Does Clumping Cat Litter Work?

Does clumping cat litter work and does it stop odor? This is a question you may be asking if you want to try a different brand or are a new user. Whether your feline friend spends most of her day outside or prefers the indoor life, you will need to provide a litter box.

Even if you have a cat flap, there may be times you want to keep your kitty inside. It’s also good to give your cat the option. Threats from other cats outside, or bad weather are good enough reasons.

In this post you’ll learn all about clumping cat litter and if it works to soak up urine and stop odor. Plus, what is the best clumping cat litter and what age can your kitten start using it. We’ll also be comparing clumping to non-clumping litter, and how deep you should fill the box.

What is clumping cat litter?

Even though you’ve heard of clumping cat litter you may be wondering what it is compared to other types. Actually, clumping litter dates back to the mid 1980s, so it’s still quite new. Made from bentonite clay it’s very absorbable, as fine particles bind well together when wet.

However, some brands are dusty, which may cause breathing problems if you suffer from asthma. Although there are some makes that claim to be almost dust free including Fresh Step and Tidy Cats

Clumping vs non-clumping

Non-clumping cat litter has been around since the 1940s and is great at soaking up urine. The main downside though is you need to clean the box more often, and you can’t remove solid waste easily.

In contrast clumping litter forms solid blocks which can simply be removed without wasting much. All you need do is pick out the clumps and rake over the surface adding a little more if necessary.

Non-clumping can smell if not changed often enough, though some brands have added charcoal or baking soda to neutralise unpleasant odors. On the plus side it’s good at absorbing large volumes of urine, though it can pool at the bottom of the box.

If you’re saving money, then you’ll find clumping cat litter is often the cheapest. If you have back problems though, don’t buy large bags of it from your local store. Though cheaper it’s also very heavy, and you’d need help carrying it out to the car.

This is because clay is a very dense and heavy material. A bag of non-clumping litter can be quite light in comparison, with some brands using recycled materials such as paper. In addition organic materials including wood chips or pine are also popular.

Cats as any pet parent knows, can be very finicky! If your cat doesn’t like the litter you’ve chosen it’s possible she may find somewhere else to “go”, such as your bed! This is why it’s important to introduce a new litter gradually.

Can you flush clumping cat litter?

One of the worst chores of being a cat parent is bagging up cat litter waste and taking it outside to the bin. While some brands of cat litter are marketed as being flushable, most would block your toilet.

Clumping cat litter is designed to form hard clumps when exposed to liquid. While this is ideal for removing solid waste, clumps of bentonite clay will block your pipe system. As a result, you could be paying your local plumber a large sum of money!

In addition, your home will smell like a litter box, and guests won’t find it very inviting. It can take a long time to get rid of the odor and even burning scented candles isn’t guaranteed to help.

Whether cat litter is clumping or non-clumping, you should never attempt to flush it down the toilet. Even if a brand composed of organic material claims it’s safe, my advice is take the extra time to put it in bin bags.

How deep should you fill the litter box?

Cats love to dig and scratch around in the earth. Anything less than three inches isn’t enough. It’s a cat’s natural instinct to cover waste. This is because cat urine and feces have a very strong odor that attracts predators. Even though your feline friend is safely indoors her instinct is still there.

However, overfilling the box can result in spillage. Apart from wasting litter, your cat may end up kicking excess amounts onto the floor and tracking it everywhere.

Does clumping cat litter stop odour?

Most brands of clumping cat litter claim to stop odor. As previously mentioned, the addition of charcoal and baking soda help neutralise bad odor. In addition, clay in itself is a natural absorber of unpleasant smells.

However, there’s only so much odor that can be controlled. Failing to change the litter often enough will result in a smelly box your cat won’t want to use. A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times greater than a human’s, so even if you can’t detect odor, your cat certainly will!

Fresh Step has a 10 day odor control guarantee and has a scent similar to Febreze. If you’ve not tried scented litter before, you could start by adding a little bit to your cat’s regular brand. You’ll soon know if she doesn’t like Febreze!

Is clumping cat litter bad for the environment?

is clumping cat litter bad for the environment

Bentonite clay used I’m making clumping litter is mined in shallow pits that leave unsightly scars on the earth’s surface. In order to create these mines, large areas of forest are destroyed an along with it, wildlife habitat.

In addition, the removal of topsoil leads to depletion of natural minerals. Clay isn’t biodegradable either, and take years to decompose.

So what is the alternative?

While traditional clay based clumping cat litter will remain popular, there are biodegradable alternatives made from natural, plant based materials. These include corn cobs, recycled paper, wood chips, and wheat. World’s Best is made from corn cobs and claims to be 99% dust free.

Clumping litter made from recycled paper is composed of small pellets, and is safe for the environment. Yesterday’s News clumping cat litter claims to be virtually dust free. It’s made from a mix of recycled paper and cardboard made into pellets.

