For cat owners, cat litter is one of those mundane essentials in life. The problem is there are so many variations and types it can be difficult to know which option to choose, whether you are getting a good deal and which choice best suits your needs. In this guide, we give you the low down and review the best clumping cat litter available on the market.
What is clumping cat litter
Although there are loads of different types of cat litter available on the market they tend to all fall into one of two major groups – clumping and non-clumping. Clumping cat litter is characterized by the way it clumps and balls up when used by your cat. Non-clumping does not change form when used. Often you can only tell non-clumping is used when its starts to whiff.
Benefits of Clumping Cat Litter
Why would you choose clumping over non-clumping? What’s the big deal? Well, there are several major benefits that make this mundane buy a good choice :
Clumps around waste making it easier to remove – When kitty goes for a pee the clumping litter immediately starts to absorb the liquid as it comes into contact and forms a stuck together ball. This usually occurs before the pee hits the bottom of the box. You end up with a dry ball of gravel in the litter that can be easily scooped out and removed. When kitty drops a dump the moisture in the parcel will encourage the litter to stick and bond with the dump making it easy to remove.
The box stays cleaner for longer – After kitty has done the deed and the material has been clumped, you the owner, remove the clumped litter and encompassed waste and top up the litter box with fresh litter to replace the small amount that has clumped. The net effect of this is that the box stays fresher and cleaner for longer. With non-clumping litter, you wouldn’t empty out because you can’t tell which areas are used until they whiff.
Box requires full cleanout less often – as dirty areas are easy to identify and simple to remove the box gets a full replacement less often. With non-clumping, the waste mounts up until the odor indicates the litter is ready for change. When you are not removing the waste regularly as you tend not to with non-clumping you end up changing the whole box more often. Kerchinnggg!
Keeps odor down as you remove dirty areas daily – Personally I find most clumping cat litters keep the odor levels lower. This is partly because the clumping material absorbs a lot of liquid and with it the odor but also because the used litter is easy to remove daily and freshen up with minimal time or effort. That is not to say there are not some very good non-clumping odor control litters out there – but you are just adding to the box over time till you end up with a stinking box.
What is clumping Cat litter made from?
Clumping cat litter is generally made from natural clay. This clay is a little bit special but fairly abundant. The clay is sodium bentonite clay. What makes this clay special is that it expands by up to 15 times when it comes into contact with moisture and absorbs a high volume of moisture when dry.
This clay isn’t just used for cat litter, it is used for a myriad of purposes. It is used in industrial sealants and grouts due to its expanding qualities. Its rapid absorption qualities and expansion capacity make it ideal for mopping up spills and the like. It is also used in various health treatments for the removal of toxins and can even be used to remove fluoride from water.
Clumping vs Non-clumping Cat Litter
We have seen above that using clumping cat litter has benefits – but what about non-clumping cat litter? How do the two compare? What are the unique selling points of non-clumping litter that you should consider? Here are some benefits that are food for thought :
Non-clumping may be better for the environment – Clumping litter is made from natural clay that is dug up at expense, dried, processed, packed and sold as clumping litter. This can be expensive and environmentally harmful when compared to materials that traditional litter might be made from like waste paper, wood chips, agricultural wastes, etc.
Non-clumping is sometimes better for odor control – it is easy to add ingredients to non-clumping cat litter which means you can sometimes get improved odor control. Additives such as perfumes, charcoal, and other odor absorbers/masks can produce effective odor control. This is going to be on a brand by brand basis and whether they compete with the super absorbency of clumping litter will need to be proven by use.
Some cats prefer non-clumping texture – Simply put some cats like walking on some surfaces and dislike other surfaces. Clay granule clumping litter might not be the surface for every cat which might lead to accidents. Non-clumping litter can be made from all sorts of material from organic vegetable material to more synthetic crystals. If your cat has sensitive feet you are likely to find more choice of textures in the non-clumping aisle.
