The Best Natural Cat Litter – Top 5 Biodegradable Litters That Really Work
Find the healthiest, natural cat litter for your cat.
First of all, let’s define natural cat litter. For the sake of this article, natural cat litter refers to any litter besides traditional clay litter.
While clay litter is the most popular type among modern cat guardians because it’s effective, affordable, and accessible, it comes with some serious drawbacks.
Traditional clay litter, particularly clumping clay litter, is both environmentally damaging and potentially dangerous for your cat’s health. The natural clay is obtained through strip mining, a process that scars the landscape and damages the natural ecosystem. It’s not biodegradable.
Clumping clay litter releases silica dust when stirred up. Silica dust is a known carcinogen and thus not something that you or your cat should inhale.
Most clumping clay litters are made with sodium bentonite clay. Sodium bentonite is an extremely powerful binding agent that swells several times its original volume when it comes into contact with moisture. This makes it incredibly good at creating solid clumps in the litter box. At the same time, this tendency to expand when damp makes it dangerous to ingest. If your cat consumes clumping clay litter – through grooming, due to a nutritional deficiency, or out of curiosity – it can lead to intestinal blockage.
Because curious kittens are particularly prone to litter ingestion, it’s usually recommended that they use a non-clumping litter until they’re at least three months old.
Another problem with non-natural litters is that they often include chemical fragrances, which can irritate your cat’s sensitive sense of smell. Cats prefer a clean, odorless litter box – not one that reeks of tropical flowers.
What is the Best Biodegradable Cat Litter?
Here’s what makes natural cat litter different (aka healthy).
Natural cat litters are made from biodegradable ingredients and are typically made with more environmentally-friendly ingredients. They don’t have artificial fragrances or silica dust that could make you or your cat sick.
Another (controversial) benefit of organic cat litter is that it’s usually safe to flush down the toilet. This convenient alternative to dumping dirty cat litter in the trash comes at a price, though: cats often carry Toxoplasma Gondii and shed the parasite in their feces. By flushing their waste down the toilet, you could allow more of these parasites to spread into rivers and oceans, putting wildlife at risk of infection.
While clumping clay litter still leads the pack in affordability, consistency, and clumping ability, the natural cat litter world is filled with options and many of them really are effective. Because cats are unique, you’ll probably need to experiment with a number of natural litters before you find one that you and your cat both love.
Before you start trying out the variety of natural cat litters on the market, you should be an informed shopper.
In this article, you will get familiar with what makes a great natural cat litter, weigh the pros and cons of some of the most popular natural litter substrates, and discover list our picks for the top 5 best natural cat litters available today.
4 Key Components of a Great Natural Cat Litter
1. Cat Comfort
While of course there are a lot of factors determining whether your cat will want to use a new litter or not, the most obvious one is how comfortable it is to walk and dig in the litter.
In keeping with their natural tendency to use sand or soil in nature’s litter box, cats usually prefer finer cat litter granules rather than chunky, coarse litter.
Look at it from your cat’s perspective – would you prefer to walk on fine sand or uneven gravel? What would you prefer to dig in?
2. Natural Odor Control
Litter box odor offends everyone. Cats and people are equally disgusted by it – and when your cat doesn’t want to use a dirty litter box, they may opt to use other areas of the home, leading to a serious inappropriate urination problem.
While the most important key to odor control is keeping the box clean, a good litter also helps to ease the burden. The best litters naturally minimize odor without using irritating chemical fragrances.
3. Clumping Ability
By every indication, cats prefer clumping cat litter. Fortunately, many natural litters are able to clump without using dangerous sodium bentonite clay.
For people, clumping litter makes it much easier to maintain a clean litter box. Non-clumping litters need to be regularly dumped out because urine-soaked litter remains loose and you can’t scoop it out.
It’s a good idea to consider litters designed for multiple cats – these are made to effectively absorb more waste.
4. Minimal Dust
Dust is one of the most annoying problems associated with cat litter. Whether a plume rises up when you dump litter into the box or you find yourself choking while scooping, excessive dust is both annoying and can lead to serious health problems.
Another one of dusty cat litter’s shortcomings is that it tends to encourage litter tracking. The dustier the litter is, the easier it is for it to spread throughout your house.
