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What Type of Kitty Litter and Box Should I Use?

I have owned cats for over 60 years. Between them and their vets, I have learned a great deal about how they tick.

Not all kitty litter is the same. With so many options, which one should you choose?

Not all kitty litter is the same. With so many options, which one should you choose?

Kitty Litter Is Not All the Same

Kitty litter is the best way to allow your cat a chance to relieve himself without going outside. But not all set-ups, boxes, or even the litter are the same.

This article can help you choose the best one for your cat and home environment. And I have broken down all of the different types of litter boxes to help you choose the right one since they are not all the same.

Different Types of Litter

Litter seems simple enough, right?

You just put down a box and fill it with something the cats can use to cover their business. But that is not really the case. There are as many different types of kitty litter as there are kitties. And the name brands are trying to catch your attention with all of their newest creations. These are some of the more popular types of kitty litters:

  • Scoopable
  • Non-Scoopable
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • With or Without Scent
  • Dusty or Dust Free
  • Large or Small Granules
Kitties are so cute!

Kitties are so cute!

Scoopable or Non-Scoopable

Scoopable kitty litter has been designed to absorb moisture to make lumps that can be easily sifted out with a litter scoop. It is, in my opinion, the best type to have. It can generally cover most odors and have different scents and granule sizes.

The non-scoopable litter does not form lumps. Instead, it can be used to bury the poop but will collect the urine at the bottom of the box.

Scoopable litter can be scooped daily with just a little added to the box each time to refresh the scent. Changing the scoopable litter is still a good idea, but it won't have to be done that often since the undesirable waste is scooped out each day. Non-scoopable is nearly impossible to scoop and will need to be changed out often. This change includes dumping all of the litter and then scraping the urine from the bottom where it has soaked into some of the clay.

There are good reasons for either litter:

  • Some breeds of cats can get blocked sinuses from the scoopable dust that they sniff when scratching or doing their business.
  • The non-scoopable litter will not, in most cases, cover the odor of the waste.
  • Many of the scoopable litters have fine dust that makes surfaces even dustier than before you started to use the litter. (Note: some will say things like dust-free or less dust, but because the litter is so fine, dust is still present.)
  • Non-scoopable litters mean cats will be walking on top of their own waste while they dig to do their business. This spreads the bacteria of the waste everywhere they walk until they clean their feet.
This breed may have problems with scoopable litter.

This breed may have problems with scoopable litter.

Environmentally Friendly

These litters are generally made from natural materials such as sawdust, hay, sand, and newspaper, just to name a few. While these litters work just as well as any other non-scoopable litter, they do not hide the smell or soak up the urine as well. Your cats will walk on the waste as soon as the box is used the first time and it gets worse from there.

If you want to use a natural litter, you might want to add baking soda to the mix to help with the smell. Keeping the litter box in an isolated room that the cat has access to will also help with the smell by keeping it in the one room until you open the door to clean it. This litter is good when:

  • training a kitten,
  • an ill cat that you need to collect a waste sample from,
  • or you will be disposing of the waste in a natural setting.
Think this would make a pretty litter box? I do.

Think this would make a pretty litter box? I do.

With or Without Scent

All litters can, and often are, scented. However, cats don't always like a strong perfume smell. It can make their eyes water or even make them sick. Some will be so badly affected that they will avoid the box and use your tub or pillow instead.

I try to use only 'light scented' litter or no scent at all. But I counteract that action by using baking soda to help absorb the scent of the cat's waste. It works well for me and usually doesn't cause any problems with the cats.

Adding baking soda to your kitty litter can help absorb odors.

Adding baking soda to your kitty litter can help absorb odors.

Dusty or Dust-Free

It is hard to keep a kitty litter completely dust-free since they are made with clay or sand. The granules rub together during manufacture and shipping causing the particles to break up even more. This causes dust even in the dust-free types.

But there is a benefit to using the dust-free types because you don't breathe as much dust when pouring the litter into the box, or when scooping the waste out of the box. If your cat is prone to sinus blockage, a dust-free litter might help.

Large or Small Granules

The size of the granules is generally a preference issue. The scoopable is usually smaller than the non-scoopable, but the generic is generally larger than their name-brand counterparts. There is no problem with whatever type you use, but there are some exceptions.

  • Older cats need softer litter because of arthritis.
  • Declawed cats are in constant pain and require a softer litter.
  • Some breeds, especially those with smaller sinuses, can be made ill if their sinuses get blocked by the dust of their litter.
  • Some animals simply prefer one type or brand over the other.

