Cat litter is a fact of life when you have a cat. In some ways, it’s a significant advantage. You don’t have to take her outside in unpleasant weather to use the bathroom or pick up after her when she’s done. It’s all neatly contained in the litterbox. Or is it?
As every cat owner knows, litter tends to get everywhere. It tracks, it’s dusty and sometimes the “fresh fragrance” the manufacturers give it is just obnoxious. Still, it’s just something cat owners have to deal with. There are ways to make it easier, but first, let’s take a look at what cat litter is all about.
What is the Best Vacuum for Cat Litter?
Cat Litter 101
Cat litter was invented in 1947 by Ed Lowe. Back then the idea of cats being indoor pets rather than just rodent control around the farm was very new. People that brought cats indoors gave them boxes filled with soil, ash or sand. The problem was none of those fillers were much good at controlling odor, and they were messy.
One day a friend of Lowe’s asked him if he had any ideas on a suitable absorbent for pet waste. At the time he and his father sold sand, sawdust, and clay to heavy industries to clean up chemical spills. Lowe remembered they had a shipment of clay in the warehouse his father wasn’t interested in and offered it to his friend. The clay did a great job of absorbing waste and odor, and the rest is history.
Of course, traditional clay litters had drawbacks. Once they became soiled, they stopped controlling odor, and you had to throw out the entire box full which became a real chore. Then scooping litter came along. It had a unique ingredient that allowed liquid and solid waste to clump, making them easy to remove while leaving the rest of the litter fresh and clean.
It was a hit, but it too has its cons. It can be very dusty and tracks all over because it gets caught easily between a cat’s paw pads. Silica-based cat litters help with the dust issue, but there are questions about whether it’s safe if ingested by the cat during grooming. This is of particular concern for kittens.
Biodegradable litters made out of newsprint, soybeans, wheat, pine or corn are also available. They are better for landfills and safe if ingested, but don’t always do as good a job at controlling odor, and some cats dislike the texture.
Now that you’ve got the basics of cat litter, let’s take a closer look at how to minimize litter box mess. A good quality vacuum is a must of course, but there are other things you can do to help as well.
Reducing Cat Litter Tracking
Cat Litter Rugs and Mats
One of the simplest things you can do to reduce having litter tracked all over your house is to put a mat or rug in front of your cat’s litter box. It will catch the pieces of litter that get caught between her little paw pads. Mats and rugs come in a variety of materials, sizes, and patterns. Be sure to get one with a texture your cat is okay with! No matter which you choose, you’ll have to get in the habit of shaking it out regularly. Some rugs and mats make this chore a lot easier than others but always do it carefully and at least a couple of times a week.
The Litterbox Matters
The type of litter box you have does make a difference. A covered one is best, although some cats don’t find them very comfortable to use. If yours is one of them, find one with high sides and a raised lip in front. This way when she digs, more of the litter will stay inside the box where it belongs. These kinds of litter boxes are also useful for boy cats that tend to urinate in the spraying position.
Litter Matters Too!
Litter does matter! Today there are low-dust formulas that don’t track as much, as well as silica and plant-based types that tend to track less. Use the best quality litter you can afford, and avoid brands that are known to be overly dusty. Not only is that dust a pain to clean off everything, it’s not particularly good for you or your cat to be breathing in.
Furniture for your cat’s litter box is a thing! Places like Ikea and many pet stores offer all kind of stylish tables and cabinets that have space inside for a litter box and a discreet entrance for your cat. The box is entirely contained, resulting in a substantial reduction in litter tracking. This type of furniture is also great for small spaces, people who object to the sight of a litter box for whatever reason, and people who also own dogs (if you own one and a cat you know why!).
Up Your Cleaning Routine
How you clean the litter box really does make a difference! If you aren’t scooping at least once a day, start. Why? The dirtier a litter box is allowed to become, the more strenuously your cat will dig to find a clean spot to use. The more cats dig, the more litter ends up outside the box. You may also want to reduce the amount of litter you’re putting in the box. If it’s overfilled, it will just make that much more of a mess when your cat digs.
Yes, paw maintenance. Paws are the primary way litter gets tracked around the house. Always keep claw clipped (this should be done at least once month-your furniture will thank you!). If your cat has long hair, keep the fur around her toes and ankles trimmed as well. Check her paw pads from time to time to make sure no litter has gotten stuck between her toes, which can be painful, especially if t gets wet and clumps up.
Get Rid of the Litterbox!
No, we’re not suggesting you send your cat outdoors, we’re talking about toilet training! Some people swear that cats can be trained to use a toilet just like us, although no one has been successful in teaching them how to flush just yet.
