What is Natural Cat Litter?

I may be naïve and out of touch with cat litters because my cat does not use a litter. He goes outside. However, I’ve only recently discovered the term “natural cat litter”.

Worlds best cat litter
Worlds best cat litter. It is said to be “natural”.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

It sounds attractive. As long as a natural cat litter is as good as an “unnatural” one, everybody should buy the natural version; it is going to be better for your cat because it won’t contain unnatural chemicals. One of the great problems with cat litters is that manufacturers bend over backwards to make their litter more attractive than their competitor’s litter so they add things to it which make it more effective and attractive to consumers but at the possible expense of health consequences to your cat and even to the people who handle it.

For example, in the UK, Sophisticat Lightweight Pink Clay Non-Clumping Cat Litter, is very dusty and that dust sticks to the cat’s fur; it is noticeable on the lower half of the cat’s legs. The cat will lick off this dust and ingest it. People handling it will also ingest the litter dust. They might not see problems initially but those health problems may be building up gradually.

Sophisticat cat litter
Sophisticat cat litter pink lightweight litter turns a cat’s paws pink. Good or bad?
Sophisticat cat litter turns fur pink
Sophisticat cat litter turns fur pink. It highlights the downside and health issues of lightweight litter.

In the USA there is Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter. Users have recounted stories of it being very dusty, even causing health problems in the people handling it never mind the cat who is much nearer the litter, using it and exposed to it far more.

The reasons why cat product manufacturers made lightweight litter is because they saw it as a niche market bearing in mind how heavy bagged cat litter is and how it is usually the lady of the house who handles it. It is a good marketing idea but in making litter so lightweight there appears to be health problems.

Then, many clumping litters contain sodium bentonite which is a chemical which improves the clumping action making it easier to handle. The downside is quite obvious and perhaps most people now realise it, namely that if a cat ingests some of the litter that super clumping action takes place inside their lungs which can cause severe health problems, at least potentially.

Another chemical which is added to litters to make it more attractive to purchasers is perfume deodorizers. It is unnatural. The purchaser, the cat’s caretaker, may like the smell but I would suggest that the better cat caretaker would prefer a more natural product because the important question is does your cat like the smell and the answer to that question must be no.

Some cat litters contain silica. Silica is a known carcinogen when inhaled. These litters will produce some dust and therefore even a small amount of dust would, I suggest, present a health hazard to both cat and person.

Returning to the phrase “natural cat litter”, it should deal with all the above potential health issues and eliminate them. I’m not going to make a list of natural cat litters because I do not have one but I’m told that in America one of the best natural cat litter options is World’s Best Cat Litter. It can be bought in the same places where natural cat litter can be bought and therefore it is not difficult to source. In the past it was more difficult to obtain more natural products.

The manufacturers of the World’s Best Cat Litter state that their Advanced Natural Original is 100% natural with the same level of performance as other clumping cat litters. It is made up of naturally absorbent corn with added plant fibres for high-performance clumping. We are told that it has outstanding odour control and is flushable.

As to flushable cat litters, there is a problem as I understand it. Although the litter material is all right to flush down the toilet, it may be inadvisable to flush cat’s faeces down the toilet because it may contain toxoplasmosis cysts which can affect the health of marine life once the waste ends up in the sea.

Do you think about buying “natural” cat litter? What drives you to buy a certain type of cat litter? Do you think about the dust element of cat litter or the odour suppressing element? Do you think about the environment? The environmental issues surrounding cat litter are enormous as most of it ends up in landfill. In the USA around 8 billion pounds of it ends up in landfill annually. I’ll be there for a long time and I think we owe it to ourselves to think about the environment when we throw the stuff away.

Note: I am not deliberately promoting a litter.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

10 thoughts on “What is Natural Cat Litter?”

