If you've heard about the 150,000 tons of cat litter that end up in landfills every year, you may be looking for types of biodegradable cat litter. Fortunately, there are a number of options to fit your preferences and budget.
Here, you can find a list of the eight types of biodegradable cat litter. These natural alternatives to traditional clay litter are great for the environment and safer for your cat. For each type, we've provided as many examples as we could find so you can order your first bag today. Please remember to always switch cat litter gradually. Offer an additional box with the new litter alongside the old one and don't force a new type of litter on Kitty.
Keep reading to find out more about biodegradable cat litters.
1. Wood-Based Cat Litters
First, let's take a look at some cat litters that are made from wood. The majority of these are made from sawdust, reclaimed wood, and other environmentally-friendly sources. These make it one of the best options if you're trying to reduce your environmental impact by switching cat litters.
Generally speaking, wood is also the least expensive option, especially if you buy in bulk from livestock stores that often sell it as bedding for horses and other large animals.
There are a variety of types of litter made from wood, so let's look at a few along with some examples. Within each of these, we'll cover some of the pros and cons of each type.
Pellets Cat Litter
Wood pellets are created from sawdust that gets compressed and pressed through a mold that gives them their shape. No chemicals are needed for this process, so wood pellets are 100% natural. The process also heats up the wood enough that any residual oils are removed, making the end product completely safe for cats.
These are also lightweight and highly absorptive. Some can absorb up to 500% of their own weight. For the most part, they will crumble when wet, and these crumbles fall to the bottom of the litter pan.
Maintaining a litter box with wood pellets is as easy as removing the solid waste on a daily basis. Then, after about a week when the litter is half crumbled, dump the whole thing and start over. Because the wood bonds with the cat urine on a molecular level, odors are eliminated as soon as your cat finishes doing her business.
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- Extremely absorptive
- No added chemicals
- Requires scoop with larger holes
- Cannot be used with automatic litter boxes
Feline Pine cat litter is one of the most popular brands of wood-based cat litters. They only use pine which makes the litter area smell fresh and clean.
Crumbled Cat Litter
You can also get wood cat litters that come in smaller pieces that more closely resemble clay litter. This could make it the ideal natural litter if your cat is picky about the feel of his litter. In most cases, this is created the same way as wood pellets, but the final product has smaller pieces.
Crumbles are also lightweight and absorbent which means your money further compared to heavier clay litters. It's also softer on your cat's paws compared to pellets which could make a difference in how likely your cat is to use it.
One reason some people prefer crumbles over pellets is that crumbles are clumping. This makes cleaning the litter box fast and easy as you can quickly scoop both solid and liquid waste. And, since you don't need to replace the entire box as often, you may save money on litter.
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- Absorbs odor
- No added chemicals
- Gentle on kitty paws
- Can be messy
- Not completely dust-free
One example of crumbled wood cat litter is Next Gen cat litter. Theirs is extra great at eliminating odors because they add green tea to it, which is a natural cleaner that kills odor-causing bacteria.
The last type of wood-based cat litter you may consider switching your cat to is wood shavings. These are made from waste wood in the lumber and manufacturing industries. The wood is ground down into small shavings which you can then put into your cat's litter box. By reclaiming this wood, this cat litter helps keep tons of wood from being wasted.
Like other wood products, shavings are great at naturally eliminating odors. They also don't contain any added chemicals that could harm your cat when they come into contact with their litter.
Before you run out and buy just any wood shavings to use for cat litter, you need to make sure the shavings have been heat-treated or were kiln-dried. The creation of wood shavings does not require heat as part of the process, so the oils will still be in the wood if this extra step isn't taken. These oils can be toxic for your cat, so always check on this before buying!
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- Can be messy
- Not dust-free
If you can afford it, Cedarific wood cat litter is a great option as it uses cedar wood shavings and has a wonderful smell.
2. Paper Cat Litters
Next on our list are paper cat litters. These are made from paper waste, which is half of what makes them environmentally-friendly. Instead of newspapers, magazines, and other paper products being tossed into a landfill, they're given a second life and converted into cat litter.
The other reason they're great for the environment is that they're completely biodegradable. They break down quickly in landfills compared to clay litter which really doesn't break down. That's why homes are made of clay bricks. They're durable. Paper cat litters, on the other hand, will break down within a few weeks.
