What Is the Difference Between Scoopable & Clay Kitty Litter?

Some kitties have a preference for certain types of litter.
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There are many choices of kitty litter on the market, including traditional clay litter or scoopable litter. Scoopable litter forms hard clumps when wet, while traditional clay doesn't, making it harder to keep clean. While most people prefer scoopable litter, your cat may have a preference for the traditional clay.

Traditional Clay Litter

The existence of traditional clay litter dates back to around 1950. The composition of clay litter hasn't changed much over the years and consists of pebble-sized particles of Fuller's earth, a type of naturally occurring clay. The clay is very absorbent and will soak up your kitty's urine when he goes potty. Modern litters also contain small granules of silica to improve the litter's overall absorbency. This type of litter must be changed either weekly or twice-weekly because the clay particles only absorb so much liquid over time. After some use by your little one, his urine will begin to pool on the bottom of the litter box, leading to bacterial growth and stinky odors. Some litters are scented to help with litter box odors, while others aren't.

Scoopable Clay Litter

Scoopable clay litter was invented in the 1980s and consists of particles of sodium bentonite clay. This type of clay doesn't just absorb a kitty's urine, but rather forms into hard clumps when in contact with the liquid. This allows you to scoop out your kitty's urine and feces after he goes potty. Unlike traditional clay, this means that the litter lasts longer, because it can be kept clean of your cat's waste. Simply replace the litter you have scooped away for up to three to four weeks, before you have to replace the entire box of litter to eliminate odors.

Plant-Based Scoopable Litter

Within the past 20 years, many cat litter manufacturers have begun to make scoopable litter from substances other than sodium bentonite clay. These plant-based substances include wheat, pine, recycled paper, nut hulls and corn. Unlike clay-based scoopable litters, these litters clump because of the starches or other ingredients, like guar gum, they contain. Many of these litters allow you to flush your kitty's waste, which you can't do with clay litters. Some prefer natural litters because they are made of biodegradable ingredients that are better for the environment.

Scoopable Clay Particle Size

Clumping clay cat litters have much smaller particles than traditional clay litter, more like grains of sand than pebbles, making it easier for the litter to clump and for you to scoop these clumps out. Cats seem to prefer the finer texture of these clumping litter particles, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Plant-based clumping litters also have finer particles than traditional clay litter, but they are typically softer and lighter than clay-based clumping litter.


Traditional clay litters typically cost less than other types of scoopable litter, but you must change out your kitty's entire box of litter more often than with a litter you can scoop. Scoopable clay-based litters are the most common type of litter available, making up 60 percent of the market, according to Chemical & Engineering News. You can find them in most supermarkets and pet supply stores. Plant-based scoopable litters are more specialized and expensive than their clay-based counterparts. These types of litters are typically found in pet supply stores or natural markets, although they are becoming more readily available in supermarkets. The deciding factor is really your kitty's preference -- remember, if he doesn't like the litter, he won't go potty in the box.

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