Outside of food and water, cat litter is the most important thing a cat-owning house needs – but what kind of litter should you get? After litter training your cat, you’ll probably stick with the same brand for a long time, so this a decision that will eventually affect the way you spend hundreds of dollars.
The truth is that no cat litter is appropriate for every household. Instead, it’s best to consider the traits of each type of litter before you settle on one. To help with that, let’s go over each of the major categories before we move on to the list. Note that some types of litter fit into multiple categories, with all the benefits (and drawbacks) thereof.
What is the Best Cat Litter?
- Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Clumping Cat Litter
- Fresh Step Crystals Cat Litter
- World’s Best Cat Litter Scoopable Multiple Cat Clumping Formula
- Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Attract Cat Litter
- sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter
- Arm & Hammer Litter Multi Cat Slide Easy Clean-Up Clumping Cat Litter
Types of Cat Litter
Clumping Cat Litter View Recommendations
Clumping litter is designed to coalesce into small, easily-removed chunks that can be removed from the litter box on a regular basis. Most clumping litters are made from sodium bentonite, a pet-safe chemical that absorbs moisture and gathers together into surprisingly sturdy chunks. This allows urine and feces to be quickly removed, reducing the chance that a dirty litter box will stink up the air.
Clumping litter is removed in chunks, so the amount in the litter box decreases over time. Always try to maintain several inches of litter in the box. If you can see the bottom of the litter box after your cat has used it, it’s too low. Some people prefer to clean the box once a day, while others scoop it every time it’s been used. Either works – though if you can tell it smells, it’s time to clean it.
Note that some clumping litters use other materials. sWheat Scoop, for example, uses a wheat product instead of clay. This is important because sodium bentonite should not be flushed into most systems.
In contrast, calcium bentonite is often used for non-clumping litter. Unlike its sodium-using cousin, calcium bentonite acts as a clay that can absorb up to its weight in fluid before becoming completely saturated. It’s a little like a sponge that way. Non-clumping litter is all replaced at the same time, so it maintains about the same depth.
Crystal Cat Litter View Recommendations
Crystal cat litter is made from silica gel, a compound created from silica dioxide sand, water, and oxygen. The result is a firm gel substance that can absorb up to 40 times its weight in liquid, which is much higher than normal, non-clumping litter. You’ve probably seen this same material in packaged products – silica gel is frequently found inside the small packets marked ‘do not eat’ in bagged food.
Crystal cat litter has several major benefits. First, since it absorbs so much liquid, the litter doesn’t need to be changed as often. (Feces still need to be scooped out on a regular basis, but the litter itself lasts for quite a long time.) Also, crystal boxes tend to be cleaner because mold is much less likely to grow when all the moisture has been absorbed. They don’t create a lot of dust, either.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to this type of litter. Some cats are interested in eating the crystals – which is not good for them – while others find the crystals annoying to walk on. Crystal cat litter also needs to be mixed around on a regular basis. If this isn’t done, it’s common for pools of urine to form, and that can quickly stink up a room.
Flushable Cat Litter View Recommendations
As the name suggests, flushable cat litter is specially designed to go down toilets instead of needing to be bagged up and thrown out. This is particularly helpful if your litter of choice doesn’t fully control the smell. Also, flushable litter is a good choice if you live in an apartment or otherwise have trouble moving around. Most people don’t realize how heavy saturated cat litter is until they’ve had to carry a whole box of it around.
There are two other things to consider if you decide to pick flushable cat litter. First, abrasive products can damage the inside of your toilet and pipes. It’s always better to pick a flushable litter that’s soft enough to pass through the pipes without harming them. Dark-colored litter may also stain the bowls.
Second, it’s difficult to flush an entire box of cat litter at once. Expect to have to flush it several times whenever you empty the box, with all the lifting that accompanies this.
Kitten Litter View Recommendations
Everyone who’s raised a kitten knows that they’re playful and inquisitive – sometimes too much so. It’s not uncommon for them to engage new things with all of their senses, including tasting their litter to see if it counts as food. For many reasons, we want to discourage this – but if they start disliking the litter, they may not use the box at all.
