Lovelli has been living alongside animals since her teen years. She's had hamsters, bunnies, turtles, doves, fish, and, of course, cats.
This article is not about finding the perfect cat litter for your cat, if such a thing exists. It is not meant to serve as a shopping guide or a review. It does not compare one brand of cat litter with another. Also, my cat is not named Anderson Pooper.
Today's Natural Cat Litter Options
Most of the available cat litters are naturally based, with the most common favorite being clay-based. Except for silicon-based litters, which can be toxic if ingested or inhaled over a long period, our common options are relatively pretty suitable for indoor house cats.
1. Corn-based litters
Jean Broders of World’s Best Cat Litter told Animal Wellness Magazine that corn is ideal for cats and people who have “respiratory issues.” The material is 99 percent dust-free with no silica dust to breathe in, and the litter is totally digestible—so if the kittens lick their paws, the corn won’t harm them. For my two kittens at home, I use the YCSJPET Tofu Cat Litter. These corn litters last for a long time. The chunks will form visible urine clumps and the feces can be easily sorted out.
2. Wheat-based litters
Wheat is another common type of natural litter that is somewhat similar to clay in appearance, which is a great alternative if your cat is used to clay. It comes with odor control and clumping action. The common complaints against wheat litter is that it attracts all sorts of bugs and that after some time, from a few weeks to a few months, the odor control and clumping action weakens.
3. Pine pellet litters
The sawdust from lumber mills is used to make pine litters, which come in large and finer granule sizes. Some products don’t clump but break into sawdust when the urine touches them. Although they might be less expensive than the rest of the natural cat litter options, pine litters are not that easy to find.
4. Newspaper pulp litters
This is a type of natural litter made from recycled paper, which is a nice idea overall. If your cat is picky, he might not like to use it or might need to be retrained. The paper litters usually do not clump, and so it might make scooping a bit of extra work. Vets recommend this type of dust-free litter for cats recovering from surgeries because the larger grains won’t contaminate the healing wounds. Paper litters can be a bit costly and you might need to change it often.
Clay-based litters are the original cat litter. It replaced ashes used in litterboxes in the mid-1940s when the idea of using granulated clay came to Edward Lowe. His family was in the business of selling sand, sawdust, and granulated clay to absorb factory oil and grease and in machine shops. According to Lowe's autobiography "The Man Who Discovered the Golden Cat," a woman named Kay Draper stopped by his shop for some sand because she was sick of her cat tracking ashes from the litterbox all over the house.
Clay litters are easy to find everywhere, even at grocery and discount stores. Some are scented but the non-scented ones are still a favorite among the cats. They can pack up quite a bit of dust, but they track less. The non-clumping ones can’t easily be scooped.
6. Sand as cat litter
Cat sands are non-clumping and don’t have any odor control, but this type of litter is very easy to find in pet shops in Indonesia. The sand is made from crushed zeolite rocks with varying granule sizes. They are relatively cheap and are sold in large sacks, but they require changing very often, sometimes up to three times a day. The cat sand tends to be very dusty and might not be the safest choice for kittens who have the tendency to fit everything they can into their mouths.
How to Choose a Cat Litter
Cats and humans have been living together for thousands of years. One would think that by now we would’ve figured out which pet litters to get, but cats have their own preferences and unique personalities, complicating the selection process. Some cats are not picky and would be comfortable with any type of litter you hand them, but some others are not so kind.
I parent four adult cats I had adopted in 2017. My cats aren’t very picky, but they do have their preferences. On average, we use up to two sacks of dusty cat sand every week. That’s a total of 50 kg of cat litter a week. Often more.
My cats are now already used to the medium sized cat sands, but they would still use any other types of litter I get them. The cat sands we normally use are the non-clumping kind, which is thankfully one of the easiest to find. This type of cat litter contains quite a bit of dust and don’t absorb the liquid. The urines will eventually start to smell, so I would need to change it more often—at least once a day.
Shopping for cat litter can be challenging. The market is filled with every imaginable kind of cat litter, but in order to find out which one your cat will use you will need to do some experimentation. There are so many available types and brands in the global markets, but not all of these products might be present in your country of residence.
Some facts about your cat’s bathroom habit:
- The most popular choice of cat litter is “the unscented scoopable.” Out of all the ones that smell nice, most cats would prefer the litter that does not smell like freshly cut flowers (according to "Vet Street Magazine").
- Cats urinating outside the box is a more common problem than “middening” or defecating outside the box, which is a form of non-spray marking (according to "Animal Wellness").
- If your cat finds your choice of litter material unappealing, he may decide to stop using the litterbox.
- Place the litter box in a quiet corner with some privacy, and not near their eating areas. Cats don’t like mixing the two (according to "Pets Magazine").
- With the help of available cat potty training systems, it is now possible to train your cat to use the toilet properly.
Things to Consider When Choosing Litter Material
- Cost. According to Money Crashers, cat litter can cost pet owners about $165 a year, and most cat owners spend more on litter than food. That’s about 16.5 percent of what an owner spends the first year. It is very easy to settle with the cheapest bargain, but they are not always the best. Corn and wheat-based litters last longer, up to months, which could cut cost significantly in the long run.
- Dust. Some types of litters like clay and sand are heavy with dust, which can be a problem for both the kitten and the owners. They can be messy and leave tracking anywhere your cat’s paws touch the house. Most natural cat litters claim to produce very little to no dust. This makes them the best non-tracking cat litter option.
- Size of the grains. Although finer grains might be more appealing to your cats, they could be messier than the coarse litters. Litters with larger grains are also safer to your kittens, as they are less likely to swallow or inhale larger grains.
- Clumping vs non-clumping. Clumping ones are easier to scoop and will provide better odor control. They trap the urine into easily removable clumps. You might need to clean the litter box daily if you use non-clumping litters.
- Odor control. This is not only important for the owner, but for the cats as well. Just like their humans, cats also detest using a smelly litterbox. Litters with a bit of odor control is generally a good idea, but your cats might have a problem with the strong scent some litters give off.
- Flushing. Current natural cat litters offer the convenience of flushing away cat waste in the toilet directly, instead of putting it out in the trash as you normally would. This is an option for today’s cat owners, but one that must be practiced with caution. If your cat’s poop contains the T. gondii parasite, it might make its way to the oceans and harm the sea animals. Not all natural cat litters are flushable.
There are many things to consider when it comes to the perfect litter material for your pet, but the idea is you want the cat to be able to relieve itself in the easiest way while still maintain a clean and comfortable living area. Additionally, you want the cat to be able to dig and burry with ease.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Lovelli Fuad
Aussie Mama on March 03, 2019:
I have a wonderfully tidy neutered male cat and I use the clumping litter for him. He is a bit of a prude so his litter box is cleaned minimum 3 times a day. It really isn't a big deal to scoop it out that frequently and he is happier for it. I learned that he likes to dig in one corner of the box before going so that is the side that I make the kitty litter hill. The rest of the box has a thin layer of litter on the bottom. No accidents in our house so far.