How to Choose a Cat Litter Both You and Your Kitty Will Love

Change that cat litter!

Is Your Cat Litter Doing its Job?

Walk into a pet store or just browse the pet products aisle of your local supermarket, and chances are you’ll be confronted with at least five different types of cat litter, if not 10 or 15. All of them claim to be the least messy, least smelly, and the best for your cat’s health.

With all that competition, it’s hard to know which one your cat will prefer. While it’s tempting to just grab the cheapest one or whatever happens to be on sale, choosing a cat litter that way could leave you with a cat who prefers to use the living room carpet instead. Taking the time to find a type both you and your cat are content with helps prevent little “accidents” like this.

Know Your Litters

Each type of cat litter has its pros and cons. Often, the type your cat prefers depends on some factor unique to her. For instance…

  • The declawed cat you adopted may prefer a softer litter, such as one made of corn or wheat.
  • Your former outdoor kitty may like a handful of dirt mixed into the box.
  • A long-haired cat will want something that won’t stick to her fur.
  • Your cat may simply not like the powerful odor of scented litter, but will happily use unscented.

Fortunately, you have a number of options.

Natural Clay  

This is the most common and usually the cheapest type of commercially available cat litter. Most (non feral) cats will use it, primarily because most have used it at some time when they were kittens. The downside of this litter is the silica dust it produces, which can cause lung problems in your cat. Inhaling that dust when you clean the box isn’t especially healthy for you, either.

Clumping Litter

The bentonite clay in this litter allows it to absorb liquids and swell, forming a clump that’s easy to scoop out. It’s convenient and many vets recommend it for adult cats, but only for adult cats.

Never use clumping litter with kittens younger than six months. Kittens tend to ingest litter when they clean their paws after using the box. Once inside the kitten’s digestive tract, the litter will swell just as it does in the litter box and can cause a potentially fatal intestinal blockage.

Crystalline Silica 

Just like clay litters, silica litter produces silica dust. To make matters worse, when your cat ingests it (by licking it offer her paws), it absorbs water and nutrients the cat needs for optimal health. This litter is less than ideal and some pet care professionals are wary of its safety. In any case, steer clear of silica litter if you have kittens or if your adult cat has any health issues. 

Plant Products

More recently, a number of plant-based litters have appeared on the market. You’ll find litters made of pine, cedar, corn and wheat. Produced by eco-conscious companies, these litters are typically free of preservatives, dyes, and perfumes. Even so, they’re formulated to control odors so they won’t sink up the house.

Some cats prefer the softer texture of these litters. Not all cats take to them right away, but most can get used to them. Those who don’t may be put off my the natural scents, particularly with cedar, or the texture, so you’ll want to find a brand more suitable for your individual cat.

Tips for Switching Brands with No Accidents

If you’ve been having problems with your cat not using the box and you’ve decided to try a new litter, offer the new litter for at least two weeks. Your cat may need a little time to get used to the new scent.

If you’re currently using a litter your cat likes, but you want to change for health or ecological reasons, make the change a little at a time. After you clean the litter box, first fill the box with a layer of the new litter, then spread a thinner layer of the old litter on top. With each litter box cleaning, increase the amount of new litter, while decreasing the old.

Once you find a litter both you and your cat are happy with, stick with it. Cats are sensitive to change and a sudden change in litters could put the cat off the box. Switching brands in an attempt to save a little could cost you more in both time and money if your cat stops using the box and wets on the floor instead.

For more on choosing a safe, effective cat litter that meets your cat’s individual needs, check outCat Urine Problems Eliminated.

Cat Peeing in the House? Consider the Litter.

Cat laying in litter box dreaming about the beach.The issue of cat litter seems like it should be a fairly straightforward thing, right? I mean, it’s essentially just kitty toilet “paper.” Humans use can choose ultrasoft, scented, flower-printed paper or just make do with the rough, unbleached paper, so why should a cat care what he uses in the the “bathroom?”

