The Best Litter for Cats With Asthma

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Medically Reviewed and Approved By: Dr. Abdul Basit Javed (DVM, RVMP)

My cat is at risk for asthma and I needed litter that reduced triggers: allergens, perfumes, and dust. After careful research and testing, the best one for us is ÖKOCAT for a natural route, and Dr. Elsey’s for clay litter.

Best Natural
ÖKOCAT Dust Free Wood or Paper Litter
9.2
  • Virtually dust-free
  • No irritating artificial fragrances, chemicals or toxic dyes
  • Very good odor control
  • Clumping or non-clumping pellets available
Best Clay
Dr. Elsey's Respiratory Relief Cat Litter
9.4
  • Virtually dust free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • No plant proteins
  • It's clay - so great clumping and easy clean up

This started when my cat started coughing and wheezing at random times recently, I took her to the veterinarian, who confirmed her at risk status. She recommended a good diet and weight management, along with a litter for cats with asthma.

Photo via Catza.net

But litter is an individual thing, and what is best for my cat might not be for yours. That’s why in this post, I give you my top product recommendations for different situations, then share what I’ve learned on asthma and cats.

I’ll add that my recommendations may also be helpful if you’re a cat owner suffering from asthma while having a litter box in the house!

These are the other products we will be reviewing:

Boxiecat Premium Clumping Cat Litter
PREMIUM PICK

Boxiecat Premium Clumping Cat Litter

  • Hypoallergenic with great performance and super low dust
  • Forms tight, easily retrievable clumps at the top
  • Saves litter waste and money over time
Fresh News Recycled Paper, Original Pellet Cat Litter, 25 Pound
MOST POPULAR

Fresh News Recycled Paper, Original Pellet Cat Litter, 25 Pound

  • One of most bland formulations on the market
  • Great for asthma and respiratory issues
  • Unscented, a major offender of allergies
Naturally Fresh Walnut Shell Cat Litter
BEST ODOR CONTROL

Naturally Fresh Walnut Shell Cat Litter

  • 100% natural and asthma-friendly
  • Walnut shells offer superior odor fighting properties vs other natural litter materials
  • More absorbent than clay and clumps up tightly in about 15 minutes
  • Clumping or Non Clumping Available

Overall Best Litter for Cats with Asthma

ÖKOCAT Wood or Paper Litter

ÖKOCAT is our overall best litter for cats with asthma because it’s virtually dust-less, non-clay, stops odors as long as you scoop, clumps easily, and does not containing triggers for attacks.

Meaning, this wood-derived, hypoallergenic cat litter is free of irritating artificial fragrances, chemicals or toxic dyes.

Oh, and ÖKOCAT created this effective litter using only sustainably sourced, repurposed natural wood fiber. Öko means eco in German, after all.

I also love that it comes in many varieties, and accommodates your cat’s litter needs.

ökocat Natural Paper Non-Clumping Cat Litter Pellets
9.2
  • Virtually dust-free
  • No irritating artificial fragrances, chemicals or toxic dyes
  • Very good odor control
  • Non-clumping pellets
ökocat Natural Clumping Wood Cat Litter
9.2
  • Virtually dust-free
  • No irritating artificial fragrances, chemicals or toxic dyes
  • Very good odor control
  • Clumps loosely

For a wood-based litter, it does an amazing job of forming clumps vs a clay product. True, they are looser clumps, but still very scoop-able.

Finally, this litter is so natural that it can be flushed or composted. So, in addition to being our best overall choice, ÖKOCAT really lives up to its name of being eco-friendly.

Rating Breakdown:

  • Performance 10/10
  • Tracking 10/10
  • Dust 10/10
  • Odor Control 8/10
  • Price 8/10
  • Overall Rating 9.2

What We Liked:

  • Good performance
  • Virtually dust-free
  • No irritating artificial fragrances, chemicals or toxic dyes
  • Decent odor control

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Some complaints of tracking

Top Clay Litter for Cats with Asthma

Dr. Elsey's Respiratory Relief Cat Litter
9.4
  • Virtually dust free
  • Hypoallergenic
  • No plant proteins
  • It's clay - so great clumping and easy clean up

If you are not quite ready to get out of the clay comfort zone yet, check out Dr. Elsey’s Respiratory Relief litter. Likewise, if your cat is not ready either and outright rejects pellet litter, this is among the best for clay and asthma.

