Our 2018 Guide to Picking the Best Cat Litter for your Cat

New cat owners are often surprised that one of the most difficult decisions they have to make concerns something as mundane as cat litter. It’s a shock to discover the wide range of differences between the various types and materials. There’s a huge amount of choice out there, what on earth should you choose?

To make things worse, when you finally decide upon a litter for your kitty you’ve got to cross your fingers and pray to the feline gods that they like it. If not, it’s back to the drawing board (and the pet shop) to try a different variety and a different brand.

It can take quite some time to find the perfect litter for your kitty. But once you do, it’s a problem that you’re never going to need to think about again.

With that in mind, today we are going to do our best to arm you with all the information you could ever need about the strangely detailed world of cat litter. We’re going to discuss the various types available, their strengths and weaknesses, and we’re going to make some product recommendations that represent the best the market has to offer in 2018.

Let’s get started.

Non-Clumping Vs Clumping

The first decision you’re going to have to make is to clump or not to clump.

Non-Clumping

Non-clumping cat litter was the first kind of cat litter to be mass produced. As the name suggests the litter doesn’t clump together when it’s moistened with urine. This is both good and bad. Let’s look at some of the main talking points below.

Low Odour – Non-clumping litter can generally absorb more urine than clumping litter can. The urine seeps down to the bottom of the litter tray and stays there. It’s generally seen to be a little less smelly than clumping litter.

The difference in odor between clumping and non-clumping is reasonably small, but it’s certainly noticeable. However, it’s easy to overcome this with clumping litter in other ways by using different litter materials (as we will learn later).

Hard To Remove Soiled Litter – As we mentioned earlier, almost all the urine that your cat produces will settle on the bottom of the litter tray. This makes it quite difficult to remove the soiled litter without removing (or contaminating) the cleaner litter on the top.

Due to this, most people don’t bother to try and remove just the dirty stuff and instead they end up replacing all the litter. This means that you’re going to have to do a full litter change on average around once a week (but this depends on your cat).

Less Expensive – As a rule of thumb, non-clumping litter is generally much cheaper than clumping litter. This is a very good thing because you’re going to be using much more of it due to the things we mentioned in the point above.

Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. You can find premium non-clumping litters made from fancy materials that are much more expensive than a clumping litter. But all other things being equal, non-clumping will cost less than clumping.

Clumping

Clumping litter is probably the most popular kind of cat litter on the planet. When urine makes contact with it a reaction occurs which makes the wet pieces of litter clump together in little balls.

Easy To Remove Soiled Litter – The main benefit to clumping litter is that it’s much easier to remove only the soiled litter than it is with non-clumping litter. You simply scoop up all the little balls that have accumulated on the surface and throw them in the bin. You can then replace roughly the same amount you have removed with fresh litter and you are good to go.

Stays Cleaner Longer – Because the clumping of the litter makes it easy to remove the soiled parts, you won’t need to do a full litter change as often as you would with non-clumping litter. This being said, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean that you can get away without doing a full litter change regularly…

Over time all litter will become too dirty for use, regardless of how efficiently it clumps together. On average you’ll probably only need to do a full change of clumping litter once a month.

Most Popular With Cats – We mentioned earlier that clumping litter is the most popular kind of litter in the world. And why is it the most popular litter in the world?

Because it’s the most popular with cats.

Cats are incredibly clean animals that have a keen sense of smell. They know when their litter tray is dirty well before you do. With clumping litter, cats can simply brush the little clumps to one side with their paws and continue to use reasonably fresh litter while they wait for you to clean it up.

This doesn’t mean that your kitty is certain to like clumping litter. But it’s certainly worth checking out.

9 Common Types of Cat Litter

So now we know the difference between clumping and non-clumping litter. Let’s take a look at the most common materials that litter can be made from.

Non-Clumping Clay – As the name suggests, non-clumping clay litter is made from natural clay. It’s one of the cheapest kinds of litter on the market and the specific type of clay used depends on the brand. As we mentioned earlier it’s absorbent and it’s great for eliminating odors, but you’re going to have to replace it frequently.

Clumping Clay – Clumping clay litter is made from a kind of clay called bentonite. Clay is already highly absorbable, but bentonite is even more absorbable. When it comes into contact with a liquid it makes the clumps that give it its name, which makes for easy cleaning.

It’s much heavier than non-clumping clay, and it’s also non-biodegradable which might be a deal breaker for some people. Be wary of dust when choosing a clumping clay product as the material is well known for producing more dust than non-clumping varieties.

Corn – Corn is almost the perfect material for cat litter, but you need to be careful with it. It’s extremely absorbent, and it’s naturally excellent at controlling odors. It’s also completely biodegradable as it’s a natural product and it’s reasonably priced too.

The issue with corn is that many cats will get bits of litter stuck to them whenever they go in the box. They’ll pretty quickly groom themselves and remove it from their fur, and when they do this – they can accidentally ingest some of it. Corn is not an ideal thing for kitties to eat to say the least, and many people do not recommend corn-based litter because of this.

