Choosing the right type of litter is an important choice for every cat owner. Selecting the wrong litter may increase foul odours and dust, leave litter sprawling all over the floor, and can even cause your cat to seek out alternative, less desirable locations to do their business. 

There is no “one size fits all” litter to please every cat, so knowing the pros and cons of cat litter will help you determine which litters are best-suited for your furry little feline.

Smaller Bits of Litter

Most cats prefer litter with the small, soft granules, rather than larger, coarse bits. Think sand, rather than gravel. In fact, domesticated felines originate from desert climates, and their ancestors would bury their waste in the sand. Many cats prefer the cushioned feeling of sand-like litter as it is more comfortable on the paws.

Unscented Litter

Many litters come with a lovely scent, such as eucalyptus or lavender. This goes a long way towards masking the smell of litter box odours; something cat owners often struggle with. However, cats have very sensitive noses, and while scented litter may appeal to our senses, many cats will ultimately turn their noses up to a scented litter box.

Dust-Free Litter

While there is no such thing as an entirely dust-free litter, science has gotten very close. Many litters are 99.99% dust-free, which helps to keep your home clean while changing litter in the box. Cats are very clean animals, and do not want clay dust wafting up in their faces while doing their business. 

In today’s market, there are litters suited for all kinds of consumer needs and preferences. When it comes to choosing the right litter for your household, consider what features are important to you, and what features your cat prefers most. Oftentimes, there may be some experimentation involved, so trying different litters from time to time is not a bad thing at all! 

Types of Cat Litter Materials

Roughly 75% of the cat litters on the market are clay-based. Most specifically, bentonite clay. It’s soft, fine grain, and many cats prefer it. One of the major benefits of clay litter is that, while being very versatile, it’s also typically the most affordable. 

Not everything about clay-based litters are good, however. Bentonite clay is sourced through a process called strip mining, or surface mining. Strip mining involves bulldozing the surface of the ground to access the clay, ultimately decimating the environment. This not only uproots local wildlife due to habitat loss, it can contaminate delicate water tables. As an informed consumer, it is important to consider the impact of your purchasing decisions, even something as seemingly innocuous as kitty litter.

The second most popular type of litter is silica-based. Many pet owners report silica gel litters provide superior odour control, trap urine without needing to be scooped, are virtually dust free, and also last just as long if not longer than clay-based litters. 

The downside with silica-based litters is they are generally a less-affordable option, and do not clump as well as clay-based litters.

Other alternative litters can be made with pine, paper, walnut shells, wheat, and even corn. These litters offer a level of eco-friendliness that is unmatched. For example, alternative litter brands like Okocat only use reclaimed wood materials for their litters. These biodegradable litter options are relatively newer to the market, and are excellent choices for odour and dust control. 

Aside from being the more environmentally conscious choices, many alternative material cat litters can perform just as well as conventional clay-based litters, particularly those made from renewable sources like wheat and corn.

Clumping vs. Non-clumping

Clumping cat litter is ideal for most pet owners, as it is easy to identify and remove soiled areas. When wet, clumping litter will form balls, aka clumps, trapping urine and feces for easy waste removal. As a result, clumping litter is by far the most popular litter on the market today.

Non clumping litter can do an excellent job of controlling odours, dust, and cat waste. Silica gel litter is the most popular type of non-clumping litter. Some pet owners prefer non-clumping litter due to it’s affordability, and the ability to absorb large amounts of urine, among other things.

Odour Absorbency

Nobody wants a smelly home, especially one that smells like a dirty litter box. Resultantly, odour absorbency and control are arguably the most important criteria for pet owners choosing a cat litter. Cat waste has a very strong odour that can quickly spread throughout the home. Litters offer varying degrees of odour absorbency, usually from combinations of enzymes or chemical components. Some litters are also scented, to conceal odours even further. 

Tracking

No one wants cat litter spread throughout their home. It’s messy, uncomfortable to step on, and can carry foul odours, too. Litter can get stuck in the feet or on the fur and fall off as the kitty leaves the litter box. This is especially problematic among cats with longer fur. To reduce tracking, consider a coarser, larger grain litter as it is far less likely to get caught up in the paws.

When it comes to choosing the best litter for your household, there are many factors to consider. It is important to prioritize what’s most important to you, and with a little bit of experimentation, you can easily figure out which litter your cat prefers, as well.

About Brandon Forder

Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition and canine psychology. He has more than twenty-five years experience specializing in pet nutrition, behaviour, and healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon has a lifelong passion for helping people become great pet parents. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, web, and radio.

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