Dr. Elsey’s R & R litter is specifically formulated to help control respiratory disease in cats and humans and no doubt one of the best litters for cats with asthma.

It is a low-dust and hypoallergenic cat litter, with no triggering perfumes or deodorants. Dr. Elsey’s also doesn’t use plant proteins (a common allergen for all cats and humans).

This litter is human-friendly as well as cat-friendly. And since it is familiar clay, it clumps great and is easily scoop-able. Since alternative litters often don’t perform as well, this is very convenient.

Overall, this is a very good performing product and is super well-known and trusted within the cat community. Many users report this litter really helped their cat’s sneezing, coughing, or sinus issues.

It’s also often sold out on Amazon, so check Chewy and nab it!

Rating Breakdown:

  • Performance 10/10
  • Tracking 10/10
  • Dust 10/10
  • Odor Control 10/10
  • Price 7/10
  • Overall Rating 9.4

What We Liked:

  • Virtually dust free
  • No allergens and plant proteins
  • It is clay, so great clumping and easy clean up

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Made of clay, so not eco-friendly and potentially toxic
  • Some reports of weak odor control

Premium Pick Litter for Cats with Asthma

Boxiecat Premium Clumping Cat Litter
9.4
  • Hypoallergenic with great performance and super low dust
  • Forms tight, easily retrievable clumps at the top
  • Saves litter waste and money over time

The second clay litter on my list and a must-mention is Boxiecat Premium Clumping Cat litter, fragrance-free, veterinarian approved litter with purported 99.9% dust control.

While not cheap, this hypoallergenic cat litter performs like the clay litter of your dreams. Those in the cat community compares this to Dr Elsey’s Respiratory Relief litter.

Poured fresh out of the bag, there are no plumes of dust. After use, tight clumps form, and at the top, where it’s easily retrieved, without disturbing clean litter. Because of this, no odors accumulate, and it’s easy to extend the lifespan of litter. The savings add up over time.

Reviewers with asthma or asthmatic cats also say this litter is amazing and do not cause reactions.

Rating Breakdown:

  • Performance 10/10
  • Tracking 10/10
  • Dust 10/10
  • Odor Control 10/10
  • Price 7/10
  • Overall Rating 9.4

What We Liked:

  • Literally dust-free
  • Super fast, effective clumping
  • Clumps at the top

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Still made of clay
  • Price
  • Tracks just slightly

Fresh News Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter
8.8
  • One of most bland formulations on the market
  • Great for asthma and respiratory issues
  • Unscented, a major offender for allergies

July 2023 Update: Purina Yesterday’s News Paper Pellet Litter used to be featured here, but was discontinued. Fresh News is a great alternative, that many users of Yesterday’s News have switched to.

I was over the moon to discover this popular, affordable hypoallergenic cat litter because I love being able to recommend accessible products.

Fresh News Recycled Paper Pellet Cat Litter is a significantly better bargain compared to the other litters I’m covering (at time of writing anyway). The other big news is that it truly is one of most bland formulations on the market. And bland when it comes to asthma and respiratory issues is the best!

Fresh News is made of recycled paper, which is 100% hypoallergenic and super absorbent, even more so than clay by volume. And this product’s branding is so on-point!

They’ve also decided to completely leave out any scents, a major offender for allergies. Finally, this litter also contains no harmful chemicals.

Fresh New’s litter are pellets, meaning it’s a 99% dust free experience, and eliminates small particles that can be tracked out by your cat.

The pellets are non-clumping, and you simply scoop everyday for wet pellets and stuff stuck to waste and flush. Moreover, they do not break down into annoying sawdust after use like with other natural litters, like Feline Pine.

Rating Breakdown:

  • Performance 9/10
  • Tracking 9/10
  • Dust 9/10
  • Odor Control 7/10
  • Price 10/10
  • Overall Rating 8.8

What We Liked:

  • Cost-effective
  • Less dust, no fragrance, hypoallergenic
  • No tracking and litter scatter
  • Absorbs moisture nicely
  • Safe and nontoxic
  • Eco-friendly

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Pellets are not for every cat

Best Odor Control Litter for Cats with Asthma

Naturally Fresh Walnut Shell Clumping Cat Litter
8.6
  • 100% natural and asthma-friendly
  • Walnut shells offer superior odor fighting properties vs other natural litter materials
  • More absorbent than clay and clumps up tightly in about 15 minutes.

