For our money, we recommend trying out Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Multi-Cat Litter, but there are definitely quite a few on the market worth giving a shot. If you’re in the market for a new cat litter, then you may want to read about our top five and take a peek at our little guide to making sure you get the most out of your litter.
We all love our cats, but there’s one part of keeping them that gets old in a hurry: cleaning out the litter box. This unfortunate task is part of keeping a cat, but there are ways to make the task a bit less smelly and terrible. One of them is by investing in the best cat litter available.
Overall, we feel this is definitely the best cat litter around. It’s suitable for pretty much any home, cats took to it readily, and it’s lack of specialization actually works out well for those who are used to “old-school” cat litter. Give it a shot if you want a better litter with no fuss.
Top 5 Cat Litters
|Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal||Clumping with Baking Soda||5/5||Check Price|
|Purina Unscented||Recycled Paper||4/5||Check Price|
|Purina Tidy Cats Pure Nature||Cedar, Pine, and Corn||3.5/5||Check Price|
|PetSafe ScoopFree Premium||Crystalline Litter||4/5||Check Price|
|Jonny Cat||non clumping||4/5||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Cat Litter
Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Multi-Cat Litter
If you’ve been looking for the ultimate in cat litter, then you’re probably looking at it. In our testing we found this held the odor off better than anything else, while not being overly expensive or specialized.
The best part about this, apart from odor-busting power, is that the clumps hold together super well. This makes all the difference when it keeps you from having to fish all of the little bits that can fall out of lesser litter from the floor.
On top of that, it gave off pretty much no dust and had a clean but not intrusive scent. It’s supposedly strong enough for multiple cats, but in this instance our tester only had a couple of them and hadn’t noticed any issues with their normal litter.
Pros and Cons
- Clumps hold together super well
- Cats took to it readily
- Awesome ability to cut through odors
- Pretty much dust free
- Not particularly green for those who care
- Tracks through the house quite a bit
2. Best Recycled Paper Cat Litter
Purina Yesterday's News Unscented Cat Litter
If you’ve been looking for a greener option that still handles scents well, then Yesterday’s News is precisely what you’re looking for. We recommend the unscented version for most households, but there are also scented versions available if you feel you must.
Paper litters aren’t just a green way to go about things, they also hold in odors pretty well and are highly absorbent when it comes to urine and other liquid waste that can ruin your day when it comes time to clean the litterbox.
It’s also pretty much entirely dust free, which can be a lifesaver for those who can’t handle the dust that clay-based cat litters produce.
It might be a little bit difficult to switch fussy cats over to this since it’s quite a bit different from normal litters, however. If you’re careful you shouldn’t have a problem, and the fact that it doesn’t track around the house might make it all worth it in the end. If you’re considering a paper based cat litter, then snatch this one up in order to experience the best of the best. Just be sure to switch to it slowly if your cat is already grown.
Pros and Cons
- Ecologically friendly option
- Super absorbent
- 99.7% dust free
- Absolutely doesn’t track around the house
- Can be hard to switch cats to it
- Non-clumping, expect to go through a good bit of litter
3. Best Plant Based Litter
Purina Tidy Cats Pure Nature Cat Litter
We’re not big on these plant based litters, but for some people they definitely do the trick. This litter is made of pine, corn, and cedar and clumps the same as clay. The main thing going for it is the fact that it’s made of renewable, plant-based materials.
It’s also a bit softer on cats feet than the usual clay options, which makes some kittens take to it quite readily. You’ll still have to go through the normal process of slowly switching out the litter for most of the older cats you might have.
It clumps readily, but the clumps don’t seem to hold together all that well. It also smells pretty good coming out of the box, but the smell fades out pretty rapidly when it’s been exposed to air for awhile.
If you’re tired of the usual fare, you may want to try this plant-based litter. It’s definitely a love/hate thing, but we feel that overall this is the best of the bunch.
Pros and Cons
- Biodegradable and ecologically friendly
- Entirely non-toxic
- Soft on cat’s feet
- Smells great coming out of the box
- Good smell rapidly fades to nothing
- Clumps don’t hold together well
4. Best Crystal Litter
PetSafe ScoopFree Premium Crystal Non Clumping Cat Litter
This is a non-clumping litter, but overall we feel it’s one of the better ones out there. Instead of clumping up like traditional litters, the crystals will absorb urine over time and you won’t smell a thing until it’s completely saturated.
Unfortunately, this does tend to mean that you’re going to go through a good bit of litter during your usual week. On the other hand, you’ll know exactly when to change things and you won’t have to spend time scooping out urine cakes which is a trade-off many people are willing to make.
