Wondering about the best eco friendly cat litter? There is in fact such a thing — just as there are eco-friendly dog toys and eco-friendly cat toys—and as always, I’ve got you covered for everything you need to know on the topic. We’ll look into what makes for the best eco-friendly cat litter, different types of non-toxic litter, a few of the best options to reach for, and more.
What is eco friendly cat litter?
Making the transition to sustainable living means finding more eco-friendly alternatives to all sorts of things, including eco-friendly cat products. When it comes to the best sustainable cat litter, products that are made using materials that will biodegrade once discarded are best. Thankfully, there are many brands making cat litter using plant-based materials that are biodegradable and compostable.
They use materials like corn kernels, corn cobs, recycled newspapers, wood shavings, or grass seeds. If you do opt to compost your cat's waste, you cannot use that compost on plants that you plan to eat.
There are even options made from recycled rubber tires. That is unfortunately not the most eco-friendly option overall unless you find that your cat will use it over the other more eco-friendly options.
To be eco-friendly, cat litter should also be free from any harmful chemicals, synthetic fragrances, and dyes, as well as bentonite clay and silica dust. Avoiding the use of harmful chemicals and synthetic fragrances might be a no-brainer but why bentonite clay or silica dust? We’ll get into that in just a moment.
What are the benefits of eco friendly cat litter?
Reaching for eco-friendly cat litter is beneficial for cats, humans, and the planet. The most common types of cat litter are “clumping” or “non-clumping”. The materials used for that are most often bentonite clay and silica dust.
Conventional bentonite litter is considered safe for most cats unless they start to eat it. (If your cat does start to eat the litter consult your vet. It may be a sign that your cat is anemic and in search of iron.)
However, cats with breathing problems like asthma or sensitivity to dust may experience negative side effects to bentonite litter. That’s because a lot of the conventional options also contain significant amounts of silica dust. Silica dust is linked to upper respiratory issues in both cats and humans.
The chemical fragrances commonly used in conventional cat litters have also been found to be toxic to some cats.
We also have to think about sourcing. Where materials used are not sustainably sourced, buying conventional cat litter can be a vote for environmental destruction. As is the case for bentonite-based litters which can have a hefty environmental footprint where the bentonite clay used is sourced using unsustainable mining practices.
Whatsmore, conventional litter made with a bunch of toxic and non-biodegradable materials can only go on to add to the global waste problem, winding up in a landfill.
Switching to eco-friendly cat litter that is free of toxic chemicals, fragrances, dyes, bentonite clay, and silica dust is therefore ideal on several fronts.
What are the best types of non toxic cat litter?
The best types of non-toxic cat litter are essentially plant-based litters made using materials like corn, wheat, wood, or paper. This means we have several options when it comes to the best biodegradable cat litter – making sure to steer clear of products that contain silica dust, bentonite clay, toxic chemicals, fragrances, and dyes.
1. Wheat-based Cat Litter
Wheat-based cat litter is plant-based, biodegradable, renewable, and septic and sewer safe. It is similar to clay litter in consistency, easy to clean, and makes for an easier transition from clay litter.
Made using non-food grade wheat, it will not harm pets when ingested and is safe for cats recovering from surgery, kittens, and cats prone to infection. To eliminate odors, natural wheat enzymes go to work without any help from synthetic perfumes and chemicals.
2. Walnut-based Cat Litter
Walnut-based litter is made from the byproduct of walnut production. Using the shells and fibers of the walnut, you get a biodegradable, eco-friendly option that is safe and non-toxic. It is highly absorbent, lightweight, neutralizes odor and clumps which makes cleaning easier. Walnut-based cat litter is not dust-free however, though the dust that is present isn’t the same as silica dust.
3. Wood-based Cat Litter
Wood-based cat litter comes in the form of small pellets which are non-tracking and dust-free. Made from natural or recycled materials, it is biodegradable and you can find shaved options too.
Commonly made from pine or cedarwood, wood-based cat litter does not clump like clay-based litter. Instead, wet pellets disintegrate into sawdust and settle to the bottom of the pan. Untouched pellets stay on top and unpleasant odors are trapped below the surface. As for feces, they can be scooped out and discarded.
Soiled litter can be disposed of in the trash, flushed, or composted. Wood pellet litter is also safe for cats recovering from surgery, kittens, and cats prone to infection.
There are litter boxes designed for use with wood pellet litter but you do not need a specific kind of litter box to use it.
4. Corn-based Cat Litter
Corn-based cat litter is made from corn kernels or corn cobs. It is septic and sewer safe making disposal easier. Corn-based cat litter is also 99% dust-free and safe for kittens, cats prone to infection, cats with respiratory problems, and cats recovering from surgery. Since corn is edible, the corn-based litter will not cause any harm to your cat or any other pets in the home if ingested—though it may encourage unintended eating.
Where smells are concerned, corn cat litter quickly absorbs odor without the use of perfumes or chemicals, and it is scoopable. You will also find that corn litter will not stick to the bottom of the litter box or cause any build-up in mechanical cat litter box cleaners.
Corn cat litter is biodegradable and renewable but if GMOs are a concerned look for products with the Non-GMO Project certification. An issue may arise where consistency is concerned so look for brands that strike a balance so the granules are not too big or too fine.
5. Grass Seed Cat Litter
Grass seed cat litter acts similarly to clay-based litter where it is fast clumping and easy to scoop. It is literally made of grass seeds that are renewable, biodegradable, and can be flushed or composted. You can even find Non-GMO Project Verified options. Where odors are concerned, no worries here and no need for fragrances and chemicals either.
