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Cat litter is often something we don’t think much about. But choosing the right cat litter for you and your kitty can also be healthier for you, your pet, and for the environment.
Clay-based cat litter may be the most common—and therefore the most affordable and widely available—choice on the market, but it is not considered good for the environment (see the FAQs below). In addition, clay cat litters often have added silica which generates dust. This dust can irritate asthma sufferers when inhaled by you or your cat. The dust generated during cleaning or use by your cat can get deep into the lungs and may be difficult to expel, causing respiratory problems and in rare cases, lung cancer.
So, perhaps one of the best choices you can make for your cat, the environment, and your lungs is to choose a biodegradable cat litter. Alternative litters are made from a variety of materials alone or in mixtures including paper, corn, walnuts, wheat, wood, pine, and grass.
Here are the best eco-friendly cat litters:
Best Overall:World's Best Cat Litter Multiple Cat Unscented
To earn the top overall spot, the litter must be absorbent, available, reasonably affordable, sustainably produced, and capable of preventing odors. Corn-based cat litters are made from finely-ground whole corn kernels or ground corn cobs. The cobs are more environmentally friendly because a waste product is being given a new purpose, and they biodegrade.
The magic of this brand is that it is made from whole-kernel corn compressed into tight granules that expand to absorb and clump quickly to trap odors. To accomplish that odor control the litter includes a proprietary “wood fiber” free of chemicals, additives, or preservatives.
We like that it has no dust and no obvious smell. It clumps well so it’s easy to scoop. Made in Iowa, we also love that World’s Best gives back. The company reports that it has donated more than 662,000 pounds of litter to rescue cats in need.
If you’ve never tried an alternative litter, this is a great place to start. It’s carried affordably in a lot of major stores as well as health-conscious pet stores.
"My friends and I’ve used World’s Best Multi-Cat Unscented Clumping Corn Cat Litter for a couple of years now. I switched to non-clay, non-silica cat litter because a family member suffers from mild asthma and I have a cat with just one working lung. Low dust and non-toxicity were high priorities for us all. My cats are long-haired and so they track it around more than I’d like. But a large mat under the box helps with a quick clean." ~ Author Lorraine Wilde
Best Budget:Feline Pine Original Non-Clumping Litter
Non-clumping cat litters tend to be more affordable, although you’ll likely need to change them more often than the clumping kind. Non-clumping litter is absorbent and holds odors well.
Feline Pine is one of the more affordable brands: A 40-pound bag is around $15 to $20. Rescue agencies and shelters that are on tight budgets like it also for its smell-reduction without scents or perfumes. Feline Pine uses sustainable kiln-dried shavings reclaimed from lumber production so no new trees are killed to make it.
Perhaps the best part is the litter is 100% pine shavings. It has a naturally fresh pine scent while also being lightweight and gentle for cat paws. No additional ingredients also means no added toxins, allergens, or other preservatives. It can be found at most major pet retail stores and even many grocery stores.
"When I adopted my cat from the shelter, Feline Pine was the litter she was already using so we stuck with it. The pine smell is pleasant but not overpowering, and it’s easy to know when to change it because you can clearly see that all the pellets have broken down into a sawdust consistency." ~ Margaret Badore, Senior Treehugger Editor
Best Recycled:Fresh News Recycled Paper Litter
Like walnut shells, corn cobs, and some wood-based litters, this paper cat litter is made from a product that would otherwise be thrown away. Fresh News Recycled Paper cat litter is made with 100% post-consumer paper from recycling centers. In fact, the company created a community recycling program called PaperGator where non-profit organizations, primarily churches and schools, get paid for collecting paper products both internally and from their communities.
Recycled paper litter is safe for animals and can be composted so it doesn’t have to end up in the landfill, although cat waste must be composted with care so that the resulting soil is never applied to food crops.
Fresh News claims to be almost three times more absorbent than clay litters, so it lasts longer. The soft, dust- and allergen-free pellets retain their form when they get wet but they don’t clump so you’ll need to change it more often than clumping litter.
Made in Michigan, this litter has added baking soda to control odors.