It comes in three different scents as well, allowing you to customize things.
If you’re going with crystalline litter, this one is definitely worth a shot. The scents and ease of use put it in a class of it’s own.
Pros and Cons
- Absorbs liquids and scents to a high degree
- Comes in a few different scents for customization
- 99% dust free
- Tend to go through a lot of it
- Rather expensive
5. Best Non-Clumping Litter
Jonny Cat Complete Multi-Cat Clay Litter Bag
For those who insist that clumping litter isn’t the way to go, Jonny Cat comes forward with an awesome and cheap non-clumping litter that holds odors well and avoids the problems associated with clumps.
The best part is that most cats really like the stuff. On top of that, you’ll find it’s cheap enough to frequently replace. Which you’ll need to, but it’s not that big of a deal as long as you’re following a good cleaning regimen.
While there are definitely some disadvantages to these “old-school” litters, those who want them are usually well aware of them in advance. These mostly come in the forms of not clumping and getting caught in cat’s paws rather easily and tracking all over the house.
If you insist on a natural clay litter, or you want something super cheap, then Jonny Cat offers great value for the dollar. Just don’t expect clumps and scents.
Pros and Cons
- Extremely cheap
- Holds odors quite well
- Easy to use
- Completely unscented
- Doesn’t clump
- Rather dusty and tracks all over the house
A Brief History of Cat Litter
In the past, the majority of cats were indoor/outdoor, which meant that litter boxes were far less of a problem. The cats primarily used loose dirt wherever it could be found, and those who did keep their cats indoors most often used sand or ashes from the fireplace.
This was a bit of a mess, understandably, and someone eventually came up with the idea of using absorbent clay like that used for industrial spills.
It was a huge improvement over the old stuff, since it absorbed urine and controlled the sharp ammonia odor a lot better than the usual suspects. It birthed an industry, but litter remained mostly the same for quite some time.
Eventually, someone figured out that absorbent clay which wasn’t baked but still dried produced clumps when a cat peed. This clumping litter allowed for easy removal of the urine, while the litter could be replaced quickly and avoid reaching the saturation point at which things began to smell.
By 1999, clumping litter controlled half of the market.
More recently, tons of different eco-friendly and guaranteed to do this or that materials have emerged. Some people still favor those clumping litters which were popularized through the 1990’s, but overall there are a ton of different options available for people these days and that can make things a bit confusing.
The Science Behind Litter
At one point, a scientist did a study in order to see what cats preferred in their litter. They’re notoriously picky animals, after all, and that means they tend to do all kinds of “fun” things when they don’t like what’s going on.
The study found that most cats preferred fine grained, clumping litter. It was used nearly twice as often as the nearest competitor, which is pretty impressive overall.
What does this mean for you?
Your cat is pretty much always going to prefer something with a finer grain if it’s available. While some cats will readily adapt to differing types of litter, others are just going to find somewhere else to go if you’re not careful when you choose your litter.
Thus, we recommend keeping a normal litter around which you know your cat will use when you try anything new out. If your cat refuses to use it, you can switch back.
The Big Question: Clumping or Not Clumping?
There’s some questions placed down about the safety of clumping litter when compared to the alternative. This is particularly the case for young kittens who may ingest litter shortly after being weaned.
If you have an older cat eating litter, then it’s time to go to a vet. Felines will often try to make up for nutrient deficiencies like anemia by eating litter. It’s fairly normal for a kitten to give it a shot however.
The concern comes in the form of whether or not the litter will clump within a kitten’s digestive tract. Some people insist that this is a major problem.
This is what we know: there isn’t a single case in the scientific literature of clumping litter causing problems. That doesn’t imply that it’s perfectly safe, just that if there are problems which emerge from it then they’re so rare that none have been documented.
There are plenty of claims on the internet from concerned cat owners, and the logic makes sense: clumping litter… clumps. More accurately, it clumps and swells when it’s exposed to moisture and a young cat could have problems passing it.
On the other hand, other than these anecdotes and the claims of a couple of high-priced “holistic” veterinarians there’s no real proof that this is a problem at all, let alone a common one.
If you’re the nervous type and have young kittens around, you can always hold off on using clumping litter until they’re three months of age or so when they should be past the stage of gnawing on the contents of their litter box.
Scented or Unscented Litter?
Another major question which many people have is whether or not it’s worth using unscented litter.
There are a few different schools of thought on this, but the main one says basically: if you scoop on a daily basis, then it really isn’t going to matter. The fact of the matter is that the scents exist for you, not your feline and most absorbent clay litters will absorb enough smell it’s not a problem.
