Let’s be honest, while we love our cats, no one likes cleaning the litter box. The invention of clay litter has certainly made it an easier and slightly less miserable task thanks to its clumping action. But did you know that the bentonite clay used to make clay cat litter clump is actually harmful to cats if ingested?
The last thing you want as a loving and responsible pet owner is to unintentionally harm your cat’s health. Luckily, there are alternatives to clay litter that are just as effective at doing their job while being less harmful to your cat’s health.
However, when switching to a different cat litter, the number of choices you have may seem overwhelming. What kinds of things should you be looking for in a non-clay cat litter anyway? We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best non-clay cat litters, complete with reviews, to help make your decision a bit easier.
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2022
The 10 Best Non-Clay Cat Litters
1. Tidy Cats Pure Natural Cat Litter – Best Overall
|Litter Material:||Cedar, Pine, and Corn|
|Scented:||Natural cedar and pine|
Cat litter doesn’t have to be made from clay in order to clump and make cleanup easier. Tidy Cats Pure Natural Cat Litter is proof of that. This litter is made from 99% natural ingredients including cedar, pine, corn, and guar gum. Being made from natural corn cob helps to absorb both odors and liquids. Pine and cedar provide a natural fragrance that helps to absorb odors, while guar gum provides clumping action to the cat litter.
Together, all of these ingredients combine to create an effective dust-free and highly absorbent cat litter. Plus, you don’t need a special litter box to use it. The downside to this litter is that some cats may not want to use it if they don’t like the smell. But all things considered, there are plenty of good reasons as to why we recommend this product as the best overall non-clay cat litter.
2. Arm & Hammer Naturals Cat Litter – Best Value
|Litter Material:||Corn fibers, baking soda, plant extract|
Arm & Hammer Naturals Cat Litter is made primarily from corn fibers, baking soda, and plant extracts. Once again, the corn fibers provide excellent absorbency. But because of the added baking soda, this cat litter is also two times more absorbent than clay cat litter. Baking soda plus plant extracts help with clumping as well. Mineral oil helps to control the amount of dust produced by this cat litter, keeping the amount of dust low. However, if you’ve ever used baking soda to clean with, you know that it can be quite dusty, so this litter isn’t completely dust-free.
Another downside to this litter is that it is scented with an artificial fragrance. While they do provide excellent odor control, artificial fragrances may irritate cats that have sensitive skin. Therefore, some cats may not like to use this particular litter. Overall, this litter is extremely affordable, coming out at slightly less than one dollar per pound. It’s perfect for multi-cat households that go through a lot of litter. That’s why we’ve rated it the best non-clay cat litter for the money.
3. Smart Cat Natural Clumping Cat Litter – Premium Choice
|Litter Material:||Grass seed|
Smart Cat All-Natural Clumping Litter is made from 100% grass seed and is entirely free of harmful chemicals that could negatively affect the health of your cat. It’s also clumping, so scooping the litter is incredibly easy and clean-up is a breeze. The way that it works is that the grass seed clumps together when it gets wet, helping to trap odors in the process. It is unscented, so there will be no fragrances that could potentially irritate your cat or steer him away from using the litter box.
One of the best things about this cat litter is that because it clumps so effectively, you can go for a couple of months without having to completely change the litter. Just top it off every time you change it. And, the formula is incredibly lightweight, so there’s no heavy lifting required when you do change it. It’s also dust-free, which means that the risk of the litter causing respiratory harm to you or your cat is low. The only downside to this litter is the price. It is on the expensive side, which is why it is listed as the best premium choice.
4. Naturally Fresh Walnut Cat Litter Herbal Attraction – Best for Kittens
|Litter Material:||Walnut Shells|
Sometimes older cats are hesitant to use a different type of litter if it isn’t what they’re used to. But if you are raising a cat from kittenhood, you can use pretty much any type of litter you want to from the get-go because your kitten won’t know anything different. Of course, you first have to get your kitten to use the litter box, and that’s why Naturally Fresh Walnut Cat Litter is perfect for the job.
It’s made from walnut shells and formulated with a blend of herbs that are proven to draw a cat’s attention. It’s actually made for litter training, which becomes easier if you can attract your kitten to the litter box naturally. Although this walnut cat litter is unscented, you don’t have to worry about odors because it is three times more absorbent of odors and liquids than clay litter.
It also clumps so that it is really easy to clean. Being made from walnuts means it is biodegradable upon disposal. The one downside is that it isn’t completely dust-free. However, the dust it does produce is free from toxic silica, so it shouldn’t cause respiratory harm.
5. Ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter
|Litter Material:||Wood pellets|
Ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Cat Litter is made from miniature wood pellets that don’t stick your cat as easily as clay does. Wood fibers also help to absorb odors and liquids due to enzymes that are naturally found in them, so there is no need for any artificial fragrances in this cat litter formula. The wood fibers also clump together upon absorption of the liquid, making scooping out the soiled litter super easy and quick.
What’s even better is that the wood pellets are de-dusted during production. That means that no dust is produced by this formula when cleaning or changing the litter. Another bonus is that for people who support eco-friendly products, this cat litter is both biodegradable and compostable. It won’t harm the environment because it decomposes cleanly. The downside to this litter is that finicky cats may not like the texture. You may have to pour a little at a time into their existing litter in order to get them used to the texture.
6. sWheat Scoop Clumping Cat Litter
So far, on this list, we’ve mentioned cat litters made out of corn, pine, cedar, and even walnuts. Now, let’s add wheat to this list as well. This sWheat Scoop Clumping Cat Litter is another 100% natural litter that is made from plant-based ingredients, making it a highly absorbent alternative to clay litter and effective at controlling odors without the need for added artificial fragrances. It does this by taking advantage of the enzymes that are naturally found in wheat. These enzymes work to help the litter clump together while trapping odors inside the clump.
The plant-based ingredients also mean that this litter is biodegradable and flushable, so cleanup is super easy and environmentally friendly as well. This cat litter also supports farmers who grow the wheat used to make it. However, it is a bit pricey compared to other plant-based cat litters, especially for the quantity that you get. Although it works well for multi-cat households, it may not be worth the expense due to how often you’ll have to change it.
7. Purina Yesterday’s News Non-Clumping Cat Litter
Purina Yesterday’s News Non-Clumping Cat Litter is made from recycled paper. You may be thinking that paper sure is a weird material to use for cat litter and that it couldn’t possibly be that absorbent. But the paper is made into pellets and actually absorbs more than three times the liquid and odors that clay litter does. And because it’s made from paper, this litter is also dust-free. That means that you don’t have to worry about any potential respiratory issues caused by scooping the litter or breathing in any foul odors.
There are a couple of downsides to this litter. The first is that it is non-clumping and the second is the color. If you’re wondering why the color of the litter would be a problem, it actually coincides with the non-clumping issue. For starters, non-clumping litter is already more difficult to clean because you can’t just scoop it right out. But combine that with the fact that the litter has a dark color to it, and it’s going to make it really hard to find the soiled areas. But, if you’re looking for a more eco-conscious litter that is also safe for your cat, this one fits the bill.
8. Arm & Hammer Feline Pine Non-Clumping Cat Litter
|Litter Material:||Pinewood, baking soda|
|Dust-Free:||Low to no dust|
Feline Pine Non-Clumping Cat Litter is a more natural alternative to clay cat litter. It contains wood pellets made from pine that aren’t harmful to cats, unlike bentonite clay. Being made from pine also gives it a natural but not overpowering pine scent. It also means there are no artificial fragrances that could irritate a cat that has sensitive skin. It’s also highly absorbent due to the wood and baking soda.
The lightweight formula weighs up to 50% less than clay cat litter, so it isn’t too cumbersome when you have to change the litter out completely. It also produces low to virtually no dust when changing it out. And since it is made from natural materials, it is biodegradable so that you can dispose of it in an eco-friendly way. The downside is that it doesn’t clump, so it isn’t as easy to scoop out the litter if you use it with a normal litter box. Plus, some cats may be hesitant to use it due to the texture and it being not what they’re used to.
9. Naturally Fresh Walnut Cat Litter – Alpine Meadow Scent
|Litter Material:||Walnut Shells|
We raved about the Herbal Attraction version of this cat litter being great for litter training kittens, but there’s a reason that the alpine meadow scented version is so far down on this list. On a positive note, this cat litter is just as functional as the other version that we mentioned. It is made from walnut shells, so it is a plant-based cat litter that works well for controlling odors. It also clumps for easy cleaning. Due to the amount of odor control this litter provides, it is geared toward multi-cat households.
However, there’s a reason that it is so great at controlling odors. Even though it is said to be all-natural and free from chemicals, it does have an “alpine meadow” scent. Walnuts don’t produce that scent naturally, so there must be at least some artificial fragrance or perfume in the formula. The dust-free formula that is free of silica dust shouldn’t cause any respiratory issues. But the artificial fragrance could cause problems for both humans and cats that have allergies or skin sensitivities to fragrances. That’s why this particular litter is ranked ninth out of 10.
