If you visit a pet superstore, you might be intimidated by the variety of cat litters on sale. Clumping, non-clumping, silica, clay, flushable, walnuts, shredded paper…it’s enough to send you into a tizzy. Don’t panic, there is some method to the madness. Let’s dig in and see which cat litter is right for your kitties.
The first thing you have to remember is that your cat litter has to please your cat. It can be hard to predict whether a cat will like a particular type and brand of litter, so you’ll have to test whichever litter you choose, and be prepared to change it if your kitty finds it irritating or otherwise unacceptable.
To Clump or Not to Clump?
Clumping litter clumps, when wet, usually because of an additive named bentonite that absorbs urine. It’s easy to scoop and leaves the surrounding litter cleaner. The non-clumping variety needs more frequently changing, as the urine distributes throughout the litter. The litter may have odor-fighting additives such as charcoal or baking soda that may allow you to go an extra day or two between replacements. Added silica crystal help the non-clumping litter dry more quickly.
You might prefer clumping litter, since you generally don’t have to replace the litter all at once, although the litter might begin to smell and require replacement. It’s higher price is somewhat offset by its economical use. However, the clumping stuff might stick to your kitty, especially if it’s a long-hair. Since cat’s self-groom, they might lick or ingest the litter, which is not something you want to encourage.
Litter manufacturers make every effort to produce non-toxic litter. Cats can inhale litter dust when clawing around the box, and grains can get stuck between toes. It’s not usually a problem, though some cats have a disorder called Pica that compels them to eat the litter. If you detect this behavior, seek advice from your veterinarian. If your cat is sensitive to dust, you can find a low-dust or dust-free variety. Organic dusts from corn, walnut or wheat-based litters may be more or less irritating to your cat than is mineral-based dust. Some ingredients can trigger an allergic reaction in your cat. If you suspect this to be the case, consult with your vet and switch to another type of litter.
Another possible problem is a litter that irritates your cat’s paws. You might try a softer litter to see if that helps.
What’s That Smell?
Well, you know what it is, but some litters disguise it with perfumes or odor absorbers. Scented litters are fine as long as your cat doesn’t mind the smell. Remember that hiding the odor doesn’t give you license to leave the litter box dirty, which is generally an unhealthy practice and not very nice for your cat. Depending on the number of cats sharing the box, you should clean the box at least once or twice per day.
Flushable litter can go down the toilet without clogging it, and you can always pour used litter into a garbage bag. Neither is particularly friendly for the environment. If you use a plant-based litter, you might be able to compost the used litter and turn it into fertilizer for your flowers, but not for your vegetable patch unless you compost it for at least six months.
High tech litter – clumping, dust-free, odor fighting – costs more, although as we mentioned earlier, it might be more economical to use. On the other hand, cat litter is not all that expensive in the greater scheme of things. The most important factors are whether the litter is safe and your cats like it. If you can find a cheaper litter that does the job, go for it.
There is no good excuse for not keeping your cat’s litter box clean. An occasional lapse may occur, but as your pet’s keeper, you have certain responsibilities, and keeping a clean environment for your cats is an important one. In addition, the cat box can notify you if your cat has a health problem, such as diarrhea or suddenly relieving itself somewhere else. If you notice something wrong, bring kitty to the vet and have it checked out. It might be a temporary problem, but it could indicate something serious. Treat your cat box as a resource rather than a chore, and your cat will be happier and healthier.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.