than later is best, as you do not want your pet to start urinating or defecating outside the box.
Along with making your cat comfortable and giving her a safe place to do her business, litter also serves to help control and prevent smells associated with kitty waste. It is crucial to pick a high-quality, absorbent option that controls odor well. However, that is only half the battle. Bringing home any feline means daily kitty tray maintenance and regular changing. Otherwise, your home, clothing, and furniture may retain a musky, lingering smell. It gets quite unpleasant and is something all pet owners strive to avoid. Using an air purifier near the box is helpful to both reduce odors and remove fecal matter, dust, and allergen particles from the air.
Best Type Of Cat Litter
There are many different kitty litter products available on the market to choose from. One thing to keep in mind is that not all cats or products are created the same. Some cats prefer a certain kind, while others completely hate it. Just because one feline in the home likes a particular type does not mean other felines will respond well. In many cases, owners may need to try out a few kinds before they find one their purr baby likes the best. There are some top-performing options to pick from, and though we cannot discuss them all, let’s get more detail on some of our favorite picks.
Feline Pine Platinum
Feline Pine is one of our top picks. This comes in three options, regular pellets, platinum pellets, and clumping. All three use sustainably sourced pine shavings. They absorb liquid and odor on contact. We like platinum because it has added baking soda crystals which boost that odor-absorbing power. The pellets break up easily, are soft, and do not irritate feline paws.
We love the natural pine scent, low dust formula, and highly absorbent quality. The odor absorbency lasts much longer and uses no artificial fragrance or dye. This is suitable for all cats and is easy to find. It is available in many chain retailers, pet stores, and online.
“I have personally used Feline Pine for many years. I prefer it for several reasons. The odor control and absorbency are excellent. In a multi-cat household, this is very important. I have used several other kinds and picked clay for a long time. I made this choice as it was what I had always used, and I only knew a little then about other options.
However, I had one cat named Ace, who really did not like clay. He would make a huge mess and refuse to use it if any waste or clumps were left behind. He began peeing in other areas, including my laundry basket. Upon the vet’s advice, we tried pine pellets and found that he responded very well. Since then, I have had excellent luck with pine for all my cats.”Danielle D, LoveYourCat
Boxiecat Deep Clean Unscented Clumping Clay
This unscented clumping clay is 99.9% dust free. It uses exclusive Flat Top technology that causes clumping right away at the top of the box. This makes it easier to scoop and keep clean. The lower tracking formula keeps more in the box and less spread in your home.
This option contains a boosted blend of probiotics that helps prevent the spread of microscopic waste and bacteria. These probiotics also help to keep unpleasant odors at bay. The company estimates that a 16-pound bag should last about one month for single and multi-cat homes.
We love that this is a healthy, natural, boosted clay formula. We also appreciated that it has no added fragrance, as those can often make matters worse. The boost of probiotics makes this pick stand above other options. We also appreciate that it is easier to scoop and keeps paws cleaner. Additionally, this product is made in the USA.
PrettyLitter uses highly absorbent silica gel. It works to trap urine inside and dry out the solid waste. This one is a lightweight formula the company claims only needs refills once a month. It traps the urine and evaporates moisture, so owners only need to scoop out the poo. This has an odor seal guarantee and is strong enough to support more than one cat. Additionally, it contains elements that help monitor feline health.
Different color changes indicate various health concerns, including bladder inflammation, urinary tract infections, urinary stones, and blood in the urine. Suitable for single or multi-cat homes.
We love that this is a low-dust, highly absorbent formula. We also appreciate the color changing, which is very helpful for pet owners. As someone with a kitty that has experienced urinary tract issues, including crystals in the urine and blood in his urine, this option can be extremely beneficial in keeping him healthy. This product is non-toxic, not chemically reactive, and contains no crystalline silica.
Sustainably Yours Natural Cat Litter
This 100% sustainable option is a top choice for owners who want a natural product. This option uses corn and cassava and is completely natural, biodegradable, and renewable. These grains are very light in color, which makes it easy to clean and spot debris. Additionally, this helps owners monitor their cat’s urine and makes any changes obvious. No chemicals or fragrances exist, and this is almost entirely dust-free.
Corn works to neutralize odors, and odor absorbency is long-lasting. The starch from cassava works to make it clump well. These clumps trap odor and are easy to scoop without breaking or crumbling. Additionally, these clumps can be safely flushed down the toilet if they are soaked for 15 minutes. Check with your local ordinances before flushing any kitty litter down the toilet. For example, it is illegal to do so in California.
We love that this is a sustainable, unscented, environmentally friendly option. It has a soft texture, superior odor control, and a unique, highly clumping consistency. We appreciate that there are no chemicals or added fragrances and that it is so environmentally friendly.
Picking the best cat litter for your feline family members can be tricky. Thankfully there are several different options out there to try, including clay, pine, silica, paper, or another kind. While not every option will work well for every cat, owners have plenty of high-quality options to choose from. We have presented our top picks, but if we missed your preferred type, let us know in the comments.
Always remember to clean your cat’s box regularly and keep the area around it tidy and neat. If you have concerns about your cat’s bathroom behavior or their health based on their bowel movements or urine, contact your veterinarian immediately. This is especially important if you notice any kind of blood in their urine or feces.