Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus
THE BLOG

The Litter Most Cats Would Choose If They Could

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

These days, many people owned by cats suffer from kitty litter confusion, and it's no wonder. The number of cat litters on the market is mind-boggling.

If you're introducing a new cat to the family, or your kitty is having litterbox issues and you're thinking about switching litters, you may find the following cat litter primer helpful.

Common Types of Cat Litter

• Clumping clay. This type of litter is typically made from bentonite, which is a highly absorbent clay that forms into solid clumps when your cat urinates. Clumping clay makes litterbox scooping and cleaning easy. Drawbacks are that this type of litter is dusty, non-biodegradable, and heavy to cart around.

• Non-clumping clay. This type of litter is made from clays other than bentonite. It absorbs urine but doesn't form clumps, so it's easy to leave bits of moist litter behind when you scoop the box. This means it will start to get smelly sooner rather than later, and may require more frequent changing than clumping clay. However, non-clumping litter is often cheaper than clumping, and some cats prefer it.

• Silica gel crystals. The crystals are made of tiny silica gel beads similar to the desiccant found in the tiny pouches packaged as a preservative with foods, medications, and other products that can be damaged by excess moisture. Crystal litter is highly absorbent, controls odor well, and is almost dust-free. Some people even say it tracks less than other types of litter. Crystal litters are usually more expensive, but they tend to last longer. Downsides are that some cats don't like getting the crystals on their paws, and they can be dangerous if ingested in large amounts or over a long period of time, which happens when cats clean their feet.

• Recycled paper.
This is litter made from recycled paper that is turned into pellets or granules. Paper is dust-free, highly absorbent, and biodegradable. In pellet form, the paper doesn't form urine clumps, but the granule form does.

• Pine. Pine litter is also recycled and is typically made from lumber scraps that are heat-treated to remove toxins, oils, and allergens from the wood. This type of litter comes in pellets, granules, or roughly crushed pine. It has a pine scent, which helps control odor. The granules and cobble (roughly crushed pine) are somewhat clumping, but in pellet form, the pine turns to sawdust that must be regularly replaced.

• Corn. Corn-based litter is biodegradable, absorbent, and provides odor control. However, since most kitties ingest a bit of litter each day during grooming, and since corn is a problem ingredient for pets, I recommend avoiding this type of litter.

• Wheat. Wheat litter is made from ground wheat. It clumps and provides odor control, is biodegradable, and is low on dust and tracking. Wheat can be another problem ingredient for cats, so I also suggest avoiding wheat-based litters as well.

• Walnut shells. This litter is made from crushed walnut shells and is dark brown in color. Walnut shell litters have clumping ability, offer excellent odor control, are highly absorbent, and biodegradable.

• Grass. Grass litter is relatively new on the scene. One brand, Smart Cat, is a fine-grained litter made from USA-sourced grass fibers that is biodegradable, controls odor, and has good clumping ability. Another brand, The Touch of Outdoors by Dr. Elsey, uses USA-grown prairie grass.

The Litter Most Cats Prefer

In litter preference studies, cats consistently and significantly favor clay clumping litter made of very small granular (sand-like) material over large granule litter made with other types of substrates.

Kitties also have an aversion to litters with a floral or citrus scent, and since most of those litters are synthetic, my advice is to steer clear of scented litters altogether. Many cats are also averse to odor control additives, which most commercial litters contain - typically baking soda or activated charcoal (carbon).

If you're concerned about litter box aversion, my suggestion is to select a litter with no odor control additives. This will give your kitty as natural an environment as possible in which to do his business. Alternatively, you can try a litter with a charcoal or carbon-based odor control additive.

If you have a cat who is eliminating outside the box and is free of any medical issues that might cause the behavior, I recommend providing several litter boxes representing a variety of options (different size boxes, placed in a variety of locations, with a variety of litter choices) so you can determine your kitty's preference. This is also a good approach when introducing a new cat or kitten to the family.

The small additional expense of trying out different options will be well worth it to solve litter box aversion problems and prevent future or potential house soiling.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here