Kitty litter has been around in many forms since we started having kitties live in our homes. In the beginning, we humans used ashes, dust or dirt in their boxes. In fact, when I was just a young little thing, smuggling stray cats in my room to care for them. I too used dirt in a box. Inventive I know, but it worked. Now I’ve far too much knowledge about parasites and their favorite form or transmission: POOP!
If there is dirt that came from the outside world in your litter box, you can bet there is something else alive in there. Something that could just come to call your guts home and make your life miserable and so we commercialized it and made it safer. By we, I really mean an awesome man named Ed Lowe. His neighbor asked him for some sand to use as cat litter one day, instead Ed gave them Fuller’s Earth, which is a clay material made from palygorskite or bentonite and it absorbed the wet and odor so much better that Ed named it ‘kitty litter’ and went around selling it. Ta-Da Tidy Cat was born.
Since then, many have jumped on the bandwagon to provide all sorts of litters to go with all sorts of cats and their needs.
For some cats you can buy them the cheapest litter you can stand and they’ll use it to their dying day without a fuss. But…
Cats are hunters. Not like dogs that are omnivorous like us, but obligate carnivores with digestive systems specifically designed for one thing – Meat. In order to become the great hunters they are, they have very highly developed senses of sight, hearing, smell and touch. What they put their paws on and their noses by is up to them. Some hate certain smells. Litters with any fragrance at all will turn them away. Big granules, little granules or pellets may set them off. Think the Princess and the Pea. Those soft paws will feel everything. Some don’t care, others just won’t stand it. No matter what you do, you will not be able to convince some cats to walk on your cheap litter. No road. It isn’t going to happen. So you adapt, or you clean up a lot of cat waste from inappropriate places.
Start with whatever litter you like best. If your cat likes it and you like it, great. Run with that! But mostly, you’re going to go through a few litters before you and your cat can agree on which is right for your household. Shelters will love any litter you can’t use. If you hate it or your cat hates it, donate it. Please.
In the beginning there was clay.
- Clumping Clay – Highly preferred by me at home, clumping litter is made of clay and hardens when it gets wet to make all cat waste into easy balls to scoop out and toss so you can keep the litter cleaner longer. The litter stays drier. Smells less and just is easier to maintain all around.
- Not recommended for kittens under 4 months since they might eat it for fun
- Not recommended for sick or elderly cats since it will clump in wounds and feet.
- Heavy, dusty and non-biodegradable.
- Non-Clumping Clay – This is clay as well so it absorbs the urine nicely, but it doesn’t stick together.
- Used in pet hospitals since it’s easier to keep off fur, cheep as dirt and isn’t used long term.
- The cheep factor is also great in the home and some cats just prefer the feel.
- Impossible to get all the urine and wetness out when you scoop the box and so it will smell more.
- You will have to dump the box and clean it more often as waste will stick to the sides.
- Heavy, dusty and non-biodegradable
Yup. That’s it. I became quite attached to clumping clay. My Dad uses the non-clumping kind for oil spills in his garage. I thought non-clumping was dumb… until I became a vet tech. I’m so sorry non-clumping clay, for all the mean things I said.
We use paper more than non-clumping clay in hospital. What kind of paper? well, Yesterday’s News that’s what, because it works and its recycled. Good for pets post surgery and good for the environment too! Sweet.
- Harder to clean urine out since it’s just soaked paper. We changed it enough that it wasn’t an issue but you will go through it faster than clay.
- Heavy, just a tad less dusty than clay.
- Price dropping, but still more expensive than clay.
Now there is a new commercial for a new type of kitty litter all the time. So now we must move into uncharted territory. Here are the other options that I will need to try. Clay just isn’t the best for the environment.
Silica Gel Crystal
These are basically like the ‘do not eat’ packets except formulated to be safe for cats. They absorb about 40% their weight, whereas clay just absorbs its own weight in liquid. There are packed with hollow channels that immediately absorb liquid and scent! Strangely enough, the liquid will evaporate out so the litter is better odor control and will last longer. You will have to remove solid waste but then just rake through it daily to allow for good evaporation.
- You’ll have to do full litter box change-outs since it doesn’t clump into nice balls for you.
- No dust to inhale, so good for asthma and respiratory issues.
- No dust to track around the house.
- It feels funny, not like the sand cats are used to so some cats avoid it.
- More expensive but if you are changing it less often, it may balance out. (30$ more than I spend for just under half the weight.)
This comes from lumber mill leftovers that are baked to get rid of toxins and sap. This litter just turns into sawdust when it gets wet so you scoop the feces and shake the box so the sawdust shifts to the bottom. When it is mostly dust, dump the box, clean and repeat.
This one is naturally scented as pine and covers urine orders quite well. The larger pellet size makes dust minimal and it is environmentally pleasing.There is some thought that since this is biodegradable, it is safer for your cat to ingest in small amounts, better than clay anyway.
- Less dust than clay.
- More expensive than clay, but cheep as far as natural goes.
- Less clumping capabilities so cleaning more often.
- Doesn’t control odors as well.
- Also listed as ‘Sm animal litter and bedding.’ So technically you could use it for your cat litter and your gerbil. Technically.
