Eco-friendly cat litter is not only better for the environment – it’s also healthier both for your cat and you. Unlike clay litter, eco-friendly options – such as wood pellets, corn, paper and other plant alternatives – are dust-free, biodegradable, sustainably sourced, and most importantly, completely safe for your kitty and home.
The only issue you might run into with natural cat litter is that your kitty won’t take to it. It’s rare but it can happen if your cat has very particular bathroom habits and is used to using clay litter only. Thankfully, your pet and you can make the switch if you’re slow and steady in your approach and, of course, if you choose the right litter. To help you do just that, we’ve tried and tested some of the most popular all-natural kitty litter options. Here are the seven best eco-friendly cat litter options, a.k.a. the products we and our pets liked the most!
Best Eco-Friendly Cat Litter Options
Made from whole-kernel corn that is 100% natural and therefore free from toxic chemicals, this eco-friendly cat litter is safe for your kitty, home and the planet. World’s Best cat litter is also highly clumping as it forms tight clumps practically on contact, making it really easy to scoop. While unscented, it’s able to control the odor pretty well and for a decent amount of time, however, we wouldn’t recommend it for multi-cat households. This is because while the fibrous material is highly absorbing and great at trapping the odor the moment the waste touches it, it’s not great at keeping the litter box fresh for a long time if multiple cats are using it (and as you know, the more clumps, the stronger the smell). For this reason, we recommend scooping at least once a day; if you do this, there should be barely any odor for good two weeks!
Importantly, this biodegradable cat litter is also quite gentle on the paws, so most cats have no issues using it; even the finicky kitties should adjust well. However – and this might be a big however depending on your needs and where you keep the litter box – it can track quite a bit, so expect to wipe your kitty’s paws more often than usual if a sparkly clean house is a priority.
If your cat is a fan of paper litter or you’re feeling like giving it a try, Purina Yesterday’s News is a great option. Made from recycled, soft paper pellets, this natural cat litter is not only eco-friendly (even friendlier than grain litter!) but also three times more absorbent than standard clay litter. This means that it can be used in smaller amounts, as well as for longer. Another benefit of paper cat litter is that it’s practically trackless and dustless, which is great news not only for your and your kitty’s health but also for your floors. Most importantly of all, it’s 100% safe, made without perfume and aggressive chemicals, and it’s quite gentle on paws.
Onto the negatives, because they do exist, unfortunately! While great at trapping the odor, the Purina Yesterday’s News paper pellets are not exactly user-friendly, at least when it comes to us, pet parents who scoop. They’re on the bigger side, so they don’t fall easily through the slots (depending on the scooper, of course), so you do have to shake the scooper quite vigorously for clean pellets to fall through the grates and back into the litter box. However, looking at the big picture, it’s really not a big deal we say it’s definitely worth it – the litter traps smells, clumps well, lasts a long time, and it’s eco-friendly.
If your kitty has sensitive eyes or you or some of your family members suffer from asthma/breathing problems, we recommend Rufus & Coco WeeKitty Natural Cat Litter. While not 100% dust-free, this biodegradable cat litter is very, very low in dust, so it’s perfect for sensitive cats as well as humans tasked with cleaning the litter. Made from biodegradable corn, it also absorbs up to 4 times its weight in liquid, which is to say, it is highly absorbent. It also has excellent odor control (one of the best ones we’ve tried), so it’s suitable for multi-cat households. Oh, and it’s also very easy to clean as it clumps and the pellets are small so they can fall through the slots on most litter scoopers.
But while it says it’s flushable, we don’t recommend flushing any kitty litter – our sewer systems are simply not made for cat waste and litter, even when it’s biodegradable. Another thing we should mention about this particular corn litter – while it has excellent odor control and absorption properties, it doesn’t last a very long time, especially if you have two or more cats. In general, it should be replaced every two to three weeks, tops. Other than that, a fantastic biodegradable cat litter.
- Made from biodegradable corn
- Very low in dust, very low tracking
- 4 times more absorption than clay litters
- Great odor control, suitable for multi-cat households
- Flushable, but we recommend against flushing it
For folks who struggle with bad cat litter box odor, Purina Tidy Cats Pure Nature Wood Litter may be the best option. Made from two different wood shavings, cedar and pine, plus one grain, corn, and enhanced with fragrance, this kitty litter absolutely kills pee and poo odors – even if you have multiple cats and live in a tiny apartment! It’s also lightweight yet absorbs pretty well, so it lasts quite a while. Another bonus is that it’s extremely low in dust, which is great for your health as well as your kitty’s.
