There are many kinds of cat litter, but they all fall into one of four categories: clumping clay, nonclumping clay, silica pellets or beads and organic. No one kind is inherently better or worse. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Your cat will let you know which is best.
Clumping or Nonclumping?
Clay litter comes in two types: clumping and nonclumping. The clumping kind is very popular among cat owners, since it makes litter box cleaning so easy. Your cat's urine becomes a hard clump that's easy to scoop out, and you don't have to change the litter itself as often. Nonclumping clay litter does have to be replaced regularly. Both types of clay litter are dusty, which can be a problem for cats and people, who have asthma or other respiratory problems. Clay littler also can be a problem when the clumps stick to a cat's paws. The cat can swallow it while cleaning herself. This is not usually a health problem for adult cats, but it could be for kittens.
Organic litter is made of all-natural materials, like wood or pine chips, newspaper, peanut husks, crushed corn cobs and other types of biodegradable material. Organic litter is appealing to cat owners because it's ecofriendly, but it tends to be less popular with cats than the clumping kind. On the plus side, organic litter is absorbent and smells good, although cats may not like the scent.
Silica, or crystal, litter is a relatively recent arrival on the cat litter scene. The litter is composed of silica sand that is formed into beads or pellets. This type of litter absorbs urine so well that scooping is not necessary, except for the feces. On a daily basis, all you have to do is stir the litter. You only have to change it when the silica sand reaches its saturation point, which is about every two weeks depending on how many cats you have. The two greatest advantages of silica litter are its outstanding odor control and its biodegradability. On the minus side, the texture is displeasing to some cats, and it's more expensive than other types of litter.
Other Things To Consider
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Although your cat has the ultimate veto power, there are a number of other things to consider in deciding what kind of cat litter you will use. Your cat's safety is top on the list. Your cat may like a type of litter that is not as safe for her, such as clay litter if she is asthmatic. Also take scent into consideration. Clay litter comes in both scented and unscented versions. Sometimes cats and their owners disagree on this point. Scented litter covers odors unpleasant to humans, but your cat may prefer the unscented kind.
Kathy Kattenburg has been a writer for more than 30 years. Her articles have been published in "N.J. Jewish News" and "Suburban Essex," and she is a contributing writer and full partner at Not the Singularity. Kattenburg has a BA in English literature from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey.