How to Choose the Right Litter for Your Cat

How to Choose the Right Litter for Your Cat

Editor’s note: Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? This article appeared in our January/February 2017 issue. Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

While the name Kitty Litter, first registered in 1947 by its inventor Edward Lowe, may still be universal, the product has litter-ally been reinvented with litter options. Many products contain clay and other minerals, wheat, corn husks, coconut husks, cassava plants, newspaper, silica gel, wood chips, peanut shells, and orange peels. Decisions, decisions — where does a cat parent begin?

Well, the adjectives that advertising agencies have used to describe the various litters is an excellent guideline to help narrow down the selection. Words include lightweight, scoopable, absorbent, eco-friendly, dust-free (well, almost), flushable, scented, unscented, health-alert, and odor-free.

Simply pick the adjectives that best describe your needs and the main ingredient from the list of primary ingredients (clay, gel, corn husks, etc.), and you will know exactly what you have bought!


Black and white cat using litter box by Shutterstock

Of course, for it to be considered a successful purchase will still depend on feline approval. Cats are, after all, the end users.


The biggest trend is undoubtedly eco-friendly litters that help reduce the feline carbon pawprint because they are biodegradable, compostable, flushable (some of them), and don’t clog up landfills.

Natural litters are considered virtually dust free and don’t contain any chemical odor-masking agents and fragrances that are believed to cause or aggravate asthma and other respiratory issues in both cats and humans.

Odor control

This is listed as the No. 1 priority for cat parents and has come a long way, too. When it comes to clay-based litters in particular, new nontoxic and unscented odor-absorbing ingredients are being patented. New litter additives and filters for litter boxes also help to obliterate odors.


Maybe Grumpy cat is speaking to the cat litter here …

Weigh-less litters

Further change focuses on the weight of clay-based litters that some regard as heavy and cumbersome to work with on a daily basis. New lightweight clay litters on the market claim to be as much as 50 percent lighter and comparative in weight to other choices out there.

Litter containers are also changing from heavy plastic to lightweight bags with “spouts,” making it not only easier to carry but to pour, too.

And the way we purchase litter is changing. Online purchases are growing in their appeal simply because with the click of a mouse, the product arrives on the doorstep. No heavy lifting required.

Diagnostic litter

Perhaps the biggest development has been the advent of diagnostic litters that alert cat parents to potential health issues, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections, and diabetes. The litters allow them to effectively monitor the situation and ultimately refer relevant information on to the cat’s veterinarian.

Such litters can have a positive impact on a cat’s general health and well-being and save thousands of cats from losing their homes and landing in shelters as a result of undiagnosed medical issues, which are often incorrectly labeled as deviant litter box behavior.

Monitoring litters use assorted pH indicators that react to the introduction of urine and change color to alert to a potential problem. They can be used permanently for cats who have already been diagnosed with an issue to monitor the severity or on an ad hoc basis as a home wellness check.

Bring on the litter box


There’s a style and shape of today’s litter box to suit every household from corners to hoods in a variety of fun colors to match home décor.

Litter boxes have come out of the closet to become more acceptable on display. First, due to the improvement in odor control. Second, due to advice from behaviorists, who unilaterally believe that (especially in multi-cat households) open litter boxes are better. They offer the feline user a 360-degree view of the surroundings so he can see if another cat is approaching and plotting a box ambush and allow the cat to monitor general household traffic.

Along with this trend comes an increase in fabulous litter mats in a variety of colors and designs that effectively work to trap litter and prevent your cat from creating an indoor beach.

So what is next in this category? There are already automated litter boxes that scoop and even ones that flush. With the huge selection of litter currently available, perhaps the next big thing will be a small cat-shaped robot that tops up litter as the contents of the box depletes. And, it would be great if it could shake out litter mats, too.

Check the box

Adjectives are a quick and easy guideline to the type of litter and its best features. Words that tell all include:

  • Lightweight
  • Scoopable
  • Absorbent
  • Eco-friendly
  • Dust-free (well, almost)
  • Flushable
  • Scented
  • Unscented
  • Health-alert
  • Odor-free

About the author: Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle author. She has written three books. She is also the co-host of the web series Pet Product TV. Sandy lives in Southern California with her family, including cats Fudge and Ziggy. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Choosing the right litter for your cat

If you are considering adopting a cat or kitten you will need to be aware just how many styles and litter options are available. It is important when setting up your cat’s safe haven, you spend time finding the perfect litter for you and your kitty.

