Compared to dog parents who have to take their pups on daily walks (often in all sorts of inclement weather), cat owners have it pretty easy with their litter-box–trained pets. However, a litter box comes with its own set of problems, including odors, dust, and, of course, the occasional cat who refuses to use it. Lots of these issues can be managed by choosing the right kitty litter, but with so many types on the market (formulated with everything from clay to newspaper), finding the right kind can be tricky. It also doesn’t help that cats are, as Jessica Herman, a veterinarian with Fuzzy Pet Health, puts it, “very finicky creatures.” She tells us, “Sometimes it can take trial by error to figure out what type of litter your feline friend will enjoy,” and even suggests leaving out boxes with different litters to see what your cat prefers.
Carly Fox, a staff doctor at Animal Medical Center, says that for most cats and their owners, a clumping litter is the best option. “It allows for easy removal of urine and feces and you don’t have to dump the whole box of litter — just scoop up the part that’s soiled and then replace as needed,” she says, before adding that studies have shown cats prefer unscented, clumping litter. Litter with an odor-masking scent can be a turnoff because cats have a very acute sense of smell, which is why many experts say the best way to avoid a stinky box is through regular scooping. “Don’t make your litter work hard to control odors,” says Nora Wood, an adoption-event coordinator with Anjellicle Cats cat rescue. “Scoop every chance you get regardless of whatever type you are using.” Laura Pletz, a veterinarian and scientific services manager for Royal Canin, agrees that unscented is best for many cats. “I find that most cats like the finer, clumping litters as well,” she says.
As Cathy Bosley, a certified feline training-and-behavior specialist and administrative assistant at the Best Friend Animals Society Sanctuary’s Cat World, puts it: “No one really enjoys using porta-potties, and if the litter box is not cleaned regularly, that is how it smells to a cat.” Still, some litters are better than others at controlling odor, minimizing dust, and appealing to picky kitties. Below, our panel of experts break down the best litters for all types of cats.
Best overall cat litter
Unscented, clumping, and made from corn kernels, World’s Best lives up to its name and is a favorite of both Bosley and Kerrie McKeon, resident cat expert at the animal welfare and adoption organization Bideawee. McKeon likes that it doesn’t produce as much dust as other litters and that it’s long-lasting. “It’s clumping, it’s natural, and I have asthma and allergies and it doesn’t set anything off for me,” she says. “If you scoop it morning and night, a bag gets you through quite a while.” Bosley agrees, saying that of all the litters her shelter has tried, World’s Best “cuts down on the odors best.”
Best lightweight cat litter
Because she has three litter boxes at home, Angie Krause, a holistic veterinarian and consultant for I and Love and You pet food, really likes that this lightweight litter is easy to maneuver. While her cats — one in renal failure and another with irritable bowel disease — use the litter box more than most, she says this litter is just as good for owners of healthier cats who simply don’t want to lug around heavy bags of litter. This also offers “the best odor control” of a lightweight litter, according to Krause. Bosley is another fan of Tidy Cats litter because it’s unscented and won’t bother cats with allergies.
Best cat litter for litter-box training
For a cat who isn’t using the litter box — or is learning to use one as an adult — this litter contains a proprietary blend of herbs that, much like catnip, lures felines in. McKeon promises, “I’ve actually seen it in action and it does work.” When her shelter rescued a large group of cats that had never used litter boxes before, she says they put Cat Attract in all of their boxes and “no one ended up needing meds to use a litter box, they all eventually learned how to use it.” Krause agrees this litter can be a huge help for cats with behavioral issues, but she does advise to check with your vet before purchasing, to ensure your cat isn’t avoiding the box due to illness.
Best low-dust cat litter
Just like humans, some kitties are asthmatic and therefore sensitive to dust. For these cats, experts recommend looking for a low- or no-dust litter. “Imagine trying to use the bathroom in a dust storm,” says Bosley. “Not fun.” Litter that produces a lot of dust when cats dig in it and kick it up can also be unpleasant for humans, too. Bosley says Arm & Hammer’s Clump & Seal litter is as close as it gets to being totally dust-free. Plus, it’s great for managing odor, she says.
Best environmentally friendly cat litters
If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly litter, Heike Klassman, an adoption-seminar leader with Anjellicle Cats, says to opt for a biodegradable variety, like this blend of naturally odor-controlling hinoki (cypress) wood and green tea. She likes that it’s flushable and doesn’t contain sodium bentonite, an additive common in clay clumping litters that “can be dangerous if litter is being licked or swallowed,” she says.
Another biodegradable (and flushable) litter, this one is made from wheat and comes recommended by Bosley, especially for cats who are sensitive to scents or dust.
Best cat litter for multi-cat households
Scott Bleicher, the founder of Stray Cat Social Club, lives with up to ten cats at a time (both his own and fosters) — and knows full well that more cats means more litter maintenance, and more potential headaches. Like most experts, he prefers clumping litter because it’s “the easiest to scoop and the best at containing odors,” and particularly likes this “multi-cat strength” formula. He notes that it “contains one ingredient — natural clay — [and] no added dyes, perfumes, or chemicals,” making it more likely to work for a group of cats with different needs and preferences.
Best non-clumping cat litter
While clumping litter is usually the easiest to deal with, there are some cases when you’ll want to use a non-clumping variety. Fox explains that clumping litter can stick to and irritate incisions in cats who’ve recently had surgery (including spaying and neutering), and that it doesn’t let you monitor urine output, which is important when caring for diabetic cats. In these situations, she recommends Yesterday’s News, which is “basically newspaper in pellet form — it won’t stick to incisions [and] allows the urine to sit on the bottom” of the box for easier monitoring. It’s also what shelters use for newly spayed or neutered kittens; for instance, at Bideawee, McKeon says they’re “using it for a cat with skin issues because it’s hypoallergenic” and doesn’t produce any dust.
Best crystal cat litter
My own personal favorite litter, Pretty Litter is made from silica gel crystals that actually absorb liquids instead of clumping. This means you only have to scoop solid waste, which you can easily flush away. Compared to other litters I’ve tried, it’s far less smelly and doesn’t generate as much dust. The crystals also help monitor your cat’s health as they change color in reaction to different chemicals in urine that may indicate bladder or kidney disease.
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