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Top 5 Cat Litters That Check Our Low-Tracking, Dust-Free, Eco-Friendly Boxes

Helping your cat find their preferred litter doesn’t have to be a crap shoot.

by Avery Felman
February 25, 2022
Funny tabby cat sitting in a litter box and looking curiously outside.
Lightspruch / Adobe Stock

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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 Overall

pretty litter package

It takes a certain amount of trial and error to determine the kind of litter your cat enjoys most, but beginning your search with the most reliable option is a fool-proof order of operations. The peace of mind that PrettyLitter’s color changing formula provides to cat parents is a feat all on its own, but its convenience and superior performance put it over the top, which is why it’s our all time favorite litter. The founder, Daniel Rotman, describes the concept behind the high-tech litter: “Cats can be very stoic, so it’s not easy to know what's going on with their health. Early indications of illness like cat UTIs or bladder crystals could help not only to save on vet bills, but could potentially save your cat's life.” This lifesaving litter is top of its class.

$22 at PrettyLitter

Best Dust-Free

the tuft and paw litter bag

When Socrates said “know thyself,” he should have amended that statement to “know thyself as you know thycat.” But those were the days well before the internet, and lugging 40 pounds of cat litter up your four story walk up wasn’t as much of an issue as, say, the plague. Luckily for the savvy cat owner, Tuft and Paw’s Really Great Litter formula delivers low-tracking, flushable litter right to your door in the appropriate quantities, so you can say goodbye to the days of hiding excess litter under your kitchen sink. Plus, it’s made from a soybean byproduct that would otherwise end up in a landfill, so you can feel good about the way your litter choice impacts your cat, home, and planet.

$29 at Tuft + Paw

Best Clumping

the litter in a black box

It’s important to use a litter that checks all of your boxes. While fragrance and dust-free litters are certainly a priority, no formula is more prized than an exceptional clumping litter. According to Dr. Louviere, “While not all cats are the same, studies support that cats generally have a preference for clumping clay litters,” making it an excellent choice for anyone who is looking to appease a picky cat. If your cat can think of more reasons than not to avoid the litter box, you should return to one that’s reliable and widely beloved. “The cat needs to accept the litter substrate type,” Dr. Louviere urges. “No matter how much a pet parent likes it, if the cat doesn’t then you can’t force them to use it.”

$30 at Chewy

Best Low-Tracking (and Low-Cost)

the litter in a blue and white bag

This unscented litter gives the best bang for its buck and it’s perfect for cats (and cat parents) who are sensitive to smells. Just because a litter is unscented, doesn’t mean your whole apartment will end up wreaking of cats. In fact, many litters use fragrance to cover up smells rather than using materials that absorb odors, like baking soda and charcoal. According to Dr. Louviere, “You can’t seem to beat activated carbon if using an odor-control additive.” Most veterinarians recommend avoiding scented litter all together, but since all cats are unique and some may prefer it, Dr. Louviere suggests that you “lean towards cedar and avoid citrus” when going the fragranced route.

$11 at Amazon

Best Sustainable Pick

the cat litter in green package

This sustainable, renewable, and responsible litter is perfect for the eco-friendly pet parent. It conceals odor using an upcycled wood substrate, and its lightweight formula makes it a favorite for cats with sensitive paws. Compared with clay litters that use more added materials, it’s better for the environment; it uses wood fibers that trap malodor while using zeolite to release a mild fragrance that’s non-offensive to cats and their humans. Since we’ve learned that cat’s don’t urinate outside of the litter box for no reason, Dr. Louviere says, “The best way to address ‘inappropriate elimination’ is to get to the underlying reason, whether medical or behavioral (like a litter substrate preference...or avoidance).” If your cat is dissatisfied with their current litter, they may be trying to tell you that they’d like to go a more natural route.

$23 at Amazon
the litter in a black box

It’s important to use a litter that checks all of your boxes. While fragrance and dust-free litters are certainly a priority, no formula is more prized than an exceptional clumping litter. According to Dr. Louviere, “While not all cats are the same, studies support that cats generally have a preference for clumping clay litters,” making it an excellent choice for anyone who is looking to appease a picky cat. If your cat can think of more reasons than not to avoid the litter box, you should return to one that’s reliable and widely beloved. “The cat needs to accept the litter substrate type,” Dr. Louviere urges. “No matter how much a pet parent likes it, if the cat doesn't then you can't force them to use it.”

$30 at Walmart
the litter in a blue and white bag

This unscented litter gives the best bang for its buck and it’s perfect for cats (and owners) who are sensitive to smells. Just because a litter is unscented, doesn’t mean your whole apartment will end up wreaking of cats. In fact, many litters use fragrance to cover up smells rather than using materials that absorb odors, like baking soda and charcoal. According to Dr. Louviere, “You can’t seem to beat activated carbon if using an odor-control additive.” Most veterinarians recommend avoiding scented litter all together, but since all cats are unique and some may prefer it, Dr. Louviere suggests that you “lean towards cedar and avoid citrus” when going the fragranced route.

$20 at Walmart
the litter in a white and red bag

This sustainable, renewable, and responsible litter is perfect for the eco-friendly pet parent. Its lightweight formula makes it a favorite for cats with sensitive paws and it’s better for the environment. Plus, it uses a mild fragrance that’s non-offensive to cats and their humans. Since we’ve learned that cat’s don’t urinate outside of the litter box for no reason, Dr. Louviere says, “The best way to address ‘inappropriate elimination’ is to get to the underlying reason, whether medical or behavioral (like a litter substrate preference...or avoidance).” If your cat is dissatisfied with their current litter, they may be trying to tell you that they’d like to go a more natural route.

$4 at Walmart

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Avery, editor at The Wildest, and her cat, Chicken

Avery Felman

Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her boyfriend and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.