- Cats prefer the softest texture they can find, so if your cat is going outside the litterbox (and your veterinarian has ruled out a medical issue), try a clumping litter. (Click here for more info on litterbox avoidance.)
- Pelleted litters do not clump.
- If litter tracking is a problem, CatsRule makes a great litter mat that really pulls the stuff out from between their toes (Target carries a similar product). It’s too fragile for direct vacuuming, so be careful when cleaning.
- All cats will ingest a small amount of any type of litter while grooming (except pearls). Normally it will pass through without any problems, but in cats with dietary sensitivities, plant-based litters could become allergenic.
- If possible, when switching litters, make a gradual transition.
- Even if the litter says it’s flushable–don’t. Flushing cat litter is illegal in California; it’s thought to be a source of Toxoplasma, a parasite implicated in the death of sea otters. It isn’t okay anywhere else, either…although plumbers will love you for it.
- Even if the litter says it’s compostable, don’t. It could potentially transmit parasites or diseases to wildlife. Certainly don’t use it around plants being grown for food.
- Don’t use scented litter. Poop is never going to smell pretty, no matter what! Heavy fragrances can repel your cat and could even irritate her respiratory system.
Clay: It’s the most common, and certainly the cheapest. Whether standard or clumping, clay litter is made of clay, which may also contain silica and other minerals. Most clay litters contain bentonite clay, also called sodium bentonite, montmorillonite or montmorillonite clay (the names are used interchangeably, even within the industry). However, clay has several serious problems:/div>
- It’s dusty. Even “dustless” litters still give off very fine particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs. Clay litter may contain silica, which can damage lung tissue, resulting in fluid accumulation and scarring (“silicosis”).
- There has been only one published case of possible clay toxicity in a cat who was known to eat clay litter. It’s a sad story of stupid owners, and the cat was killed because of their abysmal moronicity and colossal stupidity; but it does illustrate the potential toxicity of clay’s components.
- Many people have reported illness, intestinal blockages, and even death in kittens and cats who ingested clay litter.
- Clay is strip-mined in an environmentally unfriendly manner.
- Clay is a finite, non-renewable resource.
- Clay is radioactive. Reporter Daniel Engberg, writing for Slate.com, did the research, and found that, “Yes, the clay in cat litter does give off radiation in very small quantities. There is naturally occurring radiation all around us; the radiation in cat litter comes from trace amounts of uranium, thorium, and potassium-40.” Even if the amounts are small, your cat is exposed to it many times a day, every day, for life. Radiation damage from any source is cumulative; so it is theoretically possible that cancer or other radiation-related illnesses could occur from this exposure.
Newspaper: Some of us remember the primitive days before kitty litter, when we spent many hours tearing newspaper into narrow strips and shreds; and to our cats’ everlasting credit, they used it! Today, newspaper is compressed into pellets that disintegrate when wet. A lot of folks swear by it, but I can’t imagine how stepping on hard little pellets can be comfortable for a cat, let alone declawed cats for whom it is sometimes recommended. Its odor-neutralizing ability is limited. There is also a concern with potential toxicity from the chlorine used to bleach the paper, as well as the ink. While older petroleum-based inks were quite toxic, many of today’s inks are safer (although they are made from genetically modified soy, which is itself problematic). However, colored inks are still petroleum-based. The amounts of soy and chemicals absorbed or ingested may be small, but again, long-term chronic risks are unknown. Purina’s Yesterday’s News is the most prominent brand; Petco also makes its own line.
Corn: Clumping litter made from corn has become quite popular, despite its higher cost. It’s made by grinding corn cobs into dust and then gluing it into bigger grains. It’s less dusty than clay (though it does eventually degenerate, especially with vigorous scooping). However, the dust seems to be much less irritating than clay. (Personally, my own asthma improved about 90% with the corn litter!) The clumps are not quite as adherent as clay, so you have to gather up the little pieces that fall off; but my cats like it and use it perfectly. It also tracked less than the clumping clay we used previously. It does a reasonable job of odor control. World’s Best is the most popular corn-based litter, and the company gets extra kudos for its donations of thousands of pounds of litter to shelters. Of course, more competitors are now making similar products. Corn is a renewable resource that would be grown anyway; so using corn litter is a form of recycling. However, most U.S. corn is genetically modified. The small amount of dust a cat would naturally ingest through grooming is not a significant concern; but don’t use it if your cat is one of the few who likes to eat it. Theoretically, it could also pose an allergen risk to sensitive cats, though I have not heard of any cases of this happening. NOTE: Although starter chicken feed looks and acts exactly like corn-based kitty litter (and comes at a much lower price), chick feed contains vitamins, minerals, and sometimes even antibiotics. I have seen serious toxicity from using chick feed in this manner.
Wheat: The idea behind wheat litter is similar to corn, and its properties are also similar. No U.S. wheat is genetically modified, so that is a small advantage; but breathing the dust or ingesting the litter may be a problem for gluten-intolerant cats. The primary brand is Swheat Scoop, a company I take issue with because it promotes its products for “newly declawed cats.” Maybe I’m too sensitive about the issue, but giving people another excuse for declawing their cats just does not sit well with me. I see no advantages to Swheat Scoop that aren’t available in other products. I also disliked its intensely perfume-y odor, though I see they now make a “lightly scented” version.