Non-clumping is the original and is usually cheaper – It has been around forever and doesn’t rely on the appliance of science or digging up material for the job. Wood shavings, paper, corn, and grass wastes are often put to use as traditional cat litter with very little processing so it is cheap and environmentally friendly…..plus lots of companies can generate simple cat litter from waste so the price can be much lower than clumping litter.
Non-clumping does not involve daily maintenance – maybe you don’t want to be fishing around in a litter box on a daily basis. That is ok, with non-clumping you just leave the litter till the whole box needs a change out. If you are a one cat household you may be able to go as long as a week before you have to turn your attention to the box. It is a nasty job, why get involved daily?
Here you can check out some of the best non-clumping cat litter.
How Often Should You Replace Clumping Cat Litter?
With a non-clumping cat litter you might wait as long as a week before you released from the odor that you needed to change out the box.
With clumping litter, the situation is slightly different. You remove clumps on a daily basis and partially replenish the box each time.
You will usually know when to change out the whole box by the odor, but because you have been removing and replenishing over time you will probably find that you don’t need to change out the whole box weekly.
Many owners who use clumping litter change the box out completely every few weeks – assuming you have an indoor cat.
Is Clumping Cat Litter Ok For My Cat?
There is no scientific evidence that suggests that clumping cat litter is bad for your cat. However, there may be some anecdotal evidence that clumping cat litter could be potentially bad for young kittens or elderly cats.
The issue focuses around the introduction of the expanding clay to the internal gut of the cat through absorbing the dust by grooming off the coat or by pica in elderly cats. The theory is that if you cat absorbs too much of the dust over time they may develop clumps within their gut similar to the hairballs. (Although such clay supplements ingested is advertised as a detoxing health cure in humans!)
Top 5 Clumping Cat Litters
We have checked out loads of different clumping litters from all the major brands and some you might not have heard of. This is our selection of the top five performers. Most of them have a unique edge that makes them a good buy and you will have to decide which specifically suits your outlook and circumstances. After we have taken you through the top five we will tell you which litter floats our boat and why.
World’s Best Cat litter
Well with a name like that you better perform! And it does. This is a top-quality, multi-cat household, clumping litter that uses a corn-based mix. It is widely reported to absorb and clump well. Being a corn waste derivative that is biodegradable it is good for the environment. The size of the litter keeps tracking to a minimum.
Now for the bad news – it is expensive. Compared to other offerings this litter is top dollar so if you are budget conscious you might want to look elsewhere. There are some isolated user reports of dusty batches, insect activity, and natural odor but not in enough numbers to convince us of an underlying problem with the litter.
Worlds Best? – If money is no object, this could be it!
Corn Based – Good For Environment
Odor Control – Good
Long-Lasting – In Multi-cat households 60 days for two cats
Tracking – hardly any….
Lightweight for handling.
Price – not the cheapest available
Some reports of insect activity on corn – moths, midges, etc
The actual litter has an odor.
Some batches are dusty.
$27.99 for 28lbs
Dr Elsey’s Ultra Premium Clumping Litter
Where the World’s Best is let down by price Dr Elsey’s Ultra is a wallet whisperer. This is a premium clumping litter at a value price. Very easy to like. The litter is clay-based so can claim to be hypoallergenic for our sensitive cats and handlers. Low dust, great odor control and minimal tracking due to granule size and of course, superior clumping. Additionally, there are no built-in perfumes or residual odors from manufacturing processing that you might find off-putting.
Here are some potential reports of isolated negatives – using clay is bad for the environment – your essentially digging the place up for cat litter. The bags are very heavy – for a very reasonable price you get a 40lb bag. That is a heavy bag – maybe two 20 lb bags would be a better bet? And, there are some reports of bad batches about from time to time – stuff that clumps to concrete or has a little more dust than usual.
If you have no objection to clay and are not put off by the weight this is a serious contender for your order.
hypoallergenic – no plant proteins
No tracking due to heavy granules
Very good clumping reported
Bags are very heavy
Clay – effects on environment maybe
Not as good at odor control as some but better for dust reduction
Seems some bad batches about
Sometimes users have problems removing used litter that has turned top concrete.
