Elsie lives with three cats and is an experienced pet sitter.
Having worked in shelters, been a petsitter for at least 100 cats, and—most importantly—been a cat owner my entire life, I've had a lot of experience with kitty litter! Here's where all the unsavory time I've spent cleaning out cat boxes is well worth it. As a result, I'm sharing with you my cat litter reviews. I have a lot of experience and recommendations for the best litter on the market today. Naturally, I'm the official “scooper” here in my house; I only gained a brief sabbatical from that duty while I was pregnant due to the risk of Toxoplasmosis.
Fortunately, kitty litter has come a long way over recent years with the introduction of clumping cat litter. There are many kinds to choose from; the decision isn't easy anymore. There are, however, a number of factors to consider when making the choice. To some extent, you and your cat will make the decision together. Kitty litter certainly isn't one size fits all. Hopefully my reviews will make this decision easier for you.
Read on for my exhaustive cat litter reviews. Learn about many brands of litter and which are the best.
Things to Consider When Purchasing Clumping Cat Litter
Before reading the reviews, there are a number of things to keep in mind:
- Obviously, litter prices vary according to type, brand, and where it's purchased. You will need to comparison shop here.
- Is it biodegradable? Clay-based kitty litter is not biodegradable and has a huge impact upon the environment. Sadly, more than 2 million tons of litter is dumped into our landfills yearly. Most of the litter isn't biodegradable.
- Is it flushable? Some of the new plant-based litters can be flushed right down your toilet. This is not only convenient, but also environmentally friendly.
- How well does it control odor? Not all litters are equally as efficient at controlling odor. Clumping litters have become the most popular since actually removing the offending smell is one of the best odor control methods. However, there are alternatives as I will discuss below.
- Is it relatively dust-free? Many commercial brand litters are quite dusty, posing health issues for both owners and cats alike. Look for ones that say they're dust-free.
- Is it full of chemicals and perfumes? Many kitty litters have unhealthy amounts of additives in them. In addition to the health concerns, a lot of cats simply do not like the strong smell emanating from their litter boxes. They might choose another, quite unpleasant place to defecate.
- Is the texture one that's pleasant for your cat? Cats are funny about their paws. For example, many don't like the new crystal litters. They find them irritating on their sensitive paws. One of my cats would have nothing to do with the crystal litter; she looked like she was walking on hot coals in the pan.
The type of cat litter you choose will, in part, be dictated by the type of litter box you have. Obviously, the most common automatic litter boxes require scoopable cat litter.
A problem I've run into with the rake-type automatic litter boxes is they often cannot handle much kitty litter at once. The rakes get stuck and end up missing a lot of the urine clumps. The absolute best litter for these is called World's Best Cat Litter. It's made from whole-kernel corn and is very light, so the rakes have an easy time pushing the clumps.
Clay Clumping/Scoopable Litter
Most clay clumping cat litter brands use a type of clay called sodium bentonite, which acts as an expandable cement. Since they swell 15 to 18 times their dry size, they are absolutely not to be flushed—no doubt, you would have some clogged pipes on your hands.
Sodium bentonite has been implicated in some possible cat health problems. Just as it expands in your pipes, it will expand in your cat's digestive track, wreaking havoc. Cats naturally lick their paws and inadvertently ingest some of the sodium bentotite. There is concern among owners and pet health specialist this can cause blockage, malabsorption, dehydration, and even death in cats. This is even more of a problem with kittens, as many of them are curious and naturally tempted to sample their litter.
Meanwhile, an aging cat is prone to a condition called Pica, a condition that makes them crave inedible substances. More studies need to be performed, but there's some growing evidence of the dangers of sodium bentotite.
- Cat Health Problems and Clumping Clay Kitty Litters
Supporting data on sodium bentonite for an article on the possible cat health dangers of clumping clay kitty litters.
Plant-Based Clumping Litters
These are the new generation of clumping cat litters, and certainly the least environmentally offensive of all. These litters may be made from the following:
- wheat by-products
- wheat grass
- beet pulp
- oat hulls
I would stay away from wheat grass and beet pulp litters as they don't control odor very well. Kenaf is what's used to make tree-free paper and is related to cotton. I've had the privilege of using many of these and have been quite pleased with their clumping ability. Like the crystal litters, these don't weigh very much, a definite advantage for some. I've found the corn cat litters do a great job of deodorizing.
The negative part of their light weight comes if you have a cat who likes to perch on the edge of the litterbox while doing her duty. I've discovered many cat boxes overturned as a result, with a disastrous aftermath.
If you care about the environment, like I do, the plant-based litters, like World's Best Cat Litter are the best cat litter choice. They are flushable, biogegradable, and organic. Some can be quite spendy, however.
Best Clumping Litters
Arm and Hammer Clumping Cat Litter
Reviews for Arm and Hammer litter are easy for me to do, I think they make excellent cat litter.I used to be a die-hard fan of Tidy Cat litter for multiple cats. I thought it was the best clumping and deodorizing litter on the market. Perhaps it was for a number of years. I certainly had more luck with Tidy Cat than I did Fresh Step Cat Litter. When I was desperate, I used Fresh Step. It's too perfumed, doesn't clump well, and my cats don't like all the fragrance emanating from it. I next began to use Arm and Hammer litter, found it clumped well and like the use of baking soda rather than the perfumes. Of all the cat litters you can buy in the grocery stores, I'd still pick Arm & Hammer over all the others for the price, quality, and its fewer additives.
