Layne has worked in shelter medicine for over six years and likes to share her advice with fellow animal guardians.
The Best All-Natural Cat Litters
I just so happened to pluck a 6-week-old kitten up out of traffic one day on my morning commute. No joke, I jumped out of the car with my belt undone and threw a jacket on her. She was hissing and spitting, but 11 months later, she is now a member of our family.
I had worked in animal shelters for over six years and was really tired of clay litter. I saw what that nasty stuff can do to the air you breath . . . and I hate to think about how our cats breath particulates and track them on their paws throughout the house. I tried all sorts of natural litter on her. So here's what I found after reviewing paper pellet, paper-scented pellet, clay, crystal, wheat, and soft paper litter.
Our Natural Cat Litter Review
ExquisiCat Paper Litter No Scent
Post-Consumer Recycled Paper
Good but too large for a kitten to push around and weighted down after use
ExquisiCat Naturals Pine
Post-Consumer Recycled Paper Pellets; soda and zeolite
Hated it; pine trees are actually toxic to cats, so the odor likely turned her off
Clumping Clay Cat Litter or Silica With Febreeze
Bentonite or silica (standard clay)
The artifical scent gave me headaches; the dust irritated my eyes
ExquisiCat Wheat Litter
Love it! Biodegradable, great odor control (even though it's odor free); lasts a long time.
Soft Paper Bedding
Post-Consumer Recycled Paper
Too messy, not good at clumping, expensive
My Cat's Top Litter Choice
Why I Decided to Use Natural Cat Litter
I was in a position to train my cat early, so I tried out a few different types. I avoided clay-based litter at all costs since I had worked with it for six years and hated the "side effects" of it.
I switched around from recycled paper, scented clay-based (in a pinch—when I ran out; this type is used by my mom's cat), unscented paper, and finally wheat litter. I had used some of the other types of litter like the silica crystals in cat shelters before, but wheat ended up being the best overall. The benefits are as follows:
- My cat liked it (most important)
- Absorbs all odors REALLY well
- No dust particulates (which cause me headaches and make my eyes water)
- Clumps well
- Longer lasting (than even clay in my opinion)
- Biodegradable (good for the planet)
- Affordable (it lasts double the amount of time of conventional brands)
Check out the other types of litters I reviewed below. I listed them in the order that I tried them.
Tip: Go Green and Use Biodegradable Bags
Not only did I switch to biodegradable wheat litter (which is better for the environment), I also purchased biodegradable doggy poop bags to scoop and dispose of my cat's litterbox treats. I use the lavender-scented Earth Rated dog poop bags. I also use a covered trash can (small) that has a lid and a foot press for opening. It's easy—I toss it in, no odor, no trash. I am happy knowing that both the cat litter and poop bags will biodegrade. All of these items are fairly affordable and easy to use! Go green!
How to Switch Your Cat's Litter
If you are considering going green, we all know that cats can be super picky. If you change their litter on them, they may end up pooping or peeing on your bed (my cat peed on my bed during the use of the pine-scented type—likely out of protest). It is important to make this transition as gradual as possible.
How to Prevent Cat Pooping and Peeing in the House
Generally, active kittens (under six months) could really care less what you do with their litter. They are adaptable and too busy stalking and attacking things to care about what they potty in. So, in order to help them transition without any accidents along the way, consider mixing the two types first (the old and the new). Do this over the course of a week. Slowly increase the increment of new type little by little until you entirely phase out your old litter. This generally works well.
Tip: Let Them Potty in Peace
Remember to keep the potty space calm, do not change the position of the litterbox, do not startle your cat when they are using the litterbox, and reward them with treats after they have pottied where they should. Cats are smart creatures and like to cover up their poop. They generally take to litterboxes from an early age. We humans have to be smart when it comes to working with our cats because cats know how to get away with a lot.
Can I Flush Cat Poop or Litter Down the Toilet?
Do not flush cat poop down the toilet. We have a water problem, and flushing cat poop is further worsening our water issues. Even if you are a diligent pet guardian and deworm your cat regularly—supposing you have an indoor/outdoor cat—your cat can pick up parasites from its outdoor environments.
Cats can host the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. When you flush your cat poop, you risk flushing these spores down the toilet and further contaminating our waterways! According to a publication on MedLine titled "Sporulation and Survival of Toxoplasma Ggondii Oocysts in Seawater:"
" . . . . cat feces containing oocysts could be entering the marine environment through storm run-off or through municipal sewage since cat feces are often disposed down toilets by cat owners."
So there is your answer—DO NOT flush cat poo down the toilet!
Is It Dangerous for Pregnant Women to Clean Litterboxes?
Toxoplasmosis may be acquired if a woman eats raw, unwashed veggies, consumes raw meats, or ingests cat feces (yes, you have to ingest cat feces). Toxoplasmosis has to sporulate in the cat feces first over a few days—so the longer you wait to clean the cat feces, the higher the chance of accidentally ingesting and acquiring the parasite. Tips for reducing exposure:
- Dispose of poop the day of
- Wear gloves
- Wear a mask
- Wash hands and arms immediately after cleaning
- Don't let your cat up on your counters or near foodstuffs
- Don't bite your nails
Basically, practice decent litterbox hygiene and don't eat cat poo!
What If My Cat Has Wheat Allergies?
Is Cat Litter Bad or Dangerous to Cats?
I had decided to make the switch over to a more natural, sustainable, biodegradable litter after reading up on it. Most clay types contain sodium bentonite, an odor absorbing natural clay that forms hard masses in the litterbox. Because the clay debris is so fine, your kitty can actually inhale the particulates when it kicks it up the box. It's also harmful if ingested. Similarly, silica cat litter (containing sodium silicate) is easily inhaled as well by cats and humans. Yes, clay cat-based types can harm you and your cat's health.
Is Cat Litter Bad for the Environment?
Yes. Silica and bentonite are obtained via strip-mining—this means they won't biodegrade. In addition, we often dispose of the litter clumps in plastic bags and throw it in the trash! It is estimated that there are around 90 million cat-owners in the United States alone. That's a lot of cat litter and plastic bags!
Let Your Cat Decide
Ultimately, go with what works for your cat. I was fortunate enough to have a pretty flexible kitten. She only cares about hiding out in cardboard boxes, eating snacks all day, and tearing up the house. Never make a change that will cause unneeded distress to your cat, but do consider a positive change for the environment.
© 2018 Layne Holmes