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While it’s true that we all love our cats to the moon and back, it’s safe to say that most of us wouldn’t mind dealing with a little bit less smelly and messy cat potty habits. A good-quality litter can go a long way in minimizing the unpleasantness of a pet’s bathroom necessities. The trouble is, our beloved felines have a reputation for being picky about the things they eat, play with, and use, litter included. So finding an effective litter that your kitty actually likes to use and that is not expensive can be quite a task.
That’s why we reviewed and tested more than 20 cat litters – from clay clumping to clay non-clumping, crystals to corn, unscented to scented, we went through them all. The result? Ten good-quality, reasonably priced litters that are bound to make both your and your feline companion’s life a little tidier and nicer. To further help you in the search for the best kitty litter, we also put together a detailed buying guide, so read on!
Considered by many the absolute best budget-friendly cat litter, Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Clumping Litter is a great choice for felines with sensitive noses. Hypo-allergenic, non-scented and dust-free, this clumping litter is not only gentle on the nose and paws, it also does a great job at forming sturdy clumps. It also tracks minimally – probably the least of all other clumping clay litters we’ve ever tried. Because it’s made solely of clay, it’s completely free from all plant proteins, which is good news not only for sensitive cats, but people with allergies too.
Although it doesn’t contain any perfumes or deodorants, this litter has excellent odor control properties, making it ideal for households with multiple cats. One of the things people love about the Ultra is that it forms really hard clumps, making it super-easy for scooping. This also makes the formulation ideal for use on mechanical litter boxes or those that have automated sifters.
If you need the best possible odor control for multiple cats in your household, Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter is the product for you. Thanks to its unique and patented formula, the litter seals and destroys any type of odor in a matter of seconds. It also forms very hard clumps that are super-easy to scoop. It’s also 100% dust-free, meaning it’s as low tracking as a litter can be. Furthermore, it does a fantastic job at forming a tight seal around waste, which, combined with Arm & Hammer’s Baking Soda, reduces odors to zero.
This cat litter is a great choice if you have multiple pets in the apartment, however, due to its strong “clean” smell, it may not be to everyone’s taste.
For pet parents who believe in the power of fine clay as a clumping litter, the Purina Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance is a great choice. The formula may not be groundbreaking, but it does the job – it absorbs moisture to keep cats more comfortable, forms tight clumps for easy cleanup, and controls odors very well. The litter also stays dust-free, which is a bonus considering it’s made of fine clay and is very much affordable.
Purina’s Tidy Cats litter comes in a convenient box or pail, depending on the size, and sports the Tidy Lock protection – a proprietary technology that locks away smells. Speaking of which, this litter is scented and has that pleasant ‘fresh and clean’ scent.
If your feline companion avoids their litter box like a plague, give Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Cat Attract litter a try. This litter is formulated with natural herbs to attract cats and solve common litter box problems (in particular, the avoidance of the litter box). It’s also super efficient at clumping, with good odor control, making it ideal for litter box training. That said, the litter is not as absorbent as some of the other clay litters, although this is far from being a serious issue. The texture of the litter is quite nice (a huge plus for cats who avoid their boxes!), and equally important, 99.5% dust free.
The Precious Cat Attract is scented with natural herbal attractants, so it does a very good job trapping odors. This also makes it perfect for multi-pet households.
Clay litter scented with herbal essence attractant
If you and your cat are only satisfied with the best and safest litters that eliminate the odors and messes without relying on chemicals, the Clumping Formula may be exactly what you need. Made of 100% natural and renewable whole kernel corn, this litter is one of the easiest to clean as you can simply flush it down your toilet bowl and not worry about contributing to land and water pollution. The formula is 99% dust-free and with tight and quick clumping abilities so scooping is not an issue either.
Although not scented, the litter does have a gentle wood or hay type of smell, with good cat waste odor control.
Arm & Hammer’s Super Scoop Clumping Litter has the ability to form really hard clumps, making it one of the easiest litters to scoop and manage. On top of this, while free from perfumes, it features bicarbonate soda crystals to eliminate and control odors.
Unlike the Clump & Seal, however, the Super Scoop lightweight litter is not 100% dust-free, but still manages a commendable 99% performance to go with its low-tracking properties. The formula is also super-absorbent, forming large clumps the moment your kitty’s waste touches the litter!