Unfortunately, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns; Tidy Cats Pure Nature does have a pretty strong fragrance, so we cannot recommend it to finicky cats nor those sensitive to perfumes. Granted, the cedar fragrance is what helps it kill odor in its tracks (as well as mask it), but it can be too much for some cats. Another thing to mention – it doesn’t clump very well; in fact, the clumps can separate in the scooper if you shake more vigorously. This all said, it is a great and affordable eco-friendly litter, it just requires a gentle hand and perhaps a minute or two longer cleaning sessions than usual.
- Made from cedar and pine shavings, plus corn cob
- Fragranced for enhanced odor control
- Perfect for multi-kitty families
- Very soft and gentle on the paws
- Doesn’t clump very well, needs careful scooping
If you find that most eco-friendly cat litters you’ve tried are not clumping enough for your taste, you may like SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter. Made from the USA farmed grass (zero added chemicals, including fragrance), this 100% biodegradable cat litter clumps pretty much the same – if not better – than standard clay litter. It’s also highly absorbent and surprisingly good at odor control (considering it’s pure grass). This litter clumps within minutes of your kitty using it, which, coupled with the fact that it’s quite small, means it’s super-easy to clean – clean litter easily falls through the scooper’s grates back in the box, leaving behind hard clumps. As a bonus, it’s also lightweight and very soft on the paws.
The drawback, rather ironically, is the fact that it’s made from pure grass. While this gives the litter all of its wonderful properties, it also means that some cats may want to eat it. Also, it does track more than other biodegradable litters (such as pine and corn pellets), which is something to keep in mind. This all said, if your kitty is not particularly experimental with what they put in their mouth, and you don’t mind cleaning around the litter box a tad more than usual, this is seriously a great natural, eco-friendly cat litter.
Another natural cat litter option to consider is Okocat’s Paper Litter. As the name suggests, this litter consists of lightweight paper-based pellets which are highly absorbent and, as a bonus, very good at suppressing the smell of ammonia (if you scoop daily, you can expect little to no odor for about a week). The litter is also practically dust-free so it tracks minimally or not at all depending on how neat your pet is – perfect if you don’t have time to wipe their paws frequently. Most importantly, Okocat litter is 100% natural, made from sustainably sourced fiber and zero harmful chemicals.
On the negative side, the pellets are very small and do not clump which can make cleaning them a bit of a hassle. You have to brush the pellets lightly in order to find used, wet litter that should be thrown out; it really requires a different approach to cleaning compared to clumping litter, but thankfully, it’s not super-complicated and you do get a hang of it pretty quickly. Still, if you’re looking for a super-simple-to-clean litter, this is not something you’ll like.
- Made from sustainably sourced paper fiber
- Dust-free and no to minimally tracking
- Very absorbent and good at odor control
- Ideal for sensitive cats and those with allergies
- Non-clumping, therefore a bit harder to clean
Featuring sawdust shavings made from 100% natural pine, Arm & Hammer’s Feline Pine Original is super-absorbent and great at fighting the odor – naturally as it’s completely free from synthetic perfumes and harsh chemicals. Gentle on the paws and dust-free, this all-natural kitty litter is perfect for pets (and people) with allergies, as well as generally sensitive cats. Tracking is also minimal because pine shavings are dense and relatively heavy, so your cat won’t be able to kick it out of the box everywhere. While free from fragrances, this litter does have a natural pine smell which helps it mask the odor quite well.
But because this is a non-clumping formula, it is trickier to clean than clumping litter. Urine dissolves the pellets into sawdust which you have to dig out of the dry, unused pellets; it can be a bit awkward in the beginning if you’ve only ever used clumping litter before, but it does get easier over time. Alternatively, a sifting litter box works pretty great with all sawdust/shavings litters, including this one.
Best Eco-Friendly Cat Litter Buying Guide
And there you have it: some of the best eco-friendly cat litter options currently on the market. As you can see, for this buying guide we’ve selected only 7 options; sure, there are dozens upon dozens of natural, biodegradable litters available for purchase (and more are guaranteed to come), but unfortunately, many are simply not good enough in at least one area: some don’t trap odors well, others track like crazy, while some litters cost an arm and a leg. Of course, there are personal preferences to think about as well; while some pet parents don’t mind some odor after a couple of days of use, others won’t even consider a litter unless it controls the smell for at least a week. Indeed, finding the best environmentally-friendly cat litter is hard! Still, these are some of the better options that we’ve tried and can recommend, but do keep in mind that there is no such thing as the perfect natural cat litter that everyone is going to like. Ultimately, a lot has to do with personal needs, preferences and your budget.
