As much as you love all of Oscar's cuddles, purrs and playful antics, his litter box is no fun. The dreaded cat potty is a necessary evil that allows your cat to live indoors. A good litter goes a long way to ease the chore of litter box cleaning.
Able to absorb 40 times its own weight, silica gel, or crystal, cat litter is the most absorbent kind of litter available. It's made of silica dioxide sand combined with oxygen and water. Since it can absorb so much liquid, the litter can last much longer than clay litter, up to a month with daily cleaning and stirring. Some brands are even biodegradable and flushable, making it a more eco-friendly option than clay litter. Silica litters tend to be virtually dust free, which is good for Oscar's breathing.
Crystal litter could make Oscar sick if he tries to eat it -- but he would have to make quite the meal out of his litter to get sick, and in small amounts the litter is safe. Once it reaches maximum absorbency, the crystal litter no longer holds urine, which may collect at the bottom of the litter box. You can prevent this by replacing the litter regularly. It doesn't clump, which means you can only scoop out solid waste. Perhaps it biggest drawback is that it is more expensive than most other alternatives.
If crystal litter is a bit out of your budget, alternatives abound. Eco-friendly options including wheat and corn absorb well. Wheat litter contains gluten that allow it clump tight and enzymes that naturally combat odor. If Oscar thinks his litter is kitty chow, don't worry -- wheat and corn litters are perfectly safe for him to eat. Traditional clay costs the least but requires the most upkeep and replacing, about once a week. Clumping clay litter can absorb its own weight in moisture, making it a good runner-up to crystal litter. Paper-based products, such as newspaper, won't track or produce dust when Oscar paws at them. Newspaper won't mask odor and needs to be replaced often, best only used short term, such as when Oscar is recovering from the big snip. Speak with Oscar's vet about what type of litter he recommends.
Price or absorbency shouldn't be your only considerations when choosing a cat litter. Think about what Oscar likes, too. He won't like anything if it feels funny under his paws. He'll probably prefer a litter that is fine grained and soft, such as wheat or some clay litters. If he doesn't like his litter, he may decide to think outside of the box. Even if you love the idea of crystal litter, Oscar may refuse to use it. Don't try to force him, just try to find something that can work for both of you.
- The Well Cat Book; Terri McGinnis
- VetInfo: The Pros and Cons of Crystal Litter
- House Cat: How to Keep Your Indoor Cat Sane and Sound; Christine Church
- PetMD: What Is in Cat Litter?