Mo Rita is a mom, a teacher, a pet owner, and a self-proclaimed artist. She writes a humor blog, Fries With Mayo, about these topics.
Wood pellets, sometimes called wood stove fuel pellets or pellet fuel (and brand names like Feline Pine cat litter), can make a great replacement for regular cat litter and have many advantages over the traditional clay stuff.
Why Would I Use Wood Pellets as Cat Litter?
Why switch over?
- Clumping litters, if ingested when licked off paws, can create gastrointestinal obstructions
- Clay is obtained by strip-mining, which is bad for the environment
- Clay does not absorb odors well. Pine smells good. Everyone always tells me, "I can't even smell that you have cats!"
- Clay is heavy, and cleaning litter boxes can be a difficult chore. Wood pellet litter turns into a light, fluffy powder after the cats have peed on it. It's very light and easy to clean.
- Soiled clay litter cannot be composted. Scoop poop from wood litter, and you can use put the litter in compost or around plants you don't bond with often.
- Wood pellets are cheap. You can buy the wood stove type very inexpensively, or you can buy Feline Pine brand litter, which is a little more steeply priced but is still very economical.
- Poop can be thrown in the toilet and flushed (environmental advocates do not agree with this because it can spread Toxoplasma gondii to sea otters, but that is your prerogative). Wood pellets don't clog up your toilet in small amounts.
Step One: Choose a Litter
Purchase either a bag of fuel pellets or a bag of Feline Pine.
- The advantage of fuel pellets is that they are extremely cheap at hardware and farm stores. Fifty pounds of litter can be purchased for roughly $4. The pellets do not have a strong wood scent. They are seasonal, so some stores will only carry them in winter. Also, it may be difficult for smaller people to carry fifty pound bags.
- Feline Pine can be bought at pet stores and some Walmart or Target stores for about $15 for twenty pounds. It has a naturally strong, pleasant pine scent. The bags come in different sizes, starting at ten pounds, which is not too hard to carry.
Step Two: Get an Extra Litter Box
You will need an extra litter box. If you transition your cats to pellet litters too quickly and they don't like the texture of the litter and have no alternative to the litter, they may decide to create their own litter box in a location of their choosing.
You can start by placing about 1/2 inch of pellets (this is all you need, ever!) into the new litter box and placing the new box next to the old one.
- If the cats start using that one regularly, great! You're a million miles ahead already. Start transitioning their other litter box as mentioned below.
- If your cats won't use it, put the litter away and start transitioning the new box as mentioned below. Leave their regular litter in the old box.
Step Three: Transition the Litter Boxes (If Needed)
Remember that you want an alternative box for the cats as long as possible. If your cats are using the wood pellet only box, transition their old clay litter box. If they don't want to use the wood litter at all, transition the new box until they get the hang of it. When they do, you can switch their old one out.
- Fill the transitioning box with regular litter, a few scoops of dirty litter from the other box, and add one cup of wood litter. Mix it with a litter scoop.
- Each day, scoop out a bit of litter and add just a tiny bit more of the wood litter. A good amount to add is only about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup. Most cats need a LOT of transition time, and rushing it can push things back a lot.
- After a while, if you see the cats are using the litter box regularly and the litter is mostly wood, you can try switching it to 100% wood pellets.
- Observe carefully. If the cats backslide or stop using the new litter box, go back a few steps and add the regular litter back to the box. Start over until the cats are using the wood litter reliably.
Additional Tips and Notes
- I cannot stress enough how important it is to go slowly with adult cats. Kittens may transition easily, but adult cats tend to be very set in their ways.
- Some cats, especially declawed ones, may never want to use this sort of litter. Declawed cats may feel pain in their paws on pellets. An alternative for cats that hate this is to use Feline Pine's pine clumping litter.
- Keep the box smelling its best by removing poop daily and stirring the litter to keep it dry.
- Change the box completely when most of the pellets have dissolved into powder.
- There are many alternative litters on the market. If your cats dislike pellets, look around for different types.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Mo Rita (author) from IL on July 22, 2020:
I would go back to adding another box with regular litter and see what she does.
Is she declawed? Sometimes, this causes problems.
Has the other cat been bullying her at the litterbox?
Is the litter box very clean?
M Farooq on July 22, 2020:
My cats has been using wood pellet litter since months bot now she poops outside the box not in it why... Even if the box is clean she do this why can anyone help
Mo Rita (author) from IL on February 13, 2020:
Glad this helped! :) I'm a forever-Feline-Pine user!