Used litter can contain the parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis that is especially dangerous for a developing fetus. That's why it's important not to mix cat waste with other compost.
With any cat litter, pour in a ventilated area to reduce your exposure to dust, and always wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning up.
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Best Wood:Ökocat Super Soft Clumping Wood Unscented Cat Litter
Wood litters consist of cedar, spruce, or fir in lightweight chip or pellet form. For cats recovering from surgery or an injury, wood cat litters work well to keep wounds and incisions clean.
Ökocat Super Soft Clumping Wood Unscented cat litter is a great choice because its softness will appeal to your sore kitty and their delicate feet. Made from sustainably sourced, natural wood fiber that has been responsibly rescued, its texture is similar to clay.
Ökocat removes excess dust so you and your cat can breathe easily. The natural wood fibers absorb urine and prevent the formation of ammonia, the substance that causes the strongest odor in your cat box.
Best Walnut:Naturally Fresh Cat Litter
Walnut cat litter is made from crushed walnut shells and fibers, but not the nut meat. If the shells are sustainably sourced, they will come as a byproduct from walnut growers or packagers that would otherwise throw the shells away. So, it’s a win-win. It has a pleasant smell when it first comes out of the bag, but the scent doesn’t remain for long afterward to scent the room.
Naturally Fresh Quick-Clumping cat litter is made from 100% annually renewable, organically-grown, non-GMO walnut shells from California. It forms tight scoopable clumps within 15 minutes. The manufacturer claims that this litter is so absorbent, one bag will last as long as three bags of clay-based litter. Naturally Fresh is dust-free and doesn’t stick to kitty paws so it's low tracking.
An added bonus is that Naturally Fresh is manufactured in a 100% solar-powered plant. Because walnut litters are not as common as clay-based litters, you may not find them in all stores.
This Quick-Clumping variation is a fine ground recommended for one or two cats. This brand also comes in Multi-Cat Unscented, Multi-Cat Ultra Odor Control, Non-Clumping Unscented Pellet, and Scented Clumping cat litter in Alpine Meadow and Herbal Attraction fragrances.
Best for Odor Control:Pioneer Pet All Natural Clumping Litter
For some, the choice of which litter to use is all about odor control—especially if you have multiple cats and litter boxes at home. We recommend Pioneer Pet brand SmartCat All Natural Grass cat litter. We found there are no negative smells even when deposits have been made. It also clumps well—the bag claims it clumps better than clay—so it’s easy to scoop. This litter is also great for multi-cat households because it doesn’t track, saving you from the extra cleanup.
SmartCat is made from 100% organic non-GMO grass seed that is chemical-free and 99% dust-free. That also means it’s a renewable resource. The moisture is removed from the seed leaving behind a high-starch, lightweight, and fine-grained litter that is quite absorbent and locking in odors. Containing no fragrance, this litter is biodegradable.
Grass cat litter is a newer concept so you won’t find it everywhere. That means it can cost more than some of the other non-clay/non-silica litters. Rarely, cats can be allergic to grass, so keep that in mind as you try it out.
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If you’re just venturing into non-clay and non-sand cat litters, World’s Best Multi-Cat Unscented Clumping Corn Cat Litter (view at Walmart) is an excellent place to start. Its price, performance, and clumping ability have made it a favorite.
What to Look for in Cat Litter
As with any cat litter you buy, consider whether you prefer clumping or non-clumping types. Clumping is easier to scoop, but finicky cats tend to prefer the less expensive non-clumping litter that holds greater volumes of urine and odor but must be changed more often (usually once per week if you scoop daily).
Most cat litters will mention whether or not they are flushable. But the truth is, if you can avoid it, it’s better if you don’t flush your cat litter. Flushable cat litters don’t expand as much as non-flushable types. Both kinds are capable of clogging your pipes if you ignore their specific flushing directions.
But even without the risk of plumbing problems, it’s still a negative for your municipal sewage treatment facility or your septic system. For your city’s system to treat what you flush, they’ll need to separate the cat litter solids and send them to the landfill anyway. By skipping the flush, you’re saving them the trouble and reducing the sediments sent to the treatment plant.
