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How to choose the right cat litter

How to choose the right cat litter
by KatKin Team

Read time: 10 min

The world of cat litter can seem like a minefield. One minute you’re reading the back of pack trying to make sense of different terms, next minute you’re in a Google blackhole searching phrases like, what is the best cat litter? Which will work for my cat? Which is best for the planet? Who can help me figure this out?

We’ve been there. And although it might seem complicated at first, we can demystify things so you can make the best choice for your cat. 

Each litter has its own unique features and composition that might make it a better or worse fit for your cat’s needs. Generally speaking, there are seven different things you might want to consider when shopping for litter and, lucky you, we're going to explain each of them right here.

1. Does it absorb odours?

This one's important. When it comes to killing bad smells, the only truly effective way to do it is through absorption. This means how effectively your cat’s urine gets soaked up into the litter. 

No one likes bad smells. Some cat owners get tempted by scented litters which claim to fight odours, but the hardcore truth is you can’t fight a bad smell with another smell. You have to target the source.

Cat urine itself doesn’t actually stink. If you’ve ever had to clean up after a cat-accident, that might seem like a wild statement, but it’s true. Cat urine only begins to smell when it starts to break down. What happens is the urine produces ammonia and a molecule called 3-Mercapto-3-methylbutan-1-ol (MMB). Ammonia and MMB create the pungent, lingering odour that haunts any cat parent’s nightmares. 

The good news is, the more absorbent the litter, the more effective it is at stopping this process. Quick absorbing litters draw in the urine before it has a chance to stink up the place. So don’t focus on scent when you’re shopping. To fight smells, look out for high-absorbency.

2. How long does it last?

Another thing to think about is the length of time a litter will stay effective in the tray. This has an impact on maintenance and how often you’ll have to repurchase it. Some litters need changing more frequently than others. The length of time that a litter lasts usually depends on a combination of how good it is at clumping and how absorbent it is. 

Litter made from material that’s effective at clumping tends to last longer because removing any waste becomes very straightforward (the used bits of litter come together in ‘clumps’ easily and keeps the rest of the tray fresh). This means you won’t have to ditch the whole tray after your cat uses it. And as a bonus, many effective clumping litters are made from natural plant-based materials.

Litters with a good level of absorbency are also longer-lasting because the liquid gets drawn in quickly, keeping the rest of the tray fresh. As we said earlier, the more absorbent a litter, the more liquid it can hold. Make that your mantra. 

Some litters are considered ultra-absorbent. A common material for this type of litter is silica (sometimes referred to as crystal litter). Silica is a champion absorber because each crystal features lots of micropores which are created by slowly evaporating water and microcapillaries. These micropores absorb urine in just a few seconds, giving silica an absorption ratio of at least 130%. Ultra-absorbent can be an easy option because you don’t need to throw them away as often. Some you leave alone, others just need a regular stir until you’re due to replace it.

3. Is it easy to clean?

Despite how long-lasting your litter is, you'll still need to get down and clean the tray regularly to keep everything fresh for your cat. For this reason it’s worth thinking about how easy it is to clean different litters. Will it stick? Will it create a mess? Will it take me forever to clean?

Again, the answer to these questions will depend on the material the litter is made from. Litter made from substances like silica are known for their hassle-free cleanup and there are also litters made from alternative natural materials that clump easily, which you can simply remove from the tray.

Some clay-based litters are known to stubbornly stick to the bottom and sides of litter trays. They effectively turn into bits of cement and need a fair amount of elbow grease (and sometimes a chisel) to remove. We think life’s a bit too short for that, so maybe steer clear of dusty clay. 

4. Is it clumping or non-clumping?

To clump or not to clump. It’s a niche debate but it’s worth thinking about. You’ll find a sea of perspectives online but ultimately it comes down to your personal preference. This is what both sides are saying.

Team Clumping.

Clumps of used litter are easy to spot and remove. High-quality clumping litters tend to have a longer litter tray life because you ditch the clumps and keep the rest until the whole tray needs a freshen up. Eco-clumping natural litters are often biodegradable.

Team Non-clumping.

Non-clumping litters are arguably the easiest to clean because you simply scoop any poop then leave everything alone until you toss the litter and do your regular clean of the whole tray. Depending on the material used, they can sometimes be less dusty than clumping litters.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to clumping or non-clumping. The best option is the one that works for you and your cat.

