Wednesday, July 1, 2009 3:07 PM

"Natural" Cat Litters: Which is Best?

Choices abound these days when it comes to filling your cat's litter box. Which one is best? Well, it depends on what you're looking for most: convenience, odor control, biodegradability, etc. Let's take a look at the less ecologically sound types and move along to the more "green" litters, which seem to promise just about everything but a prosperous old age. Here's the "scoop", so to speak.

I discussed good old fashioned clay litter in yesterday's post, so here's a quick summary: pros are that it is inexpensive, widely available, absorbent and is a natural product. Cons include dustiness, odor when moderately soiled, doesn't clump very well, it's not flushable and it's very heavy, especially after it's been used. The other widely available type is silica litter, which due to its moisture-absorbing quality clumps very well. I remember when this style became popular and there was some discussion about whether the silica cats licked off their paws would eventually cause health problems, specifically bowel obstructions since it tends to draw water from its surroundings and become solid. I don't think it actually caused any problems, but I've never been tempted to try it. Like clay, it's not flushable and is somewhat heavy. I think it's a bit more expensive than clay, as well. Fresh Step makes both kinds of litters.

Products that are biodegradable (and, assumedly, compostable) fit into three major categories: Food byproduct based (corn and wheat), paper pellets and wood byproduct types (pine pellets, cedar flakes). They all claim to be flushable, control odor naturally, create less dust and track less than clay and, except for the paper pellets, are scoopable to some degree.

Swheat Scoop, made from wheat, claims to have superior odor control due to the "natural enzymes" in wheat that neutralize litter box smelliness. A 14 lb. bag costs $10; that's a lot of money for enzymes! The World's Best Cat Litter is a corn-based litter and, at $18 for a 17 lb. bag, is the most expensive of all the cat litter products I researched.

Yesterday's News is a product made by Purina Co. and consists of paper specially processed into small pellets. I actually tried this product many years ago and found it lacking. Not only did it not clump (it doesn't claim to) but it didn't control odor any better than plain clay. A 15 lb. bag runs approximately $9, rather pricey for no real clear superiority to clay (except, I guess, that it could be composted).

Lastly, we have the wood-based products. Feline Pine offers two styles of pine litter, pellets and scoopable. I tried the pellets a few years ago and was disappointed with the results. The pellets are fairly large, making them difficult to scoop without a lot of waste. Also, it doesn't clump at all. More recently, the scoopable version has been offered, which is a finer grade of product. I also remember some concern about the natural pine oil irritating cats' skin, but this issue either never surfaced as a problem or the manufacturer refined the product. It's more reasonably priced at $11 for a 20 lb. bag.

Tomorrow I'll talk about Cedarific, my personal favorite in the litter wars. I'll also discuss some tips for having the sweetest-smelling litter box in the neighborhood (without actually having to get rid of the cat!).

Just So You Know: I'm sick of all this rain! Crikey!
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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