$18 for 40lbs
Purina Tidy Cats
The first cat litter in our list with big-name branding – Purina and Glade. But is that enough to make it the best?
This is an interesting offering from Purina – their Tidy Cats clumping litter is sold in buckets rather than bags which makes use a little easier and is scented by Glad to help odor control.
Owners confirm clumping action is good and the litter represents reasonable value at the price point it is marketed at. Butttttt, this is a love it or hate it experience.
It is all down to the odor control. A fair proportion of owners can’t abide the smell of this litter. Whatever Glade have done to it has touched a nerve. The artificial perfume of the fresh litter can be incredibly negative for some people – even suggesting an unperfumed low odor control litter may be more acceptable.
As well as this you get gripes about high dust levels, tracking and the weight of this clay-based cat litter. We say worth a try but you might hate it – just depends on your sense of smell. The other issues are relatively low key amongst reviews to suggest problems might be batch related or subjective.
Sold in pales and jugs so easier to pour than bagged litter
Good odor control
Good on price
Backed by two brands Purina and glade – glade supply odor control/masking additive
Prone to tracking
Some reports of poor clumping action
Has its own smell which can be off-putting to some
S22 for 35lbs
Arm & Hammer Platinum
Arm & Hammer makes loads of litter variations but this one, the Platinum clumping, looks to be a user favorite. A plant-based formula utilizing micro granules and baking soda odor eliminator technology gets loads of positive reviews where ever you look.
The price point is definitely at the cheaper end which is always good, especially for a biodegradable environmentally friendly option. The litter is widely reported as being dust-free, has great odor control (as much as 7 days protection) and clumps well.
There are not many negatives with this litter. If you had to be picky then the sack is on the weighty side and like many litters, with added fragrance, the perfume chosen may be too artificial for your more refined noses. A good solid contender for best in the show.
7-day odor protection
Good clumping action
Good for multi-cat households
Plant-derived formula, micro granules for absorption, baking soda odor eliminator
Perfume may not be for some
Not as lightweight as some
$20 for 27.5lbs
Naturally Fresh walnut based clumping litter
Last but not least is Naturally Fresh. This clumping litter is an environmentally friendly biodegradable mix made from walnut shell waste.
This stuff has a bit of a cult following – it is dust-free, clumps well, is unscented and has good long-lasting odor control. What seems to create the cult following is the fact it lasts so long without starting to stink and that the granules are incredibly soft so are good for cats with sensitive feet allied to the fact it does not track as this stuff just doesn’t seem to stick to kitties paws.
You might be put off by the price – it does seem expensive when you compare the weight of other litters – but owners love how this simply takes less changing out – it lasts so long it justifies the additional upfront cost!
However, nothing in life is perfect….I looked hard to knock this offering off its perch and here is what I found – sometimes the packaging is nasty – prone to splitting and holing and the like, some people have got a problem with the smell of bust-up walnut shells (who would have guessed that?!?) and a high price is always good value for a grumble and moan.
Good on price
Low tracking as doesn’t stick to paws
Lasts a long time before change out
Cult following among owners
Good for cats with sensitive paws
More expensive – but lasts longer odor free
Some people don’t like the smell of the litter but this is a small percentage
Reports of poor packaging
$20 for 26 lbs
Which Would We Go For?
It really is a tough call….do I opt to preserve the environment? Is clumping power everything? Does dust do my nut in? Do I want to avoid the whole litter thing as often as possible?
Clearly there is not a one size fits all here.
My bugbears are tracking and odor – not manufactured or artificial odor but the ammonia variety plus, let’s face it, anything to do with litter is not a first choice activity.
For me, despite the price, because of novelty, because I am curious as to how a cat litter develops a cult following (as well as all the common sense things like – tracking, odor, and longevity) I would recommend the Naturally Fresh Walnut Based Clumping LItter.