Best Clumping Cat Litter

Updated August 2020
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best clumping cat litter

Last Updated August 2020

Struggling to keep litter box odors under control? Wish cleanups weren't quite so intensive? The solution could be as simple as switching up your kitty's litter. While litter box duty will never be fun, clumping cat litter can make your job a whole lot easier. 

Clumping cat litter forms firm lumps when it contacts moisture, making it possible to scoop out urine along with solid deposits. In turn, this translates to easier waste removal, reduced odors, and fewer litter replacements — an all-around win for any pet parent.

Not surprisingly, clumping cat litter is an exceedingly popular choice among cat owners. While you'll have no shortage of options to choose from, picking the right clumping cat litter for your feline isn't always easy. Should you opt for a regular clay formula or something made of natural fibers like corn or wheat? Does scented cat litter work? Does texture matter?

To save you the trouble of sifting through the hundreds of clumping cat litter options out there, we created the in-depth guide below. Read on to get the scoop on choosing the best clumping cat litter for your kitty.

Don't forget to top up your cat's litter box after scooping to maintain optimal litter depth. Three to four inches of litter is ideal for most cats.

Key considerations

Clay vs. natural

Traditional clumping cat litter contains ultra-absorbent bentonite clay, and while bentonite is a natural material, it isn't biodegradable and therefore isn't categorized as a "natural" cat litter. 

Natural cat litter relies on highly absorbent, biodegradable plant fibers from sources like corn, wheat, or pine. 

Bentonite clay litter: Often combined with other clays, bentonite clay is exceptionally absorbent and does an excellent job of forming firm, easy-to-scoop clumps when exposed to moisture, leaving the surrounding litter clean and dry. However, clay cat litter isn't biodegradable, so if the idea of composting or flushing your kitty's used litter appeals to you, consider a natural option instead.

Natural litter: Natural cat litter made from plant sources like corn, wheat, pine, or grass seed is an excellent alternative for eco-conscious households. Many are also low in dust, making them a healthier choice for cats with respiratory problems. The natural starches in corn and wheat actively promote clumping while the high absorbency of pine and grass seed allows for effective clumping and odor control. Natural cat litter tends to be slightly pricier than clay-based litter, but if biodegradability is important to you, it might be worth the extra cost.

Texture

The texture of your cat's litter matters more than you may think. Choosing the "wrong" consistency could even lead to litter box avoidance. While every cat has their own unique preference when it comes to texture, fine, sand-like granules tend to be easiest on the paws. On the flip side, coarse granules are less likely to stick between your cat's toes or in the crevices around their paw pads, reducing the amount of litter that gets tracked out of the box. Either way, you'd be wise to choose a clumping cat litter in a texture your kitty approves of — felines are fussy creatures, and there's always a possibility that your cat might reject an unfamiliar litter texture.

Dust

Dusty cat litter can create quite a mess, but it poses an even bigger problem in terms of respiration. Tiny dust particles are easily raised with movement, and both you and your kitty could end up inhaling them — a particularly worrisome possibility for cats and owners with respiratory issues. The good news is that many clumping cat litters are designed to be more or less dust free. To keep your home and air a little cleaner, opt for clumping cat litter that is labeled as "low dust" or "dust free".

Odor control and clumping performance

Odor control is a major concern for any cat owner and is often directly linked to clumping performance. A clumping cat litter with rapid, firm clumping action tends to work best at reducing litter box odors simply because the litter traps moisture from urine and feces quickly, preventing it from spreading. Low absorbency and slow clumping can cause surrounding litter to become saturated before a scoopable ball is formed. Loose clumps, on the other hand, will easily break apart, making scooping a hassle and increasing the chances of small clumps getting left behind.

DID YOU KNOW?

Fine clumping litter with a sand-like texture is generally the best option for tender-pawed kittens.

Features

Odor absorbers

Because waste is so easily removed, clumping cat litter already does a fantastic job of reducing litter box odors. However, it isn't always possible to remove your kitty's deposits as they happen, and a little extra help in the odor control department can go a long way toward keeping your home smelling fresh between scoops. Clumping cat litter with odor-absorbing additives like baking soda or activated charcoal can give busy pet parents a bit of breathing room in between cleanups.

Scent

Scented cat litter can also help keep a lid on odors. If you and your feline aren't averse to fragrances, one of these is sure to deliver an extra boost of freshness. With that in mind, it's  important to note that some cats are particularly sensitive to fragrances and may avoid scented cat litter altogether. Another important factor to take into account is that a pleasant scent can sometimes give the false impression that your cat's litter box is acceptably clean even when a thorough clean is already overdue. While this might not seem like a major cause for concern, bacteria and fungi from a soiled litter box are leading causes of urinary tract infections. If you do decide to go with a scented option, it's vital that you keep up proper litter box hygiene practices, even if your nose tells you it's not necessary.

Packaging

Just like non-clumping cat litter, clumping varieties can be packaged in a number of ways. Whether you opt for a jug, box, or bag is a matter of personal preference; different packaging styles offer different benefits. Jugs allow for effortless, mess-free pouring and are unlikely to leak due to punctures, but they can also take up a bit of space. Boxes typically contain bags of litter, reducing the chances of tears and leaks, and their uniform shape also allows for easier storage. Bags can be used as is and folded down as litter levels get lower to save space. However, bags can easily be punctured, and transferring your litter to a solid storage container is a good idea.

