The 10 Best Cat Litters
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Yes, cats and kittens are adorable, but their messes are definitely not. Our selection of kitty litters ranges from completely natural options to scented, hard-clumping clay formulas, so you can find the one that best suits you and your feline companion. With any one of these litters at your disposal, you'll be able to keep your pet happy and your home clean and fresh. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
July 07, 2021:
Experts agree that Dr. Elsey's Ultra is consistently one of the top-performing options, with little to no dust and a powerful ability to mask odors, so it retains the top spot. One not about our #2 selection, World's Best Multiple Cat, is that it works well but is pretty expensive unless you buy in bulk. For that reason, we've recommended the 28-pound bag, which is a great value.
March 17, 2020:
Clay-based litters have been the mainstream waste solution for indoor cats for decades, but because of concerns about sustainability, many pet owners have been exploring more natural options, so we have included a mix of traditional clay formulas, and some of the most reliable, fuss-free sustainable choices on the market.
Dr. Elsey's Ultra remains in the top spot for its excellent combination of larger granules that are less likely to get caught in paws, and enough smaller ones to firmly clump around liquids. We also added a great lighter-weight clay options with the Tidy Cats Max. While the new lighter litters can't compete head to head with the best regular clay litter, this Tidy Cats formula mixes in minerals to keep smells at bay for 2 weeks.
If you decide to switch from a clay litter to a recycled or plant-based product, make the switch gradually, as finicky cats may otherwise reject it. Litters like World's Best Multiple Cat can take some getting used to, and while they don't seal in the odors as long as the clay versions, many cat owners don't mind daily scooping when the trade-off is a more eco-friendly product.
Fast Facts About Kitty Litter
With litter, cats are able to bury their waste, concealing its odor.
It's hard to imagine, but until the middle of the 20th century, cat litter didn't exist. Animal lovers typically kept their feline friends outdoors in order to avoid having to deal with their messes. When the weather got cold, however, owners were forced to let their cats in and would improvise, setting out materials like dirt and ashes to encourage their cats to do their business in one relatively contained spot. It goes without saying that this system was less than ideal.
Thanks to the ingenuity of a man named Edward Lowe, kitty litter hit supermarket shelves for the first time in 1947. The American businessman noticed that the existing cat waste management solutions were messy, ineffective, and hardly suitable for an indoor environment. This conundrum inspired him to begin developing what would come to be known by people the world over as kitty litter.
What set Lowe's product apart from other options was that it was created from highly absorbent clay — a material that made the task of cleaning up after cats easier than ever. In fact, you'll notice that even today many of the litters available are clay-based.
Now that we understand a little bit about the history of litter, we should reflect on the critters that use it. How on earth do cats seemingly innately know to relieve themselves in the litter box? It's a feat that most felines master early on, but that their canine counterparts definitely don't have the same knack for.
One of the reasons cats usually prefer using a litter box as opposed to, say, a smooth linoleum floor, is tied into the fact that they're predatory animals that need to keep a low profile in order to hunt effectively. With litter, cats are able to bury their waste, concealing its odor. This also helps explain why cats groom themselves non-stop; they don't want anyone to smell them coming.
Cats will bury their waste for social purposes, too. Domestic cats are generally solitary creatures and can be quite territorial, marking their turf to let other cats know exactly where they live and roam. Felines who choose to cross into another cat's territory do so at their own risk. In other cases, cats might cover their waste to demonstrate submission to a more aggressive cat in the house.
How To Choose The Right Litter
Believe it or not, there are quite a few litters on the market to choose from. So, how will you know which selection is best for you and your furball? Picking out a litter will be a piece of cake as long as you keep these common features in mind.
Then again, If you aren't a fan of scented litters, there are plenty of neutral products that work just as well.
The two main types of litter are clumping and non-clumping. When used properly, both can help you keep your pet's potty inviting and sanitary. Clumping litter does just what you think: it solidifies your cat's waste into scoopable clumps that are easy to sift out of the box when it comes time to clean. Non-clumping litter, on the other hand, simply soaks it up. The advantage to purchasing a non-clumping formula is its odor-fighting qualities. Owners do have to switch out non-clumping litter more frequently, however, to keep the area fresh and dry.
Many litter blends come scented to mask unpleasant smells. Owners of stubborn cats will appreciate that there are options containing special cat-attracting fragrances to lure kitty in. Then again, If you aren't a fan of scented litters, there are plenty of neutral products that work just as well.
Litters also exist in pellet form, often created from materials like recycled paper. These litters make a smart choice for cat owners who are concerned about the environment. It's also worth noting that this variety is quite absorbent and can soak up as much liquid as clay. Wood fiber is another material commonly used in litters, as it gives off a nice natural scent and holds plenty of liquid. Plus, it's biodegradable.
Cat lovers who struggle to lift heavy objects should pay attention to the weights listed on litter packaging. Luckily, there are lightweight litters out there, which should come as a relief if you live in a multi-story home. Hauling a box of kitty litter up a flight of stairs is no fun at all.
Finally, those who suffer from allergies may choose to purchase a low- or no-dust litter. Most litters contain some amount of fine dust that can float through the air and settle on your surfaces. There's no reason to quietly suffer a house full of dust when you can opt for a dust-free formula.
Litter Box Best Practices
If you're a new pet parent, you might have additional questions about how to care for your cat. Here are a few tips for keeping your pet comfortable and happy when they use their litter box.
Similarly, the more cats you have, the more frequently you need to scoop.
It's crucial that you pick a litter box that's big enough for your cat or cats. Owners of multiple felines will find that more than one box is absolutely necessary to accommodate everyone. Similarly, the more cats you have, the more frequently you need to scoop.
Regardless of the kind of litter you decide on, every box should be fully emptied and cleaned with soap and water on a monthly basis. This routine will get rid of any bacterial growth, which can cause health problems in cats and humans alike.
Litter box placement is also a big piece of the puzzle. Your cat will be less likely to have accidents if their restroom is located in a spot that's convenient for them. Make sure that the litter box is stationed in a peaceful zone where your pet will be able to relieve themselves readily and without any stressors present.
Remember that if your cat is exhibiting bathroom behavior that is out of character, there's a chance that the underlying cause could be physical discomfort. Make sure the issue isn't health-related by scheduling a visit with your veterinarian.