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I’ve had cats for all of my life and though they’ve all been different, one trait has remained constant in their various personalities: they’re extremely particular about their litter. Fortunately for cat lovers, our cats will often let us know when a litter isn’t working for them. Unfortunately, it’s often in the form of a present on the carpet — and since they don’t care to share the details of what they disliked about a particular formula, it’s up to us to figure it out. From high-tech litters that can help detect your pet’s ailments to those that lock in odor and generate minimal dust, you can find our list of expert-recommended (and potentially life-saving) litters below.
Why the Right Cat Litter is Important
However frustrating your cat’s gutsy gifts may be, veterinarian Dr. Annette Louviere, Veterinary Genetics and Technology Manager at Wisdom Panel, says, “Cats don’t urinate out of the box in spite,” and this behavior could be an indicator of a greater health issue. While this is one possibility that shouldn’t be overlooked, a more common cause for this unsavory behavior is that their litter isn’t up to snuff. It’ll save you the emotional aggravation and high vet bills to experiment with your cat’s litter while they’re young, so you’re aware of their preferences from an early age.
The director of the Purdue Animal Behavior Clinic at Purdue University, Dr. Niwako Ogata, adds, “Cats are notoriously fussy creatures that may react to the slightest change in their environment, even just a new type of litter.” Cats’ decisiveness can be a frustrating trait when they’ve decided against the thing you’ve put in front of them — whether that’s food, toys, or litter — but it’s also what makes them such intriguing housemates.
The Best Types of Cat Litter
We only want the best for our pets, so we asked cat experts to help us whittle down a shortlist of their favorite litters, weeding out the ones that don’t hold up to our (let’s be real, our cat’s) standards. According to Dr. Jessica Bell, a professor at Washington State University School of Veterinary Medicine, “Scientists have actually researched litter preferences and found that cats prefer clay litter to silica (sand) or wood pellets.” And the biggest turn-off for cats is smell. “Cats have really sensitive noses and don’t like perfumed litter,” Dr. Bell says, so always opt for a fragrance-free litter to start. Although many cat people may gripe that they’d prefer a nice scent to cover up their cat’s business, if your cat’s litter is deterring them from using the box, we’re confident that an unscented option will start to look pretty good.
We evaluated litter based on a few features: from low-tracking, dust-free, and odor-free to clumping ability and flushability. We gave extra points to those that use upcycled or sustainable materials, and formulas that absorb odor rather than covering it up with scents. Now, it’s still possible that your cat’s preferences may fall outside these picks, but we’d consider this a great start to a potentially lengthy hunt for their favorite litter.
Best Cat Litters
Btw, our editors (and their pets) picked out these products. They’re always in stock at the time we publish, but there’s a chance they’ll sell out. If you do buy through our links, we may earn a commission. (We’ve got a lot of toys to buy over here, you know?)
Best Low-Tracking (and Low-Cost)
Best Sustainable Pick
If you do nothing else, teach your cat to poop in their litter box (not your shoe).
A cat behaviorist explains why they are so particular about where they pop a squat.
Think like a cat when choosing a litter box...so you can go back to not thinking about litter boxes.
Avery is a writer and producer. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her reading, practicing her Greek on Duolingo, and delving into the Sex and the City discourse. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their cat, Chicken, who rules with an iron fist.