Picking a type of cat litter can be daunting. Just stand in the middle of a grocery or pet store aisle and take in all the choices. So many different materials, so many prices. When in doubt, try several kinds, and see which your cat prefers.
The most basic kind of cat litter is clay, and it comes in two forms: clumping and non-clumping. The clay absorbs liquid and covers stool. Possible downsides? It tends to be dusty, and the grains are fairly coarse. For most cats, finer is better, because it's easier on the paws. Expensive brands have less dust, and sometimes smaller grains.
Clumping cat litter keeps urine from spreading, making it easier to scoop out frequently, keeping the box cleaner. If you have a small kitten, avoid clumping litter until she's several months old, just to be safe. Kittens like to taste new things, and while it's unlikely, a kitten testing whether clumping litter could be food could end up with a life-threatening digestive system blockage.
Paper litter may be simple, such as torn-up strips of newspaper, or more complex, such as recycled paper in pellet form. For young kittens, paper is a good alternative to clumping clay litters that may be dusty and cause blockages. You should also keep it in mind for post-surgery kitties. Other litter types can cling to wounds or sutures, causing irritation. There's no danger of this with paper litter. There's also no need to scoop and refill. When the box is dirty, just dump the whole thing and fill it with fresh paper.
Plant-based and organic cat litters come in many forms: Wheat, corn, cedar and pine are just a few of the options. These kinds of litter are less dusty than clay, and some are biodegradable, meaning they're safe to flush. Always read the bag to be sure before you dump dirty litter into your toilet. Check local laws; your city may regulate cat litter disposal.
Another plus for organic cat litter? It won't hurt your kitty if he ingests it. There's one caveat: Kitties with sensitivities to food with corn in it may also be sensitive to corn-based litter. If that's the case, choose wheat or pine instead.
Some cat litters use silica crystals -- a mixture of sand and silica gel -- to absorb litterbox fluids. These crystals absorb moisture and eliminate odor. Like clay litter, crystal-based litters can be dusty, and there's a slight risk to cats who ingest it either directly from the box or by licking it from their paws or fur.