Can You Use Sand As Cat Litter?

Sand can be used a cost effective cat litter, but it does come with a number of quirks that affect its performance and daily practicality vs traditional cat litter.

Image via @placesmalaysia

I live in Hawaii so I’ve definitely had the thought to simply gather sand from a beach and use as a cat litter alternative instead of buying commercial litters. Now I know it’s not that simple, so join me as I share what I’ve learned.

In this article, we’ll explore those quirks of using sand, weigh its pros and cons, and you can decide if it’s the next natural cat litter for you!

Pros of Sand For Cat Litter Alternative

It’s Ecofriendly

I can’t stress enough how eco-friendly sand is. Unlike traditional clay litter, which often ends up in landfills, sand is a natural resource that doesn’t harm the environment.

It’s also biodegradable, meaning it won’t contribute to landfill waste, and it’s a step towards a more environmentally conscious pet care routine. For those of us striving to reduce our carbon pawprint, sand is a commendable option vs other commercial cat litters.

Cats Love It

Your felines will love the feeling of clean sand! Many cats prefer the texture of soft sand under their paws to the feel of conventional litter. Cats have a natural affinity for sand due to its soft and fine texture, reminiscent of their natural outdoor environment.

It can be especially beneficial for cats with sensitivities or allergies. The familiarity of sand can make the litter box more inviting, encouraging proper usage and potentially reducing instances of inappropriate elimination.

Sand is Inexpensive

Sand won’t break your bank. It’s cheaper than most commercial cat litters on the market (depending on the type of litter you purchase) and a budget-friendly alternative to many commercial clay litters, making it an attractive option especially for multi-cat households.

However, it’s important to consider the potential increased frequency of changing the sand compared to clumping litters, which might affect overall cost effectiveness.


Believe me when I say, it absorbs well. Sand has excellent absorbency capabilities, helping to keep your kitty’s litter box clean and dry.

This absorbency can help in reducing odors and makes it easier to spot and remove soiled areas, contributing to a more hygienic litter box experience for your cat. 

Easily Accessible

It’s easy to get your hands on some sand (although it’s not hard to find regular cat litter either). You can find it at various places such as hardware stores, garden centers, or even the beach!

The ease of access means you can readily replenish your supply, ensuring that your cat’s litter box is always adequately filled and well-maintained. But remember – if getting sand from natural environments, be sure to know of the environmental and legal implications

No Scents or Anything Artificial

The lack of artificial scents and chemicals makes it a safe choice for our feline friends with sensitive noses and skin. The absence of synthetic can make the litter box more appealing to cats, as some may be deterred by the strong odors of scented traditional litters. 

Cons of Sand As A Cat Litter Substitute

Lack of odor control

This one could be a dealbreaker for some folks. Compared to other types of cat litter, sand isn’t as effective at controlling odors from waste.

Unlike some commercial litters designed to mask or neutralize unpleasant smells, sand can allow odors to permeate the surrounding area. This can lead to a smelly litter box and less-than-pleasant environment for both the cat and the owner.

Sand Is Non-clumping

Here’s another downside: sand is a non-clumping litter. This means you’ll have a harder time scooping out urine spots since they’ll spread throughout the box instead of forming clumps like they would with clay-based litters.

It makes it difficult to segregate and remove soiled sand, leading to a less hygienic environment for your cat. This can result in the entire litter box needing more frequent changes, which can be time-consuming.


It gets everywhere! It can stick to cat paws and fur, leading to tracking throughout the house. This can result in additional cleaning efforts to maintain a tidy living space.

Placing a mat under the litter box can help in reducing the spread of sand, but be prepared for some level of messiness when opting for sand as a litter alternative.

Potential Parasites and Bacteria

Last but not least: health risks. Outdoor-sourced sand may contain harmful parasites or bacteria that could affect both felines and humans. This can pose health risks to your cat and potentially lead to infections. Always ensure to sterilize it properly before use!

This is why I recommend using sanitized or commercial sand to avoid any health risks to cats and humans.

How to Use Sand In Your Cat’s Litter Box

Swapping out traditional cat litter for sand might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. It can actually be quite easy if you know what steps to follow.

Sanitize The Sand

(To avoid this step, commercially available play sand is usually pre-sanitized and may be a hassle-free option.)