Kitten litter is designed as a balancing act. The best types of kitten litter exhibit the following properties:
- Non-Clumping: Or, if it does clump, it should be easily broken apart. Clumping litters can cause intestinal blockages, which are not safe for cats of any age. (Older cats generally don’t try to eat litter, though.)
- Natural: Some litters are made from products like wheat, corn, grass, or paper pellets. Things that can be digested normally are ultimately safer for kittens.
- Soft: Fine-grain litter is more comfortable than rough products like silica gel (which should never be used for kittens). Some large products – like paper pellets – are also comfortably soft. Your kitten should always feel good about using the litter box – if they hurt their paws, they may decide to relieve themselves somewhere else.
- Unscented: Most cats don’t like scented litter, and a strong smell can drive them away from the box (no matter how much you like it). It’s usually better to avoid fragrances when selecting kitten litter.
Natural/Biodegradable Cat Litter View Recommendations
Natural litters are made from organic products like wheat and grass. These are often considered better for the environment than clay litter, especially because clay litter is not biodegradable and will last longer than you.
Years ago, artificial litter was the only cost-effective option. In modern times, however, natural litter is available at a competitive price and comes with many of the most helpful features shown in other types of litter.
Odor Control Cat Litter View Recommendations
This is so important that almost every litter does this to some extent – nobody, including your cat, wants a litter box that constantly smells of feces and urine. Odor control comes in two forms.
Fragrance control works to mask bad smells with stronger, attractive smells. These are more for your benefit than anything else because most cats dislike scented litter.
Deodorizing litter aims to trap the smells and stop the box from stinking at all. This is more common than fragrance, and overall, it’s a better choice for most households.
All of that aside, litters control odors at different levels. If your cat mostly eats mild foods, you may not need too much odor control. On the other hand, if your cat is regularly fed stronger, gas-inducing foods, you may need to shop around for something better at controlling smells.
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Switching Cat Litters
Cats can be extremely picky, especially when it comes to their litter. If you decide to change brands, slowly introduce the new brand (10% per week) and watch for signs of rejection. If your cat shows a bad reaction, find something else.
The Best Cat Litters
Quick Look : Best Cat Litter in 2021
Now that you know what distinguishes each type of cat litter, let’s see which brands are the best in each category.
Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Clumping Cat Litter Check Price
This excellent clumping cat litter does more than absorb the moisture from urine – it mixes heavy, non-tracking granules with a medium grade clay. The practical upside of this is a clump that stays on top for easy removal while not breaking down too easily.
This particular product features excellent odor control and is intended for multiple-cat households. Note that most cats prefer having their own litter boxes – while some are willing to share, you’ll need to buy in bulk if you’re filling multiple litter boxes. This product is currently available in 18-lb bags, 20-pound boxes, and 40-lb bags. We recommend the boxes (for easier storage) if you’re buying for multiple cats.
The only real drawback of this litter is that, like many clumping litters, the clay used to make it can’t be flushed. Expect to carry out bags on a regular basis. If you have trouble lifting a full bag or box, make sure you split your trip into smaller loads.
- Excellent odor control
- Easy removal of urine and feces
- 99.9% dust-free
- Excellent for mechanical and sifting litter boxes
- Can’t be flushed
- Clings to bottom of litter box if the litter isn’t deep enough
- Bags might break during shipment – another reason to get the mid-weight boxes instead
Fresh Step Crystals Cat Litter Check Price
Crystal cat litter is easily the most distinct product on this list – it doesn’t look or act like anything else, but this stuff certainly gets the job done. Fresh Step Crystals are particularly good for odor control and have measurably superior performance when compared to clay litters. Like all crystals, they’re also excellent at moisture control, and in many cases, can have a litter box filled as low as 1-1/2″.
More importantly, Fresh Step has actively developed crystals that reduce breakage and dust, ensuring neither you nor your cat has to breathe in dangerous bits of silica gel.
This product is only available in a light, 8-pound bag. The manufacturer recommends fully replacing your litter every 20-30 days, or faster if you have multiple cats. Waste and litter should be thrown in the trash, not flushed down the toilet. Given the relatively short amount of time this litter will be in a litter box and the light weight of each bag (just 20% of what some other litters offer), we recommend ordering in bulk – this will save money on shipping and ensure you always have more litter when you need it.