  1. Hi everyone, I’m currently using Greenwoods natural clumping, it’s a woodchip style. Which I love as well as my kitty. Smells nice and natural and of a woody scent like a saw mill would. Previously I’ve used The worlds best which was good too. I will get whatever variation is on offer online as long as it’s a non chemical, non perfumed and natural wood chip style, and what I consider to be natural is the unaltered types. As I worry for my kitty licking herself clean and ingesting gawd knows what.
    Originally I tried the clay types but the dust aggravated me and that’s when I became curious to change asap. My local cattery only use woodchip and the owner explained all the pros.
    In his words, which are spot on I now realise, is that it’s cheap to buy in bulk, it’s lightweight to carry and transport around. He says he burns it weekly, as so many kitties at a time generate such a volume of waste on a daily basis because they’re changing it for fresh daily.
    For me all those were important points and then when the massive package arrived it also said it was safe to flush each time the cat uses it. Bonus. Or as it’s biodegradable you can dig it in to your garden and it will mulch in nicely. So, No more adding it to the rubbish sack daily and hauling it outside to the wheelie bin. Bonus.
    The fact it’s biodegradable to me means it’s natural. Not many of the substances used for cat litter are biodegradable so that is the crux of what is or isn’t natural really.

  2. I read one of the comments about refraining from using litters made from food. I am curious to know why? Blue has a litter made from ground walnuts and I know people who swear by it. Pine litter or anything pine gives me a migraine. I’m using Tidy Cat and just took one of my kitties to the vet today with a “sore throat” – she keeps gasping to breathe. 🙁 But, I have two more coughing or gasping the same way,just not as much so I’m concerned it is the Tidy Cat litter.

  3. To me the only natural litter is Cedarific,tis only made from cedar shavings,tis soft and tis best for idiots who declaw their cats,Cedarific is all natural plus it smells real good,the downside it gets everywhere if ye dont use a litter mat on the outside of the cat box.

    1. Thank you, Irish. Is nice to have a recommendation for a cat litter which I have not heard of until now. It is obviously another “natural cat litter”.

  4. You should encourage your cat to toilet in a litter box in the house. A change in litter box habits is often the first (or only) sign of illness in a cat. If you don’t see him pee and poop, how do you know if everything is normal?

    Get a few boxes and show him where they are. He’ll know what do do with them. Avoid litters with perfumes and avoid corn litters or other litters made of food.

    1. I totally understand what you are saying about my cat using a cat litter. It does help to see what a cat produces in the cat litter in respect of health assessment. However, at the moment I have rejected that idea because there are advantages to a cat using the ultimate natural cat litter: soil, the earth. There is no possibility of any harm coming to my cat there whereas a lot of cat litters can, insidiously, and unknowingly, harm a cat and more people should be aware of this.

      1. Not really though. You have no idea what your cat is toileting in. He could be digging in dirt that has been treated with poisons, weed killers, pesticides, spilled antifreeze, to name just a few toxins.

        Not to mention dirt infected with diseases and parasites from other cats using the same area.

        If you think dirt is best, buy dirt or sand for the litter boxes. Both are available at garden centers.

        1. Cats Mother is correct Michael,years ago when I was still a vet tech a woman brought her cat in due to being ill,for almost a week she failed to inform us she had been letting her cat outside to do it’s business and once we were informed we did a blood panel and sure enough,the cat had contracted a dormant parasite called Toxoplasma gondii,it reproduces only in cats, wild and domestic felines are the parasite’s ultimate host which is why I also in the garage where my feral colony is I use 8 cat boxes so even my ferals will still be safe from that parasite,sadly the womans cat did not survive because she waited to long to bring him in,the cats organs and tissues were affected include lymph nodes, liver, lung, brain/spinal cord, and eye and eventually succumbed to death.

          1. Yes, and I know it is a weakness if you cannot see cat poop and cat urine as a means to assess a cat’s health. I have recommended that, in fact, on the website in more than one article. However, at the moment my cat does do his business outside and what I propose to do is to inspect him outside because it uses the same place all the time which is typical of most cats. In fact, the place that he chooses is quite close to the kitchen window. I’m pretty confident that I can monitor what he produces in his outdoor cat litter adequately. If not I will have to consider a cat litter and to see whether he can use that and go outside. In this instance I would assess his health when he uses the cat litter and then if is all clear remove the cat litter and letting go outside. This would be a compromise situation.

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