A good way to test which will work best for you is to get a small bag of one type and use it for a few days. Or, try different types at the same time in different litter boxes and the litter used the most is the one they like.

What I Recommend

I generally use scoopable kitty litter; generic is the cheapest and does create fairly strong clumps. However, name brands add that light scent and better adhere to the poop. I suggest mixing half generic with half name brand to get the best of both types.

Some name brands that I like and use are Tidy Cat, Fresh Step, and Arm and Hammer. The store brands are pretty much equal in their quality and often cheaper than name brands. I also recommend that you scoop the box(es) daily for the best results.

"Didn't clean the box again?  Really?"

"Didn't clean the box again? Really?"


Of course, you also need a kitty litter box, and there are many types and sizes of those as well:

  • Covered: This is usually good for a single cat, but with two or more cats, you might find that one of the others is cornering your cat in the box, and some cats don't like the small enclosure.
  • Uncovered: Getting an uncovered box can mean kitty litter on the floor, but it is much safer for a house with multiple pets or ones that don't do well in tight places.
  • Deep with High Sides: This helps to keep the litter inside the box even when the cat scratches the litter. Be sure your cat can easily get into a high box. Not recommended for kittens and older arthritic cats.
  • Shallow: This box has low sides (or no sides) to it which allows easy access for the cat. This is probably the best choice for kittens, older cats, new cats coming into the home, and cats who suffer from kidney or bladder trouble.
  • Larger Size: This box would best suit the larger breeds of cats (or just the larger cat) but be sure your cat, large or small, can climb in without difficulty. The larger size allows a larger cat to move around as he makes his choice of corners.
  • Sifters-Sifters: These are litter boxes that have an insert that goes into the box before the litter. After your cat has done his business, you carefully remove the sifter and allow the clean litter to sift through the holes. Any cat can use these types, but I find them to be heavy and the sifters hard to empty and get back under the litter.
  • Odd Shaped-Boxes: These come in different shapes to fit in corners or up against a wall. Cats are sometimes nervous to use oddly shaped boxes, so be sure to keep a regular one out until your cat gets used to the odd one.
  • Furniture: Many companies offer litter boxes that have been made to appear and function like furniture: for example, a side table or bathroom cabinet. These may also cause a bit of a fuss over the covering, so be patient.
  • Electronic: There are companies, such as Tidy Cat, that offer litter boxes that will clean themselves. They are a bit pricey, but they do, for the most part, work. However, you will still have to empty the container where the box deposits the litter.

Cats are ruled by scent and territory. The more cats you have, the more challenging things can get. To keep some of that aggression tamed, be sure to have one litter box for each cat plus one that can be neutral. This means the cats have many choices and can still go even if another cat is doing his business.

Don't use covers, because they can corner each other inside. This will cause the cat to avoid the box and use other areas to do his business.



Kitty Litter Recap

Match your cat and your box to the number and type of cat(s) that you have. Some cats are picky, so try several before you settle on one. Smaller breed cats and kittens will need to have a side over which they can jump or crawl. Older cats also have trouble getting into a box because of arthritis. Cats with kidney disease should have a lower-sided litter box to make it easier for them to use.

Cats can be noisy, bothersome, bratty, and defiant, but they are the absolute best companions you can have. They listen without a word of interruption, they purr you to sleep, and you don't have to take them for a walk (unless you want to). But the best part is they always seem to know when you need them.

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.

© 2020 Cheryl Simonds

I would love to hear from you.

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on June 15, 2020:

Good Idea, it keeps the strong scents going out with the trash.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 13, 2020:

We have always used the scoopable litter and cleaned it daily or sometimes twice daily when we had two cats at the same time.

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on June 11, 2020:

Thank you, I hope it gets around and helps people.

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on June 11, 2020:

I am glad you liked it, I wanted to try to help those who aren't quite sure what is best for them and their cats.

Cheryl Simonds (author) from Connecticut on June 11, 2020:

Thank you.

Sp Greaney from Ireland on June 10, 2020:

This is something all owners of indoor cats will have fretted over. The choice of products out there are unreal. Very useful information here for all cat owners.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on June 10, 2020:

This is a very good article. I have had cats throughout most of my life. I have always used scoopable kitty litter and never had any problem with it. Thank you for all of the information you gave us.

quicksand on June 10, 2020:

Nice katt!