Who knew that choosing the best cat litter for indoor cats could be so complex? We didn’t when we first adopted our cat Boof. Cat litter and litter boxes are make or break choices in the happiness of you and your indoor cat. Cats who can go outside often ” go ” outside. But your indoor kitty is going to need that cat litter and litter box and you don’t want a house full of bad smells, scattered litter and worse, poop and litter tracking. So what do you need to consider when choosing the best cat litter for an indoor cat?
If you don’t want to read the whole post, and we’d love you to, there’s some really interesting facts and warnings in there, here’s the best cat litter we’ve found for our indoor cat right here. It’s head and shoulders better than every other litter we’ve tried. If you want the full information on why we prefer walnut cat litter, it’s in this post. That one, unfortunately, does tend to go out of stock, our second choice is this one, it performs just as well but has quite a strong smell that I find a bit much.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of cat litter types and brands on the market and different ways of using them. We try to give you some of the pros and cons of various cat litter types below as well as mentioning certain health hazards to avoid. Please double check all information with your vet, we can’t provide veterinary advice, we can just report our own findings and point you in the direction of scientific research and findings on cat litter for indoor cats.
Best Cat Litter For Indoor Cats
The cat litter you choose depends on you, your cat, your budget and your ability to scoop constantly. With most litter trays, you’ll be scooping every time. It’s no joke! If you’d like to invest in a premium, automated litter system, such things to exist and you’ll need to buy a litter to suit the system. You can couple your litter with moisture absorbing pads, rather like disposable nappies, charcoal filter and neautralising sprays. Some are bad for the cat, some are bad for the environment. So what do you need to know about choosing the best cat litter for indoor use?
What constitutes bad cat litter? To me bad cat litter is toxic to your cat, if perfumed and / or allergenic, is dusty, scatters all over the house, doesn’t coat faeces and doesn’t clump.
Good cat litter to me clumps, is natural, non toxic, non scented, covers odours ( In part by clinging to faeces and coating it ) and doesn’t scatter all over the house.
Things to Consider Before Choosing Cat Litter
Things to consider in choosing cat litter include the following. Some of these factors may surprise you!
- Clumping cat litter is easier to keep clean. Just remove the clump ( urine ) with a scoop and your cat litter is still good to go. No need to regularly dump the whole litter tray. Without this feature the urine disperses through the litter box. Clumping makes a world of difference.
- Faeces needs to be coated in litter to stop smells diffusing through the house, a finer cat letter will do that, chunky shredded paper nuggets won’t. Our favourite walnut litter does this perfectly.
- Some clumping cat litter contains sodium bentonite clay ( clumping). Read why that’s not good for cats below.
- If you want to be able to flush your cat litter ( which many say is a public health hazard – not recommended) you can’t use a hard clumping litter and you’ll need to buy a litter made from natural materials. Some litters are made specifically for flushing.
- Fine particles of cat litter, in particular, will stick to your cat’s paws and he will ingest this residue while grooming. This isn’t good for him with certain types of litter.
- The shape on your litter box will affect what kind of cat litter you can use and how much of it ends up all over the floor.
- The style of your cat litter system, likewise, some litters are made for certain systems. If you just have a basic box or tray – don’t worry about this just yet.
- Whatever you do, I will pretty much guarantee that some litter and sometimes poop will end up on the floor. People often buy cat litter mats to collect this stuff and stop it scattering further.
- Your litter scoop is important and non stick scoops are nicer to use. Consider investing in a good litter scoop maybe something like this. You do need a litter scoop, it has to be a good size and have holes to act like a sieve when removing clumps and coated faeces.
- What you feed your cat most certainly affects what goes on in the litter tray. See our post on cat food for indoor cats.
- Dust, some cat litters are dusty which can be messy and make cats sneeze. It can even make owners sneeze.
- Cat’s feet are sensitive, they may not like walking on hard bumpy litters.
- Kittens are more likely than adult cats to eat their cat litter. Be super careful with which litter you choose for them and read the guide below.