If you’re still not sure which cat litter is right for you and your kitty, we recommend taking a look at our buying guide. In this section, we talk about everything you should know about environmentally-friendly cat litters, including what makes a litter eco-friendly, the types that you can find both online and in brick-and-mortar stores, how you can transition from clay to pellets, and much more.
What Makes a Good Sustainable Cat Litter: Things to Consider
Okay, so first things first: what makes a good eco-friendly cat litter? Being natural is not enough; after all, clay is perfectly natural but is far from sustainable as it’s mined and processed in a way that is destructive both to the environment and habitats. So what is it? It’s pretty simple (but hard to achieve) actually; a good sustainable cat litter should be biodegradable, able to trap and control odors well, low in both dust and tracking, easy to clean, and of course, sensibly priced. Let’s go over each of these factors in more detail.
When it comes to environmentally-friendly cat litters, the most important thing is that they’re biodegradable. All types of litter featured in our top picks are biodegradable, but there are more options to choose from if you don’t like anything on our list. Biodegradable and sustainable litters can be made from recycled paper, wood pellets and shavings, grains, grass and even nut shells (more on litter types later).
Able to control odors
This should go without saying, but a good cat litter – be it eco-friendly or not – needs to have good odor control properties. Unfortunately, we find that many natural options are not particularly great at trapping and/or controlling odors, especially if you have multiple cats. The seven options we listed above are all pretty good at odor control, but to be perfectly honest, not one cat litter we’ve ever tried is great at controlling the fumes for a long time. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to control litter box odor, including scooping and cleaning regularly, using baking soda with the litter, and so on. Of course, the type of the litter matters too – paper is notoriously poor at odor control unless scented (but it has other great benefits), while wood pellets and shavings are pretty efficient at trapping the smell.
Low in dust and tracking
A good cat litter should be very low in dust, both for your and your kitty’s health. Fortunately, most eco-friendly cat litter options are naturally low in dust, so you should have no problem in this area at least. When it comes to tracking though, the situation is a bit trickier. Some natural litters are messier by nature, such as lightweight sawdust or grass seed, while others are harder to track, such as hardy wood pellets and paper pellets.
Easy to scoop
A good biodegradable litter should also be easy to scoop, meaning it should be relatively quick and simple for you to separate the used bits from the non-used litter. Generally speaking, we find that clumping litters tend to be easier to scoop than non-clumping varieties, although there are exceptions, of course. What’s important is finding an option that doesn’t take long to scoop – you really don’t want to spend 15 minutes every single day, twice a day, trying to separate moist, used bits of litter from dry, non-used litter as we guarantee you’ll end up resenting all eco-friendly varieties! The goal is to find something that quickly absorbs moisture and allows for quick and easy cleaning. Of course, if you’re retired, working from home or simply don’t mind spending a couple of extra minutes on cleaning your cat’s litterbox, you can use practically any sustainable litter out there!
Finally, a good cat litter should also be sensibly priced. It’s no use if the litter is environmentally friendly, very low in dust and tracking and great at trapping the odors if it’s ultra-expensive! After all, our cats use their litter boxes every day so we have to change and replace the litter on a regular basis, meaning we have to buy new bags every few weeks. If you’re just starting to experiment with sustainable cat litter, we recommend staying away from expensive options. This is because finding the best eco-friendly litter takes some experimentation; it’s quite unlikely you’ll be able to find the perfect litter immediately! So start with a bag or two of reasonably priced litter, see what you and your kitty like better, and save your money for something more important. After all, paper, wood, grain and other plant litters are quite cheap to produce as they’re typically leftovers. This all being said, we don’t recommend buying the cheapest litter you can find either; generally, quality does come with a price, so it’s wise to stick to mid-range options.
Different Types of Environmentally-Friendly Cat Litter
As you can probably tell by now, there are multiple types of sustainable cat litter. There’s no the best eco-friendly cat litter for everyone though as each type has its own benefits and drawbacks. For this reason, we recommend trying each type (not at once, of course!) so you can see which one suits your and your kitty’s needs and preferences the best.
Typically made from pine, spruce, fir or any other waste wood, this type of cat litter is available as pellets, shavings or crumbles. All options are very eco-friendly, as they’re made from materials from lumber processing that would, if not used for litter, simply go to waste. Wood cat litter is also usually pretty good at trapping and even masking the odors thanks to its natural woody scent. Some types also clump very well, and most are completely or almost completely dust-free. On the downside, some varieties, such as extremely lightweight wood shavings, tend to stick to paws and therefore can track outside the litter box.