 

Naturally Fresh Pellet Non Clumping Cat Litter
8.6
  • 100% natural and asthma-friendly
  • One of the best odor fighting litter pellets on the market
  • Pellets limit tracking

No, a litter box full of nuts isn’t nuts if you’re trying to help your kitty live an allergy-free life. It turns out that walnut shells create one of the best litters for cats with asthma!

Naturally Fresh Walnut Shell Cat Litter is my pick for an asthma-friendly litter that best controls odors.

Versus other natural alternatives like corn or wheat, walnut shells offer superior odor fighting properties.

And I am not the only one that think so, many reviewers say the odor control is “shockingly good” or that they live with a large number of cats and with this litter, smells cannot be detected. Others even say it’s better than clay at neutralizing odors!

Besides odor control, this 100-percent natural and organic litter actually performs:

  • The clumping version is three time more absorbent than clay and clumps up tightly in about 15 minutes.
  • The non-clumping version is likely one of the best odor fighting pellets on the market. It also will not track.

Most importantly, reviewers and their pets also dig this litter (yes, the cats literally dig) and specifically call out this litter because it does not set off their asthma.

Rating Breakdown:

  • Performance 9/10
  • Tracking 9/10
  • Dust 7/10
  • Odor Control 10/10
  • Price 8/10
  • Overall Rating 8.6

What We Liked:

  • Exceptional odor neutralization without any chemicals
  • Varied litter types
  • 100 percent natural, organic, biodegradable
  • Clump or non clumping formulas
  • Pellets prevents tracking

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not totally dust-free
  • Clumping takes a few minutes

Asthma in Cats is More Common Than You Think

I actually wasn’t aware that cat asthma is such a common thing until my Maine Coon cat started showing potential symptoms.

According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, it is estimated that more than 800,000 domestic cats in the United States suffer from acute or chronic asthma.

Between 1 percent and 5 percent of all cats have asthma. However, it takes between four and five years for the average cat to actually get diagnosed with asthma. Early detection is key here, folks!

What Causes Feline Asthma?

What’s interesting is that feline asthma is a bit of a mystery to the medical world and we don’t actually have a definitive answer about why some cats develop asthma.

The general consensus is that cats with asthma are experiencing allergic reactions after inhaling allergens that impact their immune systems.

According to Maine Coon Hawaii’s veterinary adviser Dr. Abdul Basit Javed (DVM, RVMP), “the cat’s antibodies will detect the allergen and create an immune response following the first contact. (Immune response is created after the antibodies detect the allergen not before).

The cat’s immune response then flares up in the cat’s airways by releasing different chemicals in the blood known as immune mediators which result in a variety of symptoms that can range from minor irritation to swelling.

One key immune mediator known as histamine plays a major role in cat allergy-induced asthma because it is a broncho-constrictor (which constricts small air tubes in a cat’s lungs) resulting in breathing difficulties.”

Signs of Feline Asthma

The telltale sign of feline asthma is difficulty with breathing. I want to highlight the other main signs of asthma in cats before I continue to help you either confirm or rule out this issue. Here’s a look:

  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Hacking
  • Coughing
  • Open-mounted breathing
  • Dripping eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Hunching the body close to the ground in an attempt to extend the neck

My advice is to talk to a vet if you notice any of these behaviors in your cat. They can do some blood tests, scans and allergy tests to get to the bottom of what’s happening.

You also want to rule out other causes that need immediate attention because feline asthma symptoms can overlap with some scary conditions like lungworm infestations, bronchitis, pneumonia and various parasites in the lungs.

Feline asthma is usually treated by vets with prescription corticosteroids and possibly bronchodilators. Besides those, reducing irritants like those in cat litter and using a humidifier in winters and dry environments can keep your cat comfortable.

Common Cat Litter – Dusty and Irritating!

Think of all the pouncing, shifting and moving of dust your cat does when she’s in her litter box. Your cat is actually kicking up potential allergens if she’s sensitive to dust.

What’s more, that dust will stay on her fur to trigger an asthma response long after she’s finished up in the litter box. Don’t forget that your cat will also be consuming the dust whenever she licks her fur.

What is it that makes dusty litter so irritating for cats? The big culprit is the crystalline silica that’s found in mainstream clumping clay cat litters. This common litter ingredient is actually classified as a lung carcinogen for humans.

Why You Need Low Dust Cat Litter

If you’re living with a cat, breathing silica dust in is really unavoidable because you’re cleaning the litter box, touching your cat and spending time in a house where your cat has tracked excess litter.

