The 7 Types of Cat Litter Every Cat Owner Must Know

When it comes to your cat’s litter, not every kind is created equally. There are many types you can choose from. Whether you prioritize scented litter or a product that’s biodegradable, you can get it for your cat. The 7 Types of Cat Litter Every Cat Owner Must KnowThat may have you wondering, what are the other types of kitty litter? We did extensive research to provide you the answer.

The types of cat litter include:

  1. Clumping litter
  2. Non-clumping clay-based litter
  3. Silica crystals litter
  4. Biodegradable litter
  5. Dust-free litter
  6. Scented litter
  7. Non-tracking litter

Do you want to learn more about the types of litter above? You’re in luck. In this article, we’ll go over them all, including the pros and cons for each. We’ll also include some links to litter on Amazon.

The Types of Cat Litter

1. Clumping Litter

The first type of cat litter is the most popular one. In fact, it might be what you use for your kitty right now: clumping litter.

As the name tells you, clumping litter, well, clumps. The aluminum phyllosilicate clay bentonite helps the clumping occur. This litter also has absorbent qualities so cat urine doesn’t begin stinking up the place. Another important ingredient that aides in clumping are all-natural fibers.

Pros and Cons 0f Clumping Litter

Pros and Cons of Clumping Litter

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Pros
  • Easy to scoop (even urine)
  • Reduced odors

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Cons
  • Tracks around the box
  • Can be expensive
  • Not suitable for young kittens

Arguably the biggest perk of clumping litter is how easily you can clean the litter box when using it. When your cat urinates and defecates in their litter box, the messes will clump together. This happens due to the abovementioned ingredients in the litter. When you go to clean your cat’s messes, you can take out only the used parts of the litter instead of all of it. This saves you time since you can remove messes faster. You also save money now that you don’t have to replace your litter as often.

Good quality clumping litter also absorbs humidity really well. This means the clumps will be relatively dry and far less smelly, compared to their original state.

As for the downsides of clumping cat litter, just because the feces and urine clumps doesn’t mean you can go longer between box cleanings. You still have to clean the litter box just as often as you usually do. Clumping cat litter is lightweight and tends to spread around the box and get tracked around the home. Also, high-quality clumping litter tends to be more expensive.

Clumping litter is not recommended for young kittens. They may ingest too much of it while cleaning their paws (or just playing near the litter box). The concern is that the litter will harden and clump within their little stomachs, causing obstructions.

Examples of clumping cat litter

Fresh Step’s Odor Shield clumping litter has lots of customer reviews and a positive overall rating. Not only does this litter clump, but it’s scented with Febreze as well. That means fewer urine and feces odors for up to 10 days.

Another great choice you might consider is Intense Defense clumping litter from Nature’s Miracle. The ammonia in the litter prevents feces and urine smells from reeking in your home or apartment. You can get this litter in a box or pour bag for easy use.

2. Non-Clumping Clay-Based Litter

If clumps aren’t really your thing, you can always use non-clumping litter instead. The most common version of non-clumping litter is clay-based (we’ll discuss other types later on). This was actually the original cat litter ever made and most cats would be happy to use it.

Before clumping litter came onto the scene, there was non-clumping kitty litter. While the granules don’t turn into clumps, they are more absorbent in their own right. Urine smells often don’t linger when you use high-quality non-clumping litter. That’s thanks to the charcoal, baking soda, and additives in the mix.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Non-Clumping Litter

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Pros
  • Cheap
  • Readily available in most stores

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Cons
  • Needs to be changed in full
  • Can get smelly just before litter change

One of the biggest pros of using non-clumping litter? It is cheap and readily available. As we mentioned before, it’s fairly good at keeping urine smells away – at least for a while.

However, once enough urine accumulates in the box, the litter will no longer be able to hold it. At which point, things can get very smelly. The urine can get through to the bottom of the litter box, leaving you with an unpleasant, stinky mess to clean up at the bottom.

The solution is to change the entire contents of the box. Which is basically the next problem with this type of litter. Unlike clumping litter, you can’t just take some soiled litter out once your cat uses it. It’s all or none. That means a weekly routine of emptying the box, washing it and replacing all of the litter.

Examples of non-clumping litter

Amazon users quite like Purina Tidy Cats non-clumping litter. It promises to work 24/7, even if you have more than one cat. With its odor-controlling and absorbing qualities, there’s less stink. You can even get three bags in one order with the above link, each one weighing 30 pounds.