The best natural cat litter is one that creates as little dust as possible.
Types of Biodegradable Cat Litter
As recently as a decade ago, natural litter was a fringe product that was difficult to find and often came with a prohibitive price tag. Today, more and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of a litter that’s good for you, your cat, and the environment. The market is growing and we’re faced with a wide range of options. Now that we have so many choices, it’s a good idea to understand what sets each variety apart. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of natural cat litter available.
Wood Cat Litter
These litters make use of reclaimed wood fibers. Pine is a common type of wood used in cat litter, but you may also find other types or combinations of wood and other ingredients. Wood litter comes in a range of textures: from large pellets to small chunks. You’ll find clumping wood litters as well as ones that don’t clump at all.
Fans of this litter type appreciate the aroma and odor trapping ability of natural wood.
Paper Cat Litter
Paper litter is made from recycled paper, making it a popular choice among those looking for an eco-friendly product. In general, however, it has poor clumping ability and tends to have very little longevity. Paper litter is cheaper than many other options, but because you’ll need to change it out so often, it won’t last long.
Besides having little or no clumping ability, this type of litter usually has poor odor control, although some users don’t have a problem.
On the positive side, paper cat litter has a soft feel that’s good for cats with sensitive paws. It doesn’t produce any dust and has minimal tracking, keeping you and your cat healthy and your home clean.
Corn Cat Litter
Corn litter’s strongest quality is its clumping ability. It tends to create super-cohesive clumps that are easy to scoop and throw away. This means a cleaner litter box and a happier home. In most cases, corn cat litter also offers great odor control.
Corn cat litter probably has the best clumping ability of the natural cat litters listed here, but it has several weakness. The most significant one is its predisposition to aflatoxin mold growth: corn is one of the top targets for aflatoxin mold, which is toxic and could lead to serious health problems. While the corn is tested for mold problems before it leaves the manufacturing facility, the mold can easily grow while you’re using the litter in your home.
Wheat Cat Litter
The natural enzymes in wheat litter help to neutralize odor, while wheat starch clumps on contact with urine. Users of wheat litter say that this type tends to clump moderately well – wheat litter does form clumps, but in most cases, they’re not particularly solid.
Walnut Cat Litter
Walnut cat litter is made from walnut shells – this fibrous, absorbent material forms moderately strong clumps when it comes in contact with liquid waste and typically has good odor control. Walnut cat litter is unique in its dark color – it is usually a rich brown that can make it difficult to distinguish between clean and dirty litter.
This low-dust litter has a fairly fine grain that’s comfortable on cat feet, and like other fine-grain litters, has a tendency to get tracked around the house.
Top 5 Best Natural Cat Litters
Quick Look : Top Recommended Natural Cat Litters
Blue Buffalo Naturally Fresh Walnut-Based Multi-Cat Quick-Clumping Cat Litter Review
Blue Buffalo offers a line of walnut cat litters, with their multi-cat type being the customer favorite. This is thanks to the litter’s superior absorption ability.
This cat litter uses the fibrous material of walnut shells to form an unscented litter that neutralizes odors naturally and clumps when in contact with liquid waste. According to the company, this litter absorbs 3X more than the leading brand of clay litter.
Walnut litter is typically quite dark in color, making it challenging to identify waste while scooping. The dark granules make tracking very apparent, and according to customer reviews, tracking tends to be a major issue in households using walnut cat litter. That said, it’s virtually dust-free.
One review suggested that while it is safe to flush this product, the walnut shell litter stained the inside of their white toilet bowl. The packaging of this litter doesn’t indicate that it’s safe to flush. – Buy It
- Cats like the fine texture of the litter granules
- Creates solid clumps
- Neutralizes odor effectively
- High tracking potential
World’s Best Cat Litter Scoopable Multiple Cat Clumping Formula Review
World’s Best Cat Litter is a corn cat litter that does a great job of managing odor and produces strong, cohesive clumps that are easy to scoop out of the litter box. While this corn cat litter is one of the best clumpers in the natural cat litter arena, it’s under some scrutiny for corn’s predisposition to aflatoxin mold growth.