In conclusion

corn clumping cat litter

Whether you decide to use clay based clumping litter or organic, try and stick to the same brand as some cats don’t like change. Clay has the advantage of being less expensive, and the texture can feel more natural on your cat’s paws. The finer the particle the more natural it will feel to your cat.

Imagine the feel of waking bare foot on a soft sandy beach, compared to walking on a pebbly beach. Well this is probably how your cat feels stepping into a box of soft fine clay, composed to pellets or sharp silica.

If you’ve enjoyed this post and found it useful, please share. Also, if you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences, please leave your comment in the box below

Wishing you a purrfect day:)


10 thoughts on “Does Clumping Cat Litter Work?”

  1. Hi Kathy, this is a great article explaining the difference between clumping litter and non-clumping litter. We have used both types at various times and are currently using clumping litter.
    I was unaware that this does not break down and that bothers me. I know you mentioned more eco-friendly litter choices but I am unsure my cat will use it since it is a coarser texture. Is there not a finer, eco-friendly alternative?
    She is very particular about her litter box. She loves to “dig to China” as we jokingly say here and had to get a litter box with a lid and flap to stop her flicking it all on the floor. Have you used covered litter boxes? What are your thoughts about them?

    • Hi Deb, thanks for stopping by:) Yes, there are eco-friendly clumping cat litters which I’ll be covering in a future post. Most people prefer clumping litter as you don’t need to clean the box so often, and there’s less odor. My cat goes outside mostly, but when he does use the litter tray he doesn’t dig very much. I think some cats are just diggers, while others are lazy lol! I’ve never used a covered box and to be honest they may smell bad unless cleaned very often. There seems to be mixed feelings about them, with some cat owners loving them and others hating them.

  2. Hello Like your article, I agree with you never put that in the toilette, I did it a couple of time and I had so much trouble with it after … never do that. I have 3 cats at home thank you for sharing, like your content

  3. Thanks for all the great information Kathy. I love my clumping kitty litter, Arm and Hammer Clump & Seal Multi-Cat, but I never considered the impact on the environment which I care about very much. I’m going to look into the alternative cat litters you recommended. Another kitty litter tip I was given by someone is to use a storage bin with higher sides. Not only do the cats make less of a mess of my floor, but my little dog can not get into the litter as some dogs like to do. Now if someone can give me tips on teaching some cats how to actually cover their poop. I have one that very industriously scratches the side of the bin instead of the litter and is quite unsuccessful in covering it up and trapping the smell.


    • Thank you Denise:) Yes, it’s a shame that many brands of clumping cat litter are bad for the environment, but the upside is they are cheap. I hope you decide to try the alternatives, as they are biodegradable. However, not all cats like the texture of pellets on their paws. My cat also scratches the side of the litter tray after he’s used it! He doesn’t use it that often though as he goes outside unless it’s raining. Yes, a high sided storage bin sounds like a good idea, especially if you have dogs!

  4. Kathy,

    I always used clumping litter for my cats. I tried the non-clumping kind once since it was given to me, but it was awful! The stench, the urine at the bottom of the pan, it was the most disgusting thing I had ever used. I didn’t even use the entire box that was given to me, I threw it away.

    I did find later though, the crystals worked really well, and especially the ones that go with the auto cleaning litter boxes. I loved the ones that were tied into the septic system and it was spray rinse the crystals and flush the urine and feces into the septic, and no crystals. I loved that box!

    I tried to talk my mom into getting one since she’s elderly, but it’s $300, so very expensive. The crystals cost a bit too, though I tried to tell her that you don’t have to replace them as often as regular cat litter. As it stands, she has 3 cats right now, and she’s cleaning her 2 boxes twice a week. I hate watching her struggle with doing the job, so I know she was looking into a less expensive alternative.

    Great article and great information! Thanks for sharing this!


    • Hi Katrina, I prefer clumping cat litter as well. Fortunately, my cat goes outside unless it’s raining, but I always have the litter tray available for him. Yes, pooling at the bottom of the tray is common with non-clumping and the smell can be awful. I’ve never used an auto cleaning box, but good to know they work well with crystal litter. I can imagine how hard it must be for your mum. Cleaning one box is bad enough! Thank you for your input and for stopping by:)

  5. It’s clumping litter for me all the way! How interesting that the clay stuff isn’t good for the environment – that is so important to know.

    I love the idea of the recycled ones from paper or cardboard, or even better still, the ones made from corn cobs! (I mean what else can you do with corn cobs?)

    Thanks for taking the time to do the research – it is very much appreciated.



    • Thank you Jean:) Yes, I’m a great fan of clumping cat litter as well. Not everyone realises clay doesn’t break down easily, especially as it’s mined in the ground. Yes, corn cobs is an interesting one! I love corn on the cob, but never thought of corn being used in making cat litter! I’ve tried recycled paper clumping litter and found it very absorbent. However, I bought a cheap brand and was cleaning the tray more often compared to my regular clay based litter. Thanks for stopping by:)


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