"Does all cat litter contain silica? What is silica? Is it safe?" These are all questions you may be wondering as you research the best type of cat litter to use for your beloved feline. Well, no worries - we've done the research, found the answers, and laid them out for you in this article!
Here's a quick breakdown of a few of the most popular types of cat litter and whether or not they contain silica:
- Clumping litter - Clumping litter does not contain silica. Instead, it's made from grains of bentonite clay that clumps together when wet.
- Non-clumping clay-based litter - Non-clumping clay-based litter also does not contain silica. It's made from clays other than bentonite so that it absorbs liquids but doesn't clump.
- Silica crystals litter - Yes, this type of litter contains silica. It's made from tiny silica gel beads, similar to the beads in desiccant packets found in shoes and medication. We'll have more on this later in the article!
- Biodegradable litter - Unfortunately, silica is not biodegradable. Some types of biodegradable cat litter include corn, wheat, pine, paper, walnut shells, or coconut.
Do you still have questions? No cause for concern if you do - we've collected answers to some common questions surrounding silica cat litter, including "How does it work?" and "Can I flush it?" Keep reading for even more information!
Is Cat Litter the same as Silica Gel?
The short answer is no, not all cat litter is silica gel, although some do contain it. Silica gel crystal cat litter is made from sodium silicate sand that has been processed with oxygen and water. Some other types of cat litter are not made exclusively from silica gel, but they do contain it for additional absorbency.
How Does Silica Cat Litter Work?
Silica cat litter is specially formulated to be extremely absorbent. After being processed with oxygen and water, sodium silicate sand is transformed into small beads. These beads are full of tiny holes that allow them to absorb lots of liquid - about 40 times the weight of each bead! For a visual, think of the desiccant packets marked "Do Not Eat" that can be found in products that have to stay dry. Silica cat litter works similarly, just even more powerful.
Silica cat litter is also excellent at absorbing odors. When the cat urinates, the silica beads soak up the liquids and take the odor along with it, trapping everything inside the beads. After being trapped inside the silica bead, the urine evaporates, leaving no scent.
To get the most out of your silica cat litter, you'll need to stir it every day to make sure the liquids are being absorbed. Since it's non-clumping, you'll also need to remove any solid waste. Finally, you'll want to have at least 3 to 4 inches of litter to prevent the urine from reaching the bottom of the box before it's soaked up by the beads.
How Long Does Silica Cat Litter Last?
Since the silica beads in silica cat litter have almost unlimited absorbency, they can be used for up to a month for one cat. However, after that time, you'll need to empty the litter since silica cat litter does not clump, and all of the urine is still trapped in the litter. If you have more than one cat using the litter box, you'll need to empty it more frequently - approximately once every two weeks.
Check out our article How Many Litter Boxes Per Cat Should You Have? for more information about litter boxes in multiple cat households.
Is Silica Cat Litter Dangerous?
There are some concerns about the safety of silica cat litter, although there is currently no definitive proof either way. Some studies have shown that the silica dust produced when your cat digs in the litter box can potentially cause respiratory diseases in humans and felines. A study by Animal Behavior Consultants discovered that the lungs of cats with respiratory diseases contained more silica dust than the lungs of cats without respiratory infections. It is unknown whether the silica dust caused the illness or if the condition made it more likely for the dust to accumulate in the lungs was unclear.
However, cat litter brands that produce silica litter are continually working to improve the safety of their products. Many silica cat litters are now 99% dust-free, and they are also formulated not to contain harmful crystalline silicate. In general, you may want to avoid silica cat litter if you or your cat has preexisting respiratory problems, but for households with healthy lungs, it should present no problem.
Can You Flush Silica Cat Litter?
In short, no. Since cat feces contain a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, they should not be flushed in sewer systems because it puts wildlife at risk of infection. If you have a septic system, there is less of a risk, but most systems are not designed to handle something the size and consistency of a large amount of cat litter. It's better to dump the solid waste and used litter into a bag and throw it in the trash.
Is There Clumping Silica Cat Litter?
Yes, clumping silica cat litter does exist, although it's not as common as the non-clumping varieties. With clumping silica litter, the urine usually ends up in one large ball that can be scooped up and discarded. Although this is convenient to remove, some cat owners don't prefer it as it also takes away a lot of the litter. However, the plus side of this type of litter is that when the odor-trapping capability of silica litter is combined with clumping action, your cat's litter box can stay odor-free for days. In fact, in a single-cat household that uses clumping silica litter, it only needs to be scooped two or three times per week.
For more information on a non-traditional cat litter, check out our post, "What is Coconut Litter (and Should You Give it a Try?"