Many people report that they don’t use this litter due to concerns about this toxic mold forming on the litter while it’s in use. Although the manufacturer inspects the litter for aflatoxin mold growth before it leaves the facility, they can’t control what happens once it’s in your home. Because aflatoxin mold thrives in warm, damp environments, it’s a good idea to keep the litter box particularly clean when using this litter.
The product tends to be fairly dusty, although the company claims that it’s 99% dust free. The dust can lead to serious tracking issues.
Back to the bright side, World’s Best Cat Litter has fine, soft granules that cats like to dig in and step on.
This biodegradable corn litter is safe to flush. – Buy It
- Excellent clumping ability
- Great odor control
- Soft on cat paws
- Tends to have aflatoxin mold growth
- Can be dusty
Feline Pine Original Cat Litter Review
This litter is both the only non-clumping choice on our list and one of the most consistently praised natural products on the market.
What is particularly great about Feline Pine is its ability to manage odors – customers repeatedly say that they didn’t notice any smell while using this litter. However, a small group make the opposite claim – the litter didn’t help with smell at all.
This is a pellet-style litter made from compressed sawdust. It’s not a clumping litter. Instead, the pellets disintegrate when dampened and turn into sawdust. You shake the box daily to expose the fresh pellets and then discard once all of the litter has reverted to sawdust.
You’ll need to change out the litter more often than a clumping variety, and your cat may not be fond of the pellet texture. That said, pellets have minimal tracking and dust.
It is not recommended that you flush Feline Pine litter. – Buy It
- Good odor control
- Has a pleasant natural wood smell
- Minimal tracking and virtually dust free
- Not a clumping litter
- Cats may not like stepping on pellets
Okocat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter Review
Okocat is an environmentally-conscious litter brand – this litter is made from recycled materials, is biodegradable and safe to flush, and comes in a compostable package.
The litter is created from naturally fallen timber or lumber materials that otherwise may have gone to waste. The wood pellets absorb 5X their weight in moisture – natural plant fibers bind to odors and liquids, making this a clumping litter that locks in smells. The company claims that the fibers will trap waste odors for up to 7 days.
The litter creates virtually no dust, although customer reviews suggest that it does tend to stick to cats’ paws, creating a tracking issue. One review said that the tracking persisted despite the use of a thick litter mat. – Buy It
- Great odor control
- Excellent clumping ability
- Tracking seems to be a major problem for this wood litter
sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Natural Wheat Cat Litter Review
Wheat Scoop’s highly-absorbent formula for multiple cats stands out from the other wheat litters the brand offers.
This litter is made with 100% wheat and is completely chemical-free. It uses natural wheat enzymes to neutralize smells and wheat starch as a clumping agent. The litter produces relatively loose clumps, which could make cleaning the litter box a bit more of a challenge, but it seems to offer good odor control.
Reviewers say that this low-dust litter tends to get stuck on their cats’ paws and then tracked around the house.
This biodegradable wheat litter is safe to flush. – Buy It
- Good odor control
- Moderate clumping ability
- Low dust
- Tends to get tracked around the house
Ready to make the switch to natural litter?
Cats are often finicky and won’t immediately want to use an unfamiliar product in their litter box. Like switching to a new cat food, it’s recommended that you change over to a new litter gradually.
- Start by replacing about ¼ of the litter box content with the new litter. Monitor your cat’s reaction – if they aren’t bothered by the change, you can continue to gradually increase the concentration of the new litter. If your cat is reluctant to use the litter box, you may want to cut back and progress more slowly.
- Over the course of a week, gradually incorporate more and more of the new litter. Again, monitor your cat’s response and react accordingly.
- If your cat doesn’t warm up to the new product after a week, try a different variety of natural litter.
Again, the most important consideration is your cat’s comfort. If your cat doesn’t like the litter they’re using, it could lead to stress, inappropriate urination, and behavioral problems. Experimentation is key to finding the right litter for your cat.
Please be aware that the Walnut litters can also grow mold that can have terrible side affects for humans and kitties alike!
wood stove pine pellets or horse stall pine pellets are much cheaper than Feline Pine and work the same way.
Looks like prices may have changed. The link for sWheat takes you to Chewy and it’s more than $1/lb rather than $.59/lb.