Choosing a Cat Litter Your Kitty Will Love Title

Photo Credit: Laura Bittner via Flickr

Choosing a cat litter can be a daunting task. Pet supply stores and grocery stores have aisles of different cat litters! They all claim that they are the best for your cat. Who knew that your cat’s potty was such a big business?! If you are wondering what makes one litter different from the next, you are in the right place.

When choosing a cat litter, don’t fall for the gimmicks.

The marketing on cat litters is often geared to appeal to the cat owner’s convenience. The truth of the matter is that cat litter must always be scooped and changed. While many litters do have a way of making the odor more tolerable, there isn’t a lot they can do about the bacteria in the litter box.

Scooping out as much of the cat’s waste as possible (and leaving it in the box as little time as possible) will keep the amount of bacteria and germs in the litter box to a minimum. Just remember that your cat will have to walk around in that litter box a couple of times per day and will probably lick their feet clean afterward. Also, they will be walking around your home and touching you with those paws.

Not all cat litters are created equal!

Since the 1940’s cat litter has been made from clay. Why? Clay is more absorbent than sand and cats will easily accept it’s smell and texture. It is also reasonably inexpensive to manufacture. Clay litters do an excellent job!

Choosing a cat litter Classic Tabby Scottish Fold
Photo Credit: Tom Thai

It is important to note, however, that clay litter it does come at a cost that may be important to you if you are concerned about the environment. The clay used to make clay cat litters is collected through a process called strip mining, which tends to scar large sections of earth. With environmental concerns in mind, several other materials have been developed for use as cat litter. Other materials you can find cat litter made from including the following and many more:

Each material comes with its own set of pros and cons. There is no truly right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a type of cat litter as long as it is meeting the needs of your cat. Most of the newer cat litter materials are made from renewable or recycled resources, some are biodegradable, some are available in clumping varieties, some have better odor control than others, and some are more easily accepted by cats than others.

When choosing a cat litter by material, consider not only your ethical beliefs but what will be best for your cat. Your cat will not use their litter box if they don’t like the smell or feel of the litter. If you are changing from one material to the other, it is likely that you will need to wean your cat onto the new litter. Other considerations when choosing a cat litter by material:

  • Will this help you to be able to keep the bacteria under control in the litter box?
  • What will happen if your cat ingests a small amount of this litter when cleaning themselves?

To Clump or Not to Clump?

Clumping litters hold sections of litter that have been soaked by urine together. This makes it easier to remove urine from the litter box without needing to dump the entire box. Removing urine removes bacteria and moisture from the litter box. The downside to clumping litter is that it tends to be more expensive and not all cat litter materials can clump. This is a feature that should be carefully weighed against the others – choosing a cat litter with clumping is very helpful.

Dealing with Dust

Choosing a Cat Litter black and white kittens

Photo Credit: Tracie Hall

Due to the dry nature of cat litter, each one has a certain amount of dust. You will notice it most when you pour the litter into the litter box and when you pour it back out of the litter box. Why should you care about dust? Both you and your cat will be breathing it in. Remember that your cat is much smaller than you and therefore, more dramatically affected by the dust.  It is likely that your cat will be breathing in that dust every time he/she digs around in the litter box.

When choosing a cat litter, consider the amount of dust in the material. Clay litters tend to be very dusty, but there are brands who have formulated less dusty clay litters. Corn and pine have a lot less dust, but you may have to give up the clumping feature if you choose one of these.

Keeping Odors Under Control

One of the biggest complaints cat owners have about owning a cat is the smell of the litter box. Cat litter brands have done all kinds of different things to try and resolve this complaint.

When choosing a cat litter, avoid litters that use a perfume or added scent to cover up the smell of the litter box.  Your cat may not like the scent of the litter and choose not to use the litter box. Also, your cat’s sense of smell is far greater than yours. Just because you can’t smell the litter box, doesn’t mean that they can’t.  Adding a scent to the litter to mask the smell is sort of like sticking an air freshener in a port-a-potty.

There are technologies that actually eliminate odors – which is better for everyone. However, don’t let this lull you into the false sense that your cat’s litter box doesn’t have to be regularly scooped and cleaned. Bacteria and germs are still present whether there is a smell or not.

What would you recommend to someone who is choosing a cat litter?

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