Integrity Cat Litter
The ultimate clumping litter is called Integrity. It is, bar none, the best clumping litter out there. I will say it's expensive to purchase, but saves money in the long run. There is very litter that's actually wasted since it doesn't crumble. I rarely have to put a fresh layer of Integrity litter over the existing litter because what remains is still so clean. Unfortunately, it's not readily available, in fact it can be quite hard to find. Check with your natural pet food store.
World's Best Cat Litter
My top choice for plant-based litters: World's Best Cat Litter. It's is made from made corn, clumps better than any of the plant-based litter, deodorizes well, is non-toxic and good for the environment. It's costly at purchase, but lasts a long time.
Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter
My next choice is: Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter. It's organic, flushable, biodegradable, and worth the cost as a little goes a long way. Some recommend spraying a little vegetable or cooking oil (I use organic olive oil) onto the bottom and sides of the pan to disallow the litter from adhering to the sides and bottom. It doesn't do as good of a job clumping the litter as World's Best Cat Litter, however. So, it doesn't provide the same level of odor control, in my opinion. It's still an excellent litter, and better at clumping than most clay-based scoopable litter.
- Like the clay clumping litters, the plant-based litter clumps will dry out and crumble if you don't scoop them out within a reasonable amount of time. Both should be scooped out twice per day, morning and evening.
- I recommend you get an excellent, wide, sturdy cat litter scoop. You don't want one with gaps too wide or too close together. After some experimentation, I've found a cat litter scoop that properly scoops up the clumps and allows the clean litter to escape back into the pan. I recommend the Litter Lifter cat litter scoop. It's very durable, slides under the clumps and gets even the smallest little ones to leave nothing behind. Many of the other scoopers I've had have broken off at the handle, this one is made to last.
- If you decide to switch cat litters, do so gradually by adding a little of the new litter with each cleaning. Cats are fussy about change, sensitive about their paws, and notice new scents, so you want to make this a slow process. The last thing you want is a kitty who suddenly decides he or she will not use the litter box anymore!
Thoughts About Fecal Odor Control Litters
The most prevalent among these is Arm and Hammer's Double Duty cat litter. Here's my two cents: it does not work. Not only does it not cover up the fecal odor, but it's flat out terrible at controlling the urine smell.
I've searched high and low to find out HOW it purports to reduce the feces odor, but have yet to find an adequate explanation. All their site says is that it controls bacterial odor by way of their "breakthrough formula." Again, they don't give any adequate scientific explanation about what on earth the formula actually is. But, it does not work. You are best off sticking with their Multiple Cat Formula.
Share Your Reviews!
If you have any cat litter reviews of your own, let me know in the comment box below. I always want to learn about new cat litter!
GwEpley on October 22, 2017:
I appreciate the information here. I have been a loyal Tidy Cat customer for years. But for the last six months (in 2017) the litter, if it does clump, falls apart when I scoop it. The ammonia odor is terrible and even after cleaning you can still smell it throughout the house. I've been using Arm & Hammer recently, not quite as good as the old tidy cat. I'd love to hear what products others find best recently. THANKS :)
Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on July 20, 2015:
We have a new feral kitten and have noticed the litter sticking to her paws. We do not like that and when we wormed her she passed some sticky poo that looked and smelled like she may have been eating the litter too! Good timely information as we needed to find her a better choice fast.
Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on July 19, 2012:
I can completely relate to the litter in the bed, Trope! Your best best is to opt for one of the natural kinds, like corn-based World's Best Cat litter. The clay based ones are the worst in terms of sticking to the paws.
Trope on July 19, 2012:
Please tell me what the best cat litter is that will NOT get stuck in her paws?
I get cat litter in my bed!
David Alderson on May 04, 2011:
From one cat lover to another....Great Hub!! I have tested many of these products for Max's art. A lot of good ideas that can be put to practical use just like my Litter Clump Art. The harder the clumping the better it works.
If you are looking for a way to prevent tracking and reduce cleanups in your home, then your goal should be to settle for the best non-tracking cat litter. It should allow for quick clumping to prevent moisture from settling at the bottom of the litter box and mixing with the clean litter. The litter should also be heavy, with minimal dust so that it forms solid clumps that are easy to clean up.
Hopefully, the reviews and the buying guide in this article should help you to decide which litter is best for your cat. However, if you’re still having a challenge, we recommend Dr. Elsey’s Ultra-Premium Cat Litter. This premium cat litter utilizes a mix of special heavy granules with medium-grain clay to form hard clumps and to keep the litter dry to prevent tracking. It has minimal dust and superior odor control to keep your house clean and smelling fresh everytime.
