what is the best cat litter - cat sniffing a bag of premium clay clumping cat litter
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What Is the Best Cat Litter? Here's What the Data Says

Est. read time: 6 min.

Did you know that the choice of cat litter can significantly impact your cat's health and well-being? With so many different kinds on the market, it can be difficult to figure out what is the best cat litter. That’s why we decided to provide a simple, educational breakdown of the different types of cat litter out there. We hope that it's useful to you!

Why choosing the right type of cat litter matters

Maintaining a clean and comfortable litter box is essential for your cat's hygiene and happiness. Not only does the right cat litter contribute to a pleasant living environment, but it can also affect your cat's health. In fact, lack of cleanliness and house-soiling behavior are some of the most frequent reasons people consult a vet—and are also primary reasons for cat abandonment, according to another study.

In addition, numerous studies have shown a correlation between the type of cat litter used and the prevalence of respiratory issues and allergies in cats. Let's delve into the statistical evidence to understand these connections better.

Common types of cat litter

Before discussing the best cat litter, let's talk about the different types that are easily available.

Clay-clumping litter

clay clumping cat litter

Clay-clumping cat litter forms solid clumps when it comes into contact with moisture, making it easy to scoop out soiled litter. Since cat waste creates clumps, clay-clumping cat litter makes it easy to remove the soiled areas of litter only—rather than having to frequently replace all of the litter.

Silica gel cat litter

silica cat litter

This type of litter is made from small silica gel beads or crystals that absorb moisture and control odors. It is known for its long-lasting effectiveness and low dust.

Biodegradable cat litter

paper based cat litter

Corn, wheat, or paper-based, this type of litter often comes in pellet form. These litters don’t clump but absorb urine well—however, they are not the best option for odor control.

Wood pellet cat litter

wood pellet cat litter type

Made from sawdust pellets or wood chips, wood pellet cat litter provides a natural foresty scent and absorbs moisture directly in the pellets. This type of litter is also poor at trapping odors.

The best cat litter, according to research

So, what type of litter is the best? Extensive research by Virginie Villeneuve-Beugnet and Frederic Beugnet over multiple weeks highlighted that cats prefer clay-clumping litter and silica gel litter over wood pellets. In fact, only 1 in 18 cats chose to use wood-based pellets, and the research showed a preference for clay-clumping litter. 

cat preferences when it comes to types of cat litter - cats prefer clay litter in 53.8 percent of cases, silica litter in 42.5 percent of cases and wood pellets in 3.8 percent of cases showing a clear preference for clay clumping cat litter.

Data source: Field assessment of cats' litter box substrate preferences Table 3

According to the data collected in this study, cats show a clear preference for clay or silica litter over wood pellets. Considering the lack of odor absorption capacity of wood pellet cat litter, we can safely say that this type of litter is the bottom choice for the best cat litter.

Crystal litter vs clay litter

In addition, the second phase of the study focused on observing cats' preferences between silica cat litter (or crystal cat litter) and clay cat litter. During that phase, cats demonstrated a significant preference for clay cat litter compared to silica cat litter.

cat preferences between crystal cat litter vs clay clumping cat litter. clay clumping litter is prefered by the cat in 61 percent of cases

Furthermore, if your cat seems more comfortable with or prefers a certain type of cat litter, they may be more inclined to use the litter box more frequently. In that sense, the study showed that clay litter also promoted a higher number of feces than crystal cat litter. 

number of feces per type of litter - 51 for silica cat litter and 121 for clay granules

This could be due to the increased odor-control properties of clay-clumping cat litter, resulting in cats feeling more comfortable using clay-clumping litter rather than crystal cat litter. Clay-clumping litter has strong odor-neutralizing properties, which may be more satisfying to cats. If a cat is more satisfied with the odor control provided by the clay litter, they may be more willing to use the litter box regularly.

However, it is worth mentioning that cats are influenced by their environment, and changes in litter type or other aspects of the litter box setup can affect their behavior. During phase 2 of the study, 7 cats had previously used clay-clumping litter versus only 3 cats already using silica cat litter. The change itself could be influencing cats' litter box habits.

Conclusion: Clay-clumping litter is the best cat litter

a cat satisfied with clumping clay cat litter

At the end of the day, the best cat litter is the litter your cat will accept and prefer to use. As evidenced by the study above, many cats will have strong preferences regarding the type of litter they use—and clay-clumping litter is the one most chosen by our feline friends. 

In addition, clay-clumping litter features a stronger clumping action, forming solid clumps when it comes in contact with moisture and making it easy to scoop out and remove the soiled litter.

Clay-clumping litter also often has effective odor-control properties. The clumps trap and encapsulate urine, preventing it from spreading and releasing unpleasant odors. Many clay litters are also formulated with deodorizing agents to further control smells.

The best cat litter for odor control

Cats have strong aversions to certain smells. As much as you want to eliminate litter box odors, unscented cat litter is often preferable and may still have odor-neutralizing properties. 

Unscented cat litter made with natural ingredients is a convenient and reasonably priced solution to your otherwise unpleasant litter box room. Most of your basic odor-neutralizing cat litters will be labeled and apparent at the pet store.

Today, most major litter brands have a litter box odor control-friendly option. But you don’t necessarily need to quit using your basic bulk litter if that’s what’s been working for you and your cat—and what’s also been fitting into the budget (wink, wink). 

How to find a litter that your cat enjoys

But how do you find a litter that your cat also enjoys? That is a very good question because a cat unhappy with their litter box will directly result in a pet parent who’s unhappy with their cat. However, keeping your cat happy with the litter in the box isn’t as difficult as it may seem at first thought. We suggest using finer litter, as it is often more agreeable to cats.

Most importantly (and this may involve some trial and error, which is perfectly all right), once you’ve found a litter your cat enjoys, don’t repeatedly change the type of litter. Cats enjoy routine and can decide to do their business elsewhere if it is disturbed.