Grass – Grass litter is a reasonably new innovation in the world of kitty litter. It’s a brilliant material that seems to be constantly increasing in popularity. It’s biodegradable, eco-friendly, and it effectively controls odor too. It’s super absorbent and it’s got excellent clumping capabilities, but it’s also a little more expensive than some other kinds of litter.

Pine – Pine litter is made from offcuts and scraps that are generated from lumber mills and carpentry workshops. The wood is heat treated before being turned into litter to ensure it’s clean and free from any harmful chemicals and toxins. It’s usually made into little pellets or granules, but occasionally it can be made from very roughly crushed wood (called cobble).

It’s got a lovely natural pine smell which will mask much of the odor of the litter tray, and it can absorb a fair amount of liquid too. If you get pine litter in granule or cobble form then its got a limited amount of clumping capability (but nothing like clay or grass). If you get the pellet form of pine litter, then it’s just going to turn into sawdust when soiled and won’t clump at all.

Recycled Paper – Recycled paper is another good material for litter. It’s biodegradable, absorbent, and it’s dust free. Its got limited odor elimination as standard, but occasionally additives are included to confine the smell somewhat. The pellet kind of paper litter will not clump, but the granule kind will clump well.

Silica Gel Crystals – This is an excellent litter that this super absorbent, eliminates odors amazingly well, doesn’t track much, and it’s completely dust free.

The downside to silica gel litter is that it’s one of the most expensive kinds of litter (but it also lasts quite a long time too). Additionally, some cats don’t like the feeling of the crystals and won’t use it. The main thing to be aware of is that this stuff can be harmful when it’s ingested in large enough quantities. If your cat is likely to ingest lots of it while grooming it may be better to avoid it altogether or at least ensure it’s a non-toxic variety.

Walnut Shells – Walnut shells are a great eco-friendly kind of litter. It’s biodegradable, controls odors, and it’s not harmful when ingested. It’s also extremely absorbent and is (reasonably) pleasing to the eye too with its dark brown color.

Wheat – This litter is made from pure ground up wheat and is usually found in pellet or capsule form. It clumps together well and does a great job of removing odors and absorbing liquids. Wheat has a similar issue to corn and it’s not great for your cat’s health if ingested.

What To Look For When Buying Cat Litter

There are several things that you should be looking out for in any good cat litter. Let’s take a look at the most important ones below.

  • Odour Control – Is the litter going to be able to hide the smells of the litter box well enough? Look for odor eliminating or scented litters if possible.
  • Absorption – How much “stuff” can the litter absorb? Will you need to be buying lots of litter and replacing it often?
  • Biodegradable – Is the litter good for the environment? Non-biodegradable litters are not the end of the world, but they are certainly not ideal.
  • Dust – How much dust does the litter produce? Some materials (and variations of materials) create more dust than others.

Overall Best 3 Cat Litters

Let’s take a look at what we think are the top 3 overall best cat litters on the market.  They’re not listed in any particular order and are all worthy of your consideration.

Frisco Scented Multi-Cat Clumping Cat Litter

This is a great clumping clay cat litter from the respected brand Frisco. It’s designed for houses with multiple cats with its innovative scent infusion that not only traps odors but neutralizes them slightly too. Every time a paw moves the litter in the tray slightly a new burst of freshness is released to control the smell of your cat’s business as it’s being conducted.

The clumping capabilities of the litter are excellent and it’s highly absorbent. Frisco has attempted to make it feel very similar to dirt when walked upon so most cats should enjoy it and feel natural using it too.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Good clumping capability
  • Pro – Highly absorbent
  • Pro – Feels natural underfoot
  • Pro – Fresh odor eliminating smell
  • Con – More expensive than non-clumping litter

Arm & Hammer Litter Clump & Seal Multi-Cat Litter

Arm & Hammer are a brand that many of you will know already from their other wide range of excellent household products. They’ve turned their attention to kitty litter with this product and we think that they’ve done an excellent job.

Their clump and seal litter is made from clay, but as is usual with Arm & Hammer they’ve done some tweaking. This litter has a 7-day odor-free guarantee to ensure your home smells perfect if you only change the litter once a week. They say “no one will ever know you have a cat”, and quite honestly – we believe them.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Excellent odor elimination
  • Pro – Great brand
  • Pro – Clumping litter
  • Pro – Low dust
  • Con – More expensive than non-clumping litter

Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Clumping Cat Litter

If there’s one thing that this litter does well – it’s clumping. It’s a clay based litter that doesn’t track very much and is highly absorbent. They’ve formulated the litter to ensure that the clumps that are formed are super strong, and as such, they won’t break when you’re taking them out of the litter box. This makes cleaning much easier.

It’s got odor control capabilities built in, but it’s an unscented litter – so this is something to be aware of. It contains no plant proteins and it is hypoallergenic as an added bonus too.

