cat litter

A Complete Guide to Cat Litter: Types, Benefits, and Tips

With all the different types of litter out on the market today, from classic clay clumping litter to litter made from natural ingredients to fancy litter that changes color, how do you know which litter is appropriate for your cat? Let’s break down what attracts a cat to using litter and how you can best choose a litter that your cat will want to use consistently.

The History of Cat Litter:

It is hard to believe that cat litter has not even had its 100 year anniversary of being invented, especially since we all like to think that cats have been living indoors a lot longer than they really have. Cat litter was not invented until the late 1940’s, by a man named Edward Lowe. Before the invention of cat litter, people used to use sawdust, sand, and ashes for their cats to eliminate on, but that proved to be extremely messy and did not hide odor well. Mr. Lowe sold products to factories to help absorb grease and oil on the factory floors. It wasn’t until his neighbor asked him to borrow some sand for her cat because the ashes she used were making quite a mess. Mr. Lowe gave her some granulated clay to use and low and behold it worked wonderfully and the first clay cat litter was born.

What Do Cats Find Appealing?

When living in the wild, the ancestors of today’s domestic felines gravitated towards using the sand in their environment to cover up their urine and stool, and to mask their odor from predators. Also, cats that live an outdoor lifestyle in today’s world will use soft dirt or sandy substrates to cover up what they have left behind.

  • The soft feeling of sand or dirt attracts cats to use it because it is gentle on their paws.
  • The small granules that these substrates are made from makes it easier for cats to dig a hole and to bury their waste.
  • Dirt or sand also covers up a cat’s scent in the environment, helping to deter predators and keeping the cat safe.

Different Types of Litter Available Today:

  • Clay Clumping Litter- This type of litter is one of the closest in feeling to what cats would use in the wild. It absorbs moisture into a clump for easy scooping and it also controls odors very well. Not only has it consistently been the favorite choice for cats, but it is also the most affordable.
  • Natural Ingredients- For those who want a more natural substrate that is less dusty and environmentally friendly, but provides a soft feel for a cat’s paws, litter made from corn, wheat, pine, paper, or other ingredients is a good option. Each of these types of litters has their own pros and cons, so it is best to do your research before purchasing.
  • Pellets- Pellets are oblong in shape and can be skinny or thick, depending on what material they are made out of. Most cats do not like to stand on pellets to eliminate because they are very uncomfortable to the cat’s paws. Some types absorb urine, while others allow the urine to collect on a pad in a bin underneath the tray. This makes monitoring your cat’s urine very difficult.
  • Crystals- Crystal litter is usually made out of silica and tends to have a rough feel to a cat’s paws. The crystals are made to absorb the urine and are replaced every week or so. This can make it very difficult to monitor your cat’s health because you can not tell the volume of urine being made or if he is urinating at all.
  • Health Monitoring- The fancy litter that is supposed to change color to help you monitor your cat’s health. Again, this litter is rough on the cat’s paws, but unfortunately the color change system is unreliable and a lot of health concerns can be missed, which can lead to major health issues not being diagnosed properly and in a timely fashion.

What Litter Should You Choose?

With all of this information and the multitude of choices, how do you know which litter to choose? It usually comes down to your personal preference and not your cats. The manufacturers have designed all their litters to appeal to you and they have not kept the needs of cats in their forethought.

Instead of choosing a litter that appeals to you, you should choose a litter that is comfortable for your cat because at the end of the day it is your cat using the litter. The litter that most cats prefer is made of the same material as the first cat litter ever made, unscented clay. So, in my opinion, buy the boring litter and make your cat happy, and most likely avoid a lot of behavioral problems that can come from a cat not liking the set-up of his litter box.

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