Browse SmartBedz

Clumping Cat Litter vs Non Clumping Cat Litter

Most cat owners have a preference for either clumping cat litter or non clumping cat litter and tend to stick to their preferred type but without necessarily knowing the full pros and cons of each type. Conventional clumping cat litter is sold primarily on its convenience to owners, supposedly making it easier to clean. But there are downsides in terms of your cat's health and for the environment. Some owners, aware of the potential health problems, prefer a non clumping cat litter, but without realising that even non clumping cat litter can have its own problems, depending on what it is made from.

This article explores the differences between clumping cat litter versus non clumping cat litter, how they work and what they are made of. Understanding the implications of each should help you decide exactly what sort of litter you would prefer for your cat. Finally we show how SmartBedz cat litter avoids all the problems of conventional clumping and non clumping litters.

Clumping Cat Litter - click here to buy our natural clumping cat litter from our online shop

What is Clumping Cat Litter?

Clumping cat litter is chemically treated to make it stick together when wet to form a solid lump which can be removed from the litter box without changing all the litter. Clumping litter usually contains quartz or diatomaceous earth and can also contain silica dust thought to be a mild carcinogen, although there are some natural clumping cat litters available. Because of their clumping action it is generally unadvisable to dispose of these by flushing.

How Does Conventional Clumping Cat Litter Work?

Clumping cat litter is generally made of sodium rich bentonite clay which contains minerals of sodium, calcium, aluminium, magnesium or iron. Sodium ions have a higher hydration sphere and can absorb more water than calcium ions can. This causes the litter to clump together when moist, forming balls that cat owners can easily scoop out of the litter boxes and throw away. Because owners can easily remove waste, not all of the kitty litter must be changed as often. Odour control is achieved by capturing the urine and preventing ammonia from forming.

Clumping litters are now also being made from ground wheat or sweetcorn, with the clumping process making use of the naturally occurring starch.

What are the Benefits of a Clumping Cat Litter?

It is very easy to scoop and clean by removing the clumps. Clumping litter does not need to be replaced every week. Just add more litter as the level gets low from scooping. Since less is required, it means less product to carry home from the shops.

What are the Downsides of Clumping Cat Litter?

Clumping clay litter is more expensive than non clumping clay litter, although less is required. And, like non clumping clay litter, it is not biodegradable and needs to be disposed of in landfill.

Clumping clay litter should not be used for kittens. They tend to get a lot on their paws, lick it off, and the "clumping action" can cause intestinal blockage. Natural clumping litters are recommended for kittens. Many owners of adult cats have concluded that if a clumping litter is a problem for kittens, then it is probably a problem for mature cats too, even if the danger is reduced, since adult cat toilet and grooming behaviour is just the same as that of kittens.

What is Non Clumping Cat Litter?

Non clumping clay litter is made from natural clay, and dried into granules. It is available unscented, or with additives such as baking soda and scented fresheners. Owners need to scoop out solid waste every day, and once a week the entire litter box should be emptied, washed and replaced with fresh litter.

How Does Conventional Non Clumping Cat Litter Work?

The clay minerals used are extruded into pellets and dried. They are very absorbent and help prevent cat urine odours although quite often other chemicals and scents are added to these litters. The whole tray needs to be changed at least once a week so you need a lot of it.

What are the Benefits of a Clay Non Clumping Cat Litter?

It is much cheaper to buy than clumping litter, even though more is needed in comparison to clumping or natural litters. Some owners feel that a non clumping litter is safer for their cat. In addition, clay has fine sand like qualities which some cats like.

What are the Downsides of Clay Non Clumping Cat Litter?

It is very dusty when disturbed by the cat scabbing or when the tray is changed. This dust can get everywhere and can be an irritant for cats or owners with allergies. The tray will need to be changed at least once a week and it can get in a dreadful mess so it is best to use tray liners as well. You will need lots of this type of litter and it will need to be disposed of in landfill.

Are Other Kinds of Non Clumping Cat Litter Available?

There are many kinds of natural non clumping litters now available, mainly plant based, from such things as sweetcorn, wheat by-products, wheat straw, beet pulp, oat hulls and wood. Litters such as whole sweetcorn have all the advantages of clay - outstanding absorbency, good clumping, low dust and good odour control.  Wheat husks are another organic waste product mixed with natural bonding ingredients. In these types of litter clumps will form but fall apart when scooped. They are biodegradable and can be flushed. There are also litters made from silica gel sometimes called crystal litters. These are made from porous granular sodium silicate and are said to be very absorbent and long lasting - but they do require landfill disposal, and tend to be more expensive.

What Do Cats Prefer?

The fact that there are so many different types of litter on the market is testament to the fact that there is no straightforward answer. Different cats will prefer different types of litter and it is a question of trial and error, personal choice or environmental considerations.

So Should I Use Clumping or Non Clumping?

Our article has shown that while there are some benefits of both types, they actually share several important downsides - in particular, their dustiness and their non biodegradability. We recommend avoiding the whole clumping versus non clumping argument and going back to first principles about what makes an ideal cat litter. The idea cat litter needs to the have the following qualities:

It needs to be highly absorbent and odour suppressing - the basic requirement of any type of litter. It needs to be easy to use and clean out, preferably allowing spot cleaning to minimise the quantity used and therefore making it cost-effective. It needs to be virtually dust free to avoid allergy problems as well as keeping the rest of the house clean. And it should ideally be biodegradable and made from environmentally friendly raw materials to avoid environmental damage.

Why Use Smartbedz?

SmartBedz is a straw based, highly absorbent pellet which fulfils all these needs. The pellet format means that wet pellets can be easily scooped out leaving the dry (smaller) pellets behind. Thus, it provides all the easy-to-clean qualities of a clumping litter, but without any of the downsides.

Clumping Cat Litter - click here to buy our natural clumping cat litter from our online shop