Pros And Cons

  • Pro – Excellent clumping
  • Pro – Highly absorbent
  • Pro – Easy cleaning
  • Pro – Hypoallergenic
  • Pro – Odour control capabilities
  • Con – Unscented litter

Clumping Clay – Frisco Scented Multi-Cat Clumping Cat Litter


The three litters we mentioned above are all clumping clay litters and they are all worthy of your consideration. If we had to pick one as best in class, it would probably be Frisco’s product. The clumping capabilities are excellent and make cleaning up a super easy job.

Corn – World’s Best Cat Litter Scoopable Multiple Cat Clumping Formula

This corn litter is one of the best on the market in our opinion. It’s made from all natural ingredients and it’s great for odor control too. This is all thanks to the natural plant derivative that is added to the litter when it’s being made. Your home will smell fresh and clean for days on end with this in your kitty’s litter box.

It creates a minimal amount of dust, and it’s eco-friendly too. The clumping capabilities are excellent considering it’s a corn litter. And while it’s not as good as some clay products on the market, it’s not going to disappoint with its easy clean nature.

Grass – Frisco All Natural Grass Clumping Cat Litter

This litter from Frisco has been designed for use with multiple cats and as such it’s excellent at dealing with odors. Kitties love the all natural grass that it’s made from, it feels great on their paws and it’s very pleasant for them to sift through. There are no chemicals, compounds, or other nasty stuff. Just grass.

It’s a super low dust product which is good for your kitty’s lungs (and the cleanliness of your home too). The super fast, super firm clumping of the litter is a godsend when cleaning, and your kitty will also be able to brush the clumps aside without them breaking down. However, these benefits don’t come cheap, and it’s one of the most expensive litters on our list.

Non-Clumping Clay – Fresh Step Scented Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter

This product from Fresh Step is probably the best non-clumping cat litter on the market. It’s got a reasonably advanced carbon plus filtration system that traps odor in the litter and keeps it away from your nostrils. There are antimicrobial agents embedded in the clay which stops smelly bacteria from forming. It’s super lightweight so your kitty can sift through it easily, but it’s also super absorbent too.

Pine – Feline Pine Original Cat Litter

This all natural pine litter is a great non-clumping option for those who want the fresh smell of pine in their home instead of the piercing scent of ammonia. Pine’s natural antiseptic properties kill many of the bacteria that produce the unpleasant smells keeping your nose happy. There’s no dust which means you can scoop, pour, and clean without having to worry about making a huge mess, and there are no chemicals or additives anywhere in sight either.

Recycled Paper – Yesterday’s News Original Formula Cat Litter

Whoever came up with the name of this brand needs a pay raise. As you can imagine, yesterday’s news is made from recycled newspapers (and other paper) and it’s one of the most eco-friendly products on the market. It’s 3 times more absorbent than clay litter and it’s 99.7% dust free too. It’s unscented but does have odor control capabilities that will leave your home free from the smell of cat pee.

Silica Gel Crystals – Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Respiratory Relief Silica Gel Cat Litter

This litter is specifically designed for cats that have respiratory issues or allergies. It’s completely dust free, has no perfumes or deodorants, and it’s hypoallergenic too. It’s absorbent, eliminates odors, and it’s most importantly non-toxic. This means you can have all the benefits of silica gel – without any of the associated health risks.

Walnut Shells – Blue Buffalo Naturally Fresh Walnut-Based Quick-Clumping Cat Litter

This excellent product from Blue Buffalo is one of our all-time favorite products that almost made it to the overall top 3 spots earlier. It’s designed for households with multiple cats and its super strong natural clumping capabilities are as good as (or better than) clay. It’s also 3 times more absorbent than clay, which means you need to use less litter per pee and it traps odor effectively too. It’s dust free, and it’s even made from good old homegrown USA walnut shells as an added bonus!

Wheat – sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter By sWheat Scoop

The final product on our list today is this excellent litter from sWheat. It’s a 100% natural product that is made from pure wheat and it’s completely biodegradable. It’s an unscented litter but it’s naturally excellent for eliminating odors anyway. The clumping capabilities are on par with what you’d expect from clay, and it’s about as absorbent as clay too. It’s easy for your kitty to brush aside and run their paws through, and its firm nature means that dust is kept to a minimum.

Conclusion

So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about kitty litter.

Hopefully, by now you’re a little bit more informed about what kinds of litter are available and the pros and cons to each. All of the litters on this page are excellent options in their respective categories, and they are all more than worthy of your consideration.

All you’ve got to do now is cross your fingers and hope your kitty likes the one you pick!

Sean Green

Sean Green, a leading developer of several pet-related websites and devoted pet owner. Sean is supported by a knowledgeable team of pet-loving writers who work together to provide you with a wealth of information about training and caring for your pets.

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  • I needed cat litter for my two cats I have as pets. I was in a bind and unable to get to a local store. Therefore, I ordered this Fresh Step Febreeze and it came within a couple days which worked out great for me! I have used this brand before and the Febreeze smell is refreshing. It helps with the every day smells from my cats using their litter boxes. It is a very fine mixture of cat litter which is soft and easy for my two cats to walk in and dig into as well. It is a nice big size box, easy to scoop litter. Overall, happy with this litter brand product purchase for my two cats. Thank you.

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