It is also 99% dust-free and safe for kittens, cats prone to infection, cats with respiratory problems, and cats recovering from surgery; and a good fit for one cat or multiple cat homes.
6. Recycled Paper Cat Litter
Cat litter made from recycled paper comes in the form of pellets as well. Where the environment is concerned this is a wonderful option since it reuses what might have otherwise have been wasted. Recycled paper-based litter is also mostly dust-free, low-tracking, and very absorbent.
When made without harmful additives like sodium bentonite (found in some clumping paper litter), paper litter is safe for kittens, cats prone to infection, cats with respiratory problems, and cats recovering from surgery. For disposal, composting is fine but with paper-based litter, the litter box has to be cleaned a little more often than its counterparts.
In our search for the best non-toxic cat litter, where materials used are recycled or upcycled, that is even better. We also look for brands that go the extra mile, to avoid any greenwashing. Whether it be through the use of sustainable packaging and other sustainable practices, or their charitable works.
The best non-toxic option for you will depend on your cat's preferences, however, so this may require some trial and error.
Is clay litter bad for the environment?
Also known as “clumping” litter or bentonite litter, clay litter is made of granulated bentonite clay which absorbs liquids very well. It makes cleaning up easier and is one of the most readily available options when it comes to littler. However, it is considered bad for the environment because the clay that is most commonly used in these products is sourced unsustainably, using strip mining. Strip mining destroys landscapes, forests and wildlife habitats — leaving the mining site contaminated for years after the mine is shut. It also pollutes waterways, threatens groundwater, and causes dust and noise pollution.
Our top picks for the best Eco Cat Litter
Here are our top picks for the best environmentally-friendly cat litter.
1. Fresh News Cat Litter
Fresh News Cat Litters are paper-based cat litters made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. As such, they are biodegradable and compostable. Fresh News’ cat litters are also 99% dust-free, low-tracking, non-allergenic, and 3 times more absorbent than clay according to the brand.
Fresh News also ensures that its fast-acting pellets work well to neutralize any smells with the help of baking soda. The brand sources its paper from recycling centers and has its own recycling program, where non-profit organizations (mostly churches and schools) get money in exchange for collecting paper products.
2. Yesterday’s News Cat Litter
Yesterday’s News is another paper-based option made using recycled newspaper. According to the brand, their paper litter remains tough on odors, is 99.7% dust-free, and 3 times as absorbent as clay.
Yesterday’s News Recycled Paper Litter is available in clumping and non-clumping formulations, both of which are designed to be low-tracking. No harmful chemicals or toxic fragrances are involved. Yesterday’s News also uses recyclable paper packaging making it an excellent option for some of the best sustainable cat litter.
3. SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter
SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter is a grass seed cat litter made from GMO-free grass seed, grown in the USA. As such, it is biodegradable and compostable and neutralizes odor without any chemicals or fragrances. Their multi-cat formula also performs well where dust is concerned, is lightweight, scoops easily, remains gentle on paws, and is safe for kittens.
4. Ökocat Natural Wood Clumping Litter
Ökocat offers a wood-based cat litter which the brand ensures is made using sustainably sourced natural wood fiber, without any artificial fragrances, synthetic chemicals, toxic dyes, or GMOs. Their formulation is also 99% dust-free but clumps solid, making scooping easier, without any synthetic chemical binders. Since it is made of 100% natural wood fiber, it is biodegradable and definitely good for composting, although you must remember not to apply this compost to plants being grown for eating. Their Natural Wood Clumping Litter is also low-tracking and available in several varieties.
5. World’s Best Cat Litter
World’s Best Cat Litter is made from corn with no added chemicals. It is 99% dust-free–no silica dust to worry about here. Using corn, their formulation is also naturally-absorbent, quick clumping and easy to scoop. No odor to worry about here either.
Once soiled, waste can be disposed of by flushing. Their selection includes unscented options, as well as scented options made using natural oil blends. The brand also supports animal shelters, making it an even better option for natural cat litter.
6. Naturally Fresh Cat Litter
Naturally Fresh Cat Litter is another plant-based litter but it is made out of walnut shells and fibers. That is really great for the environment because it turns something that would otherwise be wasted into something useful and needed.
It is also low-tracking, biodegradable, compostable, and neutralizes odor. To package their litter, Naturally Fresh uses packaging made from recycled materials and the litter is produced in a facility that is powered entirely by solar energy. You will find a selection of several options including a perfume-free fresh scent litter, a multi-cat litter, and a calming herbs litter, to name a few.
You can also consider making your own cat litter by using or repurposing materials like sand or newspaper.
How did we choose these sustainable cat litters?
Choosing the best sustainable cat litter will ultimately come down to what your cat is comfortable using since cats can sometimes reject certain types of litter. If you are trying to switch your cat litter, the best thing to do is to start slowly — mixing the old litter with the new, and gradually shifting the ratio toward the new litter.
If your cat refuses to use the new litter, there are thankfully several other options to try, but if you end up having to go back to the old litter that is fine too. We don’t want any cats winding up at a shelter because they would not use eco friendly litter.
Remember to keep the litter box clean by removing litter during the day, every 24 hours; and making sure to clean the entire box once a week.
Final thoughts on eco friendly cat litter
Reaching for non-toxic plant-based litter turns out to be healthier for our cats, ourselves and for the planet as well. And I am so glad that there are so many brands making more eco-friendly pet products like eco-friendly cat litter.
I hope this list will be helpful for improving access to more eco-friendly cat litter but whatever you choose make sure it works best for your cat first.
When looking for more eco-friendly products always be sure to check out some zero waste online stores or alternatives to amazon. You can also check out The Hub’s brand directory for everything sustainable living.
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