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Any cat parent knows that the wrong litter can be a big problem. For one thing, cats are particular about their bathrooms, reasonably enough—litter that doesn’t suit your furry friend can lead to accidents and bad litter box behavior. You also want an option that is easy for you to scoop, doesn’t track everywhere in your home, and helps tamp down odors. It's also good to consider litter material (there are a surprising number of options!) and whether or not it clumps.
Here are our picks for the best cat litters to keep your home clean and your cat happy.
Best Overall: Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
Weight: 40 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping clay | Life Stage: Adult
Clumps can get stuck at the bottom
This clumping litter, which is made of medium-grain clay, is almost entirely dust-free, and does a great job at controlling odors. It’s suitable for sifting and mechanical litter boxes.
The clumping power is super strong with this litter, which makes scooping out the box incredibly easy. Take note, however, that the clumping may be almost too powerful if you leave it for too long; if the solid clumps make their way to the bottom of the litter box, removing them can be challenging.
You'll appreciate that this litter is low dust (dust can be irritating for both cats and their owners, especially when filling and cleaning the box). Plus, despite being unscented, this relatively affordable litter has the ability to mask unpleasant litter box odors.
"Dr. Elsey’s litter seemed to suck up bad scents as soon as they appeared, as our home was left odor free. Even after a week, a sniff of the room our litter box is in smelled like nothing—no fragrance, no cat urine, nothing—which is exactly how we like it."—Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best Clumping: World's Best Unscented Clumping Corn Cat Litter
Weight: 28 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping corn | Life Stage: Adult
There’s a lot to admire about this cat litter: Since it’s made from corn, it’s an environmentally-friendly option and biodegrades. It’s scent-free, which is appealing to some cats. It does an excellent job keeping odors under control, while also being lightweight and easy to scoop.
While this pick is on the pricier side, you can make the litter last longer with daily cleanups and top offs from the bag of litter. That way, you have to completely clean out your litter box less often.
Best Biodegradable: Naturally Fresh Cat Litter
Weight: 14 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping Walnut | Life Stage: Adult
Can be messy and tracks easily
Naturally Fresh's Cat Litter is a highly effective cat litter, as well as being environmentally-friendly. This chemical-free litter is made up of ground walnut shells, which are surprisingly absorbent and clump similar to your standard clumping litter. It also comes in both scented and unscented options, so you have different options depending on your preference.
When transitioning over to a new litter (particularly one that's different in smell or composition), vets generally recommend putting some of the old litter on top of the new. With Naturally Fresh's Cat Litter, however, this might not be necessary; the size of the walnut shells is standard, and the litter has a sand-like feel, which cats can instinctively get used to.
"The litter clumped around both urine and feces with no problem and made scooping very easy. The clumps stayed together as we were shaking the scooper to strain and didn’t fall apart. This part of the process was virtually no different than standard clay clumping litter."—Julie Hershman, Product Tester
Best Lightweight: Tidy Cats Free & Clean Lightweight Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
Weight: 8.5 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping clay | Life Stage: Adult
Fragrance and dye-free
Can be messy and tracks easily
If you live on the fifth floor of a walkup, the weight of the products you purchase matters—toting purchases and deliveries up the stairs is a workout. If you’re looking for a lightweight option, this Tidy Cats formulation is a good one to consider: One 8.5 pound jug of this natural clay litter is the equivalent to a 20-pound bag of other litter. It's also available in 17 pound and 6 pound containers.
The jug itself is recyclable, and the litter is free from fragrance and dyes. Activated charcoal and ammonia blockers help to ward off and control the odor. This clumping litter does not result in a lot of dust, and it does a good job at neutralizing odors. However, you may find that this litter tracks, which means more daily cleanup.
"The Purina Tidy Cats litter clumped together nicely and made scooping easy. We’ve found that some litters tend to clump cat urine together in one large clump—especially since our cat prefers one corner of her box. But with the Purina litter, clumps were small, solid, and didn’t fall apart when we scooped them."—Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best for Multiple Cats: Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Multi-Cat Litter
Weight: 19 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping granules | Life Stage: Adult
If you have two or more cats in your home, it’s easy for the odor from the litter box to quickly get out of control. This Arm & Hammer dust-free option is made of moisture-activated micro-granules that clump well, which makes it easy to clean out the box. The odor control is long-lasting, which is important when you have multiple cats sharing one litter box.
You'll particularly appreciate that this litter can be scooped and cleaned without much of dust, which can be unpleasant and messy—and can cause dust left on surrounding surfaces.
"The granules are smaller than other litters we’ve used, more like a coarse sand. We think this may have contributed to making it less prone to tracking. We’ve become used to sweeping up cat litter every few days, and we were happy that this wasn’t the case with this brand."—Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best Unscented: Scoop Away Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
Weight: 25 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping clay | Life Stage: Adult
Like humans, cats can be particular about odors. For some, a perfumed litter box may be just as off-putting as one that smells like an outhouse. It’s also the case that for some humans, coverup scents can be cloying. Unscented litter is the solution.
