Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Natural Cat Litter, Part 2. The Scoop.

In out first installment, I talked about the environmental and health costs of clay and clumping litters.  Bad stuff.  Now let’s talk about some alternatives.  They’ll turn just about anything into cat litter these days and most of them are biodegradable.  When you shop for natural cat litter, you will find litters made of corn, wheat, walnuts, recycled newspaper, pine nuggets, cedar.  Here are some pros and cons of some that we've tried here at Green Earth Pet Food.  Prices are averaged out over several sources.

1.  Feline Pine.  $0.65/pound.

PROS:  Made of highly absorbent, non-clumping pine fibers in pellet or sawdust form.  
Light pine scent and good odor control.
Low dust.  

CONS:  Packaged in plastic.
Cats can track the fine particles throughout the house.

My cats didn't "do" Feline Pine personally, but I think that's because I didn't give them enough transition time.  The pellets are unusual and not at all like other litters, so give your cat plenty of time to make the switch, mixing in a little at a time with their usual litter.

2.  Swheat Scoop.  $0.96/pound

PROS:  Made of renewable, naturally clumping wheat.
Fairly good odor control--the natural enzymes in the wheat work fairly well to control odors.
Minimal tracking.
Fairly low in dust.
Easy to transition.
Recyclable packaging.
Mild, pleasant bready scent.

CONS:  Mild, pleasant bready scent may be attractive to dogs.  Kristi's dogs thought the litter was an extra treat in the box and had to go on a low carb diet.
Not appropriate for a gluten free household.

3.  World's Best Cat Litter.  $1.18/pound.

PROS:  Made of renewable, naturally clumping whole kernel corn.
Good odor control.
Low dust.
Low tracking.
Mild "farmy" scent.
Long lasting.

CONS:  Plastic package.

In spite of the price, this litter lives up to its name.  AVOID the scented multi-cat formula, though.  In fact, AVOID all scented cat litters.  In general, scents are added chemicals (VOCs) that will just irritate your cat and possibly make her want to avoid her litter box.

4.  Yesterday's News.  $ 0.67/pound.

PROS:  Made from 100% recycled newspaper, including the packaging.
99.7% dust free (lowest of all the litters)
Excellent absorption of moisture.
Low tracking.

CONS:  Does not clump.
I think it smells a little funky (but that's just me).

5.  Cedarific Cat Litter.  $0.87/pound

PROS:  Made of hardwood and cedar chips.
Pleasant odor (doesn't smell like hamsters, I swear!)
Low in dust.
Recyclable package.

CONS:  Non clumping.
A little on the light side, so cats track it out of the box more easily.

These are just a few of the brands that we have first-hand experience with.  There doesn't seem to be a "perfect" natural cat litter, but hopefully this non-scientific review will help you choose what works for you according to your priorities.  

REGARDING FLUSHING AND COMPOSTING:  Almost all of the litters advertise that they are "flushable," but in my research I found that the most environmentally friendly thing to do is to NOT flush cat waste down the toilet, where it will enter the waterways and even the ocean.  Cats have a parasite--toxoplasma gondii, if you were wondering.  It has been found in dolphins, humpback whales, sea otters, monk seals.  It doesn't belong there, so bag your cat poop and throw it away.  As for composting, your compost pile will not heat up enough to kill this parasite, so don't put your litter in compost intended for food plants.

BONUS FOR THE FRUGAL:  I loves me some World's Best Cat Litter.  It's my top pick, but it's expensive.  What else is made of corn, absorbs moisture, controls odor and is otherwise identical in every way but costs a quarter the price?   Chicken Feed.  That's right.  You can get a 50 pound bag of chicken "crumbles" for about $15.  It doesn't clump as tightly as WBCL, but it really is super economical.  Buy a small bag first to see if this is a good option for you and keep extra in the freezer to minimize bugs.  Get only unmedicated feed and, again, make sure it is in crumble form.


  1. Great info, Deane! Especially about the crumble chicken feed - would never have thought of that. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure Galaxy would also "enjoy" the any corn-based litter as much as she "enjoyed" (a.k.a. ATE!) the wheat-based litter. Oh well, she's part Lab so what did I expect?! :)

  2. Hey Deane, Wow Thanks! it is definitely a stumper with all the cat littler choices out there. I really appreciate your research and will go with some of your suggestions. excellent Blog by the way!

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