If you are on a home septic system, flushing your cat litter is just adding excess organic solids to your system. That forces it to work harder to process your waste. That can upset the balance in your system and result in an increased need for service. Instead, find out if your local compost facility can accept cat litter, or if you want to compost at home, set up a dedicated kitty compost pile.
If you must flush, check the bag to ensure the litter is flushable. Those that are will include recommendations and flushing limitations that are worth following. You’ll want to avoid anything that expands when it gets wet.
Pellet size is also something to consider. If you have a long-haired cat, litter with a small pellet size is discouraged. It can stick and mat in their fur. Many litters will indicate on the bag whether or not it is recommended for long-haired cats.
For those with more than one kitty, consider litters designated as “multi-cat.” They tend to contain more odor neutralizers like baking soda to prevent odors on contact. Clumping litters are often better for multiple cats because they can be quickly scooped each day and need to be changed less often. Most experts also recommend one box for each cat plus at least one additional litter box.
Can I make my own cat litter?
Yes! There is a wide range of materials that can be used to make Do-It-Yourself (DIY) cat litter. Be aware that each material has different properties so, for example, some may be quite absorbent but not contain odors and vice versa. Be sure to look at the pros and cons of each type so you can pick the one that’s right for you. Most recipes rely on baking soda as an ingredient to help control odors, but you can also try green tea.
Newspaper cat litter is a great option if you’re still getting your local paper because you’re repurposing something you’ve already purchased. But you can also find simple recipes online that incorporate one or more of these biodegradable materials:
- Dried wood chips, shavings, sawdust, or animal bedding (cedar, pine, etc.), but avoid fresh cedar as it contains natural phenol oils that are toxic for cats
- Whole corn kernels
- Steel-cut oats
- Ground wheat berries
- Chicken feed
- Rabbit food (alfalfa or Timothy grass) pellets
- Coconut or walnut shells
- Wood pellets (stove fuel or livestock bedding)
Is clay cat litter biodegradable?
The clay used in cat litter is a natural soil component made of minerals—either calcium montmorillonite or the clumping sodium bentonite. Neither type breaks down further in a landfill or your compost pile. So although both are naturally occurring, they are not technically biodegradable.
Is clay cat litter eco-friendly?
Clay cat litter is not considered good for the environment because it is often not sustainably sourced. Although clays are naturally occurring soil minerals, and therefore better than synthetics, they must be mined. The process commonly used—strip mining—involves the removal of all trees, plants, and topsoil which then results in erosion into nearby waterways. Most strip mines are so destructive that they cannot and are not repaired or remediated.
Often, these clays are strip-mined from the Southern United States, Montana, Wyoming, or South Dakota. Some clays may also be strip-mined from foreign countries like China and the Ukraine.
Are silica cat litters eco-friendly?
Many clay cat litters have added silica, which generates silica dust.Silica is a type of sand. It is also known as silica sand, silica gel, or crystal cat litter. Silica is made from mined quartz (silicon dioxide). Like clay, it is made from naturally occurring elements that weather slowly and will not technically biodegrade.
Some companies are marketing it as a better alternative to clay cat litters because it is non-toxic, technically reusable and it doesn’t generate harmful dust the way clay does. It also is better at neutralizing odors and lasts longer than clay cat litter. Although the silica mining process is less damaging than clay strip mining, the process still causes damage to the environment. It also requires a lot of processing and energy to produce. The litter will still sit in the landfill on a geologic time scale and is not sustainable long-term.
What is the best way to dispose of biodegradable cat litter?
So glad you asked! There are many ways to dispose of the litter, each with advantages and disadvantages. Check out this Treehugger article for the pros and cons of the greenest options.
Why Trust Treehugger?
Lorraine Wilde has had at least one cat companion in her home for the past 35 years. Two of her cats lived into their early twenties. She has only the highest of standards for her best friends. Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed, and environmentally conscious choices to protect their families, their pets, and our planet.
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Which cat litter is the healthiest? ›
- New. Only Natural Pet. Non-GMO Grass Seed Cat Litter.
