Different types of cat litter explained...
Working as a cat sitter for as long as I have you come across 10’s of brands of cat litter. However, they tend to fall into 2 main categories – clumping and non-clumping cat litter. Then within each of these categories, there’s 2-3 different types of litter available based on their ingredients.
In this article, I explain the difference between these main types of cat litter, how they perform, and which ones I recommend. Please note, my recommendations are my own personal opinions and are not sponsored in any way so are completely unbiased and based on best performance seen as a cat sitter of many years!
Clumping Cat Litter
The advantage of using a clumping cat litter is that individual deposits can be removed easily which allows the tray to remain fresher, can be topped up weekly, therefore reducing the number of full litter changes.
Non-Clumping Cat Litter
Non-clumping cat litters work by soaking up urine and odour, but tend to need weekly full tray changes and can leave standing urine in the bottom of the tray if not changed often enough.
Pros & Cons to Clumping & Non-Clumping Cat Litter
The key aspects of each type of litter are compared below:
There are natural and man-made versions for both clumping and non-clumping cat litters:
Plant based cat litters are usually made from wood chips or fibres, wheat, grass, corn, sawdust, & newspaper.
Non-clumping versions swell and attempt to absorb odours.
Clumping versions work best with a minimum of 3″ in the tray. Some bind well, others can break up when deposits are removed.
CLAY & SYNTHETIC
Clay cat litters are usually made from bentonites which swell and absorb odours. Many are clumping, some which hold their shape and others break down when attempted to be removed from the tray.
Synthetic cat litters are usually made from silica gel type material. In my experience they don’t tend to swell as much as other litters and urine can settle to the bottom of the tray. Some are better than others at smell reduction.
Clumping cat litters might have a slightly higher initial cost, but you actually use less as you only need to remove deposits and top up the tray weekly, rather than replacing a whole tray every 4-6 days.
Clumping cat litters tend to stay fresher as urine & poop smells are removed straight away and not left to soak to the bottom. With non-clumping cat litters trays needs to be fully refreshed every 4-6 days depending on how many cats you have.
I have not come across a cat litter that doesn’t produce dust, however, I do find the clay cat litters give off the most dust, even when sifting through it with a litter scoop. Plant based litters tend to only be dusty when poured into the tray, not when removing deposits. Silica ones tend to give off the least amount of dust in my experience (though still some when pouring in).
TRACKING OUT OF THE TRAY:
Again, I have not found a cat litter than doesn’t track out of the tray. It really does depend on the size of the litter and your cat’s technique. Some cats shake their paws as they step out of the litter tray. Others just step out and find a place to clean their paws and deposit the litter there! Large piece litter tends to track a bit less than small sand like litter. Natural litters are more comfy underfoot if a human steps on them. Some of the large silica litter is hard underfoot.
Personally, I prefer working with clumping cat litters. The tray stays cleaner and cats seem happier. As we all know, cats do not like a dirty tray. This could force them use another part of your house rather than their litter box. I tend to lean towards the natural cat litters as you can dispose of deposits and litter in your garden bin (please check with your council), plus they tend to cause less allergic reactions and are more pleasant to deal with in my opinion.
How to Introduce Your Cat to a New Cat Litter
Popular supermarket cat litters might not be the best option for your cat. It is definitely worth trying a few different types to see what works best for you and your cat. However, I would never recommend changing a litter box to a new litter just like that. Cats notice changes and if moved to a new cat litter too quickly they might decide to go elsewhere in the house. I suggest putting the new cat litter in a second tray so your cat still has the option of the original litter, or to mix it in gradually increasing the proportion of new litter in the existing tray over 1-2 weeks.
Clumping Cat Litter - TOP PICKS
CAT'S BEST OKO PLUS (NATURAL)
This is my TOP PICK of all the cats litters I've come across. It performs well at 3-4" deep and wee's and poops are removed very easily. It can be placed in a biodegradeable bag and put in the garden bin (check with your council). It says it's flushable, but the clumps don't tend to break up when flushed (it's designed to clump after all!) and I would say flushing was at your own discretion.
Best prices are online, but this is also sold in places like Pets At Home.
WAITROSE CLUMPING LITTER (CLAY)
Not many of the supermarket clumping cat litters perform well. Many are very sticky and difficult to remove from the tray. However, the Waitrose Clumping Cat Litter is a top performer. It's reasonably priced, clumps well, and has a pleasant smell. It is a little bit dusty when pouring and sifting through with a scoop, however, clumps tend to stay formed.
This can only be purchased from Waitrose.
CATSAN ULTRA CLUMPING LITTER (CLAY)
I am afraid I'm not a fan of the usual Catsan cat litter. I find it unabsorbant and tracks a lot. However, their clumping version does perform well. It is made from bentonite. It does create a bit of dust, but clumps well when 3-4" deep in the tray. I also find it doesn't have an odour.
This version of Catsan is sold in some supermarkets and places like Pets At Home.
Non-Clumping Cat Litter - TOP PICKS
There aren't many non-clumping cat litters that I can recommend. However, wood pellets tend to do a decent job and are cheap. They swell up when wee'd on and in most cases you can scoop out that portion of litter in one go. If you don't, smells can build up. I do find it a little tricky to remove poops without taking too much litter with them.
A wood pellet version is usually available in most supermarkets and is quite cost effective.
Pettex Light Weight Cat Litter
This cat litter is made of small pieces of clay. It's a different texture to the clumping cat litters and some cats may prefer it. It doesn't clump, but I find it absorbs wee's well and it's easy to sift through to remove poops. If wee's are sifted back into the rest of the litter I find it absorbs really well and reduces smells. However, it is dusty when pouring and when sifting through.
This litter is best priced online but is also available at Pets At Home. I have not seen it in the supermarkets.
UNDER PERFORMING CAT LITTERS – There are a few cat litters, in my opinion, that don’t perform as well as the ones listed above. I suggest trying another cat litter to see if it works better for you. I find the traditional white silica cat litter that is sold in every supermarket doesn’t absorb very much urine and odours linger. It is also hard underfoot when tracked out of the tray. Corn based cat litters clump, but sometimes don’t stay together when being removed and they have a distinct smell. Crystal cat litters absorb urine somewhat, but not as well as clumping cat litters, and pieces can be hard under foot when stepped on.