Made from recycled paper which is then compressed into pellets or crumbles, paper cat litter is another great sustainable option to consider. Eco-friendly, dust-free and usually very budget-friendly too, this litter checks almost all boxes. The main downside of paper cat litter is that it doesn’t have natural odor-controlling abilities. For this reason, some manufacturers choose to add fragrances which is fine for non-picky and non-sensitive cats, but can be a deal-breaker otherwise. Also, most paper litters are non-clumping which can make scooping a bit tricky.
Available as corn, wheat, grass seed or bamboo, plant cat litter is, of course, very environmentally friendly. All of these types have their own pros and cons. For example, while corn litter is usually clumping and low tracking, it’s not suitable for super-curious cats as some are known to eat it. Wheat cat litter is also usually clumping and therefore easy to clean, plus it has solid odor-controlling properties, but unfortunately is be really messy, and similarly to corn, it’s not recommended for cats that are known to eat non-food stuff. Grass seed litter is fast-clumping and usually very low in dust, plus it tends to trap odors very well too, but on the downside, it’s usually more expensive than other types, and again, some cats might try to eat it.
Usually made from crushed walnut or coconut shells, nut shell cat litter typically has great clumping abilities. Coconut is very good at eliminating odor, so you might like it if you have multiple cats, while walnut tracks less, making it easy to clean. Unfortunately, nut litters are usually pricy, plus some cats and people can be allergic to nuts, and therefore nut litter as well.
How to Switch from Clay Litter to Eco-Friendly Litter
If your kitty has been using clay litter for years and/or they have very particular litter box preferences, transitioning them to eco-friendly alternatives might be challenging. But it’s definitely doable! Here are some of the things you can do to help your cat adjust to the litter box change.
- Start by cleaning out and washing your cat’s litter box. Then, pour about an inch layer of the new, biodegradable litter, and add about two inches of your kitty’s favorite clay litter on top, without mixing the two. Naturally, the more your kit uses the box, the more the two litters will mix; this is fine, we just want them to remain separate for the first time your cat uses it. The goal is to trick the kit into thinking the box contains only their fav clay litter so they will use it. This way, they will gradually discover that the box contains something else too, which will give them some time to get used to it.
- When you start scooping out the waste, try adding only the new biodegradable litter instead of the clay one. If your kitty seems fine, you can do this until it’s time to completely replace the litter. If they seem hesitant, simply add more clay the next time you scoop. Once it’s time to replace the litter, you can either pour only the pellets/whatever biodegradable litter you purchased, or try it again the same way you did the first time. Only now, instead of pouring about a one-inch layer of pellets and two inches of clay, reverse it: pour about two inches of pellets and one inch of clay. When it’s time to scoop, add pellets instead of clay. Keep doing this until your kitty seems comfortable with their new and improved litter.
Even if your pet seems fine using their new eco-friendly litter right from the get-go, we recommend observing them for a while as some cats are prone to licking and even eating certain plant (and even clay) litters. Better safe than sorry!
Is cat litter bad for the environment?
Traditional clay cat litter is indeed bad for the environment. This is because clay is obtained through a destructive process called strip mining or surface mining. Not only is this process bad for the local environment, including ecosystems and water sources, but it’s also harmful to local habitats. On top of this, clay and silica cat litters have potential health risks both for you and your kit as they’re high in dust (despite what that “zero dust” packaging says!). This can cause respiratory problems and is especially problematic for people with asthma or cats with sensitive health.
What is the most eco-friendly cat litter?
The most eco-friendly cat litter is made from sustainable and renewable material(s), is biodegradable, and safe both for your kitty and you. This means that all litter types we talked about above – including wood, plant and grain, paper and nut shell litter – are eco-friendly. All types come with their own benefits and disadvantages, so we recommend experimenting a little in order to find the best one for your needs and budget.
Can you make your own eco-friendly cat litter?
Sure! If you have some time on your hands, you can try making your own eco-friendly cat litter. Be advised that usually, homemade cat litter is not as effective as store-bought litter, however, it can be useful, not to mention cheaper, if you already have certain materials available at home.
For instance, if you work with wood and have plenty of wood waste to spare, such as sawdust, shavings or wood chips, you can use them instead of commercial litter. A word of caution: do not use fresh wood as it contains natural phenol oils that are toxic to our feline buddies. Make sure you heat treat them before you toss them into your kitty’s litter box.
If you and your cat are fans of grain litter but you find it expensive, you can purchase whole grains from anywhere and grind them – the result will be quite similar to commercial grain litter.
Do you have horses? You can use horse bedding pellets as cat litter as they’re made from sawdust. Bear in mind that these pellets tend to swell up quite a lot when exposed to moisture, so use them in relatively small quantities to avoid overflowing.