- Don’t like the intense sent of pine? Your cat might not.
- The larger pellet size might also put them off.
This is made from the shells of walnuts we’d otherwise just throw away so it is an economical purchased as well as being biodegradable.
- Seems to start slow on scent control but does a reasonably good job after that.
- Some clumping ability to help you keep the box cleaner longer.
- There are different varieties so dust control is equally variable, but lots of reviews said it kept their cats from sneezing, so may be worth a try to cats with respiratory issues.
- Some cats don’t like the feel on their paws.
I guess if you are of the anti-corn crowd, having your cat poop on it would be especially satisfying. Corn is cheep and easy to get ahold of so why not?
Look! My friend Arm and Hammer has a natural version! Though… no customer review yet… Hmmm… Worlds Best Litter seems to have the best reviews of the corn litters.
- Arm and Hammer must have good odor control but some reviews of the other corn litters didn’t like the initial smell of the litter so what their cat did to it didn’t matter.
- Some cats don’t like the feel of this on their paws.
- Clumping! Yay! Helps keep the box cleaner, longer.
- Corn tastes great… bugs might like to try it too. Keep it sealed up when not in use.
What happens to wheat that isn’t good enough quality to eat? Well, we give it to our cats to poop on of course.
- For being an easily renewable and plentiful source… it’s expensive!
- It might not be good enough for us to eat, but bugs don’t mind eating it. Keep it sealed-airtight!
- Easy on cat paws
- Odor control fades over time so change more.
- Dusty, dusty, dusty.
- Clumps decently.
I read a lot of websites preparing for this section and a lot of them were titled ‘best litter’ but they never actually stated what that was, which makes sense because it all depends on you, your wallet and your cat. When Cooper first came into my life we ran to the store and got the biggest, cheapest bag of litter we could get our desperate hands on.
Cooper didn’t mind and used it willingly but you could smell the litter all through our tiny place so we changed brands as soon as we ran out and we hated that too. Oh, and it was non-clumping…. Someone forgot to read the bag closely. BOOO!
The smell was just killing us, so I went with the master smell killers, Arm and Hammer. I was a little annoyed that their special feature was that they stop both urine and feces orders. I mean come on, that’s was litter is for! But I grudgingly took it home and haven’t stopped buying it since. It is heavy. Watching the lady scan a 40# box of litter does hurt my feelings a little but it works so I’m sticking by it. So… in our house… this is currently the best litter.
Litter is usually a process like this. Remember the goal is to make sure your cat always uses the box. If there is a litter they like but you don’t, let them keep it while you try different brands. This is also another handy reason to have multiple litter boxes. Have a box your cat can rely on and one you can experiment with until you find your ‘best litter’ and then stick with it. Note: Running out of litter sucks. If you can manage it, always have a backups on hand.
Whatever Brand or Type – Keep It Clean!
We of the vet world whine about cleaning your cat’s litter box a lot. Give us half a second and we’ll go on and on about it. This isn’t just for your cats health but for yours as well. Toxoplasma Gondii is the most well known parasite in cat waste. Pregnant women have feared it for years even though you’re more likely to get Toxoplasmosis from raw meats. Toxo aside, there are many other things lurking in cat waste like salmonella, giardia, worms, Campylobacter and more. Cats that go outside have higher instances of intestinal parasites but indoor only cats can get them too. Have your cats feces screened yearly, keep the litter box clean and wash up after cleaning the litter box. You’ve just helped stop the spread of disease AND increased the chances that your can will never use anything but the box to poop in.
**A clean litter box is the single, easiest way to make sure your pet always uses the litter box.**
Oh, and that ‘flushable’ tag on the bags? Please ignore it. Please don’t flush kitty litter.
Cat Litter Risks:
Everything comes with a prices. Everything has the potential to do harm. All we can do is be mindful of these things so we know what to look for, even when we don’t want to find them.
If you don’t know what a blockage is, GOOD JOB! Keep up the good work. An intestinal blockage is when a living being eats something either it cant digest or something it can in such large amount and it stops food from getting from getting out of the stomach or intestines.
This can be like treasure hunting in the Vet world when we have to go in surgically to remove a blockage. (What’s in there?!) But can be expensive and stressful if it’s your cat in surgery.
Some cat litters are prone to causing blockages, either because the cat (usually young kittens) just flat out eats it, or it sticks to their feet and they ingest it trying to clean up.
In small amounts, your cats digestive tract will normally take care of these things. In large amounts it can cause all sorts of havoc. Watch your cat around new litter to make sure they aren’t ingesting too much. Immediately discontinue any litter that is tasty to or sticks to your cat.
Do you have Dogs?
Despite the old jargon that cats and dogs don’t get along, I have seen them get along splendidly. They are some of the cutest friends. However, cat poop is extremely tasty to some dogs. Gate off litter boxes or make them otherwise inaccessible to the doggy friend, or it will be your dog, and not your cat, that gets an intestinal blockage from cat litter.
This also lets your cat eliminate waste in peace without doggy harassment. So it’s just a good idea all around.
Now… go clean your litter box! Yay!