What Can You Use as Emergency Cat Litter?

If you have ever had a pet cat, you've probably run out of cat litter at least once in your life. When it happens you probably wonder, what can you use as emergency cat litter? If you find yourself without kitty litter or you’re curious what to should do if you need emergency litter, this article is for you!

What Can You Use as Emergency Cat Litter?There are a few things you can use as an emergency cat litter, often based on ingredients that most people have in their kitchens and homes:

  • Potting soil
  • Sand
  • Sawdust
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Paper Towel
  • Shredded Newspaper

While we don’t recommend making any drastic changes to your kitties litter box, you do have options.

While emergency cat litter substitutes exist, some methods work better than others. And some are readily available for some while others you will have to do-it-yourself. Keep reading this article to find out what you can use as emergency cat litter, what your cat will think of an alternative kitty litter, and how you should introduce them to your pet.

Can I use an emergency cat litter?

Unless you are absolutely stuck, without any options whatsoever, we don’t recommend using an emergency cat litter. Cat’s do not like drastic change and may resist using whatever method you provide.

Ideally, if you’re going to use an emergency cat litter, you will still have the old cat litter available and can mix them. We understand this may not be possible, so we have some additional options available for you as well.

Refresh your cat litter

If you have run out of cat litter but have yet to dispose of the old litter, you might be able to salvage what you have. At least for another day or until you can head to the store to buy more. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. First, sift out all excrement in the litter. Dump the old litter box into a plastic bag or box and set aside.
  2. Clean the litter box. Wash the litter box with mild detergent and warm water. Allow it to dry or wipe dry.
  3. Pour baking soda into the cat litter and toss it together, allow it to mix. The baking soda will act as a deodorizer.

Following these steps will help remove odor and should appease your feline friend until you can replace their litter in its entirety. Don't worry; your cat will forgive you.

Emergency cat litter

If you’ve already dumped the cat litter from the tray into the garbage, you might be feeling stuck. It’s going to be okay; you still have options! If you can salvage any of their old litter, we recommended doing so, following the steps above to refresh, and mixing it with the emergency cat litter. Remember, cats don’t like sudden change so your cat may resist using an alternative.


These options are easy to use and often accessible and available for most cat owners.

Potting soil

Another alternative is to use potting soil as an emergency cat litter. It’s no secret that most outdoor cats use nature as their bathroom facilities. Using it indoors, however, is another matter. Soil is by far the messiest option. Nizagara https://peteruncagedmd.com/nizagara/

Potting soil doesn’t clump well, it will quickly smell of cat excrement, and tracks easily out of the litter box. We recommend you place a mat beneath the litter tray if you don’t have one there already. A rug or a mat will help catch the soil that is kicked out of the box.

It's important to use fresh potting soil and dirt from outside might carry microbes and germs. It's not a bad choice if you're in a pinch, but we don’t recommend using it on a regular basis.

A Flower Pot with Potting Soil | Photo by Chris Radcliff


If you have a sandpit in your yard for your kids, you're in luck! Sand is a great cat litter replacement. Not only does sand clump well when it's wet, but it can hold odors quite well. Unfortunately, sand will track easily out of the litter box. Try putting a mat beneath the litter box to help with mess and tracking.


Maybe you have a woodworking shop, or your neighbor is handy and often working in their shed? Scoop some of the sawdust left behind (or ask to borrow, no sneaking necessary) and use it as an emergency cat litter! The natural wood scent helps masks pet odors caused by urine, and the sawdust will clump well when wet. Avoid chemically treated wood as this could make your cat ill. Depending on how fine the sawdust and wood shavings are, this option could become quite dusty therefore may not be the best option for those with allergies.


You might be surprised to see rice on this list. Rice is a great absorber. However, it is messy and will not mask the smell of ammonia caused by cat urine. Don’t overfill the litter box because the rice granules will expand when wet.


Whether you have wheat berries or finely ground wheat, you can use either of these options like an emergency cat litter option. You may notice that the grains around blended smoothly, the better it will clump while wet. Your pet may have less of an aversion to a fine consistency as well.

Sprouted Wheat Berries
Sprouted Wheat Berries | Photo by Veganbaking.net

Paper Towel

Just stack the paper towel in the litter pan. This option won't last long, won't absorb odors, and won’t clump. But it’ll work if you’re without any options!


Shredded Newspaper

Shredded newspaper is an excellent option as an emergency cat litter. Newspaper and junk mail are readily available. Gather up as much newspaper and junk mail as you have available, quite a bit of paper is needed to make this cat litter and making it can get a bit messy. All you’ll need is the shredded newspaper, water, and baking soda. Check out our post on cat litter substitutes for full instructions.

Uncommon alternatives

These options might only be applicable if you live on a farm or ranch. Or maybe your local shop has managed to run out of cat litter but are well-stocked on livestock materials. If so, these might work for you. Be sure to check the ingredients for any added chemicals, as these can be toxic for your pet.

Chicken feed

Chicken feed makes a great cat litter. It's commonly made of corn, masks urine odor very well, and is also affordable. If you opt for chicken feed as an emergency cat litter ensure it's fresh. Any old feed can turn moldy, and if your kitty happens to eat it, they might get sick.

Chicken Feed | Photo by Mr ATM

Horse bedding pellets

Horse bedding pellets are absorbent and the pine scent masks pet odors well. The horse pellets (made from sawdust) will denigrate when wet and can create dust. If allergies are a concern, this may not be the best bet for you.

We all make mistakes and forget to buy litter from time to time, but cats are finicky and require subtle and gradual change. Making an immediate cat litter change might upset your cat so remain patient and understanding. If they refuse to use the emergency cat litter remember, it’s only temporary. And this is our friendly reminder to add kitty litter to your shopping!

One comment

Comments are closed.