While I hate running across animal poo in the streets, I have no problem cleaning up after my own cat. I love her, and it is just part of our daily life together. However, this does not mean that I don’t want the cleanup process to be as quick and easy as possible.
Also, while I don’t have a problem cleaning up after my cat, I can’t stand having the lingering smell of cat pee and poo hanging around my house.
A good quality cat litter is one of the best tools that we have in order to keep smells under control. Quality litter combined with regular cleaning, to remove the offending items causing the smell in the first place, will keep your home smelling the way it should.
I have found in my experience that clumping cat litter is the best way to achieve this. It forms tight clumps around both solid and liquid waste. These clumps contain smells and are easy to scoop, which means I can freshen up the try several times a day, keeping smells at bay and my cat happy.
Read on to learn more about why clumping cat litter is a better alternative to other varieties, what to look for when selecting a good clumping cat litter, and for my top five clumping cat litters currently on the market.
If You Are in a Rush…
The best cat litter for me, which I currently use, is The World’s Best Cat Litter. It is made from compressed corn, which is environmentally friendly and flushable, so it is easy for me to freshen up my cat’s tray regularly as I just scoop and flush. It doesn’t contain odors quite as well as clay litters, but this is not a problem for me with regular scooping. However, there is no escaping that this product is quite expensive.
If you are looking for a more affordable litter, then both Fresh Step and Arm and Hammer clay clumping litters are dust-free, eliminating the risks with clay. They use activated charcoal and baking soda respectively to help dissipate odors.
I also just want to mention BoxiePro cat litter because it is innovative. It contains probiotics to neutralize smells and kill bacteria, preventing it from spreading to the home. This is a new and expensive litter, but I think it is the brand to watch in terms of future cat litter innovations.
Here’s the full list:
- World’s Best Clumping Cat Litter
- Fresh Step Febreze Extreme Odor Control Clumping Cat Litter
- Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal Cat Litter
- BoxiePro Deep Clean Scent Free Probiotic Clumping Cat Litter
- Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Clumping Cat Litter
Best 5 Clumping Cat Litters
Based on the criteria above, these are what I think are the five best clumping cat litters currently on the market.
- Forms tight clumps
- 99% dust-free
- Environmentally friendly
- Does not manage odors as well as clay
This natural cat litter is made from compressed corn. This means that it is good for the environment and also safe for both the septic tank and the sewer. It forms tight clumps around waste which is then easy to scoop and flush away down the toilet, making it easy for me to freshen up my cat’s tray several times a day. This minimizes odors and keeps her happy.
This litter does not contain any additional odor control substances so it is a good idea to clean pretty regularly with this litter. But this is easy since the lumps are hard and won’t break up when scooped. It is also 99 percent dust-free and completely free from dangerous silica dust, so no inhaling issues here.
This litter is safe for you, your pet and the planet, so you can feel pretty good about using it. But, as is often the case, being good for the environment can cost a bit more, and this is one of the most expensive cat litters on this list.
Overall: Convenient and Environmentally Friendly
- Forms tight clumps
- Low dust
- Paw-activated odor control
- Activated charcoal
- Made with clay
If you are looking for something more affordable, and you are happy to go with a clay line, then this litter from Fresh Step is an excellent choice, It has virtually no dust so it is a safe choice despite being clay.
This litter forms tight clumps but also uses activated charcoal Ammonia Vlock Technology to effectively trap smells. It partners this with a light scent, but rather than having the scent hanging around, it is only activated when your cat rustles the litter with their paws, so it is only released as needed. If you are interested in a scented litter, this is definitely one of the best.
This litter promises to be long-lasting as well, as it should stay relatively fresh in your cat’s litter tray for up to ten days. This is great as it means I only need to change my cat’s litter once a week and never have to worry about it starting to get unusable for her.
Overall: Quality Scented Design
- Forms tight clumps around waste
- Pretty much 100% dust-free
- Dissipates odors with baking soda
- Made from clay
This is another affordable clay alternative that is pretty much dust-free, which means that you don’t need to worry about the usual risks associated with clumping clay litters.
It dissipates odor on contact with its own special baking soda formula and the litter forms tight clumps around waste thanks to proprietary moisture-activated micro-granules. This makes it easy to scoop regularly, and you should only have to completely change your cat’s litter once a week as it promises to stay pretty fresh for at least seven days.
This litter is also great if you live with multiple cats.
Overall: Clumping Clay the Right Way
- Forms tight clumps
- Very low dust
- Dissipates odors naturally
- Kills bacteria
- Requires regular scooping
- Made from clay
This is another clay cat litter that manages to be virtually dust-free. But what makes this litter a bit special is that it contains natural probiotics that kill litter box bacteria. This both dissipates odors and limits the likelihood of bacteria-borne illnesses taking over the household, without using unnecessary antibacterial substances.
Another unique thing about this litter is that clumps stay at the top of the tray, rather than sinking to the bottom, making them easy to scoop. However, this does mean that you should scoop regularly for your cat’s comfort, so they aren’t kicking clumps around while using the litter.
This litter is so good that naturally, it costs more. It costs about twice as much as the Fresh Step and Arm and Hammer litter, which is why it is a little lower down the list.
Overall: Innovative Quality
- Forms tight clumps
- Virtually dust-free
- Made from clay
This clumping clay formula combines heavy non-tracking granules with medium-grain clay which is less likely to stick in your cat’s fur than finer grains. As a result, this litter is another that is virtually dust-free.
It effectively forms very tight clumps around waste, which means that it can contain odor without a lot of chemicals and that the clumps are easy to scoop. This also makes this litter great for sifting or mechanical litter boxes, which can become smelly if clumps break up.
