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It’s not just you. A lot of people are searching for the best cat litter in the world.
I sat down to write an article about the best cat litters on the market and during my keyword research, I found that the search “best cat litter in the world” was barely second place to “best cat litter”. At first I thought the keyword was funny, but I realized, yes, that’s what I’d like to find, too. You aren’t just looking for a great cat litter, but the very best in the world.
I’ll admit right away—I’m not sure that the perfect cat litter exists yet. The best cat litter in the world could still be developing in someone’s basement or maybe I’ve just never heard of it. That aside, I’ve done my best to find a few products that come close. I used a combination of personal experience, customer reviews, and product research to choose the 11 excellent cat litter options on this list. I think we’ve probably gotten pretty near to the best cat litter in the world here.
Before we dive into the cat litter lineup, let’s go over what criteria need to be fulfilled to make a cat litter the best cat litter. We’re going to cover a lot of ground, so feel free to use our quick navigation to jump to a part of the article that interests you.
- 1. What makes a cat litter the best?
- 2. Types of cat litter on the market.
- 3. 11 Best Cat Litters of 2020
- 3.1 Best Clumping Clay Cat Litter: Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter
- 3.2 Best Clumping Clay Cat Litter Runner-Up: Tidy Max 24/7 Performance Cat Litter
- 3.3 Best Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter: Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance Cat Litter
- 3.4 Best Silica Gel Cat Litter: Fresh Step Crystals Cat Litter
- 3.5 Best Silica Gel Cat Litter Runner-Up: Frisco Crystal Summer Clean Scent Non-Clumping Cat Litter
- 3.6 Best Biodegradable Cat Litter: Pioneer Pet SmartCat All Natural Litter
- 3.7 Best Biodegradable Cat Litter Runner-Up: Garfield Cat Litter Super Clump Multi-Cat Litter
- 3.8 Best Biodegradable Cat Litter for Sensitive Paws: Yesterday’s News Original Formula Cat Litter
- 3.9 Best Biodegradable Budget Cat Litter Alternative: Horse Bedding Pellets
- 3.10 Best Dust-Free Cat Litter: Tidy Cats Breeze Cat Litter Pellets
- 3.11 Best Dust-Free Cat Litter Runner-Up: Arm & Hammer Platinum Cloud Control Clumping Cat Litter
What makes a cat litter the best?
1. The best cat litter doesn’t produce a cloud of dust when you pour it or when your cat uses the box.
Low dust cat litter is important to us. Not only is dusty cat litter irritating, but it’s also bad for your health. Clay cat litter contains silica dust, which is potentially carcinogenic and shouldn’t be stirred up to irritate you and your cat’s lungs. Other types of litter, like pine, wheat, and corn also emit harmful dust.
Many litters claim that they’re dust-free, but a lot of them don’t live up to that claim. We always look beyond the label to determine which products live up to their “dust-free” claims. We’ll introduce you to some of the top dust-free litters.
2. The best cat litter controls odors without trying to mask them with strong fragrances.
Odor control is a hugely important element of the best cat litter. You won’t find a cat litter that doesn’t claim to neutralize odors, but many of them don’t do it well—some don’t control odors at all. Again, we look beyond marketing to find products that legitimately eliminate odors. We look for products made from ultra-absorbent materials with a reputation for odor control. Materials from clay to pine can control odors and many control them well, but it takes a killer formulation to knock out those smells entirely. The best way to judge a litter’s performance is by trying it out yourself. We do that whenever we can, but if that’s not possible, reading customer reviews is the way to go.
It took hours of research to determine which products eliminated odors for good without leaning on fragrances as a crutch. Many cats don’t like strong added fragrances and may actually avoid the litter box if they find it too perfumey. That’s why we prefer unscented cat litter or litter with an extremely subtle fragrance.
3. The best cat litter doesn’t stick to your cat’s paws and track all over the house.
I don’t like finding cat litter in my sheets or stepping on cat litter clumps hidden in the rug. Unfortunately, this seems to be inevitable when your cat is using certain types of cat litter. Clumping clay cat litter is one of the most frequent offenders in this area. Clumping clay can get be sticky when it gets wet—and end up sticking in between your cat’s toes or on his backside.
This mix may be tracked across the house. It might end up on your plush blanket or stay between your cat’s toes, where he has to dig it out with his tongue. That’s not fun.
Scatter is another issue that should be called into consideration when you’re selecting a litter for your cat. Lightweight litter is more likely to scatter when your cat is using the litter box. While some litter is less likely to scatter out of the box than others, litter is not a complete solution. Your litter box setup is key to preventing litter scatter. Combining a litter box with high sides/cover with a good litter mat is the best way to prevent litter from showing up all over the floor outside your cat’s litter box.
4. The best cat litter is low-maintenance.
I barely remember to scoop my cats’ litter boxes as it is, so I’m not a fan of litter that requires anything more than once-daily scooping.