Protect your home from nasty litter box odors and your kitty from inhaling litter dust with Naturally Fresh Walnut-Based Litter. Made from 100% natural substrate – fibrous material of the walnut shell – this litter is not only healthy and dust-free but also biodegradable. What’s more, it’s excellent at absorbing urine; 3x better than regular clay litter according to the company!
Another thing we really like about this particular product is that it practically doesn’t track. Mind you, it’s possible you will find some ‘dust’ on your kitty’s paws from time to time, but this is nothing like the dust you get from clay litter. This ‘dust’ consists of extremely fine particles that are 100% safe to breathe in, plus they don’t stick to paws nearly as much as clay particles do. Overall, a great natural litter that’s suitable even for multi-cat families.
If you and your kitty are fans of crystal litter, the PetSafe’s ScoopFree Non-Clumping Crystal Litter is a good choice. These 2 pre-packaged bags of litter work with any traditional litter box, as well as the PetSafe’s ScoopFree Reusable Litter Tray. The odor control here is fantastic – the crystals absorb urine and dry solid waste almost instantly, sealing in any smells quickly and efficiently. It should be highlighted that this type of cat litter doesn’t clump – this, coupled with the fact that the crystals are very low-tracking, means there is less mess to clean up. On the flip side, even though the litter is marketed as dust-free, many customers write that the product is in fact quite dusty at times.
Not scented or dyed, this litter is a great option for sensitive cats and pet parents who don’t like strong smelling litters.
With the Febreeze Freshness technology ensuring better odor control, the Fresh Step Multi-Cat Clumping Cat Litter is a relatively new product that is making the headlines because of its many features. It is gentle on your cat’s paws and provides exceptional litter clumping capabilities, allowing for easier handling of cat wastes. It is scented, though so if your feline happens to be averse to its scent, then it would really be a waste. It is priced friendlier than other brands, too making it a highly viable option for pet parents who love mildly scented cat litter with good clumping abilities.
Cat litter was invented in 1947 by Ed Lowe, who wanted to help out a neighbor who ran out of sand, which is what people used before the modern cat litters were invented (that, or the ashes – imagine the mess!). Mr. Lowe gave his neighbor some clay instead, which she found working far better than anything she ever used before. Soon, Lowe’s clay litter, which he called Kitty Litter, became the synonym for proper pet litter. Today, clay litter is just one of the many different types of litters pet parents can purchase. From clay clumping to clay non-clumping, corn, wheat and pine, there are various types of litters available, and even more litter brands out there. So which type is the best? As you can probably guess, this depends on several factors, all of which we’ll discuss in this buying guide.
What Makes a Good Cat Litter: Factors to Consider
There is no way around it: if you live in an apartment and own a cat, you need a safe way to neatly dispose of your pet’s waste. In other words, you need an efficient cat litter. But what exactly is the best and most effective kitty litter? Crystal, clay, natural litter alternatives, scented or unscented litter? The truth is, there is no one best litter for everyone as all cats are different. Not to mention, we all live in different environments and have different budgets. That said, there certainly is a way to get the right cat litter for you and your pet. But to do that, you need to take into consideration a couple of factors first.
Number of Cats
Many experts agree that it’s a good idea to have one litter box per one cat. This is because most cats are finicky when it comes to their bathroom habits and prefer using the cleanest litter box available. The need to clean them only grows bigger the more cats you have. In an ideal world, you’d have two boxes per two cats, but of course, not everyone has space or money to purchase several boxes for their pets. The next best thing to do is purchase a multi-cat litter. This type of litter has more scent-control than regular products, which is crucial for a multi-cat household.
Your Cat’s Preferences
If you’ve used a specific type and brand of litter for years and your pet continues to use it with no issues, there’s really no need to switch to a different product. That being said, there’s always room for improvement – the litter could clump better, smell nicer or be cheaper – so it’s natural to want to switch from time to time. If you can, it’s a good idea to test your kitty’s litter preferences. Purchase two different kinds you like, provide three boxes for a short time, one filled with the previous litter, the other two with new types, and watch your kitty’s bathroom behavior. Very soon, it should be obvious which type they prefer.
