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10 Cat Litter Alternatives: Vet-Verified Options (With Pros & Cons)

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Plastic cat litter box with filler and scoop on floor

10 Cat Litter Alternatives: Vet-Verified Options (With Pros & Cons)

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Dr. Luqman Javed Photo

REVIEWED & FACT-CHECKED BY

Dr. Luqman Javed

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re sick of regular cat litter and were wondering if there are any alternatives you could use, we have good news! Cats prefer sandy litter to do their business but aren’t that picky and use whatever’s most suitable. Dirt, paper, wood shavings, and many other common waste products make satisfactory litter alternatives.

Whether you personally dislike litter, have asthma that the dust triggers, or want something cheaper, you have several choices. Check out the most widely available cat litter alternatives you might already have at home below.

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The 10 Cat Litter Alternatives

1. Paper

shredded paper close up
Image Credit by: Sahat, Shutterstock

All types of paper work, but to make it work long-term, you’ll need access to a paper shredder and a ton of paper. Shredded paper, like newspaper, doesn’t absorb moisture as well as other litter choices and must be changed frequently to prevent odors. Paper is a great choice because it produces no dust, which is a godsend for homes with asthmatics.

Pros
  • Widely available
  • Affordable
  • Low to no dust
Cons
  • Relatively low absorbency
  • Needs to be frequently changed

2. Toilet Training

black and white cat sitting on the toilet bowl
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Perhaps the best long-term solution for those who dislike litter is to train their cat to use a human toilet. This will eventually remove the need for purchasing litter (or replacing a litter box). Because your cat switches to using a human toilet, it even offers you a way to monitor their toilet habits, and seek veterinary care if necessary.

Though some cats can learn to manipulate a toilet flush plunger (depending on its shape, size, and location), it’s not encouraged to teach your cat how to do so. This is because your cat wouldn’t know to flush after they’ve done their business. Instead, they may turn flushing into a game, which would waste water and come with a hefty bill as well.

Pros
  • Eliminates long term litter and litter box purchase
  • Economical in the long run
  • Makes monitoring toilet habits easier
Cons
  • You must flush for your pet
  • Not all cats are easily toilet trained

3. Sand

Cat using pooping or urinate clean sand litter box
Image Credit: Zoran Photographer, Shutterstock

Cats love sand, though it’s much messier than regular cat litter. Nearly any type of sand can work. However, you shouldn’t source sand from anywhere (such as a beach or your front yard), as doing so might expose your cat to unwanted and potentially dangerous pathogens. This is especially true if the sand has been used by other animals.

Pros
  • Widely available
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Relatively low absorbency
  • Needs to be frequently changed
  • Messy

4. Chicken Feed

Chicken feed litter alternative
Image Credit: Wuttichai jantarak, Shuttertsock

Chicken feed pellets look very similar to cat litter pellets, and they do roughly the same job. Because chicken feed is made of corn and similar agricultural products, it doesn’t produce dust while clumping into easily cleaned lumps.

You can add baking soda to help control odors, and you’ll have a great alternative to regular litter. The biggest downside of chicken feed is that rodents and bugs love it, so be careful about attracting pests into your house. In addition, the ingredients inside the feed can sometimes even tempt your cat to sample some of their litter, which can be undesirable.

Pros
  • Widely available in agricultural settings
  • Clumps well
  • No dust
Cons
  • Attracts vermin and insects
  • Needs baking soda for odor control
  • Your cat might eat their own litter

5. Puppy Pads

pee pad on the wooden floor
Image Credit: Michael Moloney, Shutterstock

Owners with small dogs or puppies will already have some of these on hand, and your cats may have encountered them before. Cats learn how to use pads very quickly, but beware that some may have an issue with being unable to bury their poop and bunch the pads up in an effort to hide them.

Pros
  • Designed to absorb moisture
  • May already be familiar to your cat
  • Widely available
Cons
  • Unable to bury or hide poop
  • Some cats will bunch or shred the pads

6. Potting Soil

gardener mixing potting soil mix for indoor or container gardening coco husk, perlit with trowel
Image Credit: suvian, Shutterstock

Cats love to do their business in the garden, and you can take that experience inside by using potting soil instead of cat litter. It makes more of a mess than litter, but the fresh soil smell does a good job at odor control, and it’s biodegradable. In addition, some soils are prepared with fertilizers and chemicals (for pest control) which can be dangerous for pets.