- If your cat has recently had surgery it’s important to keep litter dust and particles out of the wound, stick to a dust free indoor cat litter variety.
- Cats that have been declawed have ultra sensitive feet. You’ll need a very soft, fine litter for them.
- It is possible to train your indoor cat to use a human toilet. Potty training kits for cats are available here.
That’s quite a list of things to consider before buying cat litter for your indoor cat. I’m sure there are more factors, but your mind is probably blown right now just as mine was when I started looking at the scientific research on healthy and environmentally friendly cat litter choices for indoor cats.
What Litter Boxes are We Currently Testing These Cat Litters In?
We have 2 cat litter boxes or trays currently. We very quickly learned that 2 was essential with an indoor cat, more would be better. While outside scrubbing one box down, kitty had an accident. So we now have a luxury, high sided litter box with lid, the one below. We’re pretty pleased with it. The lid is designed to help prevent tracking, the cat has to walk across the corrugated top, but still, some litter makes its way to the floor but way less than with a simple tray. This style also contains smells to an extent. It needs to have a good thick layer of litter to weigh it down so the cat can’t tip it.
I’ve since read that cat’s don’t like to be trapped like this, they want to have multiple escape routes, so maybe the lid will have to go. So far our indoor cat is happy with this litter system.
We also have our back-up litter tray. It’s the classic shallow cat litter tray, most people buy these and cats like them however the litter ends up everywhere but in the tray when our cat uses his. We prefer the high sided one above for keeping what belongs in the tray, in the tray. These litter boxes are probably the cheapest style you’ll find, expect to pay under $10.
If I was buying another cat litter receptacle today I think I would go for the Nature’s Miracle litter tray, it seems to have the features we need and is only a little more expensive. High sides are certainly an important feature and the small cut out would make for easier access without a lid. I would also suggest going for a big litter tray.
I thought I should give you that information just to clarify, but this post is about cat litter for indoor cats, not boxes, so let’s talk litter. This post also does not address the needs of automated cat litter systems or sieve systems, we’ll cover those separately.
Types of Cat Litter – Buying Guide
Crystal Cat Litter
Crystal cat litters are normally blue or white fairly chunky crystals and they’re made of silica gel ( silica dioxide, sand, oxygen and water). Basically, the same stuff that’s in those little sachets to absorb humidity in packaging for human goods. Those little sachets have a clear warning, do not eat. Silica gel is absorbent, hence its use in cat litter.
The crystals cat be ingested by cats, particularly if they get stuck in their toes and need grooming out. People suggest checking your cat’s feet after using the litter box, but who does that?
Silica gel is sometimes combined with sodium bentonite to create a clumping crystal litter. This is more of a hazard if ingested. Bentonite has been reported as causing a number of ill effects by cat owners.
These litters do a good job of odour control or neutralisation and are chunky so less likely to be flung out of the litter tray. Crystal litter is dust free, so less likely to trigger sneezing or allergies ( source)
You can buy scented versions of crystal cat litter, some scents are harmful to cats and can cause allergies or sneezing in owners.
These crystal cat litters are a little expensive but do last quite a long time.
Most supermarkets will stock this type of cat litter.
You can read more on crystal cat litter here.
Compacted, recycled paper pellets were the first litter we bought for our new indoor kitten and we didn’t like the first brand we tried. The pellets were big and chunky making it hard for the cat to dig and bury its poop. The paper pellets don’t clump so things don’t get dried out and messes are harder to remove cleanly. Even in a high sided litter tray, with lid, it tracked. But then we haven’t found anything yet that doesn’t track at all.
We are impressed with the level of odour control for urine with this paper cat litter. We’ve never had any urine smell in the house at all, but poop, he can’t bury it with this stuff, so it stinks. It also doesn’t clump so removing wet letter is difficult with the scoop.
We’ve read rave reviews for Yesterday’s News Cat Litter . It is made from recycled newspaper and is reportedly three times more absorbent than clay. It’s a good environmental choice but I have read that certain types of news print are toxic to cats, however, it is described by the makers as non-toxic and contains no artificial fragrances . It is said to be almost dust free and even its packaging is environmentally safe. This is one to try, for sure, when we’ve looked into those newsprint claims.
