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Although most cat litters on the market are made from clay (both clumping/scoopable and non-clumping traditional clay litter), cat owners show increasing interest in eco-friendly options. These eco-friendly litters are typically biodegradable and made from sustainable materials (such as corn, grass and wheat) or from reclaimed or recycled materials, such as newspaper.
“Any opportunity [where] we can divert or reuse materials to support our Earth’s resources is a great alternative for everyone,” says Tony Piede, senior brand manager for Tidy Cats, which makes the paper-based litter Yesterday’s News. “Yesterday’s News diverts used paper and cardboard waste. Paper is also a material that easily decomposes once it reaches its life cycle completion.”
In addition to being environmentally conscious, eco-friendly litters are typically free from potentially harmful chemicals, and most also weigh much less than clay litters (an added bonus when carrying them from the car to your house). Some eco-friendly litters are even advertised to be flushable.
“Whether it’s the product itself or the packaging it comes in, manufacturers are evolving to make their products eco-friendlier,” says Tierra Bonaldi, American Pet Products Association pet lifestyle expert. “We’ve seen new litter pebbles and walnut litter, so there are definitely new litter materials coming into the market every year. Litters made from (eco-friendly) materials are known to be less toxic and biodegradable, which makes them great for the environment.”
Dr. Jessica Lowe, medical director of VCA Beacon Hill Cat Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, says that approximately 70% of clients ask her about cat litter. “Concerns are dust, smell reduction, easily clumps, absorbs urine and cost,” she says, adding that about a quarter of her clients ask specifically about natural or eco-friendly litter options. “There is an increase, especially compared to 10 years ago when I was rarely, if ever, asked,” she says.
It’s natural for people who are concerned about using environmentally friendly products for themselves and their families to think about their pets, too. “There is a certain sector of consumers who seek out healthy, safe and environmentally friendly products for their homes, including the choice they make in the litter aisle,” says Jean Broders, senior brand manager for Kent Pet Group, manufacturer of World’s Best Cat Litter. “Consumers want a cat litter that is easy to maintain, long-lasting and cost-effective. They will invest in a litter that performs but appreciate the added benefits of healthy, safe and environmentally friendly.”
Here are some eco-friendly cat litter options
Depending on the brand, corn-based litter may be made from corn cobs or corn kernels. Corn cobs are a waste product of the food industry that would otherwise be discarded, and corn is renewable, sustainable and biodegradable. Both types of corn-based litter are clumping and scoopable. Corn litter is soft, naturally absorbent and virtually dust-free, and great at controlling odors.
One of the newer eco-friendly litter materials, grass-based litters are made from grass or grass seed. In addition to being renewable, sustainable and biodegradable, grass litter is extremely absorbent, clumpable, scoopable and virtually dust-free. Dr. Esley’s Touch of Outdoors ($18.99, Chewy) is one option
Paper litter, which may be formulated as pellets or as granules, is generally made from recycled paper. While quite absorbent, paper litters don’t usually clump. This type of litter should be scooped and changed frequently to control odors. Paper-based litter is virtually dust-free.
Litter made from ground walnut shells capitalizes on another food-industry byproduct that would typically be tossed. Naturally absorbent, walnut shell litter is virtually dust-free and fine-textured, and has a mild, pleasant odor.
Wheat is renewable, sustainable and biodegradable, and some wheat-based litters are made from “secondary wheat” (wheat that won’t be used for human consumption). Wheat litter clumps and can be easily scooped, and provides good odor control. It has a soft, fine texture many cats like.
Litter made from pine, cedar and other woods may be formulated as small pellets or granules, or may be fine like sawdust or wood shavings. Wood-based litter is generally made from recycled lumber industry wood scraps. Pellet wood-based litters are very absorbent but don’t clump. Some finer formulations do clump. Wood-based litters offer excellent odor control but must be frequently scooped and replaced.
Eco-friendly cat litter considerations
With so many eco-friendly litters to choose from, spend some time researching the different types to find one that checks all your boxes. “At the end of the day, litter products need to provide what the owner wants whether that is odor control, anti-clumping, dust-free and a reasonable price point,” Tierra says.
And don’t forget to take you cat’s preferences into account, too. After all, a litter isn’t worth much if your cat won’t use it. “No. 1 is what type of texture do they like,” Dr. Lowe says. “Some cats will not use the litter box strictly because they don’t like the way it feels when they step on it. If your cat loves eco-friendly litter then great, but if they don’t, continue to look until you find the perfect fit.”
Beyond eco-friendly cat litter
Don’t just stop with litter. Go green with your litter box, scooper and even poop bags. Disposable litter boxes that are biodegradable or compostable allow you to be good to the Earth while enjoying easier litter box maintenance. Most are made from paper or cardboard materials that will break down after they’ve served their purpose. Biodegradable litter pan liners that break down in a landfill also make litter box cleanup a snap. Or if you can’t go disposable, look for a litter box made out of recyclable materials.
For scoopers, try one made of eco-friendly materials or made out of recyclable materials. When scooping the poop, put it in a compostable or biodegradable poop bag.
