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Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Your Household

Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Your Household

If you are welcoming a new cat or kitten into your home or have noticed things getting a little more funky smelling around your current cat’s litter box, it may be time to research the best cat litter for your feline friend’s needs.

Finding the right cat litter can help ease feline stress and prevent litter box issues like urinating outside of the litter box. Easy cleanup and odor control are among the rewards for the humans in your household.

Cats can have strong opinions about litter, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different types and textures to find the best match for your cat or kitten. Let’s break down your options so that you can make an educated decision about which cat litter to use in your household.

Types of cat litter

Cat litter comes in a range of types, textures and scents. Finding out which litter works best for your cat and home may require some trial and error.

cat coming out of litter box

Scented vs. unscented cat litter

Litter comes in both scented and unscented varieties. Scented litters are designed to mask litter box odors, but some cats dislike strong scents and prefer unscented litters.

Unscented cat litter brands rely on ingredients such as carbon and natural plant extracts to help absorb odors from urine and feces and reduce litter box smells, keeping both you and your cat happy.

Clumping vs. non-clumping cat litter

Cat litter can also be clumping or non-clumping, which impacts how pet parents clean and empty the litter box. Clumping litters form scoopable, solid masses for quick and easy waste removal.

Clumping cat litters generally provide good odor control and need to be fully replaced less often than their non-clumping counterparts.

What is cat litter made of?

easy litter box cleanup

Cat litter can be made from a variety of ingredients with different properties and uses.
 
Some of the most common cat litters are made from the following:

  • Clay. Clay is one of the most popular cat litter materials on the market. Many clay litter brands rely on ingredients such as carbon and plant extracts to absorb odors.
  • Corn. Litter made from corn is biodegradable and earth-conscious. It is available in natural and scented formulas.
  • Coconut husks. This litter, made from the husks of coconuts,can be recycled as part of garden compost.
  • Wheat. The starch inside wheat kernels gives wheat cat litter its clumping capability and exposes natural enzymes that neutralize odors.
  • Wood. This type of litter comes in pellet form and is a natural pinewood by-product. The pine scent acts as a natural deodorizer.
  • Walnut shells. This cat litter is made from walnut shells and is available in quick-clumping and non-clumping formulas.
  • Recycled newspaper. Available in pellet form, this eco-friendly litter is made from recycled newspapers.
  • Silica-based gel crystals. Silica is a natural mineral that is highly absorbent and can be reused by one cat over a period of one month.

Cat litter buying guide

In order to choose the best cat litter for you and your cat—or cats—, it’s important to compare the different types of cat litter and their benefits.

The chart below will help you make a decision about which cat litter is right for your feline family member:

Litter Type Scented or Unscented Clumping or Non-clumping Pros Cons
Clay Available in both scented and unscented varieties Quick clumping - Clumps quickly for easy cleanup
- Good odor control
- Typically needs to be changed less frequently than other litters
Not biodegradable and may create dust
Corn Available in natural and scented varieties Natural clumping - Dust-free
- Biodegradable and earth-conscious
May be pricier than other litters
Coconut Husk Natural scent Clumps lightly - Dust-free
- Biodegradable and earth-conscious
- Made from a renewable resource
- Compostable
May be more difficult to find than more traditional cat litters
Wheat Available in natural and scented varieties Natural clumping - Naturally clumping and odor- absorbing
- Dust-free
- Biodegradable and earth-conscious
- May not clump as firmly as clay litter
- Must be stored carefully to prevent pests
Wood / Pine Natural scent Does not clump - Natural pinewood byproduct
- Natural deodorizer
- Dust-free
- Environmentally safe and biodegradable
- Can be used for landscape mulch and composting
Some pet parents may find pine scent too strong
Walnut Shell Natural scent Available in clumping and non-clumping varieties - Highly absorbent
- Biodegradable and made from a renewable resource
- Low dust, low tracking
May not clump as easily as clay litter
Recycled Paper Unscented Does not clump - Eco-conscious
- Dust-free
- More affordable than most natural litters
- Great for cats recovering from surgery
- Less odor control than other litters
- Not flushable or compostable
- May need more frequent changes than other litters
Silica Available in scented and unscented varieties Does not clump - Highly absorbent
- Can be reused over a period of one month
- Trackless and dust-free
- May be more expensive than other litters
- Some cats may not like the feel of crystal litter on their paws

How to switch cat litters

You’ve made your decision, and now it’s time to make the switch. Most cats will adapt to a new litter without incident if you commit to a slow transition.

Add small amounts of the new litter to the old over a seven- to 10-day period until you have switched over completely. This is especially important if you are changing litter forms, as a new texture may cause your pet to alter their litter box behavior.

If your cat or kitten is avoiding their litter box, try giving them a simultaneous selection of different litter types to choose from. Put down three or four boxes with different litters in each one and see if your cat has a preference.

Note: If your cat starts going to the bathroom outside of their litter box, your first call should always be to your veterinarian. Many medical conditions can cause a change in a cat’s litter box habits.