Once you’ve found a litter that suits your and your cat’s preferences, make sure it satisfies the following criteria:
Absorbs well: a good-quality litter needs to absorb as much urine as possible. The goal is not to have to empty the litter every single time your pet pees.
Controls odor: another very important factor to consider is how well the litter controls litter box odors. Some products are scented to mask the smell in addition to sealing it, others are not. There is no better or worse here; what’s really important is that the litter is effective at controlling the odor. That said, if your kitty has a sensitive nose, it’s better to stick to non-scented products.
Clumps well: to be able to scoop out your kitty’s waste quickly and easily, you’ll need a litter that clumps well. Instead of dumping the entire pan, clumping allows for simple removal of only used, solid clumps.
Low in dust and tracking: for your and your kitty’s safety, it’s best to go for low-dust litters. While there are only a few litters with zero-dust abilities, there are plenty of products that produce low dust, which is more than good enough for healthy cats. As for tracking, you can’t avoid it completely, but the less you have to clean after your kitty’s litter duty, the better. It’s good to know that super-quick clumping litters sometimes stick to more than just cat waste – if the product sticks to your cat’s paws a lot, consider purchasing formulas with both clumping and non-clumping particles.
Different Types of Cat Litter
Cat litter has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1947. Today, there is a huge number of litters available, which can make the selection process rather difficult for pet parents. To help you decide which type is better suited for you and your feline companion’s needs, we’ve outlined some of the most important types and their pros and cons.
Clay: the original kitty litter, clay remains the most common and popular type because it ticks all the right boxes. It’s inexpensive, great for sealing in the waste and odor, plus most cats like it. It comes in clumping and non-clumping formulas. The former one is made of bentonite clay and besides clumping, it also absorbs all odors really well. This type is super-easy to scoop out, but some formulas tend to stick to paws and leave behind dust. The non-clumping type is more likely to leave behind some moist litter, but since it’s not made of bentonite, it doesn’t produce dust.
Natural alternatives: while clay is certainly a natural material, it isn’t exactly biodegradable. For those looking for more eco-friendly cat litters, alternatives such as corn, wheat and pine are better options. These litters are environmentally friendly, don’t track, and typically do a good job at clumping, making them easy to dispose of. That said, some of these materials have pretty strong natural scents which may be offensive to some, and they’re more expensive than clay litters (which is ironic, considering they’re renewable!).
Scented: because some cat litters cannot absorb waste odors very well, they’re scented. This helps mask the natural smell of poop and urine, which, we’re sure you’ll agree, we can all do without, especially pet parents who live in small apartments. On the flip side, some scented litters are heavily perfumed, which some cats may find offensive. And if your cat is particularly finicky, they may not want to use it.
Non-Scented: unscented cat litters don’t have any sort of fragrance added to them, which makes them gentle on the nose. Usually, picky cats prefer unscented litters, although many don’t mind when they’re lightly perfumed. That said, even the unscented litters sometimes have a natural smell – for example, pine litter will always smell a little like pine. It’s good to keep in mind that without added perfumes, you’ll be able to smell cat waste more easily.
Best Ways to Reduce Litter Box Odor
Sometimes, even the best kitty litter in the world is not able to efficiently control the odor. Thankfully, there are some tips and tricks that can help you tame the unpleasant smell.
Regular scooping: the absolute best way to reduce odor is to scoop more frequently. Once a day is typically enough, but twice a day is even better.
Weekly cleaning: even if you scoop three times a day, it’s important to clean the litter box once every other week. Use an effective but ammonia-free cleanser to gently scrub the box and then rinse it well. After it dries, put the fresh cat litter in.
Proper placement: while it’s a good idea to place the litter box in a slightly secluded area so your kitty has some privacy, it’s also important that that room is well-ventilated. Adequate air circulation will make the room with the litter box more breathable, which is good news for both you and your cat.
Regular litter box replacement: besides changing your cat’s litter frequently, it’s also important to change the box itself regularly. Typically, it’s enough to replace the box on a yearly basis, although this depends on your kitty’s bathroom habits first and foremost. If you notice quite a few scratch marks on the box (from the cat’s attempts to bury its waste), it’s time to replace it. These tiny grooves and scratches are hard to clean and sterilize, making them great places for bacteria to hide and proliferate.