There are various kits available that promise to have your cat trained in just a few weeks. They usually involve placing a pan of litter on the toilet and then gradually removing it until the cat is using only the toilet. However, according to experts, it may not be such a great idea as it has several drawbacks that could lead to behavioral issues:
- It goes against a cat’s natural instincts to dig and bury
- Multi-cat households may not want to share one toilet
- Safety-there is a risk of the cat falling into the toilet
- Without the litter, box owners are unable to spot potential urinary or digestive issues
- If the cat is boarded or hospitalized, they’ll have to use a litter box and may have to be retrained.
- Dangerous for very young, very old and chronically ill cats
Given these issues, it’s probably best to not pursue this option and to stick with what comes naturally to your cat.
Selecting a Cat Litter Vacuum
A good vacuum will be your best friend. Whether you choose handheld or traditional upright, make sure the vacuum you want has good suction and a large, easy to empty tank. It should be able to perform on carpets, rugs and hard floors and be easy to maneuver.
Try and find ones that are on the quiet side, for your cat’s sake, but even if you do, never vacuum while your cat is using or near the box. Doing so could traumatize her enough to make her start avoiding the box, which is a whole other set of messes for you to deal with.
What to Avoid When Looking at Vacuums for Cat Litter
If you have asthma or allergies, avoid any vacuum that doesn’t have an air filtration system and a sealed tank. These things will keep you breathing easier as you clean and when you have to empty the tank.
No matter how enticing the commercial may be, don’t give in to the “As Seen on TV” hype. Products sold in infomercials are almost always overpriced, and the shipping and processing fees can be steep. Instead, take down the name of the model and look for it on Amazon or at your local box store.
Even though they often say “not available in stores” it’s not always true. Many times they are available in stores and for much cheaper. As a bonus, you won’t’ have to deal with pushy upselling or risk being sneakily enrolled in an auto-ship program for accessories you really don’t want or need.
Be especially careful of ordering vacuums (or any electrical items for that matter) from websites you’re not familiar with. Sometimes these products are poorly manufactured items from China that aren’t UL-certified and could be dangerous to operate. Always stick to stores and brands you know and trust. Safety is always better than saving money, right?
Reviewed: The Best Vacuums for Cat Litter
Now that you’re an expert on cat litter and how to deal with it let’s take a look five top brands of vacuums. Each brand and type has benefits and drawbacks, so avoid impulse buying and do your homework. That means reading reviews and product info carefully. Hey, you’re in luck! We’ve got you half way there already by including the pros and cons of each brand for your consideration.
Bissell 20431 Powerglide Lift Off Pet Plus Upright Bagless Vacuum Check Price
The Bissell 20431 PowerGlide Lift Off Pet Plus Upright Bagless Vacuum is a 2-in-1 vacuum with lift off technology for stairs, upholstery, and more. Its specialized pet tools remove pet hair from stairs, upholstery and other hard-to-reach areas where pet hair collects. Works on both hard floors and carpets and has swivel steering for easy maneuvering in tight spaces and features a Febreze pet odor eliminator filter to leave your room fresh and clean.
- Febreze pet odor eliminator
- Multi-level filtration
- Edge to edge suction
- Some customers report issues with vacuum belt
Hoover WindTunnel 3 Pro Pet Bagless Corded Upright Vacuum Check Price
The Hoover WindTunnel 3 Pro Pet Bagless Corded Upright Vacuum features WindTunnel 3 Technology that uses three channels of suction to remove both surface and deep down dirt. It is suitable for use on carpets and hard floors, and includes a 12-foot telescoping wand for cleaning high places.
- WindTunnel 3 technology
- Reusable filter
- 5 Position Height Adjustment
- Bottom release dirt cup
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Professional Check Price
The Shark Navigator Life-Away Pro is a lightweight 2-in-1 vacuum with a detachable canister to help you clean hard to reach areas. It features a sealed system and HEPA filter to trap allergens and works on both carpet and hard floors.
- Specialized cleaning tools
- Allergen removal system
- Detachable canister
- Requires assembly
Black+Decker Airswivel Ultra Lightweight Upright Pet Vacuum Check Price
The Black + Decker Airswivel Ultra Lightweight Upright Pet Vacuum feature an ergonomic handle, swivel steering and is designed to clean both hard floors and carpets. It also features an large, easy to empty tank and a 25-foot cord so you can cover lots of ground easily.
- Works on hard floors and carpet
- Easy to empty tank
- Washable foam filters
- Very lightweight
HoLife Hand Held Cordless Vacuum Cleaner 14.8V Li-ion Battery for Home Pet Hair Vacuum and Car Cleaning Check Price
The HoLife Handheld Cordless Vacuum Cleaner is a lightweight yet powerful option for on the go cleaning. It features, quick charging and quiet operation and can be used to pick up both dry debris and liquids.
- Charges quickly
- Battery life