With ultra-strong clumping clay Scoop Away litter, antimicrobial agents help keep odors under control, according to the manufacturer, which says the litter provides seven days of odor protection. The odor-stopping ability of this litter is so effective that your guests might even be surprised you have a cat—even if they're in the same room as the litter box.
Best Scented: Fresh Step Odor Shield Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
Weight: 25 pounds | Litter Type: Clumping clay | Life Stage: Adult
Not all cats tolerate scented litter
There’s no denying it: Your cat’s litter box isn’t a source of good smells. Instead of sprinkling in baking soda or spraying air freshener around the cat’s box, you may prefer a scented litter to keep odors under control. This litter comes with a 10-day odor control guarantee—the scent comes from Febreze, and activated charcoal helps keep the cat urine odor under control.
This Fresh Step clay litter is clumping to make scooping out the litter box easy. Note that litter should be disposed of daily in the garbage (not flushed down the toilet bowl).
If you're searching for a powerful clumping litter that traps odors at the source and makes for easy cleanup, then our best overall pick Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter is right for you. If you have multiple cats, check out the Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Cat Litter, which is formulated with baking soda and boasts a 7-day odor-free guarantee to keep your home smelling fresh and cat-free.
What to Look for in Cat Litter
Today, cat litter is most commonly made of bentonite clay, a clumping formula that resembles little rocks. However, you can also find old-fashioned Fuller’s earth, aka non-clumping litter, as well as silica gel and natural litters. Bentonite clay litters are popular because they’re easy to scoop and fight odors, but there are some environmental concerns associated with this material, in part because it doesn't biodegrade. Natural litters are more eco-friendly, but some may not be as effective at masking odors.
Bentonite clay is known as “clumping” litter, as wet patches stick together, making them easy to scoop out. On the other hand, Fuller’s earth and natural litters don’t clump, meaning you may have to replace the litter more often. There are also silica gel litters, which absorb moisture into their pellets so you only have to scoop solid waste.
If your litter box is in a low-traffic area, you might not mind if it smells a little. However, if your kitty’s bathroom is in a central area of your home, you may want to opt for a litter formula with odor-fighting ingredients to neutralize or mask the smell.
How often do you need to change kitty litter?
This will depend on what kind of litter you use. If you use most non-clumping litters, the litter needs to be replaced and the box cleaned at least once a week since urine can collect at the bottom of the box easier. If you opt for clumping cat litter, you can deep clean the box less often as long as you are scooping frequently. You can go as long as four to five weeks before completely cleaning and changing the litter box with clumping litter.
No matter what litter you choose, your cat will be happiest if you scoop the box at least once every day.
What is kitty litter made of?
There are many different types of litter out there on the market. Clumping litter is often made of bentonite clay, but there are options made of other materials like silica gel. Silica is absorbent and can provide odor control. For those who would like more of an environmentally-friendly option, natural litter is made of things like recycled paper products or plant-derived materials such as wood shavings or corn.
How do you clean a litter box?
Proper litter box maintenance starts with the right box and tools to suit your cat's habits and needs. Most cat owners prefer clumping litter since it makes spotting waste easier and allows for faster clean up. Clumps of waste should be scooped out daily if using clumping litter, but the full litter box should be deep cleaned once a week or every four to five weeks, depending on the type of litter you use.
Used litter should always be emptied into an air-tight trash bag. Some litter is flushable and smaller clumps can be disposed of there, but you should never flush the entire contents of the box. Eventually, you'll need to empty and thoroughly clean the entire box using unscented dish soap and paper towels. Non-clumping litter will need to be cleaned more often due to the build up it can cause at the bottom of the box while clumping litter can be removed in small quantities daily and replaced less often.
How do you litter train a cat?
When bringing home a new kitten, litter training them is one of the first things you should do. It's recommended to start your new cat in a "transition room" that's safe, comfortable, and isolated from other areas of your home. You should place the cat's food and water at one end of the room and the litter box at the other. Right after it eats or drinks, immediately take it to the litter box to establish good habits.
If your cat does use the litter box properly, reward it with a toy or treat to help seal in place its new routine. They should be allowed to explore the area—avoid scooping out waste right away, let it remain to remind them where to properly go to the bathroom.
How do you dispose of kitty litter?
Most litter should then just be disposed of in the trash. Some brands, like Garfield Cat Litter, can be flushed directly down the toilet in small amounts since it's biodegradable, but keep in mind that many municipal waste system and septic systems are not suited to handle cat waste. Non-biodegradable litter should never be flushed.
Litter boxes should be scooped at least once a day, placing clumps in a trash bag. To avoid odors, you might want to invest in a Litter Genie that seals waste at the bottom and keeps any smell contained throughout the week. On trash day, simply take out your secured plastic bag of litter and waste and dispose of it with the rest of your trash.
Why Trust The Spruce?
When looking into the best picks to include, we read dozens of product reviews from retailer sites and the Spruce Pets' contributing reviewers. We also test top products.
This article was originally written by Madeleine Burry, who has covered how to care for pets for more than a decade. Additional research and editing was contributed by Lily Sperry, a lifestyle writer and commerce editor at the Spruce.