Pros
  • Widely available
  • Easy to get in bulk
  • Biodegradable
Cons
  • Messy
  • Some soil products may contain unsafe additives

7. Rabbit Food Pellets

pellet feed soybean and sunflower or Alfa alfa pellets close up
Image Credit: Vipavlenkoff., Shutterstock

Yes, the same food bunnies eat makes good cat litter substitute. The pellets clump together like litter and do a decent job of covering up the foul litter odor.

Like the other animal feed choices on this list, rabbit pellets attract rodents and insects, which can be a dealbreaker for some people. They also don’t hold as much moisture as clay litter.

Pros
  • Clumps together like cat litter
  • Relatively low odor
  • Cheap
Cons
  • Fairly low absorbency
  • Attracts pests

8. Artificial Grass

Cat on artificial grass
Image Credit: Blanscape, Shutterstock

Many artificial turfs are good choices for an alternative to cat litter because they’re easy to clean and aren’t burned by your cat’s urine like real grass. Patches of artificial grass can sometimes replace puppy pads, or you may consider training your cat to go outside on your turf. It can be a hassle to clean, but the upside is that you don’t have to keep buying litter.

A potential problem is that some cats may inadvertently bite and swallow the artificial grass if it isn’t resilient enough, which can lead to a sick pet. The removal of the grass may also involve surgery. Therefore, extreme caution is recommended with artificial grass.

Pros
  • Not burned by cat urine like real grass
  • Easy to wash off
  • Can be used indoors or outdoors
Cons
  • Harder to find than other products
  • Cleaning can be a pain
  • Harmful if swallowed by your pet

9. Wheat

Whole wheat grains in a wooden box
Image Credit: Indre Pau, Shutterstock

Wheat litter is made from rejected components that are not good enough to go into food and take the form of little pellets like chicken feed or rabbit pellets. It works well as a litter by clumping but kicks up dust and tracks around the house.

Whole wheat works in a pinch if you have lots of it. The natural texture of wheat can be coarse and unpleasant for your kitty’s paws, which you can remedy by popping it in the blender to get a finer consistency.

Pros
  • Widely available
  • Affordable
  • Low to no dust
Cons
  • Relatively low absorbency
  • Needs to be frequently changed

10. Wood Heating Pellets

wood heating pellets cat litter alternative
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

Homes that use pellet stoves for heating in the winter can put them to use as your cat’s litter. The wood pellets are one of the best cat litter alternatives because they absorb a surprising amount of moisture, have a naturally fragrant woody odor, and aren’t too hard to clean up.

Pros
  • Absorbs a lot of moisture
  • Eco-friendly
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Doesn’t clump

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Top Tip for Cleaning & Combating Tough Litter Box Smells

Cleaning up after our pets is not the most enjoyable part of owning them. Despite keeping a clean litterbox, cat odors and stains may still exist around the house. Sometimes, even the best litter box setup needs extra help. If you're tired of dealing with bad smells from litter boxes, Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator Spray can help with the worst pet stains and smells. Additionally, the Advanced Bio-Enzyme Cat Litter Deodorizer neutralizes odors upon contact.

Hepper Enzyme Spray - New Label Hepper Litter additive
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Eliminates smells
Eliminates smells:
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Removes stains
Removes stains:
Removes stains:
Unscented
Unscented:
Unscented:
Light fresh scent
Light fresh scent:
Light fresh scent:
Works on multiple surfaces
Works on multiple surfaces:
Works on multiple surfaces:
Neutralizes odor within cat litter
Neutralizes odor within cat litter:
Neutralizes odor within cat litter:

At Catster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool cat company!

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Conclusion

Cat litter isn’t your only choice; you can use sand if you live near an abundant source or use the wood shavings and sawdust from your workshop. Puppy pads, potting soil, and other materials also work as cat litter alternatives, albeit with their pros and cons. If, for whatever reason, you don’t like regular cat litter, consider using one of the alternatives we listed above.

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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