Cat’s preference

Wherever you are purchasing or adopting, your cat may already be accustomed to a particular type of litter. Be sure to take the time discussing with the previous owner what type of litter they use and your cat’s behaviour to it. Using this same litter is a great starting point even if you end up trying a different kind of litter later.

Cats are known to be clean and tidy animals. Although new kittens are often unfamiliar with how a litter tray works, it won’t take them long to learn. If you notice your kitten struggling then it may be time to try a new litter type.

Your cat’s preference may revolve around how sensitive their paws are, or they may just prefer one type of litter more than another.

Choosing litter

There are a number of different kinds of litter, but to keep things simple they can be split into clumping and non-clumping litter types. Clumping litter absorbs moisture more quickly. Cleaning this litter requires you to scoop and remove the clumps when they form. Although, the box still requires a thorough clean when necessary.

Non-clumping litter absorbs moisture more slowly. The litter also has ingredients assisting to eliminate any unpleasing smells. This litter needs changing and cleaning approximately once a week.

Choosing between a clumping or non-clumping litter is a great place to start. Pick something you know you would prefer to use before choosing a specific version.

Specific types

When choosing a particular style of litter you will need to consider the smell, ingredients, biodegradable ability and suitability for composting.

Clay litter comes in both clumping and non-clumping varieties. Clay litter is one of quickest absorbing litters on the market and is also economical. You can incorporate old clumped clay litter into your garden. The non-clumping variety can also reduce litter tracking throughout the house.

Natural litter is typically made out of corn, wheat, and pine. Typically natural grain litter is fully biodegradable and can help control odours. Pine litter uses only sustainable wood sources such as shavings. This litter is absorbent, biodegradable and has great odour control.

Crystal litter is made out of silica crystals and is non-clumping. There are many advantages to using this litter, as it is long-lasting, lightweight, non-toxic and has a high absorbency rate.

Paper litter is made purely out of recycled paper, is chemical-free and is super absorbent. A great feature of this litter is its suitability for composting.

Transitioning litter

When changing to a new litter type it is important you maintain a slow transition. A great technique is to leave the new litter box with the older litter. Do this until your cat is more comfortable using the new type.

Once you have found the best litter for you and your cat, treat your feline with a new homemade toy as a reward.

It’s Litter-ally Essential: How to Choose the Best Litter for Your Cat

Keeping Your Cat Happy

Whether you already own a cat or are planning on getting one, cat litter is an important supply. There are several types of cat litter to consider using. It’s better to be armed with information because your cat might reject whichever one you think is the best. If this happens, you should be ready to offer it a new option.

What to Look for When Choosing Cat Litter

If you don’t have any experience with cat litter, make sure to consider these factors when choosing one.

  • Smell: If cat litter has a strong scent, the cat may reject it. No matter how great it smells to you, don’t buy it. The smell should be light.
  • Texture: The most easy-to-maintain litters contain large elements. Think about the way you’ll be cleaning up if the cat throws the litter out of the box. Tiny particles will be flying all over your house. Bigger elements are easier to collect.
  • Price: Cats get used to the litter you start them off with (if they don’t reject it, of course). So if you are buying an expensive one, be ready to keep paying for it for years, or struggling with a replacement.
  • Clumping or Non-Clumping: Clumping litters absorb liquid and form large clumps inside the box, leaving the rest of the litter nice and clean. You can remove the clump, add some litter, and allow the cat to keep using the box. Non-clumping litters act like filters, allowing the liquid to pass through, removing the odor, and letting it dry.
  • Packaging: If you opt for non-clumping litter, you’ll probably need to buy large packages since it needs to be changed at least once a week. Check if the litter you choose comes in convenient packaging that you can lift and carry.

5 Popular Types of Cat Litter

Clumping Clay Cat Litter

This is the most popular cat litter in the world. It’s easy to use since you only need to scoop the clumps and feces out. You rarely have to replace the whole box. You need to keep adding small amounts of litter so a big litterbox can go on without washing for a few months.

Since you use only small amount, clumping clay allows you to save a substantial amount of money. Cheaper types of clumping clay litter may stick to your cat’s paws.