First off, it’s crucial that the sand is sanitized before use. This will prevent your feline friend from being exposed to harmful substances like bacteria, contaminants, or parasites.

How do you sanitize sand? It’s simple! Spread the sand on a baking sheet and bake it in an oven at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes. Follow all precautions for fire safety and remember, always allow the sand to cool completely before placing it in your cat’s litter box.

Address Lack of Odor Control

Handling odor control when using sand as cat litter can be challenging since sand doesn’t have the same odor-absorbing qualities as conventional cat litter.

To tackle this issue, I recommend sprinkling baking soda underneath the layer of sand. Baking soda works wonders as natural deodorizer, absorbing urine odor and more. 

Regularly removing soiled sand and maintaining cleanliness are also important in managing odors. Consider placing the litter box in a well-ventilated area to allow any odors to dissipate more readily.

Add a Litter Mat

I’d also suggest investing in a good quality litter mat.

You see, unlike traditional clay-based litters that clump together when wet, sand tends to stick more readily to your cat’s paws and track around your home. A sturdy mat placed under and around their box can help reduce tracking,

Regularly clean the mat to maintain hygiene. This can be a simple yet effective solution to keep your home cleaner and more sand-free.

Proper Litter Box Set up

Lastly, let’s talk about proper setup of the actual litter box itself when using sand as cat litter.

You may want to aim for less depth compared with regular litters – between one and two inches deep should suffice! Why so shallow? Well, cats naturally prefer digging shallow holes when they’re outdoors in sandy areas.

(However, your cat may prefer deeper sand to dig and bury their waste, so it’s helpful to observe individual cats’ preferences and adjust the sand depth accordingly.)

Place the litter box in a quiet, accessible location where your cat feels secure and comfortable. Avoid placing it near their food and water bowls. Regularly clean the box, removing soiled sand daily and changing the supply of sand completely at least once a week, or more often if needed.

Maintaining a Clean Litter Box with Sand

This deserves its own section! To keep your cat’s litter box fresh and sanitary, it’s vital to scoop out waste daily. Yes, that means every single day and possibly after every single use. This will prevent odors from building up and make your feline friend much happier.

Now onto cleaning the entire box itself – something that should be done once a week if we’re talking sand as litter material.

Dump out the old sand in an outdoor trash bin (not down your sink or toilet!) then wash the empty litter box thoroughly with warm water and mild soap before drying it completely. Once dry, fill it back up with fresh play sand.

Other Natural Cat Litter Alternatives

You might be wondering if sand is the only natural cat litter option available. Well, I’m here to tell you there are many other eco-friendly types of litter that can help maintain your feline friend’s hygiene without harming the environment.

Wood Pellets

Wood pellets are a sustainable and biodegradable cat litter alternative. They are made from compressed sawdust and are highly absorbent, effectively controlling odors. When soiled, wood pellet litters break down into sawdust, making it easier to spot clean.

Wood Litter or Shavings

Wood litter or shavings can be another natural alternative. They are biodegradable and usually have a pleasant, natural scent that can help in controlling odors.

However, the texture and size of the shavings should be considered, as larger, rougher shavings may be uncomfortable for cats. Opt for untreated, fine shavings to ensure comfort and safety.

Potted Soil

Potted soil can mimic the natural environment of cats, making it an instinctive choice for kitty litter. It’s biodegradable and can be a cost-effective option.

However, it can be messy and may not control odors as effectively as other alternative litter types. It’s essential to use organic, fertilizer-free soil to ensure safety and avoid any chemical exposure to your cat.


Recycled newspaper can be used as a cat litter alternative. It’s eco-friendly, biodegradable, and soft on cat paws.

Shredded newspaper can be used directly, or you can opt for commercially available recycled newspaper pellets. While it’s a sustainable option, it may not be as absorbent as other alternatives.

Walnut Shells or Coconut Coir

Litter made from walnut or coconut shells are innovative and sustainable cat litter alternatives. They are biodegradable and have natural odor-controlling properties. These can be a good option for cats with sensitivities as they are usually free from additives and chemicals.

Remember though, every cat is different so what works best for one might not work as well for another. Trial and error could prove necessary until you find your – or rather your cat’s – preferred choice!

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