Cat Litter Alternatives

Photo: @tabbyandtuxedocat

Traditional clay-based litters on the market leave much to be desired. They’re dusty, heavy to carry home from the store, and not exactly eco-friendly. 

Lucky for us cat parents who want options, there’s a whole world of cat litter alternatives out there. From recycled paper pellets to natural wood shavings or even coconut – these options have shown me that it’s possible to maintain a clean litter box and happy cat, while avoiding clay. 

But switching from traditional litter isn’t just about going green or health. Many alternative litters offer benefits like superior odor control and easier cleanup. In this article, we’ll explore some of these options in depth.

Why Consider Alternatives to Cat Litter

Here are common reasons why a cat parent would make the switch. 

Health Reasons

There are health benefits of switching from traditional clay-based litters. Have you ever noticed the dust cloud that forms when you pour out conventional litter?

That’s silica dust, and it’s not just unpleasant – it can also lead to respiratory issues in both cats and humans. Natural litters such as pine, corn or wheat-based litters produce far less dust.

These types also tend to be more hypoallergenic, reducing the risk of allergic reactions. Clay litter is also often heavily perfumed, which may be a trigger for asthma, or just be too overwhelming.

Environmental and Sustainability Reasons

Sustainability is one buzzword that’s been gaining traction in discussions around cat litter alternatives. And rightly so. Traditional clay-based litters aren’t doing our planet any favors.

They’re strip-mined (a process with significant environmental impact), and they end up in landfills where they don’t break down easily. They’re also non-biodegradable meaning once they hit the landfill; they stay there indefinitely!

On the other hand, biodegradable options like recycled paper or wood pellets offer a much greener solution.


Lastly but certainly not least – cost savings! While some natural litter alternatives may seem pricier initially their longevity often makes them a more economical choice in the long run.

For instance, wood pellets absorb moisture exceptionally well and some are even compostable, saving you those frequent trips to dispose of used litter.

Cat Litter Alternatives

With so many different cat litter alternative options available, it’s easy to find one that suits both you and your cat.


Why consider newspaper as an alternative to cat litter? Well, first off, it’s eco-friendly. With the world leaning more and more towards sustainability these days, using recycled paper products like newspapers is a step in the right direction. 

Another perk of going the newspaper route is that it’s super cheap. Store-bought cat litter can sometimes put quite a dent in your pocket. Homemade cat litter like newspapers on the other hand? They’re often freely available or come at minimal costs.

Now let me give you some tips on how to use newspapers effectively as cat litter:

  • Shred them into small pieces: A shredder can help with this task.
  • Mix with baking soda: This will aid in controlling odors. Newspaper has no odor controlling abilities. 
  • Change regularly: Since newspapers aren’t as absorbent as traditional litters, frequent changing is necessary to keep things clean.

Paper Pellets

Paper pellets, are a popular alternative to traditional clay-based cat litter. They’re natural and fairly simple to use, which makes them an appealing choice for many pet owners.

Paper pellets are typically made from recycled newspaper or shredded paper. It’s a win-win situation – we’re simultaneously reducing landfill waste and providing our feline friends with a safe and comfortable toilet solution.

These pellets are biodegradable unlike their clay counterparts that can take years to decompose in the environment.

I really appreciate how dust-free this type of paper litter is, since the pellets are pretty large. You won’t need a litter mat anymore! The paper cat litter pellets also absorb moisture effectively, but they may not clump at all or as tightly as some other types of litter do.

While price varies based on brand and location, paper pellet litters are often less expensive than conventional clay litter.

Wood Pellets

For another environmentally friendly cat litter alternative, wood pellets from pine or fir, might just be your answer. They’re made from compressed sawdust and are both biodegradable and compostable. Plus, they’re incredibly absorbent.

What makes wood pellets stand out is their natural ability to control odor. Unlike traditional clay-based litters that can sometimes smell pretty awful or way too scented, pine pellets give off a fresh, natural scent.