  • Inexpensive
  • Good odor control
  • Easy maintenance
  • Long lasting
  • Small particles (cats may throw them out of the box and they are hard to clean)
  • Rather dusty

Natural Clumping Cat Litter

Unlike clumping clay litter, this one is made of natural plant fiber. This eliminates the dust factor and produces a slight natural scent. As for the rest, it works just like its clay counterpart. In fact, you may even need to replace it less often. Natural clumping litter acts as a great odor filter. It’s easy to scoop out. Cats often like natural litters better than clay ones.

  • Natural ingredients
  • Good smell
  • Easy to replace
  • Not dusty
  • High price



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Silica (Crystal) Cat Litter

This is another popular type of cat litter. It’s a non-clumping option, which filters urine through the particles and allows it to dry. You scoop out the solids and replace the crystals about once a week, depending on the size of your cat. This litter offers good odor control. The best part is that you don’t need to scoop out large clumps of wet litter.

This type is not dusty. If some crystals roll out of the box while the cat is digging, they are easy to collect, and the crystals don’t stick to the cat’s paws.

  • Easy to replace
  • No clump scooping
  • Easy to clean up if spilled
  • Good odor removal
  • Needs to be replaced once a week hence higher price
  • Comes in heavy packages

Pine Litter

This is another natural litter option. It’s made of wood shavings and usually comes in the shape of pallets. It’s biodegradable and flushable, which substantially reduces the cleaning hassle. Pine pellets absorb liquid and turn into sawdust. You need to scoop out the sawdust after each toilet trip. Otherwise, it may stick to the cat’s paws and spread all over your floor.

This litter comes with a strong odor, which may turn some cats away.

  • Biodegradable and flushable
  • Good odor control
  • Lightweight
  • Moderately priced
  • Strong scent
  • Frequent cleaning with a slight learning curve
  • Biodegradable Litter

    There are several types of biodegradable litter on the market. Pine is the most popular option. The rest can be made of sawdust, wheat, corn, or paper. These litters are environmentally friendly. They can be flushed down the toilet.

    They are fairly easy to scoop. Many biodegradable litters produce a strong scent. Some cats may not appreciate using such a litter after they have gotten used to something else. However, the switch is possible by slowly adding one to the other over time.

    • Environmentally friendly
    • Flushable
    • Food odor control
    • Good absorbency
    • Frequent cleaning
    • Dusty

    Which Litter Is Right for Your Cat?

    Start with the litter you like the best. Clumping clay litter is the most popular product on the market today. You can start with this one and go from there.

    If you are looking for an environmentally friendly litter, consider starting with pine. Then you can check out other granular biodegradable litters, such as wheat and barley. Remember, eco-friendly litters are sticky and often cause tracking.

    How to Find the Right Litter For Your Cat

    There are hundreds of types of cat litter on the market, so how do you find the right litter for your cat?  There are a couple of factors to consider when picking out a litter type. It is important to find a litter that works for both you and your cat.

    Clumping litter or non- clumping 

    Clumping litter can be a good option for a lower maintenance litter box. With most clumping litter you can remove most of what your cat leaves behind.This helps reduce odor and lessens the frequency you have to totally empty and refill the box.

    There are non-clumping litters on the market, such as crystals and pellets. These litters do not clump around your cat’s excrement and cannot be scooped in the same way clumping litter can.These can be a good option for people who want to or need to dump their litter box every day. This may also be a good choice for people with small kittens, who may eat their litter.

    Scented or Unscented

    Most cats tend to prefer non-scented litter. However scented litter may be a good option if you keep your litter box in an area people hang out in or have multiple cats. Try different options and see what minimizes odor for you and keeps your cat using his box.


    If you have a cat who sleeps in bed with you, tracking is really important.Waking up to litter in your bed is not fun. There are some litters marketed as non-tracking, but you can use any litter that has larger grains or a pellet litter.

    Natural Litter

    Natural litters have become more common in the past few years. There are walnut litters, pine litters, corn litters and wheat litters. All of these can be good options. Some clump- like the walnut litter- but most do not. I also find that the walnut litter tends to be pretty dusty.In my experience, most cats do not seem to favor natural litter any more than traditional litter, it tends to be more owner preference.


    With so many choices on the market, choosing a cat litter can be overwhelming and hard to find the right litter. Be sure to try multiple litters to find the one your cat likes best, this will help encourage him to use his litter box.

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