Fresh Step’s scented non-clumping clay litter is another top pick. With charcoal for controlling smells, you’ll never know when your cat goes potty. The clay, which comes filler-free, also helps keep odors to a minimum.

3. Silica Crystals Litter

For a different take on litter altogether, let’s look at litter made of silica crystals. These are actually fairly popular with many cats and cat owners.

Silica crystal cat litter contains sodium silicate sand. The sand is processed at the factory, using with water and oxygen to create translucent white granules that are especially adept at absorption. Seriously, when we say adept, we mean it. The absorption qualities of silica crystal litter can hold 40x its own liquid weight.

This isn’t surprising when you think of the absorbent qualities of the silica gel. You know those packets often included with shoes, right? They’re a form of silica that keeps the product from getting moist. Silica crystals aren’t exactly the same, but they serve much the same purpose.

Many types of silica-based litters also include colorful granules. These serve as indicators for the amount of urine that’s already been absorbed, as they change their color while absorbing the liquid. As you see the litter change color, you know it’s time to change the contents of the box.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Silica-based litter

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Pros
  • Good absorption
  • Includes indicators for when it’s time to change the litter

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Cons
  • Needs to be changed in full
  • Urine can leak through

Due to the very design of silica crystals, they promise some of the best odor absorption around. The channels within the crystals let liquids travel through. The inner layer contains the liquids, not the outer layer. It remains dry.

It’s not all good news, though. If you don’t have a deep enough layer of litter in the box, then the cat’s urine can accidentally seep through to the bottom instead. Also, you can’t get away with only taking a bit of litter out at a time like you could with clumping litter. It’s again all or none.

Examples of crystal silica litter

The brand So Phresh makes silica crystal cat litter, and theirs is pink. That’s due to the source, pink silica. These micro crystals don’t hurt a kitty’s paws when they step into their litter box. The lightweight litter formula does clump somewhat so you can clean out messes faster and easier than ever.

This litter never smells and promises the superior urine absorption you generally get from silica crystal litters.

You might also consider Ultrapet’s litter. With mini-channels aplenty for absorption, urine doesn’t stand a chance. This litter also reduces odors. In fact, when your cat urinates on the litter, the waste dries, becoming a solid.

4. Biodegradable Litter

If you care about the environment, you’ll certainly want to know more about biodegradable cat litter.

Biodegradable litter provides an eco-friendly choice for nature lovers and just about anyone. Since most litter goes into landfills (yeah, that’s pretty gross, we know), by making the switch to biodegradable litter, you can stop contributing to the mess.

You can select from several subtypes of biodegradable cat litter, including:

  • Wheat-based
  • Corn-based
  • Walnut-based
  • Coconut
  • Grass seed
  • Bamboo
  • Paper
  • Wood shavings & pellets

In fact, so many people are looking for eco-friendly litters these days, we’ve dedicated a separate post discussing the various types:  8 Types of Biodegradable Cat Litter (Including Pros and Cons)

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Biodegradable litter

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Pros
  • Eco-friendly
  • Some types are cheap

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Cons
  • Not all types are effective
  • Can trigger allergies

Most biodegradable cat litters plenty of absorption. While you can’t get every single litter subtype above for super cheap, some aren’t very pricy (like wood shavings and paper). You can even get clumping biodegradable litter, like wheat-based, corn-based, walnut-based, and crumbled wood. The biggest benefit of using biodegradable litter? The natural ingredients break down with time!

Now, you should know about the cons, too. Some biodegradable litters make messes, others can trigger allergies (like wheat-based and coconut litter), and more still can bring insects into the house. Also, not every biodegradable litter absorbs urine especially well.

Examples of biodegradable litters

If you’d prefer a natural wood litter, try this one from okocat. It’s a clumping litter, so that already makes it good. You can flush it down the toilet or let it break down naturally outside of the house.

okocat uses no added scents or chemicals when making their litter. Instead, they favor renewable, sustainable wood fiber that doesn’t produce dust. It absorbs well due to the ammonia in the formula. You can enjoy up to a week of no odors with this litter.

For a walnut-based litter, there’s Naturally Fresh. This eco-friendly choice has no scents but plenty of absorbency. Naturally Fresh says that a single bag of their litter absorbs as much as three bags of litter with clay in it. It’s also non-stick for cleaner kitty paws!