10. Fresh Step Scented Non-Clumping Crystal Cat Litter
|Litter Material:||Crystal Silica|
One type of non-clay cat litter that hasn’t been mentioned so far is crystal cat litter. That’s because although it is less toxic to your cat than clay litter, there aren’t many benefits that outweigh the disadvantages. For starters, Fresh Step Scented Non-Clumping Crystal Cat Litter does have a unique look to it. It’s also highly absorbent of liquids and odors and can lock in odors for longer than other cat litters can.
However, the reason that it is “five times better” at locking in odors is that it is heavily scented with artificial fragrance. It is not completely dust-free. Instead, it is labeled “low dust.” But any dust produced along with the fragrance is not good for people or cats who already suffer from respiratory issues. Plus, it’s non-clumping, so it isn’t the easiest to clean. It’s also pricey, considering the small size of the packaging.
Buyer’s Guide: Picking the Best Non-Clay Cat Litters
Choosing the right cat litter can make your cats happy and make your life a lot easier. Choosing the wrong litter can make your life a lot more difficult if it doesn’t work out for you and your cat. If you’ve read this list thus far, then you’ve probably decided that clay litter is not for you and you want to make a switch. But how can you decide which type of non-clay litter to buy? Here are some factors to take into consideration.
Clumping or Non-Clumping Litter?
Remember that cat litter doesn’t have to be made of clay in order to clump. As evidenced by this list, there are plenty of non-clay cat litters that have clumping action. But there are also some that don’t. Deciding upfront which one you want can make your cat litter decision a lot easier.
Clumping cat litter is preferred by most people because it is easier to clean. You can simply scoop the litter out of the box. However, clumps can take up a lot of room in the litter box. If you have multiple cats or even one cat that uses the litter box a lot, you may have to clean the litter box every day.
Non-clumping litter is not as easy to clean because you have to sift through the litter to find the soiled areas. With some non-clumping litters, especially wood pellets, they dissolve into sawdust which settles to the bottom of the box. That means that you either have to buy a special sifting litter box or remove all the clean litter in order to reach the soiled litter.
Ultimately, whether to choose clumping or non-clumping litter should be a prime consideration when choosing littler. Think about how much time you have to spend cleaning the litter box and whether you want to buy a special litter box before making your final decision.
Scented or Unscented?
There’s nothing wrong with scented litter. Usually, scented litter can help mask odors better than unscented litter. However, the problem comes in when the litter is scented using artificial fragrances, as these can cause problems in cats that have skin sensitivity and can even trigger allergies in humans.
But some cats may not like the smell of naturally scented litter, such as litter made with pine or cedar. If your cat is already finicky about the type of litter he uses, or you or your cat have respiratory issues or skin sensitivities, it’s best to opt for unscented litters. Unscented litters typically have some kind of plant extract in them to help absorb and control odors.
Pellets or Granules?
Finally, you need to decide whether or not you want your litter to be made of pellets or granules. Pellets usually don’t clump, but there are some exceptions. They are typically made of wood or paper, are biodegradable, and are more eco-friendly. Granules usually do clump (but again, there are exceptions), and can be made from many different things including plant-based materials or silica crystals.
Granules are more likely to stick to the bottom of your pet’s feet and get tracked through the house more easily. Pellets aren’t as likely to get tracked through the house. A lot of pellets also don’t fit through the sifter of the litter scoop, whereas granules do. Neither one is necessarily a bad thing. But consider that if you have non-clumping granule litter, it’s not going to be as easy to clean because some of the soiled litter won’t stay in the scoop.
Switching to a non-clay cat litter can be overwhelming considering all of the choices that are out there. Of course, you want what’s best for your pet, so hopefully, these reviews helped you to make a decision that both you and your cat can agree on.
The best overall non-clay cat litter is the Tidy Cats Pure Natural Cat Litter due to its plant-based ingredients, clumping action, and price. The best value non-clay cat litter is Arm & Hammer Naturals due to being great for multi-cat households and being low in price considering how much product you get. Finally, the best premium cat litter is Smart Cat All-Natural Clumping Litter due to being high-quality, made of natural ingredients, and being lightweight and easy to clean.
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Featured Image Credit: Yuliya Alekseeva, Shutterstock