And when it comes to cleaning up after your feline friend, you’ll find that these little nuggets of wood break down into sawdust when wet, making them easy to sift and dispose of.

Now let’s talk cost-effectiveness: A bag of pine litter generally lasts longer than most other types because it absorbs so much liquid. That means less frequent changes and more money in your pocket.


Another popular option is silica gel litter. It’s made from tiny, porous granules of synthetic silica gel – yes, the same kind found in those small packets you find inside new shoes or electronics.

Silica gel litter has some unique characteristics that set it apart from other types of cat litter. For one, it’s incredibly absorbent – not just soaking up liquids, but actually trapping odors as well. 

When compared with traditional cat litter, silica gel has a much lower dust output because of their large grain. This is especially beneficial for households where someone (human or cat) suffers from allergies or respiratory issues.

However, there are two sides to every coin and this holds true for silica too:

  • Some cats might not prefer the texture of silica granules under their paws.
  • Silica is generally more expensive than regular clay litters.
  • If ingested in large quantities (though this is rare), it can cause harm to your pet.

Wood Shavings

Wood shavings are another alternative that I’ve found to be quite effective as a cat litter substitute. They’re not only environmentally friendly but also relatively inexpensive.

Due to their natural properties, wood is able to soak up moisture effectively and control odors reasonably well. However, it’s worth noting that compared to commercial cat litters, wood shavings may need more frequent changing.

One thing I love about using wood shavings is how easily compostable they are. If you have a garden at home or access to composting facilities in your community, this could be an excellent way for you to manage waste while reducing your carbon paw-print. 

But there’s always two sides to every coin – here are few drawbacks I’ve noticed with using wood shavings:

  • Some cats may not like the texture or smell.
  • It could potentially cause splinters (although rare).
  • The lack of clumping may make cleaning less straightforward.

Wheat or Corn

Wheat and corn litter are two natural alternatives gaining popularity among pet owners.

With wheat litter. What makes them stand out is their natural odor control capability. They’re often made from ground wheat, which has enzymes that help neutralize odors. Moreover, they clump well when your cat uses the litter box – making clean-up easier for you!

Corn cat litter is biodegradable and flushable just like wheat-based ones but pack a little extra punch in terms of absorbency. Plus, if you’ve got a kitty with a sensitive nose, corn-based litter might be the way to go. It tends to produce less dust than other types of litter.

In terms of cost-effectiveness though, it can vary quite a bit depending on brands and where you shop. That being said both options generally fall in the mid-range price category.

There’s one potential downside to bear in mind though – pests! Yes! If not stored properly both kinds could attract bugs or rodents due to their organic nature.

Coconut Husks

Coconut husks, or coir as it’s also known, are an abundant resource and repurposed into a variety of products – one of them being natural cat litter.

It’s remarkable absorbency is what sets it apart from traditional clay-based litters. In fact, coir can absorb up to 10 times its weight in water! This makes for excellent odor control because it traps the ammonia smell associated with cat urine.

  • Superb Absorbency
  • Excellent Odor Control

Another advantage is that coconut husk litter doesn’t produce dust like regular litter does when poured out or scratched at by kitty claws.

Moreover, since coconuts are grown the world, we’re not depleting any precious resources by using their husks for our cats’ needs. This makes coconut husk cat litter an environmentally friendly choice!

In terms of cost-effectiveness too, coconut coir doesn’t disappoint. While the initial investment may be higher compared to regular clay litters, thanks to its high absorbency rate you’ll find yourself replacing it less frequently which can save money over time.

Walnut Litter

Walnut cat litter is derived from the shells of walnuts which would otherwise go to waste, it reduces landfill waste significantly. Moreover, its production requires less energy compared to traditional clay or silica-based litters.

The advantage of walnut cat litter lies in its excellent odor control properties. The natural oils found in walnut shells help neutralize unpleasant smells effectively – letting me breathe easy when I’m home with my feline friends.

