Tiny kittens in a litter box.
Tiny kittens in a litter box. Photography ©AlbinaTiplyashina | Getty Images.

Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Your Kitty

Today’s kitty litter options are seemingly endless. There’s lightweight, scoopable, absorbent, eco-friendly, dust-free (well, almost), flushable, scented, unscented, health-alert and odor-free and they can be made from a variety of different materials. So, how do you find the best cat litter for your needs?

While the name Kitty Litter, first registered in 1947 by its inventor, Edward Lowe, may still be universal, the product has been reinvented with lots of options. Some products contain clay and other minerals, some wheat, others corn husks, coconut husks, cassava plants, newspaper, silica gel, wood chips, peanut shells and orange peels. So, how you choose the best cat litter for your kitty?

Decisions, decisions — where does a cat parent begin when finding the best cat litter?

A cat staring down into a litter box.
You can find eco-friendly litter, lightweight litter, odor-control litter and even litter that will alert you to a health issue like urinary tract infections or kidney disease. You need to find a litter with the features you want and the features your cat wants so he’ll use it. Photography ©w-ings | Getty Images.

Adjectives that advertising agencies have used to describe the various litters is an excellent guideline to help narrow down the selection: lightweight, scoopable, absorbent, eco-friendly, dust-free (well, almost), flushable, scented, unscented, health-alert and odor-free. Simply pick the adjectives that best describe your needs and the main ingredient from the list of primary ingredients (clay, gel, corn husks, etc.), and you will know exactly what you have bought!

Of course, for it to be considered a successful purchase will still depend on feline approval. Cats are, after all, the end users …

Eco-friendly litters

The biggest trend is undoubtedly eco-friendly litters that help reduce the feline carbon pawprint because they are biodegradable, compostable, flushable (some of them) and don’t clog up landfills.

Natural litters are considered virtually dust-free and don’t contain any chemical odor-masking agents and fragrances believed to cause or aggravate asthma and other respiratory issues in both cats and humans.

Odor-control litters

Odor control is listed as the No. 1 priority for cat parents, and it has come a long way, too. When it comes to clay-based litters in particular, new nontoxic and unscented odor-absorbing ingredients are being patented. New litter additives and filters for litter boxes also help to obliterate odors altogether.

Lightweight litters

Further change focuses on the weight of clay-based litters that some regard as too heavy and cumbersome to work with on a daily basis. New lightweight clay litters on the market claim to be as much as 50 percent lighter and comparative in weight to other choices out there.

Litter containers are also changing from heavy plastic to lightweight bags with “spouts,” making it easier to carry and pour.

And the way we purchase litter is changing. Online purchases are growing in their appeal simply because with the click of a mouse, the product arrives on the doorstep. No heavy lifting required!

Diagnostic litters

Perhaps the biggest game changer has been the advent of diagnostic litters that alert cat parents to potential health issues, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections and diabetes. The litters allow them to effectively monitor the situation and ultimately refer relevant information on to the cat’s veterinarian.

Such litters can have a positive impact on a cat’s general health and well-being and save thousands of cats from losing their homes and landing in shelters as a result of undiagnosed medical issues, which are often incorrectly labeled as deviant litter box behavior.

Monitoring litters use assorted pH indicators that react to the introduction of urine and change color to alert to a potential problem. They can be used permanently for cats who have already been diagnosed with an issue to monitor the severity or on an ad hoc basis as a home wellness check.

Bring on the litter box

There’s a style and shape of today’s litter box to suit every household from corners to hoods in a variety of fun colors to match home décor.

Litter boxes have come out of the closet to become more acceptable on display. First, due to the improvement in odor control; second, due to advice from behaviorists, who unilaterally believe that (especially in multi-cat households) open litter boxes are better. They offer the feline user a 360-degree view of the surroundings so he can see if another cat is approaching and plotting a box ambush and allow the cat to monitor general household traffic.

Along with this trend comes an increase in fabulous litter mats in a variety of colors and designs that effectively work to trap litter and prevent your cat from creating an indoor beach.

So what’s next in this category? There are already automated litter boxes that scoop and even ones that flush. With the huge selection of litter currently available, perhaps the next big thing will be a small cat-shaped robot that tops up litter as the contents of the box depletes. And, it would be great if it could shake out litter mats, too!