- Weruva. Tea Potty Cat Litter.
- Feline Fresh. Natural Clumping Pine Cat Litter.
- World's Best. Corn Based Cat Litter.
- Dr. Elsey's. Cat Attract Cat Litter.
Wood-based cat litter shortage
The nation's cat owners are being affected by a shortage of wood-based cat litter caused by rising energy costs and the Ukraine crisis.
- Compost your cat's litter safely. You can't compost clay litter, but most other kinds break down beautifully. ...
- Bag it in a biodegradable container. Scoop up your litter into a biodegradable bag and toss it into your garbage.
The Best Way to Dispose of Cat Poop
To dispose of your pet's waste, scoop out all waste clumps, double bag them, and place them in a trash can outside. If you want to minimize your environmental impact, you can use a biodegradable poop bag, which will improve the chances of the waste properly breaking down.
|Best Overall||Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Unscented Ultra Clumping Cat Litter||4.4|
|Best for Multiple Cats||Fresh Step Scented Multi-cat Cat Litter||4.6|
|Best Clumping||Purina Tidy Cats Instant Action Clumping Cat Litter||4.6|
|Best Biodegradable||Purina Yesterday's News||4.5|
If you clean the litter box daily, you might only need to change clumping litter every two to three weeks. If you notice an odor or if much of the litter is wet or clumped, it's time for a change. Scrub the box every time you change the litter.How often should you completely change cat litter? ›
How Often Should You Change the Cat Litter? If you use a clumping litter, it's best to scoop the box daily and change it out completely at least monthly. If you have more than one cat, it may be best to change the cat litter more often, every 2-3 weeks.What happens if you don't replace cat litter? ›
UTI And Other Bladder Problems
One of two things will happen: they'll go somewhere else, or they'll hold it in until the box is clean. If they do the latter, that can lead to some serious issues, like a UTI, bladder infection, or kidney problems. For humans, bladder issues are obnoxious, but not too serious.
Why are there cat food shortages in 2022? There are two main factors that are affecting the current availability of cat food, especially canned food: aluminum shortages and ingredient shortages.Can you sprinkle baking soda on cat litter? ›
Add baking soda to the litter: Surprisingly, baking soda is a great all-natural deodorizer that is both safe for cats and can help manage the litter box smell. By mixing a little bit of baking soda with the litter, you can help absorb any urine odors also.
How can I keep my house of cats smelling free? ›
- Use the right cat litter. There are dozens of brands of kitty litter for sale today. ...
- Clean the litter box frequently. ...
- Use a covered box. ...
- Change diets.
Also, choose the right spots for your litter boxes. Don't put a box in a small, enclosed area, like a tiny bathroom or closet, which will concentrate litter box odors. A larger, well-ventilated area is best.Can you flush cat poop down the toilet? ›
Why You Should Never Flush Cat Poop Or Litter. Even though it may seem like a good idea, you should not be flushing your cat's litter or feces down the toilet. It can cause havoc on your plumbing, clog pipes, and damage your septic system.What can I use instead of plastic bags for cat litter? ›
- Compost It. ...
- Bury It. ...
- Biodegradable Bags. ...
- Paper And Newspaper. ...
- Flush It. ...
- Repurpose Non-Recyclable Plastic Bags. ...
- Collect It.
Whatever litter you use, to avoid spreading Toxoplasma and other dangerous organisms, never dump it outside. Place it in a plastic bag, tie it shut, and put it in your regular garbage. A biodegradable bag will give it a better chance to break down in the dump.Can you put biodegradable cat litter in brown bin? ›
Many pet litters are entirely compostable - check the packaging to ensure that the contents are 100% compostable before placing in your brown bin. If the litter is not labelled as entirely compostable dispose of the waste in your landfill bin.How long does it take cat waste to decompose? ›
Cat poop takes around two years to decompose entirely.
Using the cold composting method, it will take at least a year to compost leftover cat litter. Hot composting might take as little as a few months, but you'll have to put in a bit more work.