Top photograph: Getty Images
18 thoughts on “Try These Eco-Friendly Cat Litters”
Except silica litter unlike all the eco conscious litters mentioned in the article/post is not eco conscious, or good for your cat for that matter. Silica litter is made of the same stuff that is put in little bags in new products to absorb moisture(the bags that say “do not eat” on them). It absorbs moisture, sounds great right? But your cat is stepping in that and then leaving the littler box and then cleaning it’s paws by licking them. Maybe not so great after all, though it would take eating a lot to cause serious damage. Many silica litters also turn blue to indicate they’ve been “used”. This blue color isn’t magic, it comes from cobalt chloride which is known to have carcinogenic effects in humans, so who knows with cats.
I will love to try the friendly cat litter thank u so much for sharing um sure my cats will love it I have two kitty’s
Buy a bag of wood pellets (for pellet stoves), best litter out there, cheap, biodegradable, and no urine smell at all. All the animal shelters are using it now.
The World’s Best Cat Litter is very nice. Spendy though, a little goes a long way,
One thing about flushing cat feces and litter: Don’t. It can potentially clog your system and the cat feces themselves potentially carry toxoplasmosis gondii, an infectious oocyst that persists in even chlorine-treated wastewater, thus affecting the whole food chain. Mothers transfer the infection to their unborn child and Marine mammals, such as otters, die from this brain infection.The’s more of course. Google it.
Also, nothing REALLY biodegrades in a landfill- and paper persists. It’s a common myth. There is nothing “green ” about so-called biodegradable cat boxes or scoops and liners. Do your homework readers! Science Teacher and Cat Fancier
Someone even told me about a litter that was made with Pine. They said it was not as dusty, and had a better odor. I would Love to change litters, if some of these companies would Lower the price of their litters. Many of these “eco-friendly” litters are Way more expensive than regular clay litters. I just can’t afford them. Not to mention, I buy my litter 20 pounds at a time. My litter boxes are larger than the picture they show of a box above. So I need more litter to fill my boxes. I had to use those Sterilite containers because one of my cats kept kicking the litter out of the box, and sometimes he over-shot the smaller box when he peed. So after I got the containers with the taller sides, the problem was solved. I think they call it elevator butt problem. But the high price of these eco-friendly litters keeps me from buying them. Reduce the price, and I’ll buy them. ;-)
I agree with Nancy Smith above. Lower your prices and you will sell a lot more litter.
That’s what I was going to say too! They are just too expensive and especially if you have many cats.
I tried about two or three brands of litter before I discovered World’s Best. I think it lives up to its name. Not only is it all-natural, it also doesn’t get like cement when it gets wet!
I love the comments that look more like advertisements for silica litters. Expensive stuff!
I use a cheap tea tree based pellet litter. It clumps, smells a bit of tea, no dust and has all of the environmentally friendly factors we want.
What brand of cat litter is it? Really interested!
What brand is the tea tree-based litter?
One of my cats has severe skin allergies, and another has chronic UTI. These litters don’t work for them. But, I have switched to a silica litter called Pretty Litter. It lasts a month and changes colors if a UTI is present. There is much less waste by using it.
I switched to silica litter… and I would never go back– for so many reasons! Silica litter had less dust & WAY less smell! It doesn’t “glue” itself to the box…so no more scraping! And no more $$ wasted on liners & deodorizers! It’s much better for cats with allergies and doesn’t contain ingredients that swell up & wreak havoc on your cat’s digestive system, like many clay litters do. It’s less than half the weight and definitely costs less/mo. than almost all brand name clay litters and even a lot of the cheaper store-brand ones!
I started out using Pretty Litter (which has small crystals) but it is more expensive so I switched to Fresh Step crystal litter (crystals are closer in size to reg. clay litter). Pretty Litter’s base price is $20.00 per 8lb. bag. Whereas, I usually only pay $12-15.00 per 8lb. bag for Fresh Step. I also like the scent of Fresh Step better & I feel like it lasts longer.
Now I only have to change out the whole litter box once a month or less (as long as you scoop the poop & stir/re-mix the remaining litter daily). And, because the silica absorbs any moisture, it basically eliminates the smell of urine! (Even the poop gets dehydrated lol) Based on my great experience- I’ve actually had several people switch their litter as well… including my vet! It’s definitely worth trying for yourself ????
walmart has a store brand ,Vibrant Life, 8lb for 9.98. Works just as good as fresh step. We have 6 cats, 3 pans. Scoop daily and do complete changes every 2 weeks, half a bag per pan. When we had 1 cat, we usded half a bag, lasted a month with daily scooping.
Even cheaper then the 2 mentioned, here, is silica litter from Ultra Crystals/pink bag/$7.99 on sale, Publix Supermarket, from $9.99, regular price. If you save 6 coupons from the bags & mail it to the company, they will send you one free bag. I have 11 cats (Rescue/sanctuary) & have tried every litter -with exception of those mentioned in article/but now plan to – & found Ultra the best! I have 11 litter pans that I clean out completely every 2 weeks. No smell, cats love it & have stopped random peeing around the house with other litters.
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