Yesterday’s News is made by a well-known pet brand, Purina, and comes in several varieties as well as the standard bag above. The scented Yesterday’s News, below, is fresh smelling rather than heavily perfumed. I don’t know, as yet, if this scent could trigger allergies or be harmful in any way.
Yesterday’s News also make a softer cat litter, unscented, non clumping as for its other paper cat litter. Soft litter is better for declawed cats. See that one here.
Natural Clay – Bentonite Cat Litter
Bentonite is a material generally naturally formed from the weathering of volcanic ash. Sodium Bentonite is a powerful clumping agent and widely used in clumping cat litter.
Sodium Bentonite is generally regarded as not good for cats and the advice often given is to avoid natural clay or bentonite cat litter . The bentonite can expand to many times its volume with water contact, just imagine that in your cat’s stomach. The clumps it forms are pretty solid, so your cat will be in discomfort and his plumbing blocked. As bentonite clay litters are powdery, it will inevitably end up ingested from his paws and coat.
The mining techniques involved in gathering bentonite clay are also a problem for the environment, so many sources, including Scientific American, warn against its use.
Wood, Wood Based Cat Litters, Wood Shavings and Sawdust
If you’re on a budget, yes you could use sawdust or wood shavings in your cat’s litter tray. Be careful that the type of wood you use is not toxic to cats. I should imagine that for an indoor cat, both would track badly based on our experience using these products as bedding for semi indoor rabbits and guinea pigs. We haven’t tried it as cat litter. Some types of pine are toxic to cats.
That said, safe pine cat litter does exist. Feline Pine is made from dust-free pine chips
Cedarific Natural Cat Litter combines hardwood and cedar chips to make an inexpensive, clay free natural cat litter. It is billed as biodegradeable, compostible and pleasant smelling. It can even be incinerated. The manufacturers state that this cat litter comes from renewable, sustainable sources.
Walnut – The Best Litter We’ve Found Yet
We are currently using a walnut based cat litter, the one at the bottom of the page. However, the Nature’s Miracle walnut litter can be hard to find, we’ve seen it go out of stock often. We like it because it’s clumping without the bentonite clay, low dust, odour controlling and has a pleasant natural smell.
Other walnut based cat litters do exist.
Nature’s Miracle also make a corn based cat litter. Sharing many of the same properties as the walnut litter we prefer. However we find this one more dusty than the walnut and it has a strong, almost perfumed smell.A smell that strong must be hard on a sensitive cat nose. If available, we go for the walnut.
Coconut Cat Litter
Yet another material cat litter can be made from – coconut.
What Do We Use for Our Indoor Cat ?
This is the cat litter we use currently. This is a premium clumping litter based on walnuts, formulated to be tough on odours. It clumps nicely, making it easier to clean out using a good scoop. It’s natural and we’ve read that it’s not too damaging if it ends up in your cat’s stomach. It’s biodegradable and unscented but does have a pleasant natural scent right out of the bag.. This kitty litter suppresses odours well and a bag like this lasts a long time. The same company also make a corn-based litter but I’ve read that GMO corn could contain toxic pesticides, that’s another thing to investigate further. This litter comes in 10 lb ( over 4 kg) and 30lb ( almost 10 Kg ) bags. If you click-through below be sure to pick the right size. We try a lot of cat litters, we have a few more on order right now, but this one has been good for us so far. Manufacturers say this one is dust free and we’d agree with that. The corn version is dustier, we think.
Cat litter technology is constantly evolving, for now we’re happy with our method above, the walnut clumping kitty litter, a good scoop, good, odour reducing food and a high sided litter box. Will we try new products as they become available? For sure. We’ll do our best to tell you how new cat litter products perform. Our next step will be to try the Rolls Royce of luxury litter boxes. You can see that in our post on litter boxes for indoor cats.