Use baking soda: if all else fails, try adding a layer of sodium bicarbonate at the bottom of the litter box. Since it has mild abrasive, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, baking soda is also good at controlling odor.
Clumping and Non-Clumping: Which is Better?
The difference between clumping and non-clumping litter is in the ability of the clumping type to solidify once it has been soaked with pet urine. This allows for easier removal of the soiled litter, giving you the chance to replace only the area of the litter that you removed the clumps from. This helps improve the longevity of the litter. On the other hand, non-clumping litter may require more frequent replacement since you cannot remove substantially less litter from the box. Basically, with the non-clumping type, you’ll typically have to replace all of the litter more frequently.
So, which is better? Well, if you’re talking about less frequent cleaning of the entire box and easier management of soiled litter, then the obvious winner is clumping litter. However, if you prefer something cheaper and don’t really mind replacing your cat litter more frequently, the non-clumping cat litter is better.
Useful Tips on Using Cat Litter
Getting the right kitty litter for your pet is only one aspect of proper feline pet care. The next crucial element is learning how to use different types of litter correctly. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Scoop the litter on a daily basis with or without visible clumps or fecal matter. This helps aerate the substrates that are in deeper layers while also helping minimize odor build-up.
If you have a litter box that has shorter sidings, it is wise to put a higher barrier around the box to keep the cat litter contained. Make sure to provide access for your feline friend to get in and out easily. If not, invest in a cat litter box that has high sidewalls.
Regardless of how absorbent or super-clumpy your litter is, it is still very important to clean your cat’s litter box regularly. The box should be washed and rinsed thoroughly to make it more pleasing for your cat to go in and do its business.
If you find cat litter around your cat’s box make sure to clean it as soon as you notice it. You can also schedule regular sweeping and vacuuming of the area where the litter box is located.
To improve the odor control properties of the litter, you may want to sprinkle a good amount of bicarbonate soda at the bottom of the box just before filling it with your chosen cat litter. This can greatly aid in controlling odor. It’s also cat-friendly!
Don’t skimp on the number of litter boxes if you have multiple cats. Each cat should have its own bathroom. You may have cat litter that’s designed for multi-cat households but this will still pale in comparison to having a dedicated ‘restroom’ for each of your felines.
Use mats and rugs to catch scattered litter and clean it easier.
Best Cat Litter FAQ:
Q: How do I dispose of cat litter?
To keep your cat healthy and happy and your home neat and clean, it’s crucial to dispose of your pet’s litter regularly. By using a litter scooper, you can simply scoop out the used litter, place it in a plastic or paper bag, and put it in your trash. To make sure you’re well protected against litter dust and your cat’s waste, always wear gloves and a mask when scooping and cleaning. After you’re done, don’t forget to wash both the litter scoop and your hands with soap and water.
If you want to reduce your pet’s footprint on the environment, consider purchasing a biodegradable, eco-friendly litter that you can compost. This type of cat litter is particularly useful for folks who have a garden patch. Do bear in mind that you should only use composted litter on non-edible plants and trees!
Q: How often should I change cat litter?
Daily scooping is a must if you want your kitty to have a clean, tidy litter box (and if you want your house to smell nice!). But even if you scoop multiple times a day, there comes a time when you have to change your cat’s litter completely. But how often you should actually replace the litter depends on several factors: how often you scoop, how many cats you have, and which litter you use. Typically, with clay litter, you should replace it every two to three weeks. That said, if you scoop two times a day and clean the litter box frequently, you may only have to replace it on a monthly basis. If you use crystal litter, you may even be able to push it a little over a month.
Q: Are all of these cat litters environmentally friendly?
While natural, clay litters, especially those containing bentonite clay, are far from being eco-friendly. To get this type of litter, mining is required. This wouldn’t be much of a problem per se if bentonite wasn’t found near the surface of the earth. With bentonite, “strip mining” is used to excavate the mineral, which has a negative impact on the environment (it leaves behind infertile waste rock). Similarly, the all-natural crystal litters (made from silica), are not very eco-friendly either as they take up space in landfills. If you’re concerned about the effects of cat litter on the environment, we suggest switching to biodegradable alternatives such as wood, corn, pine, grains, paper and similar natural alternatives.