Paper cat litter is found in pellet form. It's made much in the same way as wood pelleted cat litter is. The paper is first soaked and turned into a pulp, then extruded into pellets and dried. Because paper isn't good at eliminating odors, odor-control agents are often added such as baking soda and zeolite. Both of these are as biodegradable as the cat litter itself.
To clean a litter box with paper litter, remove solid waste at least once a day. Liquid waste will be absorbed by the pellets and crumble. Once over half of the box is filled with crumbled litter, you can dump the whole box and start fresh.
Alternatively, you can use a sifting litter pan to allow the crumbled litter to fall through which you can then dump, and reuse the clean litter. This is the best way to save even more money with paper cat litter since you won't waste as much of the clean litter.
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- Absorbs up to three times as much as clay litter
- May not eliminate odors well
- Not all cats will use it
Yesterday's News is one of the most popular types of paper cat litter you can find. They offer an original formula and a soft texture which might help your cat make the adjustment to this type of litter.
3. Bamboo Cat Litters
Bamboo is actually a type of grass. That's what makes it an easy choice for a sustainable cat litter. It can also be grown organically so you don't have to worry about any chemicals that may have snuck into your cat's wood- or paper-based cat litter. Plus, as a natural material, it's 100% biodegradable.
This is another type of litter that is made into pellets. The process is similar to that of wood. Bamboo is ground down, then formed into pellet shapes. The natural plant fibers trap odors so there's no need to include any extra chemicals, but you still don't have to worry about smelling your cat's litter box.
You can clean this type of litter the same way as you do other natural pellet litters. Remove solids as often as you can, and allow liquids to be absorbed by the pellets to break apart and fall to the bottom. These can either be removed with a sifting pan as mentioned in the section on paper litter or by dumping the whole pan.
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- Natural odor control
- Won't get tracked through the house
- Requires larger scoop
An example of bamboo cat litter is EcoCare organic bamboo cat litter. It's a great option for a biodegradable cat litter that's easy on your nose and your budget.
4. Grass Seed Cat Litters
This type of biodegradable cat litter is made from grass seeds. As the seeds are processed, the moisture is removed, and only the starchy parts remain. This leaves your cat with a clay-like consistency that makes it easy for them to switch to.
It also means the litter clumps as it gets wet, so it's easy for you to clean as well. All you need to do to clean this litter is scoop out the clumps at least once a day. This keeps the litter box free from waste so your cat will always have a clean place to go. Even if you did leave it uncleaned for a day or two, you wouldn't have to worry about smelling it because the plant fibers keep odors to a minimum.
Because grass is easy to grow, this is another sustainable option that helps the environment. The production process itself has a limited impact on the environment, and when your cat is done with it, it will break down quickly rather than taking up space in landfills.
Although it is a bit more expensive compared to other litters on our list, it's lightweight. That means a little bit goes a long way to filling your litterbox. Plus, because it's clumping, you don't have to dump your litter box as often which helps you save money by avoiding tossing too much clean litter.
The only thing to watch out for with this litter is allergic reactions. Some cats are allergic to some types of grass. If your cat and this litter don't mix, they may have a reaction. You'll want to keep a careful eye on your cat and his private areas for the first few weeks of using this litter. Fortunately, if he does have a reaction, there are plenty of other natural litters to choose from instead.
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- All natural
- No chemicals added
- Soft on delicate paws
- Can be messy
- Could cause allergic reactions
For most cats, SmartCat all-natural clumping litter is a great option. To avoid problems with the mess, consider using a top-entry litter box or a litter mat. These will both help solve the litter tracking problem.
5. Coconut Cat Litter
A biodegradable litter that can be composted or added to your garden when your cat is finished with it, coconut cat litter is made from ground coconut shells. This is the outer part of the coconut that isn't used, so would normally be thrown out during the processing of coconuts into oil, water, or milk.
This is one of the finest natural cat litters available and feels more like dirt or sand to your cat. This is especially great news if you have a picky cat or one that's transitioning from being an outdoor cat. It also makes removing solids a breeze since it's easy to shake off excess litter and allow it to fall through the holes in your scoop.
These shredded coconut husks are also great at absorbing liquids. In fact, they can absorb over five times their weight in water. While they do that, they also trap odors inside so you won't smell your cat's box at all.