Overall: Traditional and Affordable Quality
Why Clumping Cat Litter
While there are many different types of cat litter out there, they can broadly be described as either clumping or non-clumping. What’s the difference? Clumping cat litter forms hard clumps around solids and liquids, and non-clumping does not, it simply provides your cat with a substance to bury their business in.
In general clumping cat litter is considered a better, though more expensive, choice. The tight clumps that it forms around waste help contain its smell. These clumps are also easy to scoop out and dispose of on a regular basis, making it easier to keep the tray clean, meaning you only really need to change the litter as a whole maybe once a week (depending on how much use the tray is getting). This also helps prevent litter waste, as you only need to dispose of what has been used, offsetting the higher cost quite a bit.
Of course, there are downsides. In general, clumping litter contains more dust, which can be detrimental to your cat’s health when inhaled or ingested (see more below). They are also more likely to track this dust through the house.
What to Look for in a Clumping Cat Litter
While we may all agree that clumping cat litter is better than non-clumping, there is still a lot of variety within clumping cat litters When choosing, these are the main things to consider.
While clumping is the name of the game with a clumping cat litter, not all are the same, and you don’t want to pay extra for a clumping cat litter if it only forms loose clumps. Tight clumps are better at containing smells and are also less likely to break apart when scooping.
If clumps break up while being removed from the litter, you can find yourself with a face full of bad odor while cleaning the tray. Your cat may also accidentally break up older clumps while using the tray, again releasing an unwelcome odor into the air.
We have already hinted at the problem with dust, which is more common in clumping litters than non-clumping. Dust, especially silica dust, can be detrimental to both our health and the health of our cats when inhaled.
In humans, it is known to be a lung carcinogen, and while we may not be breathing in sufficient quantities to cause cancer, it can irritate other respiratory problems, such as asthma. Moreover, our cats have much smaller lungs, so the amounts that they are breathing in can have much more serious health consequences.
Also, many clumping cat litters, especially clay clumping cat litters, contain sodium bentonite, which is activated by moisture and is what allows the litter to clump around the waste. It can expand to up to 18 times its size on contact with moisture. While it does this with urine, it will do the same thing in your cat’s stomach, causing serious digestive issues.
While cats do not generally eat their litter, dust can get caught up in their fur, and they may accidentally ingest it while cleaning themselves. This is problematic for all cats, but especially kittens, as they have smaller intestinal tracts, so are less likely to cope with this problem naturally. Fortunately, it is possible to get good clumping cat litters, even made from clay, that are virtually dust free. Learn more here.
In general, clumping cat litter is better at controlling odors than non-clumping, as it keeps the waste in a tight ball that stops it from spreading. However, this does not contain the odor completely, and therefore good cat litters will often contain additional ingredients designed to neutralize odors. These include baking soda, or the more effective activated charcoal (or activated carbon), to combat bad smells.
All cat litters can be scented or unscented, and which is best is really down to personal preference, both yours and your cat’s. Sometimes the chemical scent added to cat litter can be as irritating as the natural scent of used cat litter.
Also, for some cats, if the scent is overpowering, they won’t feel comfortable using the tray, and you may find yourself cleaning up protest pee in unwelcome places until you change brands. Light scents can do a great job at keeping your home smelling better, but beware of anything heavily scented.
Most clumping cat litters come in a variety of clay, as this is by far the most effective material for clumping. However, as I have already said, clay litters are more likely to contain dangerous dust and they also aren’t particularly environmentally friendly when it comes to waste disposal.
The same problem of biodegrading is relevant for crystal litters, which I also don’t like in general because they are made from entirely synthetic materials, which is another substance that is dangerous for cats if eaten.
Cat litter also comes in a variety of natural materials including corn, paper, nuts, pine, and wheat. While these are better for the environment, many don’t generally do a very good job when it comes to clumping or containing odors, with the exception being corn. You can learn about the best ones here.
Another benefit with a corn-based litter is that it is more likely to be safe to flush down the toilet. This is not the case with the vast majority of cat litter.
As with everything, many different factors impact the cost of a product. While I am happy to pay more for quality materials and ingredients, and for the work and research that has gone into creating a good formula, brand and marketing hype can also artificially inflate prices. I always base my decision on how well it ticks the boxes above and not on brand.
Cats are infamously picky with their food, and unfortunately, they can also be infamously picky with their litter. For reasons unknown to any but our cats, there are some litters that they will just refuse to use. This depends very much on the individual cat, but in general, cats prefer a finer litter, though this generally means more dust.
Unfortunately, there are few ways to discover what your cat likes other than trial and error. Once you find a litter that works, use it consistently—cats don’t like change in their bathrooms.
For me, the best clumping cat litter on the market is The World’s Best Cat Litter. It is made from compressed corn, which is environmentally friendly and flushable, so it is easy for me to freshen up my cat’s tray regularly as I just scoop and flush. It doesn’t contain odors quite as well as clay litters, but this is not a problem for me with regular scooping. The big downside of this product is that it is expensive.
If you are looking for a more affordable litter, you will need to go with something in clay, but luckily there are a variety that are virtually dust-free, eliminating the big risks with clay. Fresh Step and Arm and Hammer are both dust-free and use activated charcoal or baking soda to help dissipate odors, and they do this with an affordable price tag.
I also think that it is worth giving a special mention to BoxiePro cat litter because it is innovative. It is a clay litter, but it contains probiotics to neutralize smells and kill bacteria, preventing it from spreading to the home. This is an expensive litter, and not one that I am using right now, but I think that this is the brand to watch when it comes to further innovation in the cat litter market.