Dr. Javed again: “fortunately, there are many kinds of litter available in the market that are specifically made for cats that suffer from asthma. Dust particles, artificial fragrances, chemicals, and dyes present in normal cat litter can all trigger asthma which can lead to serious health complications.”

So you may want to consider switching to a low dust or dust free cat litter even if you or your cat don’t have asthma.

If you’re concerned about breathing in chemicals, it’s also important to pay attention to any fragrances used in cat litter. Cats and humans can very easily develop allergies to fragrance.

An allergy-sensitive cat can be in really bad shape if a dusty litter box is also packed with artificial fragrances. Any one my list of best litters for cats with asthma make a fine choice.


What Are the Different Type of Dust-Free Cat Litter Products?

Photo via Catza.net

How do you find cat litter that isn’t dusty? When looking for a dust-free alternative, the goal is to move away from clay. The reason is that clay is simply naturally dusty.

However, because clay is really practical for its clumping ability, low dust cat litter in clay options exist on the market. And yes, we reviewed these too.

But first, here are the three big dust-free alternatives to clay litter.

Pellet

Paper or wood pellet cat litter is the most authentically labeled “dust free” option. Pellet litter is also a very environmentally friendly choice because it’s typically made from 100-percent recycled paper or wood. Pellet litter is one of the easiest ways to stop litter from tracking because of its larger grain.

What We Liked:

  • Truly free of dust.
  • Decent odor control.
  • Doesn’t track like grainy litter does.

What We Didn’t Like:

  • Not all cats will take to this.
  • It takes longer to clean the litter box.

Natural Materials

There are litters made from natural materials like corn, plants, walnut shells, grains, and even coconut.

Be aware that brands may not be 100% all natural, and could contain chemicals that may trigger your cat’s allergies. The important thing is to test materials and brands for a reaction.

Natural materials may not be low dust cat litter because composition could differ from bag to bag. As a whole, however, you won’t get the “sand storm” that occurs with a new bag of most clay litters.

Pros:

  • Natural.
  • Very little dust.

Cons:

  • Fine grains could still irritate some very sensitive cats.
  • Finer natural materials track through the house.
  • Mixed results for odor control.

Silica

Silica gel is the same thing as crystallized cat litter. Its composition is similar to the little desiccant packets that you’ve probably encountered in product packaging. While dustless, it’s not chemical-free and could trigger a reaction in some cats.

Pros:

  • Low dust to none at all
  • Amazing drying properties

Cons:

  • Could be dangerous if consumed
  • Artificial chemicals

What is the Best Litter for Cats with Allergies?

The best litter for cats with allergies depends on your individual cat. Is the offender silica clay dust? Maybe it’s fragrances or another chemical. Use trial and error and determine the issue.

That being said, any of the above picks are considered the best hypoallergenic cat litter, as asthma can be classified as an allergic reaction.

Cats who are allergic to clay will happily use natural ÖKOCAT Wood or Paper Litter. If the culprit is fragrance with clay being okay, Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Respiratory Relief Cat Litter is a fine choice.


What is the Best Dust Free Cat Litter for Asthma?

In my personal opinion, Purina Yesterday’s News Non Clumping Paper Cat Litter or ÖKOCAT Non-Clumping Paper Litter are the ultimate dust free cat litter for asthma.

This is because they are both large pelleted and made of non clumping natural materials. instead of clay. Clay is naturally dusty and avoiding that is a priority. Second, larger pellets simply are not as dusty by their nature.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is cat litter bad for asthma?

Yes, cat litter that contains dust particles, chemicals or fragrances can trigger or exacerbate allergies and asthma. Cats can’t necessarily “escape” after they leave the litter box because litter dust gets trapped in their fur and paws.

Can breathing in cat litter harm you?

There’s no definite answer. What we do know is that the silica that is commonly used in cat litter is classified as a lung carcinogen for humans. We also know that exposure to cat litter can trigger asthma and allergic responses in both humans and felines.

Can cat litter cause respiratory problems in cats?

Yes, particles that are inhaled from cat litter can stimulate a cat’s immune response. This has been shown to constrict feline airways to make breathing difficult.

Can litter cause cat allergies?

It’s uncertain if cat litter actually causes cat allergies. It’s possible that the dust in litter simply triggers an allergy that was already there.

Exposure over time can create long-term immune responses that lead to chronic inflammation, breathing difficulties and health issues. Cats with allergies or asthma can have serious breathing issues when exposed to dust from litter.

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