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Clumping vs Non-Clumping Cat Litter, Which Type Is Best? (Pictures & Info)

Ashley Bates

By Ashley Bates

clumping litter vs non clumping header

Buying a suitable cat litter can be challenging, especially if you don’t know what your kitty likes best. You and your cat will have to compromise when it comes to litter, as you might not both have the same ideas in mind.

It might be tough to know the differences between them due to the endless marketing you see. If you want to know about clumping or non-clumping litter, we went ahead and hashed out the details between the two.

Visual Differences

clumping vs non clumping
Image Credit: (L) Boibin, Shutterstock, (R) Natalia-Hrynovets, Shutterstock
  • Naturally forms to cat waste
  • Easy to sift through
  • Many varieties
  • Usually higher tracking
  • Absorbent
  • Easily scoopable
  • Higher dust
  • Does not form to cat waste
  • Difficult cleaning
  • Less variety
  • Usually lower tracking
  • Not absorbent
  • Not scoopable
  • Lower dust

Overview of Clumping Cat Litter:

Clumping litter is a convenient and popular selection among pet owners. Many would rave that it makes cleanup a more straightforward process. Of course, each cat litter brand is different, offering distinct perks or downfalls to consider.

As a whole, clumping litter can come in various scents, granule sizes, and textures. The litter adheres quickly to the waste, cupping around it to create a barrier. It helps to keep the waste from going throughout the litter box to keep the cat box fresher for longer.

Typically, these products contain a type of chemical called bentonite that causes this effect. However, you can buy chemical-free alternatives that have natural clumping properties.

Clumping litter is very good at containing and packing liquid, but it also usually has a higher dust factor since this type usually has small particles. This also leads to higher tracking, getting caught in your cat’s paws.

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The 5 Types of Clumping Cat Litter

Many common clumping cat litters include:

1. Clay Cat Litter

Cat's Pride Total Odor Control Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter in a litter box

Clay litter has been a popular choice for years because it is cheap and cats are naturally drawn to it. Many clay litters contain silica, which is a carcinogen—so always be careful and read the ingredients.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: High
  • Low Dust: Not typically
  • Tracking: High
  • Scooping: Easy

2. Wheat

sWheat Scoop Multi-Cat Unscented Clumping Wheat Cat Litter

Wheat is a trendy new litter type that is pet-friendly. Because of the small, absorbent granules, it adheres well to cat waste.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: Moderate
  • Low Dust: Yes
  • Tracking: High
  • Ease of Scooping: Moderate

3. Corn

Corn cat litter_Nynke van Holten_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Nynke van Holten, Shutterstock

Corn litter is a very safe alternative to many commercial litters. Using the power of crushed corn kernels, it naturally binds with cat waste for a natural approach to other litters.

  • Absorbency: Low to Moderate
  • Odor Control: Low
  • Low Dust: Yes
  • Tracking: Moderate
  • Scooping: Moderate

4. Tofu

tofu cat litter

Yes, you read that right—even tofu is a clumping cat litter option these days. It is comprised of bean dregs. Plus, it’s edible, so it is also perfectly safe for use as a kitty litter.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: High
  • Low Dust: Yes
  • Tracking: Low
  • Scooping: Easy

5. Wood

wood pellets in litter box_Maryia_K, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Maryia_K, Shutterstock

Wood pellets compact nicely to cat waste, making it an affordable and eco-friendly choice for clumping bedding. Plus, the pellets are usually very low tracking since the pieces are too big to squish between toe beans.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: Moderate
  • Low Dust: Yes
  • Tracking: No
  • Scooping: Easy

Let’s take a look at that breakdown. Here’s the good and bad of clumping cat litter:

  • Condenses around waste
  • Easy to sift and clean
  • Available in natural materials
  • Variety of selections
  • Prevents waste from settling on the box bottom
  • Some clumping litters contain chemicals or harmful additives

Overview of Non-Clumping Cat Litter:

Non-clumping cat litter doesn’t share the same makeup as clumping cat litter. Rather than having natural or chemical properties to cause the waste and litter to bind together, non-clumping cat litter just lets the urine soak down but not bind to the particles.

While this is not a problem for when your cat goes number two, urine can pose quite a different challenge. Sometimes, the pee sits on top, pooling up before slowly sinking through. And when you clean the litter box, you have to change the entire box since the urine-soaked particles mix together.

But non-clumping litters tend to be less dusty than some other selections, which is one major upside if you have a sensitive kitty. The granules tend to be larger, reducing small particles and airborne pieces as well.

The 5 Types of Non-Clumping Litter

Non-clumping litter comes in all sorts of pretty packages.

1. Clay

Clay cat litter
Image Credit: BW Folsom, Shutterstock

Clay is probably one of the most common cat litters in both clumping and non-clumping selections. A major downfall to non-clumping clay litter is that the urine does pool throughout, making it hard to sift through.

  • Absorbency: Low
  • Odor Control: Moderate
  • Low Dust: Typically
  • Tracking: Low
  • Scooping: Moderate

2. Pine

wood shavings cat litter_Yulia Gust_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Yulia Gust, Shutterstock

Pine wood shavings or granules have a wonderful smell, providing a fresh non-clumping litter. It’s usually very absorbent and odor-resistant.

  • Absorbency: Moderate
  • Odor Control: Moderate
  • Dust: Low
  • Tracking: Moderate
  • Scooping: Difficult

3. Recycled Materials

shredded paper
Image Credit: Indre Pau, Shutterstock

You can find all kinds of recycled options with non-clumping kitty litter. These selections are a terrific way to give thanks to the environment. However, it will need changed more often.

  • Absorbency: Moderate
  • Odor Control: Low
  • Dust: Low
  • Tracking: Low
  • Scooping: Difficult

4. Paper Pellets

actual photo Small Pet Select Recycled Pelleted Paper Litter

Paper pellets are a completely cat-safe and environmentally conscious option. However, paper litter saturates quickly, so it isn’t as long-lasting as some others.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: Low
  • Dust: Low
  • Tracking: Low
  • Scooping: Difficult

5. Silica Crystal Gel Litter

cats paws in crystal litter Natalia Hrynovets, Shutterstock
Image credit: Natalia Hrynovets, Shutterstock

Even though we mentioned earlier in the article that silica can be dangerous for cats, these litters are specially formulated to be completely safe for your kitty friends. It uses crystals to soak up liquids and fight odors.

  • Absorbency: High
  • Odor Control: Low
  • Dust: Low
  • Tracking: Low
  • Scooping: Difficult

Which Litter Is Best?

We have to be honest: out of the two, clumping cat litter takes the cake. It’s simply easier to clean, which allows you to stretch the litter further. Plus, cats are very clean creatures, which means they want their litterbox to be in tip-top shape.

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So, we learned that the biggest difference between clumping and non-clumping litter is just what it says—one clumps together moisture and waste, and the other doesn’t. We think that clumping litter works best because it is easier to scoop, super absorbent, and sanitary.

However, non-clumping litters are generally low-tracking with less dust, which is more desirable for some owners. Sometimes, you can get lucky and find the total package in any litter. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Which type of litter do you prefer?

Featured Image Credit: (L)Maryia_K, Shutterstock, (R) Yulia Gust, Shutterstock

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