But there are also downsides to consider. The dark color of the litter may make it hard to tell what is soiled litter while scooping. Also, walnut shell granules are softer than clay or crystals on your kitty’s paws, so they might track around more due to their light weight.


Tofu cat litter is made from food-grade soybean residue – a product left over from tofu production. It’s natural and contains no synthetic additives or chemicals that could harm your feline friend.

But here’s the part you’ll love: this type of litter is excellent at controlling odors. The soybeans have a naturally sweet smell that can mask any unpleasant scents.

There are several reasons why folks are switching to tofu cat litter:

  • Biodegradable: Tofu litter breaks down easily in nature and doesn’t contribute to landfill waste.
  • Safe: No harmful dust or chemicals mean it’s safe for cats and humans alike.
  • Easy Cleanup: Tofu clumps together when wet, making scooping easy.

However, there are a few downsides too:

  • Pricey: Tofu cat litter tends to be more expensive than traditional commercial litter.
  • Availability: While growing in popularity, tofu cat litters may still be hard to find.

Horse Bedding Pellets

Yes, that’s right – horse bedding pellets, the stuff made for our equine friends can also be a fantastic solution for your feline’s litter box.

A primary reason why horse pellets make an excellent substitute for kitty litter is their incredible absorbency. These pellets are designed to soak up horse urine, which is significantly more voluminous than what your average housecat produces. 

This type of bedding is typically made from compressed sawdust or pine shavings, and because they’re used in stables, they’re generally free of harmful chemicals. 

What really seals the deal here is the cost-effectiveness of this alternative. Horse bedding pellets usually come in large bags priced considerably lower than commercial cat litters. For instance:

Average Cat Litter40 lbs$20
Horse Bedding Pellets40 lbs$6

You see? You can save quite a bit using this alternative! Plus, since those bags are so big, you’ll find yourself making fewer trips to buy replacement cat litter.

Chicken Feed

Chicken feed can be a very viable natural litter option for those looking for environmentally friendly and cost-effective cat litter substitutes. It’s actually quite practical.

The texture and composition of these feeds are similar to some clumping litters available in the market. It forms hard clumps when wet, making cleanup easy and efficient.

Moreover, chicken feed is biodegradable and compostable which makes it greener choice compared to traditional clay-based litters. Plus, it’s less dusty than many other types of litter out there.

When it comes to cost-effectiveness, I think you’ll appreciate the savings too. A 50-pound bag costs around $15-20 depending upon the brand – a fraction of what most name-brand cat litters will set you back.

There are downsides though.

If not promptly cleaned up, chicken feed can give off a slightly sour smell once wet because remember: It’s essentially grain meant for chickens so it starts fermenting when wet! Additionally, some cats might not appreciate the change due to different textures or smells.


Sand might seem like an odd alternative to cat litter, but there are actually quite a few reasons why this option could make sense for some of us.

The savings with sand can be significant compared to commercial cat litters. A big bag of sand can typically last longer and cost less than its store-bought counterparts. Sand will also make a good emergency cat litter if you ever run out. 

Unlike clay-based litters which often involve environmentally damaging processes, sand is plentiful and naturally occurring. Plus, when it’s time to dispose of used litter, many types of sand are biodegradable.

But what about those all-important practical considerations? Cats naturally enjoy digging in soft materials like sand so most will adapt pretty quickly. And while it doesn’t clump like some modern litters do, dry sand does absorb liquids and can be easily sifted clean with a regular scoop.

Of course there are downsides too:

  • Sand can get messy – unlike larger granules that stay put, fine grains of sand tend to stick to paws and travel far from the litter box.
  • Dust issues – especially if you’re using construction-grade stuff.
  • No odor control – unless you’re willing to mix in some baking soda for odor control.

