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Clumping Or Non-Clumping Cat Litter: Which Should You Choose?

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 5 minutes

There are many types of cat litter on the market but they all fall into one of two categories;

  1. Clumping, and
  2. