Choosing the Right Cat Litter

Choosing the Right Cat Litter

The best way to avoid litter box issues is to find the right cat litter box and cat litter that will keep your cat happy and comfortable.

There are many types of cat litter from which to choose, including those made of clay, corn, coconut husks, wheat, wood, walnuts, recycled newspaper or silica gel crystals. Each variety has its own benefits, so you can choose one based on your preference and your cat’s preference. A finicky cat will quickly let you know if they do not like their litter; take note, as cats will quickly develop bad habits (ie. not using their litter box) if their demands are not answered.

There are also many types of litter boxes, including open litter pans in a variety of shapes and sizes; covered litter boxes in a variety of shapes, sizes and designs; automatic and self-cleaning litter boxes; high tech litter systems; toilet training systems and decorative furniture options that hide the litter box.

Your Litter Options

The texture you select matters to your cat, as she will be stepping on it. Litter also comes in scented and unscented formulas, as well as varied degrees of absorbency and odor control. Litter products also offer different degrees of clumping, resulting in how scoop-friendly the product is to use.

Odor elimination is extremely important to pet parents, and litter products vary in their ability to eliminate odors. Scented litters are designed to mask odors from the litter box. Some cats can be deterred by strong scents and may prefer unscented litters. There are many scent-free brands that rely on ingredients such as carbon and natural plant extracts that work to absorb odors from urine and feces to reduce litter box smells, keeping both you and your kitty happy.

Some litters are also more earth-conscious, made from recycled or sustainable products and can be repurposed as mulch. Some are flushable.

Ultimately, the right litter for your cat is not only one that she is happy to use but also one that will effectively deal with odor issues. Here are the main types of litter and their characteristics:

Clay: This is the original cat litter and still the most popular type on the market. Clay clumps hard and quickly. Many brands rely on materials such as carbon and plant extracts to remove odors. Clay is not biodegradable. If anyone in your family has respiratory issues, this may not be the best option, as not all clay brands are dust-free.

Corn: Litter made from corn contains natural clumping and odor-absorbing materials. It is dust-free, biodegradable and earth-conscious. It’s available in natural and scented formulas.

Coconut husks: Litter made from coconut husks is dust-free, biodegradable, earth-conscious and made from a renewable resource. It clumps lightly, but is scoopable and can be recycled in garden compost with the clumps and fecal solids removed.

Wheat: Wheat contains starch inside the kernels, which makes the product clump and exposes natural enzymes that neutralize odors. Wheat litter is dust-free, biodegradable, earth-conscious and made from a renewable resource.

Wood: This type of litter comes in pellet form and is a natural pine wood by-product. The pine scent is a natural deodorizer. Pine litter doesn’t clump. Wood litter is dust-free, environmentally safe, biodegradable and can be used for landscape mulch and compost with the soiled product and fecal matter removed.

Walnut-based: Made from walnut shells, this litter is absorbent, biodegradable, earth-conscious and made from a renewable resource. It’s available in quick-clumping and non-clumping formulas.

Recycled newspaper: This litter is made from recycled newspapers and thus is eco-friendly. It is available in pellet form and absorbs urine. It does not clump. Works well with deodorizer additives.

Silica-based gel crystals: Silica is a natural mineral that is highly absorbent and can be re-used by one cat over a period of one month. The crystals absorb all moisture and appear dry again. They’re also trackless and dust-free.

Should you decide to switch to a new litter, the best way to transition is to do it slowly over a period of seven to 10 days by adding small amounts of the new litter to the old until you have transitioned over completely. This way, most cats will adapt to the new brand without incident.

If your kitty is avoiding her litter box, try giving her a simultaneous selection of different litter types to choose from by putting down three or four boxes with different litters in each one and see if she prefers one over another. This could be a quick fix for a litter box problem.

Note: If your cat starts to suddenly go to the bathroom outside of her 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.

Because felines are finicky and possessive when it comes to litter boxes, a good rule of thumb is to provide one box per cat in the household, plus one extra, if possible.

Different Types of Litter Boxes

There is also a huge selection of litter boxes to choose from and it’s important to choose one that your cat is comfortable using. Whether you have a large adult cat or a tiny kitten, your litter box can never be too big. The way to gauge the correct size is to ensure that your cat can turn round comfortably inside without touching the edges. This is extremely important for adult cats because some breeds such as Maine Coons are bigger than others.

Rectangular open litter boxes are available in a variety of fun colors to match your home décor. Some styles have low entry points and high sides to contain litter inside the box when your cat digs and scratches. There are also designs that fit comfortably into a corner.

Covered litter boxes also come in a variety of styles and colors. Many are manufactured from materials that contain antibacterial properties to further control odors. Others have special carbon filters. Check the actual size of the elimination area inside a closed box to ensure it’s large enough for a big cat to circle around.

There is a growing selection of self-cleaning litter boxes that can be set to clean approximately 20 minutes after the cat has exited the box. These self-cleaning solutions rake the litter to remove the waste into a special cartridge that can be emptied on a weekly basis rather than daily. Timid cats may be scared by the noise of the cleaning mechanism even if they are in another part of the room when it starts raking. Consequently, such boxes are only ideal for very secure kitties.

High tech litter systems flush waste material and wash re-useable litter granules, meaning that feline pet parents never have to scoop. Such systems have to be attached to the plumbing system in your home. Again, it’s important to ensure that it’s positioned in an area where your cat is comfortable using it, such as a family bathroom.

Avoid placing litter boxes near noisy appliances such as a washing machine or dryer, which could spook your cat and cause her to avoid her litter box. Taking the time to select and maintain a litter box based on your needs and your cat’s preferences will go a long way toward avoiding negative litter box behaviors in the future and result in a happier, healthier life together.

How to Pick the Right Cat Litter & Litter Box

When welcoming a kitten into your home the litter box is an important part of the process. Cats can be pretty particular about where and when they go to the bathroom. By being mindful of your cats needs you can help make the transition easier for both of you. Setting up an appropriate litter box for your kitten will lead to a more relaxed and happy cat. A clean litter box is key to a happy, healthy kitten.

Choosing the right litter box

There are plenty of styles of litter boxes to choose from. You will want to choose one that will meet your kitten’s needs now and for the future. You will want to select a box that is made from durable plastic so it doesn’t absorb any odors and is easy to clean.

Uncovered boxes

Uncovered boxes give your kitten easy access to do their business. Some cats prefer to be able to see around themselves when they are going, so these are quite popular and affordable. You will want to be sure the edges are at least 3-4 inches high, so a scratching kitten doesn’t result in kitty litter spilling all over. Cleaning an uncovered box is easy, but odors may not be contained.

Covered boxes

The advantage of the covered box is that it provides shelter and privacy. This is good if you have to must place the box out in an open area. It also keeps dogs or children from getting into your kitten’s waste. When your kitten grows larger, it may be difficult to turn around in the confined space. There are also corner boxes and several other styles to choose from. Cleaning a covered box is also fairly easy, and odors are more contained.

Self-cleaning or automatic boxes

A self-cleaning or automatic box means two things: You don’t have to worry about daily cleaning, and more importantly, your kitten can enjoy a clean box each time it’s time to go. It is important to note that some cats can be a little skittish about this robotic option. If your cat and pocket book can handle it, this option is a true luxury. Cleaning is easy and odors may be minimized.

Picking the right type of cat litter

Litter is one of those items cats may have a strong opinion on, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different types and textures to see what yours likes best. Cat litter can be made with a variety of materials, each with their own properties and benefits:

Litter Type Description
  • Forms a Scoopable solid mass with moisture contact
  • Good odor control
  • Must be completely replaced at least monthly
  • Highly absorbent upon contact with moisture
  • Absorbs and controls odors
  • Made from absorbent silica gel
  • Made with natural ground corn
  • Biodegradable
  • Low dust
  • Naturally absorbs moisture and odor
  • Quickly clumps for easy scooping
  • Natural odor and texture that many cats prefer
  • Low dust and low tracking
  • Moisture and odor absorbent
  • Made with different materials like walnuts or recycled paper
  • Specially designed for multi-cat households
  • Extra strong and/or longer lasting odor control
  • Reacts quickly to control moisture and odor
  • Naturally moisture absorbent
  • Low dust and low tracking
  • Perfect for cats just out of surgery
  • Made with recycled post-consumer materials
  • Natural odor-control
  • Made with environmentally conscious lumber byproducts
  • Larger pellets mean low risk of tracking
  • Natural odor-eliminating enzymes from wheat
  • Softer than traditional clay litter
  • Biodegradable

Where to Place Their Litter Box

When selecting a location for the litter box, think about your kitten’s needs first. Kittens and cats alike prefer a remote and private place to take care of their business. Doesn’t everyone? Most importantly it shouldn’t be near where they eat or drink. Cats are instinctually opposed to this scent being near their food. Laundry rooms, private nooks or bathrooms are ideal locations.

“Be sure the place you select is accessible for your kitten at all times. This will prevent your kitten from “improvising” a new litter box if they are unable to get to their normal space. A cat door can ensure your kitten has access to the litter box even if a door is accidently shut.”

• Avoid high-traffic areas. Cats like privacy when they use their litter box.

• Avoid laundry rooms with noisy washers and dryers.

• Similarly, never place the litter box in a garage as the opening garage door and the arrival of a car will scare her and she may run out.

• If you have a senior cat, avoid basements or lower levels of the home. Older cats may suffer from arthritis and joint issues, making climbing stairs painful.

Follow these guidelines and your kitten will have a consistent and stress-free litter box experience. This can help keep your kitten happy and accident-free. When it comes to litter and litter accessories, there are many options to choose from. Your local Petco can help you find the accessories that are right for you.


One of the wonderful and unique characteristics that we love about cats, different from dogs, is that they take themselves to the bathroom. You simply leave a box with clean cat litter in it, in a bathroom or other easily accessible area of your home, and they go when they need to go.

Cats are by nature creatures of habit and prefer continuity, so we recommend that for the first few days new cat adopters try to use the same litter that was being used in the shelter you adopted from or from their previous home. Once your feline friend is comfortable in their new home you can feel free to transition them to other types and varieties of litter, as you like.

Cat Litter Can Be ConfusingOf course, when you walk down the litter aisle to pick up some cat litter, there are so many different brands and varieties to choose from its mind-boggling! How on earth do you know which type of litter to get, and most importantly what will your kitty use?

There are distinct differences between the various types of cat litter that we’ll review to help you find the best option for you, your home and most importantly for your new cat or kitten. Whatever cat litter you choose to try, we recommend that you gradually transition your kitty to the new product. If they won’t “go” in it, then revert to the previous product or try something else.
1. Clumping Clay Litter

This is by far the most popular type of cat litter on the market. Clumping clay litter is highly absorbent and “clumps” together when it gets wet. Its clumping property enables you to remove virtually all of the urine and solid waste left behind by your kitty, making it the most odor-friendly and extremely easy for you to use. It comes in scented or non-scented varieties. Clumping clay litter does cost more on a per pound basis, but that is balanced by its unique user-friendly clumping capability.

2. Non-Clumping Clay Litter

This is the second most popular type of cat litter purchased. Non-clumping clay litters are less expensive per pound, but are less effective in masking odor than clumping clay litter and are a bit more work to keep the litter box clean. Most of the time this type of litter is used by shelters since it’s lower in cost and they may be changing litter boxes multiple times a day. Since urine doesn’t completely clump with traditional clay litter, cat owners must discard the entire contents of the litter box when it becomes saturated, instead of just scooping out fully clumped balls of urine or solid waste.

3. Wood or Paper-based Litter

For the ecologically-minded there are environmentally-friendly cat litters made from natural recycled wood and paper. They begin as a hard “pellet” and as they absorb cat urine in the box, they breakdown into a congealed powder that can be scooped from the cat box similar to clumping litters. Besides being completely biodegradable and compostable, they are lighter in weight than clay products so are easy to handle, are virtually dust-free, track far less and have odor-masking qualities just like other litter products.

4. Grain-Based Litter

Also for the eco-minded, this type of litter can be made from milled cob corn, whole kernel corn, wheat or other vegetable-based materials and is one of the more natural types of cat litter. These litter products are available in a clumping or non-clumping form, are biodegradable, compostable, and home-friendly in that they are by nature low-dust and low-tracking.

5. Crystal Litter

Crystal cat litter is made of silica gels that efficiently absorb cat urine. This type of litter helps to control the odor and often doesn’t track out of the litter box as easily as clay litters, making cleanup easier. This type of litter needs to be changed once the crystals have reached their absorption capacity and the cat urine has started to puddle. The silica gel crystals can be harmful to your cat if ingested, so it’s important to ensure they’re not tracking crystals out onto their paws and then cleaning them.

6. Lightweight Litter

One of the downsides of clumping litter is that it’s extremely heavy to cart around. (Ever tried picking up a 40lb. carton of kitty litter at the store before? It’s no easy feat!)  A newer type of cat litter is lightweight natural clay litter, which can be up to 50% lighter in weight than regular clumping or non-clumping clay litters. The lightweight litter granules are larger than regular clumping cat litter, but still have all of the great features of both clumping and scented litter in a handy lightweight form. Lightweight may be the right weight for you, but its main attribute can be heavier on your wallet and can be a bit dustier than other litter products.

A Note on Scented vs. Non-Scented Litter

Most non-clumping clay and clumping clay litter brands are available in scented or non-scented varieties. Scented litter is popular because it helps to neutralize the odor of cat urine and solid waste and limits odor from seeping into other rooms in your home. As long as you regularly clean out your cat’s litter box droppings, you shouldn’t have an odor issue, but using scented litter can help even more. Be aware that some cats may not like the scent that’s pleasant to your nose, or can even be allergic to scents added to litter.

These are the six most popular types of cat litter. Each has its own pros and cons, and it’s important to decide what you think will work best for you as the cat owner, and most importantly for your cat!

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