To clean the litter box, scoop the solid waste daily. At the same time, give the remaining litter a good mix to ensure all the liquids have been absorbed. After two weeks, you can dump the entire contents into your garden or compost pile if you so desire. The small size of the granules means it will quickly break down and provide nutrients to your plants.
However, the small granule size and lightweight nature of this litter also mean it can get everywhere. This is particularly true for long-haired cats that have plenty of fur for things to stick onto. As they dig in the box, the small particles stick to their fur and then fall off elsewhere in your home.
This is another type of litter that cats may be allergic to, so be sure to keep an eye on your cat if you switch to it.
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- Chemical- and additive-free
- Easy to transition cats to
- Extremely absorbent
- Can be messy
- May cause allergies
CatSpot Coconut cat litter even has a biodegradable bag so if you're living a zero-waste lifestyle and weren't sure how to do that with a cat, this is a great option for you!
6. Walnut Cat Litter
Another type of cat litter made from shells that would otherwise be discarded is walnut cat litter. Like everything else on our list, it's completely biodegradable and environmentally-friendly. There are a few different brands that offer walnut cat litter so you can find a texture that works best for your cat.
Walnut cat litter is made by grinding walnut shells into smaller pieces. Because of their fibrous nature, this is considered a clumping litter though it won't clump as well as clay. However, as long as you're gentle, you should be able to easily remove clumps to keep your cat's litter box clean and fresh.
This litter isn't naturally odor-controlling, so natural substances are often added to the formula to help fight odor. Baking soda is a popular choice for many brands. Since it's also safe and biodegradable, you don't have to do anything different with walnut litter as you would any other litter on our list.
If you or anyone in your family is allergic to tree nuts, you may want to consider a different type of natural cat litter. Although uncommon, there is some risk to people with tree nut allergies with having an allergic reaction because of the litter.
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- Small granules preferred by cats
- Can be messy
- Relatively expensive
One type of walnut litter you can find comes from Nature's Miracle. This brand has a long history of natural pet-safe products and their litter line is no exception.
7. Corn Cat Litter
The next type of biodegradable cat litter we'll discuss is corn cat litter. Some corn-based cat litters are made with the kernels themselves whereas others are made with the corn cob. Both are biodegradable and act similarly which is why we're keeping them together on the list.
Kernel-based cat litters are often clumping because the starch in the corn allows the litter to hold its shape when wet. This makes for an easier clean up than others on this list. Those that are made from the cob itself may not be clumping. If they're in pellet form, they may have some clumping capabilities, but crushed corn cob typically won't.
The only thing you may have to watch for is if you're using kernel-based cat litter. It's been reported that it may attract various insects that see it as a food source. Your cat may not appreciate sharing his litter box with a bug invasion.
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- 100% natural
- No chemicals added
- Can find clumping varieties
- Not the best for odor control
- May attract bugs
World's Best cat litter is the largest retailer of corn-based cat litter and have several formulas to choose from.
8. Wheat Cat Litter
The last natural cat litter on our list is a wheat-based litter. It's favored by many cat owners who want a biodegradable cat litter that has the fast-acting clumping abilities of clay litter. Veterinarians also recommend this litter because it's far safer for your feline friends than clay litters.
Wheat is ground down and processed so that only the starchy parts remain. It's these that allow this litter to clump when it comes into contact with liquids. The finer granules are also great for transitioning even the most particular cats to this all-natural litter.
The naturally-occurring enzymes in the wheat bind to ammonia instantly which traps the odors in the litter. This is what allows this litter to almost completely eliminate litter box odors without the need for added chemicals.
If you're considering this litter for your cat, there's just one thing to keep in mind, which is that some cats (and dogs, for that matter!) are allergic to some types of wheat. Keep an eye on your cat after switching this litter and try something else if they start showing signs of being allergic to the wheat.
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- Can cause allergies
- Can be messy
- Relatively expensive
For those looking for a fast-clumping cat litter that isn't going to spend hundreds of years in a landfill, Swheat Scoop fast-clumping cat litter is a great option.
Want to Learn More About Cat Litter?
Now you know the eight different types of biodegradable cat litters. Whichever you choose, you can rest easy knowing you're not damaging the environment with clay cat litter.
To learn more about cat litter, be sure to check out our blog. There, you can find a ton of information on litter and litter boxes, including this post about flushing cat litter.