5. Dust-Free Litter

Lots of cat litters leave dust behind, but dust-free litter does not (at least not most of the time). Most cat litter types tend to leave dust in their wake. Depending on how plentiful the dust, this could be a problem for both cats and humans in the environment, especially those who are prone to breathing problems.

That’s why dust-free litter exists. The caveat? These types of litter rarely truly “dust-free” but they can definitely have a reduced amount of dust and that can make a difference. Will that be good enough for your sensitivities? Many owners just follow the trial-and-error method to find out.

If dust is an issue for you, you may want to check out this post: Do litter box air purifiers work?

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Dust-free Litter

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Pros
  • Reduced amount of dust

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Cons
  • Can be expensive

The biggest reason to consider dust-free litter would be to improve air quality around the box, especially during cleaning and when Kitty is using the box.

Some dust-free litters are even biodegradable, making these products extra great. You still get the odor absorbency you’d expect from a cat litter, too, just in a cleaner product. Oh, and you can get dust-free clumping litters as well.

As for the cons of this type of litter, they’re usually more expensive and the actual reduction in the amount of dust doesn’t always justify the increased price.

Examples of dust-free litter

One of the top picks on Amazon for dust-free cat litter comes from Dr. Elsey’s. Their Ultra Premium clumping cat litter is hypoallergenic and totally natural. The litter granules weigh enough that they don’t travel with your cat.

With no deodorants, perfumes, and plant proteins in the mix, any cat can use this litter without health side effects.

Another highly-rated dust-free pick is Arm & Hammer’s Clump & Seal lightweight cat litter.  Besides no dust, this litter also has no crumbling properties. That’s due to the plant-based particles in the ingredients. When it dries, the litter becomes an easily-cleaned clump.

6. Scented Litter

Fragrances aren’t always bad. Most cat owners would rather smell scented litter than urine or feces, right?

Our last type of cat litter, scented litter, comes with its own pleasing smells. With artificial scent agents, deodorizers, perfumes, and fragrances, you smell these instead of urine or feces. Scented litter can also mask scents like mold and ammonia.

Here’s the thing though.

That’s not necessarily a good thing. If you have a problem with litter box odors, you should address it head-on, rather than mask it. Either clean the box more often or find the cause of the smell and fix the problem. Our guide on eliminating litter box odors is a good start. Masking the stench may mean you won’t be able to smell it, but your cat will. And when it gets too much, they will probably abandon the box altogether.

Some scented litters aren’t that bad though. Instead of pouring in perfume, manufacturers, use baking soda and carbon to promote better absorption. The added scent is light and not too obtrusive.

Pros and Cons

Pros and Cons of Scented litter

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Pros
  • Smells nice

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Cons
  • May cause litter box aversion

Scented litters aren’t usually more expensive than their non-scented counterparts. However, you may find the smell overbearing rather than pleasant. What’s worse, your cat may as well. This study suggests that at least some cats prefer non-scented over scented litter.

You also must read the ingredients list carefully. Some cats might get irritated by ingredients in scented litters. Overall, unless your cat is already used to scented litter, it’s best to offer non-scented.

Examples of scented litter

A favorite scented litter is Scoop Away’s. The carbon in the formula will all but eliminate those unwanted odors. The Scoop Away Ammonia Shield prevents bacteria from growing while controlling current odors. All that and the litter clumps!

You can also use the Fresh Step’s Odor Shield clumping litter we linked to earlier in this article for a nice scented option.

7. Non-tracking litter

If you have a litter box, then you’re familiar with litter tracking. That’s when Kitty comes out of the litter and small granules keep falling off her paws as she’s walking away. Some types of litter claim to be “non-tracking”. Just like with “no-dust” litters, this is a far-fetched claim. If you’re lucky, you’ll get reduced tracking.

If you’re looking to deal with tracking issues, litter mats may offer a better solution. But if you want to give a change of litter a try, then check out our post about the best non-tracking litters out there for more info and suggestions.

In Conclusion

When shopping for cat litter, you’ll often come across six types: clumping, non-clumping clay-based, silica crystal-based, biodegradable, dust-free, and scented. Many of these litters have similar traits, such as superior absorption and less stinky smells from urine or feces. No matter which litters best suits your needs and budget, and make a great choice for a happier cat.

And remember, if you want to try a new type of litter, always make the change very gradually. It’s best to offer a separate box next to the existing one. That way Kitty can choose whether or not to use the new litter. If needs be, you can then mix some of the new litter into the old and very gradually help your cat make the transition.

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