This is another reason why I lean towards clumping clay cat litter. You scoop out the liquids and solids, top off the litter, and go. It’s rare that you need to clean out the entire litter box. However, not everyone loves clumping clay cat litter, so I’ve included quite a few non-clay, low-maintenance options in the product lineup below.
5. The best cat litter is the one your cat will love.
Cats are notoriously picky eaters—did you know they can also be picky litter box users? Litter box avoidance is one of the top reasons people give up their cats to shelters.
Your cat’s litter is important to him and plays a big part in whether or not he’s comfortable using the box.
We use our cat’s natural habits as inspiration for our cat litter choices. That’s why we lean towards fine-grained, sandy textures and little to no fragrances. Fine-grained litter is easy on kitty paws and closest to the substrates our cats choose to use when exploring nature. We also say no to strong fragrances—perfumed litter can be irritating and overwhelming to most cats.
6. The best cat litter is both effective and affordable.
The best cat litter offers great value—effective odor control with a manageable price tag. We’ve searched for cat litters that work well and aren’t overpriced. I’ve included cat litters from a variety of price ranges, so you should be able to find one that fits your budget.
There are a lot of different types of cat litter on the market. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Clumping clay cat litter
Clumping clay cat litter is the most popular type of cat litter out there—and for good reason. Clumping clay cat litter, made with absorbent sodium bentonite clay, is one of the most powerful and convenient types of cat litter available. It’s good at controlling odors, it’s easy to scoop and clean, and it’s cheap.
But clay litter has a few downsides.
Clay cat litter is procured by strip mining. Ultimately, the clay harvesting process does damage to the earth. Besides being environmentally harmful, clay litter might hurt you and your cat. Clay cat litter releases silica dust. These crystalline silica particles are dangerous when inhaled and may cause cancer. Fortunately, litter manufacturers are aware of this and most work to ensure their cat litter is low-dust. This is part of the reason it’s so important to look for and choose a dust-free cat litter.
Sodium bentonite clay itself can also be harmful to some cats. Kittens or cats with pica might eat their litter, and sodium bentonite’s powerful absorbency can cause it to expand in the cat’s digestive tract. That’s why we recommend you choose a non-clumping litter for kittens.
Non-clumping clay cat litter
Non-clumping clay cat litter absorbs urine and clumps around solids. You don’t scoop out the urine, so this litter must be changed completely every few days to keep odors down. This makes it a stinky and often messy option that tends to demand a lot of your time. That’s why we don’t recommend it for most adult cats. Kittens, however, may use non-clumping clay as a safer alternative that can’t gum up their insides.
Silica gel (crystal) cat litter
You might know silica gel best as the stuff inside those little desiccant packets tucked into packages to keep products dry. If you ever fish one out of a vitamin bottle and open it up, you’ll find little silica gel beads. These beads can absorb 40% of their weight in moisture—making them the perfect solution to preventing moisture in product packaging. The same principle makes silica gel an excellent cat litter substrate.
Silica gel cat litter works differently from other litters. You’ll scoop out solids and regularly stir in liquids so that the silica absorbs it. Some litter manufacturers claim that you won’t have to replace the litter for an entire 30 days. However, some people find that the litter stops absorbing before that point and starts pooling at the bottom of the box. Silica gel cat litter does have its downsides. It’s rarely a good choice for multiple-cat homes. The silica gel takes a while to do its job, and it can become overwhelmed by frequent litter box use. It’s also notoriously uncomfortable for cats. Silica gel is hard and can be sharp, making it uncomfortable for cats to walk on and dig in.
Biodegradable cat litter
Biodegradable cat litter is on the rise. If you’re searching for a cat litter that makes less of a negative impact on the environment than clay litter, then you might want to choose another litter. There are many options available made from renewable plant matter that will break down in the environment. Some cat litter is even compostable, although it’s not recommended that you grow vegetables in cat excrement compost because it might hold dangerous elements.
Now you know what makes the best cat litter. Let’s check out the top 11 best cat litters of 2020.
Here are my top choices for the best cat litters in 2020. These products were chosen based on the criteria listed above. Though each of them is slightly different and will appeal to a different type of person, all of them are high-performance products that don’t produce a lot of dust, control odors well, are easy to maintain, and give you a decent value for your money.
Clay Cat Litter
1. Best Clumping Clay Cat Litter: Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter
Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Ultra litter is designed to prevent tracking while also creating tight, hard clumps. The fine litter is very comfortable on most cats’ paws. This cat litter is very low dust and also fragrance-free, so it’s perfect for sensitive cats. Some reviewers do have trouble with the litter clumps being too hard and heavy—they’ve described it as cement-like. We never had this trouble when trying the litter, however.