Typically, any litter that contains clay is not safe to flush because of its clumping properties. If the bag or box doesn't say flushable, don't take a chance. The best flushable litters absorb small amounts of moisture but break down when soaked. These include pellets made of natural wood, newspaper, and corn pulp.What litter does Martha Stewart use? ›
World's Smartest Cat Litter Brand, PrettyLitter, Partners with Martha Stewart.What cat litter do breeders use? ›
Breeder Celect Recycled Paper Cat Litter is the litter choice for many cat breeders and there are many good reasons! Available in 20 and 30 litre sizes.
Is there a cat litter that is actually dust-free? ›
Boxiecat litter is a new brand getting a good reputation as a premium litter that's dust-free, as well as free of dyes and bleaches. (It's available scented and unscented). It's a more expensive litter, but worth trying if you or your cat have aversions to other litters.Why do cats use the litter box right after you clean it? ›
The Obvious Answer- He Just Prefers a Clean Box
The answer is probably exactly what you think it is- because it's all fresh and squeaky-clean. Seriously, it's that simple and that obvious. Just like humans, cats prefer to do their business someplace clean.
Washing a Litter Box
The best way to clean a litter box is to dump the entire box and soak it in hot water for a few minutes at least once a week. It is not necessary to use detergents or cleaning chemicals, as hot water will generally do the trick.
How Much Baking Soda to Add to Cat Litter? Too much of anything is dangerous, and this applies to sodium bicarbonate in your cat's litter. When sprinkling sodium bicarbonate in the cat box, aim for a small amount. One to two tablespoons is enough per box.Do cats prefer covered or uncovered litter boxes? ›
When individual cats were assessed, 70% showed absolutely no preference (i.e. used both boxes equally), 15% used the covered litter box more significantly, while 15% used the uncovered more than the covered. Pretty even results. It seems cats tend to think inside the box - as long as it's clean.Can I add baking soda to pretty litter? ›
Baking soda has a pH of around 9, which means it's a moderately alkaline substance. I poured the liquid into the Pretty Litter, and within a few minutes, the crystals had taken on a slightly blue-green hue.Why do cats sleep with humans? ›
Sleeping with you provides them with security and an extra defense if a predator should launch a nighttime attack. They sleep with you because they trust you, they know you're not a danger and you can also provide an extra layer of defense if needed.What food makes cats happy? ›
Cats are 'obligate carnivores,' meaning that meat is a non-negotiable part of their diet. Keep your cat happy and healthy with hearty meals that include meats like chicken, turkey, and duck. Both cats and dogs only produce a fraction of the omega-3 that they need to maintain a healthy and balanced ratio of fatty acids.What food do cats really love? ›
Meat. Cats are meat eaters, plain and simple. They have to have protein from meat for a strong heart, good vision, and a healthy reproductive system. Cooked beef, chicken, turkey, and small amounts of lean deli meats are a great way to give them that.What are the top 5 healthiest cat foods? ›
- Best overall: Purina ONE Tender Selects.
- Best dehydrated: The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Chicken Grain-Free Cat Food.
- Best wet: Merrick Purrfect Bistro Canned Cat Food.
- Best dry: Iams ProActive Health Dry Cat Food.
