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What are the Different Types of Cat Litter?

Cat litter comes in various forms, each with unique benefits. Clumping clay litter simplifies waste removal, while silica gel crystals offer superior odor control. Biodegradable options like recycled paper, wood, or corn provide eco-friendly alternatives. With health-tracking litters also emerging, choosing the right type can significantly impact your feline's well-being. Wondering which litter suits your cat best? Let's examine the options together.
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco

Choosing a cat litter can get confusing. A decade ago, pet owners really only had a choice between traditional and clumping litter, but over the past few years, more and more non-traditional options have come into the market. This is a good thing, as many cats are quite picky about their toilet habits, and having options will ensure that an owner can always find the right choice to please his or her feline friend. Whether someone has a new cat or is just looking to make the best possible choice for your pet, there are a number of things to keep in mind when choosing a new litter.

The two original types of cat litter are clumping and non-clumping. Clumping litter has the obvious benefit of clumping around the urine to form a firm mass, so there is little chance the litter box will ever become extremely soiled. This type controls odors much better than the non-clumping variety, but it can sometimes cause medical problems, as cat may lick any excess caught in their paws. Clumping litter clumps everywhere, which means it can cause stomach or intestine problems if ingested.

Many cats are quite picky about their toilet habits.
Many cats are quite picky about their toilet habits.

Non-clumping litter produces less dust and does not have any negative medical effect, but it is certainly harder to keep clean. Cat litter that clumps can be simply added to the box after the used part is scooped away, but the non-clumping variety has to be dumped completely and replaced fairly often to avoid odors.

Owners who are looking for an alternative to the original types may want to consider absorbent silica crystals. They last longer than any other type of cat litter, and they are extremely effective when it comes to neutralizing odors. The only downside is that a cat may refuse to use them. If that's the case, the new litter can be introduced slowly by mixing crystals with regular litter and then shifting quantities slowly.

People who are looking to be friendly to the environment have many cat litter options made with recycled materials such as compressed pine shavings or old newspapers. These litters may require more frequent changing and many not be the best option for a multiple cat household, as they are not pretreated with baking soda, and do not always control odors very well.

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Discussion Comments


an excellent form of clumping "litter" that's also environmentally friendly is chicken feed, specifically the type designated "layer crumbles". It has approximately the texture of gravel litter but it clumps (loosely; not suitable for brisk diggers); the odor control is at least comparable to most unscented scoopable brands, completely biodegradable, and quite inexpensive ($15 for a 50 lb bag at the feed store).


What cat litter is non-clumping?

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    • Many cats are quite picky about their toilet habits.
      By: Sarah Fields
      Many cats are quite picky about their toilet habits.