Karen Turner on February 07, 2020:
Thanks for the information. It took 7 days and a little coaching for my tortie and its working out great now. Much better for her, me, my house and the environment. Love it.
Mo Rita (author) from IL on January 05, 2020:
I will honestly say I have absolutely no idea... Maybe he needs fiber in his diet? Maybe after a while he'll leave it alone? Good luck! Sorry I don't have any better ideas.
Stephanie on January 05, 2020:
I'm trying to switch over to these wood pellets, but my cat keeps eating them! I think he thinks it is catfood. Is this harmful?? I got "Country Road pelleted bedding" from rural King... What can I do so he doesn't eat it??
JS on February 13, 2019:
I just started using pine pellet litter this week for my elderly kitty, who is almost 19. Clay litter now turns to cement on her paws for some reason, and pine clumping litter was ending up as crumbly dirt on the furniture. I was skeptical about the pellets, but she adjusted right away, and the litter is now much easier to clean. Her paws are soft and clean again. Win-win. It's not very expensive, either, especially since you need so little and less gets wasted.
Mo Rita (author) from IL on October 31, 2018:
Great idea! I'm doing ok with Feline Pine for only two cats, but horse bedding is a great thought! I found wood stove pellets didn't smell as good as Feline Pine and got stinky way more quickly.
PokeyBug on September 29, 2018:
I recently decided to use wood pellets for litter. Thanks for the tips for transitioning!
With six cats in the house, we were spending around $15/week on litter, so I can foresee saving at least $50 a month, probably more, though I have a very big kitty who does giant pees, so I'm not counting on this 40# bag lasting more than 2 months.
I sent my husband to Tractor Supply for pellets, but that didn't work out, because he asked for wood stove pellets. They didn't have any of those just yet, but I was sure I could find something, so I went. I found a 40# bag of pine horse bedding for about $6, and it's working pretty well. Just wanted to give the heads up for what to look for in the summertime!
Alyssa on September 09, 2015:
Thanks a lot for this advice! I have eight cats and I just switched all of their litter boxes today to pine hoping they would just use it. Mostly they were upset with me. I ended up putting out a litter box filled with litter a few hours later...which they all immediately used.
Anyways, I'm going to try these steps! I hope I can get them to use it though because it smells great!
Katelyn Weel from Ontario, Canada on April 06, 2015:
Great article! I have used wood pellet litter from the hardware store in the past with young cats and they had no problems learning to use it. I just adopted an older cat and am starting to transition her over to the pellets now, hopefully she won't mind the change after using clay for 7 years.
I wanted to mention that the cat will track sawdust everywhere if you just change the pellets out once a week. The best is a sifting box, but a tidier method with a normal box is to reverse scoop (sift the clean pellets into a temporary container), dump out the sawdust, then put the clean pellets back in. This is easy and can be done every few days to reduce sawdust tracking all over the place. That stuff does get everywhere and clings to fabrics so can be hard to vacuum.
Esther on February 13, 2011:
Farm and Tractor Supply stores also carry pine pellets. They call it horse bedding pellets. They also carry clumping corn horse bedding. They are both sold in
40 lb bags and cost 50-75% less than retail stores for the same product.
Yena Williams from California on January 07, 2011:
MoRita, Thank you so much for the help! I will try out the woodstove pellets and see what happens. If she hates it then I will definitely come back to this hub and purchase the Feline Pine.
Rated up and useful!
Mo Rita (author) from IL on January 07, 2011:
Yenajeon - thanks for reading! Kittens are actually easier to transition over to pellet litter. The younger they are, the more lasting the changes are. You can look for Feline Pine on Amazon.com (see the links in this article). Target also carries it, as do pet stores. Hardware stores carry pellets but they are called "pellet fuel" or "woodstove pellets." Menard's, Lowe's and Home Depot may carry them. Make sure you get soft wood pellets and not hardwood.
Yena Williams from California on January 07, 2011:
Thank you so much for the advice. I am switching over to pine because I am allergic to cat litter!
My kitty is still a kitten so I hope the transition is not too difficult. What stores carry wood pellets? Hardware stores?
Ashley on October 27, 2010:
Great advice, slowly adding the wood pellet litter would probably allow the cat to slowly get accustomed. Thank you so much, I have a new kitten that I will be switching to wood pellets later on in life, but for now she uses normal litter for kittens.