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.