How many litter boxes should 2 cats have? ›
Follow this simple rule: one box per cat, plus one extra. So if you have two cats, you should have three boxes. Making sure everyone has their space can help ease elimination issues.How long can a cat be in a room without a litter box? ›
Cats can hold their pee for up to 24 hours. Some cats can hold their pee for up to 48 hours if necessary. Holding urine longer than 48 hours can signify a urinary blockage.Can a litter box be too full? ›
Having too much litter can cause your cat to dig around more than necessary, which can cause them to accidentally hide their poop. While the poop might be invisible to human eyes, it's noticeable to your cat. If you can't locate and remove it, this may cause your cat to stop using the box altogether.What cat food is not made in China? ›
The Honest Kitchen 100% human grade pet food for cats and dogs is made in the USA. The Honest Kitchen pet foods contain no ingredients from China, and are soy free, GMO free, wheat free, and corn free.Why is there no pork in cat food? ›
You will then at least know that no extra animals were killed to feed your cat. As to why no pork, it is because waste from the pork butchery trade is used to make sausages or fed back to pigs (which are omnivorous) and thus is not available on the meat market.Is there going to be a pet food shortage 2022? ›
As many of you have probably already noticed, the recent COVID pandemic has led to a pet food shortage that could last until 2022. Shortages in raw ingredients, packaging materials, and problems with shipping across the US means that pet food companies are struggling to keep up with the increased demand from 2020.Is wood cat litter better for the environment? ›
That means less mess! Most brands are 99% dust-free which is great for cats or people with sensitive respiratory systems. Wood pellets are much better for the environment when compared to clay or crystal cat litter which both require mining.Is Crystal litter better for the environment? ›
Crystal litter is NOT good for the environment
This type of litter is made from quartz, which is non-renewable and needs to be mined. And on top of that, it needs more than 10 times of CO2 pressure to make compared to other litters – which is not ideal.
While traditional clay litter dominates the market, there are less expensive options you can use for your cats. Wood pellets, corn, sand, sawdust, and even torn up newspaper can work well and are all considerably cheaper than regular litter made for cats.Is pretty litter better for the environment than clay litter? ›
Is Pretty Litter environmentally friendly? As a silica gel litter, Pretty Litter is less harmful for the environment than bentonite clay litter, but not as environmentally friendly as natural litters made from wheat, corn, or recycled paper.
Can you flush cat poop down the toilet? ›
Why You Should Never Flush Cat Poop Or Litter. Even though it may seem like a good idea, you should not be flushing your cat's litter or feces down the toilet. It can cause havoc on your plumbing, clog pipes, and damage your septic system.Is pellets or litter better? ›
Comparing cat pellets vs clay litter, pellets are better for your cat's health, they're better for the environment, and can be cheaper in the long run. Moreover, non-clumping brands have a better odor-control ability and are made of natural materials, so your cat won't get exposed to toxic chemicals.What happens to pee in crystal litter? ›
Crystal litter absorbs urine and dehydrates waste, making it five times more effective at reducing odors than other litters such as clumping clay. It is also more cost-effective as cats use less crystal litter over time.How do I dispose of crystal cat litter? ›
The clumps of clay and silica litter can swell dramatically, causing troublesome blockages in your plumbing system. So, the best way to dispose of clay and silica litters is to bag them and throw them into the trash can. Never flush.Can you wash silica cat litter? ›
Silica gel doesn't dissolve in water. Most components of urine will dissolve. You can wash it and filter it off. You would then need to leave the gel for most of the water to dry off, then heat it in an oven to completely dry it.Can I use oatmeal as cat litter? ›
Can You Use Oats as Cat Litter? Yes, you can use oatmeal as cat litter. However, you should grind it into powder first and add a layer or two of baking soda to control bad odors.Can I use rice as cat litter? ›
Can I use rice instead of cat litter? If you have rice on hand, it's a much better idea to eat it rather than using it in your cat litter box. But, rice will absorb urine in a way that paper and wood shavings will not. It won't do anything to hide the smell of ammonia.Can I use baking soda instead of cat litter? ›
Baking Soda Can Cause Health Problems. As mentioned earlier, adding baking soda can cause the release of ammonia, which not only smells, but also can be detrimental to your cat's respiratory health. Ammonia is an irritant gas.What is the closest litter to Pretty Litter? ›
However the granules of Fresh Step brand are much larger than Pretty Litter. If you're looking for a litter that looks basically the same, Dr. Elsey's Respiratory Relief Crystals is very very close! Just like Pretty Litter, these do not clump.Can I add baking soda to Pretty Litter? ›
Baking soda has a pH of around 9, which means it's a moderately alkaline substance. I poured the liquid into the Pretty Litter, and within a few minutes, the crystals had taken on a slightly blue-green hue.
Do cats prefer clay or crystal litter? ›
In litter preference studies, cats consistently and significantly favor clay clumping litter made of very small granular (sand-like) material over large granule litter made with other types of substrates.