CAUTION

Many brands of natural, biodegradable clumping litter are flushable. However, it's important to make sure your septic system is up to the challenge first. This is especially important if you have a water-saving toilet, as these may not be able to move clumps fast enough to prevent blockages.

Accessories

Litter scooper: iPrimio Sifter with Non-Stick Litter Scooper
Every cat owner needs a basic slotted scoop to pick up waste and sift out clean litter. This aluminum one from iPrimio has a nonstick surface to help minimize your mess.

Litter deodorizer: NonScents Cat Litter Deodorizer
Litter deodorizers eliminate odors with minerals like zeolite that absorb and lock odors in. Whether you're dealing with particularly strong odors from a multi-cat household or you're worried that a few smaller clumps of soiled litter might accidentally get left behind, a litter deodorizer can help keep your home smelling fresher for longer.

Cat litter mat: iPrimio Cat Litter Trapper Mat
Digging, covering, and simply stepping in and out of a litter box can leave your floors strewn with cat litter granules. Cat litter mats are specially designed to trap any litter that's kicked or tracked out of the box, keeping your floor free of debris.

Litter disposal system: Litter Genie Cat Litter Disposal System
A cat litter disposal system is the equivalent of a diaper pail for your cat: it locks odors inside so they don't cloud your home. Simply line your pail with a compatible liner and use it to dispose of your kitty's daily deposits and soiled litter. 

Using natural clumping cat litter certainly has plenty of benefits. These products are eco-friendly and safe for your feline friend, and many can simply be flushed down the toilet. However, dogs often find cat litter irresistible, and if canines form part of your fur family, your natural plant-based cat litter could end up becoming a fiber-rich meal for Fido.

Clumping cat litter prices

Inexpensive: Clay clumping cat litter of varying textures, including some natural varieties, typically costs between $10 and $20 for a 20-pound bag. It's also possible to find scented litter within this price bracket.

Mid-range: Larger quantities of clumping clay litter, natural cat litter, and litter with extra odor control are usually priced between $20 and $25.

Expensive: Bulk bags of scented or odor-absorbing clay litter, natural varieties scented with essential oils, and septic-safe clumping litters can set you back anywhere from $25 to $30 for quantities ranging from 28 to 40 pounds. 

Tips

  • Start kittens off with natural or non-clumping litter. While it's generally not a concern with adult cats, kittens are sometimes known to eat small amounts of litter. This can be a problem with clumping litters (particularly clay-based varieties) because their high absorption rate causes them to expand in the presence of moisture. While ingesting a few granules during grooming is unlikely to cause problems, there is a risk of intestinal obstruction if kittens consume a considerable amount of clumping litter. As a rule, it's best to wait until your kitten is around four months old before introducing clumping cat litter.

  • Gradually switch to clumping litter. Cats can be finicky creatures, and if your fur baby is already happily using non-clumping cat litter, mixing in new litter bit by bit can help make the change easier. Start by adding around 10% to your cat's regular litter, gradually increasing the amount until it has been replaced entirely.

  • Opt for a texture your cat is already familiar with. Another way to boost the chances of acceptance is to choose a clumping litter with a similar texture to the one your kitty is already accustomed to using.

  • Keep an eye out for litter box reluctance. Some cats have a tough time adjusting to litter box changes. To prevent inappropriate elimination, keep a close watch for litter box avoidance. If your cat seems unimpressed by her new litter or even flat out refuses to use it, your best bet is to switch to something she's comfortable with — even if it is her original non-clumping litter.

  • Offer a variety of litter textures. Is your heart set on making the change to clumping cat litter? Purchasing smaller quantities in different textures and materials and then allowing your cat to choose her favorite might do the trick. Fill two to three litter boxes with different clumping cat litters and observe her reaction to each. If she seems to favor one in particular, chances are it's a good fit.

Some varieties of clumping cat litter are enhanced with herbal additives to attract reluctant kitties. If you're having trouble potty training your cat, one of these could be just the ticket.

FAQ

Q. Is clumping cat litter safe?
A. Clumping cat litter is widely regarded to be a safe and acceptable alternative to non-clumping litter. However, as mentioned previously, clay clumping litter does expand upon absorbing moisture, forming solid lumps that can cause gastrointestinal obstructions if ingested. Since this is typically only a concern with kittens or younger cats who may be tempted to "snack" on their litter, most adult cats should be just fine using clumping cat litter in all its various forms.
 

Q. Will clumping cat litter work with a self-sifting litter box?
A. Yes, clumping cat litter will work with a sifting litter box. As an added bonus, urine will be separated from clean, sifted litter thanks to the clumping action. With that in mind, it's important to remember that clumping litters will finer textures will sift through more effectively.
 

Q. How often does clumping cat litter need to be replaced?
A. One of the biggest advantages of clumping cat litter is less-frequent litter changes — but that doesn't mean you're off the hook entirely. Replacement frequency can vary, but with daily scooping, changing your cat's litter every two to three weeks should be more than adequate. If you have more than one cat, it might be necessary to replace litter more often.

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