If you’re fortunate enough to share your home with a cat (or two or three), the litter box is an important topic. As a cat parent, you end up learning more about litter, cleanliness and scooping than you ever thought you’d need to know. But the dozens of litter options can be overwhelming.
If your cat seems content with the litter situation, we don’t recommend you change. But if you notice your cat going to the bathroom outside of the litter box or if you welcome home a new cat, you may need to reconsider which litter will work best for your favourite felines. Clay While the number of litter substrates on the market grows, clay cat litter continues to be a popular option. There are two main types of clay cat litter: clumping and non-clumping.
Clumping Clay Litter
Clumping clay litters are primarily made from bentonite, a highly absorbent clay material that enables the litter to form a hard, solid clump when it mixes with a liquid such as cat urine. Clumping clay litter comes in both scented and unscented versions.
The biggest benefit to clumping clay litter is that it makes it easy for pet parents to scoop and clean the litter box. Clumping clay litter fans appreciate this convenience, and cats appreciate the clean box. The cons of clumping clay litter are that it can be dusty and it’s non-biodegradable.
It’s also typically heavy, which makes it hard for some people to carry, although now there are various lighter-weight options, which combine the heavy clay material with less dense mineral particles. This results in a lightweight formula that maintains its clumping ability.
Non-clumping Clay Litter
Non-clumping clay litter absorbs fluids, but doesn’t contain bentonite so it does not form tidy clumps that are easy to scoop. The benefit of non-clumping clay litter is that it’s usually less expensive than the clumping option. However, because it doesn’t clump, urine is absorbed into the clay and stays there—meaning the litter needs to be changed more often than with other options.
It can also be dusty. Similar to clumping clay litter, non-clumping clay litter is typically heavy, but there are lighter combination options available, too.
A popular natural litter option, corn-based litter’s absorbency and odor control come from the starch and enzymes found in corn. Corn litter is lauded for its light weight and good clumping capabilities.
A relatively new option is litter made from absorbent coconut husks. This cat litter is extremely lightweight. It is also a natural, renewable, sustainable resource that’s soft on cat’s paws. Because it doesn’t clump, coconut husk litter requires a more frequent litter box change.
Critics report that urine can pool at the bottom of the litter box, which can cause odor problems.
Wheat-based litter is another popular natural option. Made from ground wheat, the litter’s natural starch and enzymes aid in clumping and odor control.
Satisfied wheat litter consumers like that the litter is natural and biodegradable. However, as with corn-based litters, this food-based option needs to be sealed tightly to keep non-feline critters out.
Made from scrapped pine or cedar lumber, this litter comes in several different forms. Originally it was produced in pellets, which disintegrate into a sawdust-like form when liquid penetrates them. Wood litter also comes in both finely-ground and roughly-crushed granules, which have varying degrees of clumping capabilities. Commercial wood litter should be heat-treated to remove oils, toxins and allergens.
Wood litter fans love the fresh scent, which helps combat odor. The wood is also absorbent, and pine and cedar weigh less than clay litters. Drawbacks to pine litter are its smell, which some people don’t like. Cats may not like the way pellets feel on their paws and some critics report wood litter sticks to cats’ paws and result in higher tracking through the house than other litter types.
Walnut shell litter is a clumping option made from crushed walnut shells. This litter is a natural, renewable, sustainable material. The shells are absorbent, effectively control odor and clump well. But the dark color of this litter shows up more easily on light-colored floors than lighter-colored litter when cats track it through the house.
Post-consumer recycled paper is a popular option for cat litter. This paper litter comes in two textures: pellets and granules. One of paper litter’s most attractive qualities is that it’s almost dust-free. It’s also highly absorbent. The pellet formula doesn’t clump so the litter must be replaced frequently. The granule form, however, does create clumps when mixed with urine so it can be scooped. One notable con: The paper pellets can become soggy when not replaced regularly.
Crystal litter is made of silica gel beads, known for their odor and moisture absorbency. It’s non-clumping, so urine is absorbed by the crystals and removed when the litter is changed out. Solid waste, however, must be scooped out of the box. Crystal litter can last longer than other types of litter and tracks less.
However, crystal litters typically have a higher price point than other litter options. Also, some cats don’t like the feel of the beads on their feet and may prefer a softer substrate.
Attractant Not necessarily a litter itself, litter attractants can be sprinkled in the box to help cats go where they need to go. Great for training kittens or for cats who’ve lost their way, attractants contain a scent that naturally directs cats to the litter box.
It can be pricey, but it’s worth trying for a few months to train or retrain your cat. Instead of focusing on our own preferences, try to think like a cat when it comes to litter boxes.
Consider your cat’s needs first and foremost, and litter box care and maintenance can be a breeze.
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