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Cat Litter Types – The complete guide

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To lead a relaxed and happy living, our pets has to be provided with some basic necessities such as a scratching pad, feeding/water bowl,  a harness and a lead, cat carrier; the most important among them being a cat litter box. A litter box is a small enclosed container with an opening either on the top or one side which is useful especially for strictly indoor cats to do their “business”. These litter boxes are filled with a material often called as cat litter or kitty litter which absorbs moisture contents from cats’ excretion to avoid foul smell and to keep the litter box/tray net and clean.

There are quite a few types of cat litters available in pet stores and supermarkets. When it comes to cat litter, consumers are concerned about various factors like size and style, odor control, durability, cost and guarantee and above all the health of the cat. Clay based litter is claimed to be the most common and economical among all the types.

Though there are several types of cat litters available based on the material, disinfectant and odor control, the classification can be narrowed down into two basic types, namely clumping and non-clumping.  An alternate type of “non –sticky” litter known as non-tracking formula is also in market recently.

Cat litter types that you need to know of

Clumping litter type, when wet, forms a clump which alone can be scooped off the litter box without changing the whole litter content though it has to be changed every few days. Clay and Plant forms the basic source of clumping litter materials.

Plain clay litter is sold in the natural form without any chemical additives and therefore it is odorless. Clay litter is the most preferred cat litter as it is more similar to sand and it seems appealing to pets.A processed form of clay litter often known as scooping litter, with added chemicals for freshness and fragrance is another kind of ideal clay based litter.

Cons of clay based litter: This litter type is found to be very dusty. Cats tend to dig into the litter as they love to play with sand and the dust may stick to cats’ fur and paws. Processed clay litter contains sodium particles which when inhaled or ingested results in respiratory ailments leading to asthma.
A variety of litter is available that are based on plants such as Corn, Citrus, Cedar, Wheat, Pine and Kenaf (a soft wood plant used to make writing paper).
Corncob litter is a natural form of litter which neutralizes odor, is renewable, lasts longer and is flushable. Wheat husk litter is one kind of organic form litter which can be disposed off easily and has got good odor control.Citrus litter made from citrus pulp, forms an excellent absorber and deodorizer.

Kenaf litter is a first-rate absorbent and is eco-friendly.Cedar sawdust is an economical cat litter as it absorbs moisture and then finally collapses down into sawdust.Pine based litter in the form of pine pellets is similar to cedar; it is fragrant and neutralizes the effect of ammonia. Cons of plant based litter: Corn and wheat litters tend to be prickly and most cats find it irritating and some get allergic to it. Recent studies revealed that the fragrant additives in pine pellets are can harm the respiratory tract, causing respiratory diseases.

Disadvantages of clumping litters

It is quite dusty. A low quality clumping litter may collapse and some amount of solid clumps may drop back into the litter box as you scoop. Clumping litter is not ideal as the primary litter for the first time kittens, as they tend to dig and eat it.
Non clumping cat litter is dust free and said to have no negative medical effects as it tend to absorb any moisture content and does not form clumps.
The main downside is that it is hard it know when it needs to be changed as it keeps the moist content down and does not form clumps. It requires frequent changing as it provides an optimal moist condition for the growth of molds. It is comparatively large and heavy.

Other Cat litter varieties

Silica gel/Crystal Litters are made from sand, form a superb absorber and have excellent odor-control. It is a ground form of sodium silicate which has numerous pours to help absorb moisture many times their weight. It is found to be non-toxic, dust-free and is bacteria-resistant. Moreover, silica litter type can be stirred after removing the clumps.
Cons:  It is more expensive than all the litter types and is known to have an odd texture. The particles are much large in size that cats may feel uncomfortable when stepped on it. The fragrant additives often irritate cats and they may refuse to use it. The particles being light-weighted can easily be tracked off the box. If dropped on floor, it may roll down to corners of the room and may stay unnoticed.

Recycled materials

An economical source of cat litter is made from recycled materials like shredded newspapers and pine pellets. These types are environmental and flushable. Cats tend to cover up their waste and for that purpose; newspaper litter is an ideal choice. Pine pellets cannot be easily tracked.

Cons: Pine pellet and newspaper disintegrates when wet, so making it difficult to scoop it off.  Frequent changing may be required as they are not the excellent choice when it comes to ‘odor-control’. It sticks to the paws easily when wet .Some cats refuse to use it as they may not like the smell of pine. If so, experiment by adding a small amount initially to litter which is currently used and gradually increase the quantity.

Biodegradable litter

Biodegradable cat litter can be made from plants, sawdust, old newspapers and other natural products. These litters have minimal environmental impact when disposed off and can be composted at home. A few among many advantages are that it lasts longer, has superior deodorizing capabilities and is usually non-toxic . It can be flushed down the toilet easily and is ecological.

The only disadvantage of the bio-degradable type is the cost.

Other types of cat litter in market are “Health- Meter” Cat litter and “Scented” Cat litter.

Health Meter Cat litter changes color in case your kitty has some health related problems.
Scented Cat litter has got very attractive aromatic ingredients in it and smells like human perfume. The downside of these kinds is that most cats find the scent, strange and unpleasant.

Cat preference

Choose an eco-friendly type of litter considering your cat’s health and preference. Cats prefer a litter that is more like sand than litter in the form of chunks or pellets. Your cat should enjoy digging in it.
Most cats prefer odorless litter that doesn’t conceal their own scent. They may be fussy about the smell and feel of their litter box so make sure that the new litter box doesn’t irritate their noses.
You can easily understand whether your cats dislike the litter from their behavior. If they refuse to use the box, try changing the litter type rather than insisting upon using it.

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