Whether or not it’s logical to us, cats do have preferences when it comes to litter. In fact, problems with the litter can be enough to send your cat looking for a litter box alternative he considers better, like the floor behind the sofa or in a corner of the kitchen. So, if you expect your cat to use the litter box, you’ll need to get the litter right.

There’s a Reason There are So Many Types of Cat Litter

Stop by any large pet store and you’ll probably find at least half a dozen types of cat litter available. The most common are gravel-type litters made of natural clay (non-clumping) or betonite clay (clumping). You can also find pellet-type litters made of corn, pine or recycled newspaper. Most cats prefer gravel-type litter, so if you’ve been using pellets and your cat’s been avoiding the litter box, try switching to gravel.

Conversely, some cats prefer pellets because they’re softer on the feet. If it turns out your cat likes pellet-type litter, I have a money-saving tip for you in Cat Urine Problems Eliminated. All litters have their pros and cons and the choice really depends on what your cat will use, not what the commercials say. The only thing I’d add is to avoid using clumping litter with kittens younger than 6 months of age. Kittens tend to ingest litter when they clean their paws and clumping litter may cause intestinal blockages. It’s not common, but why take the risk?

Litter Depth: Finding a Happy Medium

The amount of litter you put in the box is another factor you’ll need to experiment with because different cats prefer different depths. We humans who have to clean the litter box prefer deeper litter because it’s easier to scoop. This is particularly true with clumping litter. To make sure the clumps are easily scoopable and don’t stick to the bottom of the litter box, you may need 3 or 4 inches of litter.

The problem with that depth is that many cats dislike walking in deep litter and won’t use a box with 3 inches of litter in it. If you’ve been adding a lot of litter to the box, try cutting back to just 1 inch. Although this shallow depth may make it harder to clean the box, it’s worth the trouble if it gets your cat to stop using the carpet or linoleum, which is much harder to clean than any litter box.

Note, too, that if your cat is choosing slick surfaces like linoleum floors or the bathroom sink, it’s a good sign there’s too much litter in the box. Some cats prefer just a handful of litter. Yes, that makes the box hard to clean, but again, it’s still better than cat pee in the sink.

Cats Appreciate Cleanliness, Too

With their frequent “tongue bathing,” cats have earned a reputation for cleanliness. Given a choice, a cat would never walk around in his own feces. Although kitties do tend to stick to one area for bathroom purposes, outdoors they’re able to bury their leavings deeply enough that they don’t have to walk through them. And once a spot gets too dirty, they just move on to a cleaner one.

So, if you expect your cat to use the litter box, the box has got to be clean. This means litter box scooping is a daily task. This is not something you can let go for a week or even three or four days. Daily litter box scooping is just one of the responsibilities of having a cat.

Covered boxes, baking soda, and deodorizers may hold down the smell, but they don’t remove the source of the odor. Your cat still has to walk through that poo and pee to use the box and many cats just won’t do it. They’ll look for a clean spot on the floor instead. For this reason, scoop every time the box contains three soilings. Be aware, too, that there are a few picky kitties out there who won’t enter a box with any soiling, so you’ll have to scoop after every bathroom visit (kitty’s, not yours. :-))

If you have several cats in the house, a single litter box can get pretty full in just one afternoon. To make it easier to keep the boxes clean, put out a litter box for each cat. Even if the boxes are side by side, the additional clean space gives your cats a choice besides the carpet.

On the flip side, avoid to over-sanitizing the litter box with strong smelling cleaners like undiluted bleach or citrus cleaners. The smell can keep the cat away from the box. The litter box should smell slightly of cat pee because it’s this scent that tells the cat where the correct bathroom area is.

Putting it All Together

Of course, litter and the litter box overall is just one factor in stopping your cat from peeing in the house. Health and the cat’s environment also come into play. You can solve your cat’s urination problems and get your home completely free of cat urine odors, but the solutions may not always be obvious. Instead of wasting time learning by trial and error, read the book Cat Urine Problems Eliminated to discover proven-effective ways to retrain your cat and regain your home.