On the other hand, a pleasantly scented litter is a good idea for those with multiple cats, since sometimes you just can’t keep up. If your cats are all using the same box, then you’ll want to make sure your litter has a little bit extra to keep things nice and fresh within your home.
While there are a ton of anecdotal reports of scented litter making cats sick, we haven’t been able to find anything reputable from a vet outside of specific, niche problems like allergies so feel free to use whichever you prefer unless it causes problems.
Types of Litter
There are a ton of different options available to the modern cat owner when it comes time to pick a litter. Whether it’s clay, crystals, or sand… things have come a long way from boxes filled with ashes.
Each type has their own pros and cons, so let’s delve into each briefly so you can know what you’re looking for.
Clay is, and likely will be, the gold standard of cat litter for some time. It’s cheap, readily available, and is available in both clumping and non-clumping varieties. It’s also easily scented, which has lent it well to a variety of other modifications.
For the most part, this is what we recommend for the average cat owner. It has one key disadvantage, however: clay can get tracked all over the house pretty easily.
This really can’t be avoided, and it’s not as bad as some of the older things which were used but it’s enough that people have been searching for an alternative for some time.
These crystals are most similar to the desiccant packages you find in food and items which have been shipped a long way. The material absorbs moisture and odor with equal aplomb and clumps quite readily.
It’s also pretty expensive and has one relatively hidden downside: it sticks to cat’s feet pretty readily and quite often when they’re cleaning their feet they’ll ingest some of it. While it’s uncommon, ingestion of enough of it can cause problems down the line.
One nice thing for owners, however, is that they don’t produce dust. This is great for cat owners who may be irritated by the dust produced from normal litter.
All three of these plant based products function pretty much the same once they’ve been placed in the litter box. Most frequently they come rolled in small pellets, these break down when urine contacts them which absorbs the smell.
They’re handy to monitor because of this reason, since you have a visual indicator that the litter is starting to give out.
They tend to be a bit on the expensive side, however, and usually aren’t quite as good at absorbing smells as other types of litter. They can also be more of a pain to handle.
The nice thing is that they don’t really produce dust and they’re readily biodegradable, however, which makes them an attractive choice for some pet owners.
While it’s just beginning to catch on, recycled paper makes a pretty great material for kitty litter. It readily absorbs both moisture and odors, it’s cheap and easy to produce, and since it’s most often found in the form of large pellets it won’t get tracked around the house.
The main issue is getting a cat who was raised on something else to use it. Many cats hate the stuff, and that puts a big damper on it’s market share overall.
On the other hand recycled paper is a great alternative litter for animals like ferrets who don’t mind the larger pellet form.
Your Litter Box Routine
Coming up with a viable routine for cleaning your litter box is important. You need to clean things regularly in order to keep smells and mess to a minimum, while not going through more litter than you can afford.
Scoop daily, wash weekly.
That’s the general rule of thumb, and the one which we’ve found is the best for both cats and their owners. It’s a bit of work, but with a good scooper it only takes a couple of minutes to clean a box and it will keep odors down and minimize mess.
Keep in mind that if you don’t keep your box clean enough, then some cats will actively rebel. It’s much easier to scoop the box than get a surprise out of the carpet after all.
We recommend weekly washings of the litter box, but those with fewer cats who regularly keep up on their scooping duties should be able to get away with cleaning on a bi or even tri weekly basis.
This is all fairly basic stuff for most cat owners, but there’s definitely one thing that people neglect to do: plastic litter boxes should be replaced once a year or so. The scratches on the bottom and sides from your cat have a tendency to gather bacteria, odor, and pieces of litter over time.
When you change your cat’s litter you’re also changing one of their little pieces of the world. Cats are feisty animals at time, and if you do things the wrong way your home could be facing a cat coup, during which they’ll refuse to use the box.
That’ll have obvious, and disastrous, implications for indoor cats. Cleaning the litter box is bad enough, but cleaning the floors takes considerably more effort over time.
Instead of just changing things out all at once, you should try to slowly mix in more and more of the new mix over a week or two until things have been completely changed. This will give your pet time to adjust and make problems a lot less likely.
You should really do this anytime you change the litter, even if it’s the same type. Whether you’re changing the scent or the litter type.
Finding the best cat litter around is only half the battle, but with diligence and a bit of research you should be able to find exactly what you need for both you and your pet. Give it some extra thought and you’ll be able to come out ahead. A kitty-filled home without the litter box scent is definitely a happy one.