Puppy Pads

Puppy pads are a good alternative for cat litter, particularly during the kitten years and in a cat carrier while traveling.

Puppy pads are highly absorbent. They’re made to handle little accidents from our canine friends, so they can definitely stand up against what your feline friend has to offer.

Plus, they’re usually infused with attractants that encourage pets to use them. While these are primarily aimed at dogs, many cats don’t seem to mind them either.

They are widely available and easy to dispose of. Simply roll it up and toss it in the trash when it’s used – no scooping required. This ease of use makes them a great choice if you’re on the road with your cat or just want a break from dealing with traditional litter.

But before you make the switch, let’s talk potential downsides. Some cats might not take kindly to this change in their routine. Unlike litter, which allows cats to dig and cover their waste (a natural behavior), puppy pads don’t provide this opportunity. Also worth noting: some owners have reported that strong odors might linger longer than they do with traditional litters.

Human Toilet

Yes, it’s exactly what you’re picturing in your mind right now. Your cat perched on the rim of your toilet seat doing their business like any other member of the household.

This method isn’t as far-fetched as it might initially sound. In fact, there are many cat toilet training kits available on the market designed specifically to help transition cats.

By gradually moving through stages, which usually involves a series of plastic trays filled with litter placed under the toilet seat, your cat can learn how to balance and aim directly into the bowl. That means:

  • No more scooping dirty cat litter
  • You’ll save money by not having to purchase kitty litter
  • It’s environmentally friendly

However, it’s important for me to note that while these benefits exist, they come alongside some potential drawbacks.

Firstly, teaching a cat new tricks isn’t always easy – particularly something so against their natural instincts. Patience is key and even then success isn’t guaranteed.

In addition, cats naturally dig and bury their waste – it’s an instinctive behavior linked with territory marking and avoiding predators. Denying them this natural inclination may lead to stress or behavioral issues down the line.

Lastly, remember that should you move house or travel with your pet frequently; each new toilet represents a new challenge for our furry friends which could cause distress.

Potting Soil

Using soil as litter is like going back to nature for cat! It should be easy to use, with an agreeable texture, even those who have never been outdoor cats (like my Maine Coon).

Potting soil is biodegradable and compostable making it a sustainable choice compared to traditional clay litters. It’s also generally less dusty. However, there are some aspects of potting soil that might make it less than ideal for some cat owners.

One major drawback is its ability to clump. Unlike most commercial cat litters, potting soil doesn’t form hard clumps when your cat urinates. This makes scooping more challenging and can lead to a dirtier litter box overall.

Another potential issue is tracking. Since potting soil is finer than most types of litter, there’s a higher chance that your kitty will track it around your home.

Lastly, let’s talk about odor control – one of the biggest concerns when choosing any type of cat litter. Unfortunately, potting soil doesn’t excel in this area either. Without added ingredients to mask or neutralize odors, you might find yourself dealing with unpleasant smells more frequently.

How to Transition Your Cat to New Litter

When introducing a new type of litter, do it gradually over a period of one to two weeks. You must remember that cats are creatures of habit. Any sudden changes can cause them stress.

Start by mixing a small amount of the new litter into the old one. Gradually increase this amount every day while decreasing the old litter proportionately.

During this transition phase, keep an eye on your feline friend for any signs of discomfort or refusal to use the litter box. If such behaviors persist, it’d be best to consult with your vet.

Now let’s break down these steps in detail:

  1. Begin by adding 20% new litter: On the first day, fill the box with 80% old litter and 20% new litter.
  2. Increase gradually: Each day afterward, increase the percentage of new litter by about 10-20%. At the same time decrease the amount of old litter.
  3. Monitor their behavior: Pay attention if they’re using their box regularly or showing signs of distress.
  4. Consult your vet if needed: If resistance continues even after gradual replacement, seek professional advice.

I want to emphasize here that not all cats will respond in exactly the same way to different types of litters due to their unique preferences and sensitivities.

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