Litter check

Adjectives are a quick and easy guideline to the type of litter and its best features. Words that tell all include:

  1. Lightweight
  2. Scoopable
  3. Absorbent
  4. Eco-friendly
  5. Dust-free
  6. Flushable
  7. Scented
  8. Unscented
  9. Health-alert
  10. Odor-free

What might litter be made from?

Litter can be made from:

TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: Wood chips. Silica Gel. Recycled Newspaper. Clay. Wood Pellets.
TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: Wood chips. Silica Gel. Recycled Newspaper. Clay. Wood Pellets.
  1. Clay
  2. Wheat
  3. Corn husks
  4. Coconut husks
  5. Cassava plant
  6. Peanut husks
  7. Silica gel
  8. Wood chips
  9. Grains
  10. Recycled newspaper

Thumbnail: Photography ©AlbinaTiplyashina | Getty Images.

Editor’s note: This article appeared in Kittens, a special issue from Catster magazine. Look out for Kittens on a newsstand near you! 

Tell us: In your opinion, what is the best cat litter? What kind of cat litter do you use?

Sandy Robins is an award-winning multimedia pet lifestyle expert, author and pet industry personality. Learn more about Sandy at sandyrobinsonline.com.

Read more about cat litter on Catster.com:

6 thoughts on “Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Your Kitty”

  1. My cats like the Purina tidy cat comes in a yellow bag not real heavy is clumping but not clay-like clumping it is made from cedar pine and corn and it really does have the outstanding odor control it’s not too too expensive through chewy.com 12 lb bags about 12 bucks so year spending about a dollar per pound. Suppose my cats really like it and it works for me as well I clean their box once a day if not twice.

  2. I like the tip that you gave to outline your criteria for cat litter. My cat’s litter needs to be changed, and I want to make sure that I get the best one. I will be sure to outline my wants in cat litter before I choose which one to buy, so I can get one that best fits my wants.

  3. Pingback: 6 Alternative Types of Natural Cat Litter | Speaking of Pets at Rescue Pet Supply

  4. Annie in Florida

    I can almost promise you that ANY litter will leave dust. I clean houses professionally, and because I love cats, almost all my customers have at least one. I clean up a LOT of kitty litter in my work, and they ALL leave dust.
    I tried Worlds Best – liked it but it actually had MORE dust! I will never use a clay based litter again – cleaning that sticky stuff up off tile floors is tiresome and even sort of disgusting. I am currently using a mixture of a walnut litter and Everfresh litter, which clumps really well and doesnt have a annoying perfumey smell. The walnut stuff just leaves a lot of dark brown dust and the Everfresh leaves a light gray dust. The good part is my cat likes the mixture and because the walnut is dark I can easily see where he has tracked it on my light tile floors!!!
    I think clay litters should be banned. It cannot be healthy for your cat – and you – to breathe in that stuff! UGH!
    I have tried using those weird plastic litter mats to control tracking – none of them did a darn thing. And they cost wayyyy to much!
    Personally – from what I see in my work, many people simply do not clean their litter boxes enough. Most cats can be picky about a clean box – wouldnt you be?? How hard is it to scoop your litter box daily? Clean it at least once a month?

  5. We have 6 cats and were using Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat clay litter up until recently. Price has increased so much we decided to search for an alternative. Chewy was offering an introductory price of $5.99 for your first purchase of Frisco so we decided to try it in comparison to what we use now, unscented multi-cat. The cats like the litter and easier on their feet. Clumps well, tracks a bit less. Same or less dust per bag. Overall quite satisfied and costs $12.99 vs. $17.49. We switched completely in 2 of the boxes and will change the rest over shortly. By using auto-ship you can save a bit more. Precious Cat priced itself out of our budget since we use so much litter. Hopeful Frisco doesn’t raise prices. It’s a great alternative for us. Fedex delivery must not care for our heavy deliveries though.

  6. Donna Kopenhaver

    The best & more bang for our buck is WALMART Special Kitty scoopable.. It clumps with no break up..hides smells.. No dust at all.. I tell everyone I can about this. At $10 – 48lbs.. $7 – 28lbs..

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