- Outstanding odor control
- Good for multiple cats
- Almost no dust or breakage
- Light enough to easily carry
- More expensive per-pound than most litter
- Only available in a small bag
- Not good for use with liners
World’s Best Cat Litter Scoopable Multiple Cat Clumping Formula Check Price
While we’re not going to comment on the brand name, it’s true that this is an excellent choice as far as flushable litter goes. This particular product is made from 100% whole-kernel corn, creating a light, soft litter that still has excellent odor and moisture control. The litter is 99% dust free and contains no additives, making it safe for you and your pet to breathe the air around it.
Of course, you’re not going to see any corn kernels when you dump this out – World’s Best uses a special process to squish corn (a naturally absorbent material) into granules that start sticking together as soon as they get moist. This makes it easy to scoop the used litter out of the box.
That said, our favorite part of this litter is definitely the softness. Corn isn’t going to even scrape sewage pipes, and the litter clumps start breaking up once you get them in the toilet. That said, be careful how quickly you clean the litter boxes. Most clumps take a short amount of time to solidify enough for easy scooping – if you clean your litter box as soon as your cat uses it, you may end up with crumbles instead of clumps.
This litter is available in 7-lb, 14-lb, and 28-lb bags. The largest bag is usually the most cost-effective, so we recommend ordering it unless you have difficulty carrying that weight.
- Natural ingredients
- Extremely safe for flushing
- 99% dust-free
- Dust may occur if the bag is compacted during transit
- Each bag may not last as long as advertised
Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Attract Cat Litter Check Price
You know a brand is good when it hits our top list twice – and Dr. Elsey’s has done just that. The most interesting detail is that this is a scented litter, but not in the way most people expect. Instead of trying to cover up the smells, this litter uses an herbal scent that helps to attract cats and get them to use the litter box.
This is good for older cats that are being a bit of a problem, but it’s even better for kittens who still need training to use the litter box properly. The texture and particles are also comfortable for kittens’ paws, making the litter pleasant for them to step on.
This product is available in a 20-lb box and a 40-lb bag. The large bags are more cost-effective, but the boxes are easier to store if you plan to buy in bulk. We think ordering the boxes in bulk is ultimately better.
- Designed specifically for training kittens and problem cats
- Hard clumps are easy to remove
- Can’t be flushed
- May stick firmly to the litter box if it’s not deep enough
sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter Check Price
sWheat Scoop places a lot of emphasis on their ingredients – and it shows. This product is made from 100% wheat, allowing it to naturally biodegrade once it’s flushed down the toilet. Even better, wheat is extremely effective at absorbing moisture. This allows clumps to form faster than with many other litter brands, allowing the rest of the litter to stay clean and usable for a longer amount of time.
This product has no added scents, though you will notice the natural smell of wheat when you first open the bag. It’s available in 12-lb, 25-lb, and 36-lb bags. The 25-lb bags are usually the most cost-effective – and they’re easier to move around, too, so we recommend getting them in this size.
- 100% wheat
- Unscented, with excellent odor control
- Works well for multiple-cat households
- A bit dustier than some other brands
- Clumps are small enough that cats may track them out of the box
Arm & Hammer Litter Multi Cat Slide Easy Clean-Up Clumping Cat Litter Check Price
Arm & Hammer may be best known for the baking soda used in baking, but they know odor control. This litter is designed to fully control odors for at least seven days, and the added power is handy if your cat’s waste is especially smelly. Unfortunately, the odor control doesn’t last more than a week, but that’s the trade-off if you need this.
Incidentally, every other litter on this list is also good for controlling smells – most households don’t need to prioritize this factor. That said, litter focusing on stopping smells is available if you need it.
This litter is available in 14-lb, 19-lb, and 28-lb boxes. The biggest box is the most cost-effective.
- Outstanding odor control
- Excellent for multiple cats
- Doesn’t stick to the litter box
- Only available in scented formula
- Denser than many other litters