Which litter is right for you?

Cats are wondrous creatures of habit, with high standards and exacting preferences when it comes to hygiene. That’s why it is so important to choose the right litter for your feline friend, and one that meets your needs, as well!

That said, there are many product choices out there, each with their own unique advantage.

Plain Clay

Plain clay-based litters help contain waste by drying it. These products come in relatively large particles and are often very dusty. While they are highly absorbent, they must be fully replaced when the litter box is regularly cleaned out, rather than simply topped up. They also often use odour-control ingredients to keep the surrounding area smelling clean. Long-hair breeds sometimes prefer plain clay-based litter over newer clumping products because the coarser particles are less likely to stick to their fur.

Clumping Litters

This type of litter – probably the most common type – collects cat urine into easily scoopable clumps, and many people find it can be more user-friendly to cats given its finer texture versus plain clay. Only the feces and clumps need to be removed at the time of cleaning, rather than replacing the box’s entire contents. The box can then be topped up with more litter. Since they are also made of clay, clumping litter can be dusty – some brands more so than others. Many clumping litters are sold in covered pails, which can be lined with plastic bags and used as waste bins near the litter box for scooped clumps and feces.

Crystal Products

One of the more recent innovations in litter has been crystal litter, made of highly absorbent silica gel and sand. The granules are tiny beads, which remain dry because liquid evaporates quickly off of them.
While the beads or pearls deal with moisture and absorb odour, they do not clump. However, with convenience in mind, some products are designed to contain urine for up to one month before the box is changed. Solid waste needs to be cleaned out more frequently.

Plant-Based Products

The selection of natural plant-based litters has been growing in recent years. Their advantages include being generally dust-free and environmentally friendlier than non-decomposing clays. Plant-based litters can be made from wheat, corn kernels, corncob flakes, cedar flakes or chips, kenaf (a fibre from the West Indies), hardwood sawdust, or pine pellets. Some of these products can be flushable depending on the type of septic system in your home.

Another advantage of plant-based litters is that they are usually digestible, in case a curious kitten takes a bite or two. However, no matter which litter is being used, kittens should be monitored so they do not eat any of it. Plant-based products are less likely to cause them problems, but no litter is appropriate for ingestion.

Paper-Based Products

Similar in almost every way to plant-based products, they are now also litters made from recycled paper, including newspapers. The paper is ground, shredded, or pelletized into an appropriate particle size.

Location, Location

Given the choice, most cats will pick an open (uncovered litter box, filled with clean, unscented litter. If you have a covered box, it is especially important to be diligent about cleaning it, since any odours are confined to a small area. This may deter your cat from using the box. In addition, a covered box may not allow a larger cat enough room to scratch and dig. Both of these issues may result in your cat choosing another area (for example, your bath mat, which will certainly be quickly cleaned!) for its daily eliminations.

Keep It Clean

Most cats are very particular about the cleanliness of their litter boxes. Some cats even prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another, and so you may be well off to provide two boxes. In multi-cat households, some cats will not eliminate in a box used by another cat. Multi-cat households should have at least one box per cat, plus one extra, to meet their needs. It is paramount that your cat’s box be kept as clean as possible – remember that cats have a much stronger sense of smell than we do!

Used with permission by: Kristina Cooper, RVT
Pets Magazine