5. How heavy is it?

These days cat litter is made from a huge variety of materials: natural, mineral, manmade and everything in between. But the weight of the material you choose has a huge impact on how easy it is to lug around and use. Cat litter often comes in large sacks that can end up being really heavy when filled with a weighty material. 

The heaviest litters you’ll find are made from clay or wood materials. The lightest ones are made from paper or silica. Bypass this problem by picking a delivery service like KatKin which brings your cat litter of choice to your door as often as you need it – without you having to break a sweat.

6. Is it soft on paws?

A litter might have all the benefits imaginable but if your cat decides not to pee on it, it’s not the winner. Underpaw comfort can play a huge factor in whether or not a cat wants to use their litter. That means choosing something that’s soft to the touch.

As any hardcore cat parent knows, cats can be ruthlessly picky. We can relate and it’s why we love them. Some don’t like hard pellets and prefer finer textures. Others can't stand gritty clay litter that sticks to their paws. Your cat will have their own preferences about this sort of thing – and they’ll let you know by either using or avoiding the litter. 

To play it safe, it’s generally worth looking for a texture that’s soft on paws. And if that fails, you might need to sit down with your cat and have a chat about toilet training.

7. Does it go the extra mile?

You might’ve seen the term ‘health-monitoring’ used to describe cat litter and wondered what it means. Health-monitoring is a smart feature designed to give cat parents peace of mind. It uses silica crystals in the litter to test the pH of your cat’s urine every time they use their tray.

Changes in the pH level in a cat’s urine can be an early indicator of potential illness. When a cat’s urine is too acidic, this could be an indication of kidney diseases or urinary crystals. If it’s too alkaline, a cat might have a UTI or bladder stones. The first cat litter in the UK to introduce it is KatKin’s Scoop Health.

How do the KatKin litters stack up?

Scoop Health

Scoop Health is a useful way of staying in tune with your cat’s urinary health. The colour-changing crystals in the litter are designed to give you an early heads-up when a trip to the vet might be needed. 

As a silica-based litter, Scoop Health is one of the most effective materials at trapping odours before they can spread around the house. This high absorbency also means it lasts longer than many other litters, giving you about a month of use per bag. Its fine-textured crystals are soft to the touch and easy to clean.  

Think of Scoop Health as your cat’s safety net in the litter tray. Catching potential problems sooner can save on vet bills and anxiety levels. 

For more information, check out Scoop Health here.

Scoop Planet

In a nutshell, Scoop Planet is cat litter that saves the world. We created it because we wanted to make a litter that sticks its middle finger up to the clay litters out there. 

Clay litter is strip-mined which causes pollution, loss of habitats and erosion of natural landscapes. Scoop Planet saves the environment by giving a second life to 100% natural plant-based leftovers rescued from the food industry.

As a natural litter, Scoop Planet is a fast-clumping hero. It’s very effective at eliminating odour and we also created a formulation that’s non-tracking (avoiding any rogue pawprints round the house). While clay litter will stick around for thousands of years and outlive us all, Scoop Planet is 100% biodegradable, leaving this world without a trace. We think that’s exactly what this planet needs.

To find out more, check out Scoop Planet here.

Still got litter questions?

You’ve done it. You successfully navigated the wild world of cat litter and found the right choice for you. Thought we’d round it all off with the answers to a couple of questions we get asked all the time. Check out our Litter Tray 101 for even more litter FAQs.

How many litter trays do I need?

Best practice is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. This makes sure everyone has enough space to access clean litter. The extra box is also useful for giving cats an alternative location when they need to go, avoiding the risk of accidents on your favourite rug. Because cat pee never quite comes out again, does it?

Do I even need to use cat litter?

You might be wondering why you can’t just let your cat go au naturel and use the toilet in the great outdoors while meowing the hills are alive with the sound of music.

Even if your cat loves being outside (and has that kind of vocal range), vets universally recommend giving them the options of an indoor litter tray. 

There are many situations where your cat might prefer to use a tray. Maybe it's raining outside and they want to stay dry; perhaps you're away from home and unable to let them out. Holding in urine is painful and unhealthy so it’s important to give your cat a hygienic way to empty their bladder indoors. 

So splash out on that litter tray… That way, you’ll avoid your cat splashing out all over the carpet.  

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