The best clumping cat litter
With responsible cat ownership comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to waste management. Traditional clay-based cat litters do an acceptable job of containing odors, but they do not absorb urine very well. Alternative litter products, such as those made from corn by-products, may be more organic, but they aren't always the best in terms of odor control. Many owners now turn to clumping cat litters to meet their cat's biological needs.
Clumping litter is essentially a clay-based material that has been engineered to be more absorbent and odor-trapping. When urine contacts clumping litter, the result is a firm ball of clay that is easily scooped out of the dry litter surrounding it. Solid waste is also absorbed by clumping litter, and the odors are contained in the box. In general, clumping litters tend to last longer between complete changes than non-clumping varieties.
If you are a cat owner looking for an upgrade from traditional clay litter, consider our short list of clumping cat litters. At the top of that list is the World's Best Cat Litter, Clumping Litter Formula, a premium all-natural product that creates minimal dust and reduces tracking.
Considerations when choosing clumping cat litter
There are essentially two classifications when it comes to cat litter: Clay or natural. Many non-clumping or clumping litters found on store shelves are made from a blend of clays, especially bentonite clay, which is naturally absorbent in the presence of liquids. One concern with clay clumping litter is its lack of biodegradability. And while clay litters are generally less expensive than natural litters, they can generate a significant amount of dust.
Some owners prefer natural litters, which can be made from wheat, corn, pine or grass seed. Many of these natural litters have the ability to clump, and they are also effective at containing odors. Natural litters can be more expensive than clay brands, however, and may not be readily available in standard grocery stores.
Cats can be very particular when it comes to the content of their litter boxes, and owners who switch to a new clumping litter should understand this. The texture of clumping litter can range from fine sand to coarse pellets, and different cats respond in different ways. Finely textured litter is less likely to irritate a cat's sensitive paws. A coarser pellet-like litter is less likely to get trapped in the cat's paws, and also less likely to be tracked once the cat has completed its business. A sudden switch between the two textures can be jarring for cats, so owners may want to consider adding the new litter in stages or finding a different brand that matches the cat's original preference.
A litter box must remain exposed to the air until proper scooping or disposal can happen. The better clumping cat litters absorb urine and feces almost immediately, which helps reduce the odor level. Some brands add special crystals which add a chemical deodorizer when activated by a deposit. Natural cat litters often rely on starches or other by-products to trap odors and form clumps, but they may not be quite as effective as clay litters with additional deodorizers.
For many owners, the packaging of clumping cat litter is a major concern. It is not unusual to find extremely large bags of inexpensive litter on store shelves. Bags may be the most cost-effective style of packaging, but they're not always easy to dispense. Some litters are sold in plastic jugs, which are ergonomically designed with pouring spouts and handles. These jugs are easier to handle, but the total amount of product may be limited.
Some clumping litters are packaged in environmentally friendly boxes, although the actual litter may be contained in a plastic inner bag. These boxes are often easier to store, and the inner liner is protected from tears or scratches.
Clumping cat litter may cost a little more than non-clumping clay brands, but it is not prohibitively expensive. A standard 20-pound bag of everyday clay litter will cost between $10 abd $20, while natural brands or clay litters with deodorizers should cost between $20 and $25. Higher-end natural or flushable clay specialty brands are in the $25 to $30 range, with bulk sizes costing even more.
Q. I currently use a non-clumping clay litter. What advantages would a clumping litter offer?
A. One major advantage with clumping litter is the separation of urine from solid waste. The litter is much more absorbent, so it will trap liquids inside the clumps. Clumping litters do not need to be changed out quite as often as non-clumping brands, too.
Q. Are clumping litters safe for my toilet and sewage system?
A. It depends on the brand. Many clumping litters are promoted as safe for flushing, but this may not apply to low-flow toilets. The water does not flow fast enough to remove all of the litter, and it can build up over time. When in doubt, use other methods besides flushing to dispose of soiled cat litter.
Clumping cat litter we recommend
Our take: This super-absorbent clumping litter may be more expensive, but it addresses almost all issues cat owners have with traditional litter.
What we like: All-natural ingredients, does not contain silica dust. Exceptional odor control. Extremely absorbent, traps urine almost instantly. Minimal tracking reported.
What we dislike: Can generate dust while dispensing. On the expensive side for disposable cat litter.
Our take: If odor control is a major concern, this affordable litter with Febreze is definitely one to consider. We also like the convenient packaging.
What we like: Contains Febreze as a deodorizer. Litter texture is very fine, easy on cat's paws. Packaged in smaller bags for single-cat families.
What we dislike: Wet litter can adhere to box when level is low. Generates a significant amount of dust.
Our take: Solid clump formation is this brand's strong suit, and one bag should last two months in a single-cat household.
What we like: Clumps are extremely firm, easy to scoop. Larger grains generate less dust. Naturally deodorizes, no chemical fragrances.
What we dislike: Formula is not flushable. Noticeable tracking reported.
Michael Pollick is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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Best Natural Cat Litter: SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter
Natura cat litters are eco-friendly and are a healthy option for your cat. SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter ranks highly because it performs just as well as conventional cat litter. Made from grass, this cat litter is biodegradable and renewable. It clumps and hardens quickly, making it easy to clean too.