Even for cats that spend quite a bit of time outside, and often do their business in the wild, a litter tray is essential for any cat home. Sometimes bad weather means that cats can’t do their business outside. At other times, threats from other animals, in particular, other cats, can make them feel unsafe when it comes to eliminating outside the home.
Also, while never having to see your cat’s business might sound like a good thing, monitoring your cat’s bathroom habits is one of the quickest and easiest ways to keep an eye on their health.
Unfortunately, most types of cat litter are bad for the environment and can be bad for your cat’s health. Read on to learn more about the problems with most cat litters, and to discover more natural alternatives with my top five natural cat litters.
If You Are In a Rush…
The World’s Best Scoopable Clumping Cat Litter may be as good as it claims. Made from wheat, it contains bad smells well, is good for the environment, and is flushable which makes keeping your cat’s litter fresh very easy. The only problem with this litter is the cost. As an excellent but more affordable alternative try Arm and Hammer’s Natural Litter which is made from corn, which isn’t flushable, but it contains bad smells well, is long-lasting, and will biodegrade in landfills.
Our Top 5 Picks:
- World’s Best Scoopable Cat Clumping Cat Litter
- Arm and Hammer Litter Naturals Clumping Cat Litter
- sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter
- Naturally Fresh Walnut-Based Multi-Cat Quick-Clumping Cat Litter
- Frisco All Natural Grass Clumping Cat Litter
Environmental Impact of Cat Litter
Since the 1950s, the most common type of cat litter has been clay, as clay is very absorbent. In more recent years it has been combined with sodium bentonite to enable it to clump around your cat’s waste. Today, 75 percent of litters on the market are made using bentonite clay. This clay is problematic, as in general it is ‘strip-mined’, which is a process that is bad for the environment as it involves removing the unwanted topsoil to get to the desired mineral. This strips the area of its natural ambiance, which can be devastating to the local environment.
Further, used cat litter is not biodegradable which means it does not break down in the environment. This means that the 100,000 trucks of cat litter that are dumped into landfills every year in the United States alone will sit there pretty much forever. Landfill sites actually use very similar clay as the bottom lining of their landfills to prevent leaching of toxic chemicals into the ground, for the very reason that it does not break down.
Cat Litter And Your Cat’s Health
Clay cat litter can also be detrimental to your cat’s health because of the use of sodium bentonite. This type of clay expands 15 to 18 times its original size when it gets wet, which is what allows it to clump around your cat’s waste.
This is great for urine, but it is not so great when it does the same thing inside your cat’s digestive system. At best it will cause them serious discomfort, at worst it can lead to a cement-like blockage with catastrophic health implications.
While cats do not normally actively eat their cat litter, cat litter dust can easily get caught up in their fur, which they can then ingest while they are cleaning themselves. It can also be bad for both you and your cat when it is inhaled, exacerbating respiratory problems, and it can be carcinogenic in large quantities.
While this might not be something you need to worry about, remember that your cat’s lungs are much smaller than yours. This is why, if you do use a clay cat litter, it is important to get something as close to dust-free as possible.
All these health concerns are magnified when we’re talking about kittens, as they are smaller and more delicate, and choosing a litter for them requires more care.
Fortunately, there are natural alternatives to clay-based cat litter, which perform as well, or almost as well, as clay lines. Natural litters are generally made from renewable materials such as corn, wheat, and pine, or from recycled products such as newspaper and walnuts shells. These litters will all degrade in landfills, are sometimes flushable, or they can be composted.
While in general natural litters are not quite as good at containing odors as clay litters, this seems a small price to pay considering how much healthier it is for both your cat and the environment.
Top 5 Natural Cat Litters
Made from wheat, this litter naturally forms clumps around solid and liquid waste.
- All natural
- May be difficult to get your cat started in it
These clumps aren’t as solid as the clumps made by clay, but they are good enough to contain odors and allow for regular scooping to keep the tray fresh. Even better, this litter is septic tank and sewer friendly, so you can scoop litter straight into the toilet for fuss-free cleanup.
The litter is pretty much dust-free, so there isn’t much to get caught in a cat’s hair and paws, though if they do accidentally eat some, there is nothing nasty inside to cause them problems.
When you buy this litter you can feel good that you are doing the best thing for your cat, and for the environment. However, this litter is expensive, costing more than twice as much as standard litters. Also, as with most of the litters on this list, because of their unique texture, it might take a little bit of time and training to get your ct accustomed to it.
Overall: Flushable Wheat
Arm and Hammer are one of the most trusted cat litter brands and this natural corn formula is as good as their more popular clay formulas.
- Made from corn
- Eliminates odors
- May be difficult to get your cat accustomed to it
It uses a natural plant-based clumping agent so that there are no risks to your cat from sodium bentonite. It also works harder than most natural cat litters to eliminate odors with a baking soda agent to neutralize smells.
This formula is virtually dust-free, and also very lightweight, weighing almost half as much as their clay litter. This is something that cats will either like or loathe. It may also take them a while to get used to the corn smell and texture.
While this cat litter is not as expensive as the first cat litter on this list, it is still more expensive than the standard cat litters.
Overall: Powerful Odor Control Naturally
This wheat cat litter manages to provide clumping action without containing any silica dust, sodium bentonite, or chemicals of any kind, just natural clumping action.
- All natural
- Ideal for multiple cats
- Clumps not as tight as clay
- May be difficult to change to a new litter
This litter produces clumps that are relatively easy to identify and scoop, meaning that you can freshen up the litter box without having to change the whole litter.
But the clumps that form are not as tight and strong as clay clumps so they do not contain odors as well, and may break up during cleaning. This is a slight irritant, but worth it for such a safe and environmentally-friendly litter.
You can use this litter if you have multiple cats in the house, as it is designed to stay fresh even when it is used a lot. The big problem with this litter is that it is so good, which also makes it expensive. Also, since it is made from wheat, your cat may need some time to become accustomed to it and accept the new texture.
Overall: All Natural Clumping
This natural cat litter is made from a mix of the fibrous materials found in walnut shells, which have natural odor absorbing properties to diminish smells. It is also naturally clumping to make the mess scoopable.
- Absorbs odors
- Naturally clumping
- Clumps are not as tight as with clay
The clumps formed are not as tight as with clay litter, which means that they do not do as good a job holding in smell, and are more prone to breaking apart during cleanup. However, this seems a small price to pay for the peace of mind when it comes to your cat’s health.
The relatively unusual texture again means that it might take a bit of time and active training effort to get your cat accustomed to this environmentally-friendly alternative. If tracking is a problem, just use a litter mat to catch any stray bits of litter.
Overall: Natural Safe Clumping
This natural grass litter is one of the more affordable litters on the list and shares many of the same pros and cons as the other natural litters.
- 100% natural grass
- Natural odor control
- Low dust
- Clumps are not as tight as with clay
This litter is 100 percent biodegradable, which makes it great for the environment, but the clumps it forms aren’t quite as tight and durable as the clumps formed by clay litters. It does have a natural odor that helps mask the smell and should appeal to cats.
Overall: Clumping Odor Control Grass
The World’s Best Scoopable Clumping Cat Litter may be as good as it claims. Made from wheat, it contains smells well, is good for the environment, and is flushable which makes keeping your cat’s litter fresh very easy. The main problem with this litter is the cost.
As an excellent but more affordable alternative try Arm and Hammer’s Natural Litter which is made from corn. This litter is not flushable, but it contains smells with tight clumps, neutralizes odors with baking soda, is long lasting, and will biodegrade in landfills.