2. Best Clumping Clay Cat Litter Runner-Up: Tidy Max 24/7 Performance Cat Litter
Tidy Max cat litter is a new inclusion in the Purina Tidy Cats’ litter lineup. The litter features excellent odor control, low dust, and creates tight and easy-to-scoop clumps. Tidy Max cat litter includes ammonia blockers and is extra absorbent so that odors are controlled for 14 days if you scoop regularly.
3. Best Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter: Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance Cat Litter
Tidy Cats Non-Clumping 24/7 Performance Cat Litter is a no-frills non-clumping clay litter. The litter features continuous deodorization to keep the litter box odor-free for up to a week. Tidy Cats Non-Clumping litter does have a perfumey fragrance that may irritate some people and cats. The litter features larger grains which some cats might not be a fan of. These larger grains can help to reduce tracking, though.
Silica Gel Cat Litter
4. Best Silica Gel Cat Litter: Fresh Step Crystals Cat Litter
Fresh Step Crystals cat litter addresses the major problem with most silica gel cat litters—cat comfort. The rounded crystals are comfortable on most cats’ feet and most cats accept the litter without any issues. Fresh Step Crystals cat litter controls odors well in single cat homes. Like most silica gel cat litters, the crystals need time to absorb the urine or pools will start developing in the litter box, meaning that the litter may be overwhelmed in multi-cat homes and not do its job well. Some customers have also noted that the litter is dusty and tracks around their home.
5. Best Silica Gel Cat Litter Runner-Up: Frisco Crystal Summer Clean Scent Non-Clumping Cat Litter
This silica gel-based cat litter is created by Chewy.com’s house brand, Frisco. The crystals feature a light “summer clean” scent, but many reviewers say the fragrance isn’t noticeable. It has good odor control and the crystals are comfortable on kitty paws. Reviewers have complained Frisco Crystal Cat Litter is a dustier choice than other cat litters.
Biodegradable Cat Litter
6. Best Biodegradable Cat Litter: Pioneer Pet SmartCat All Natural Litter
Pioneer Pet SmartCat cat litter is made from 100% US-grown grass and is free of added fragrances and chemicals. The litter features fine-grains so it’s comfortable for cats to dig in, and its low dust makes it a good choice for sensitive cats. SmartCat litter clumps quickly and most customers say it has great odor control.
7. Best Biodegradable Cat Litter Runner-Up: Garfield Cat Litter Super Clump Multi-Cat Litter
Plant-based Garfield Cat Litter is made of corn and cassava. It is a fine-grained litter that’s super-soft on your cat’s paws but isn’t dusty. The litter clumps quickly and holds together well. Garfield litter’s light color allows you to easily monitor your cat’s litter box for any signs of health problems. This litter is marketed as flushable, but we don’t recommend flushing any cat litter. Cat waste often carries the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. If you flush your cat litter, you could be introducing this parasite into the water supply, potentially infecting people and marine life.
8. Best Biodegradable Cat Litter for Sensitive Paws: Yesterday’s News Original Formula Cat Litter
Yesterday’s News cat litter is made from recycled newspaper. These paper pellets are low-dust making them ideal for sensitive people and cats. If your cat has a foot injury or is recovering from surgery, Yesterday’s News pellets are a good choice. The paper pellets are soft on sensitive cat paws.
9. Best Biodegradable Budget Cat Litter Alternative: Horse Bedding Pellets
A product doesn’t need to be labeled and marketed as cat litter to be a great option—our favorite budget cat litter alternative is horse bedding pellets. Horse bedding makes an effective wood pellet cat litter and, depending on where you purchase it, is less than half the price of pine pellet cat litter. Click here to read about our experience using horse bedding pellets and to learn the best places to buy a bag.
Dust-Free Cat Litter
10. Best Dust-Free Cat Litter: Tidy Cats Breeze Cat Litter Pellets
Tidy Cats Breeze Pellets are part of the Tidy Cats Breeze litter box system. The system combines a special litter box, litter pads, and these litter pellets to keep your home fresh and clean. The pellets help to keep down odors, are long-lasting, and are 99.9% dust-free. The litter pellets are heavy enough so they don’t scatter around the litter box.
11. Best Dust-Free Cat Litter Runner-Up: Arm & Hammer Platinum Cloud Control Clumping Cat Litter
This clay litter from Arm & Hammer lives up to its promise of being dust-free. Cloud Control litter is gentle on paws and doesn’t track around the house, either. The litter does have a fragrance that some reviewers find to be too strong.
Choose the cat litter that works for you.
Choosing an amazing cat litter comes down to the combination of attributes and whether or not that litter works for you and your cat. Some cats are selective about their litter’s texture, so it’s up to you to find what your cat likes.
I hope you found the suggestions and choices in this list helpful and that you found one that you’d like to try. If you already use an amazing litter that wasn’t on our list, please let us know! We’d love to hear about it and give it a try, too.
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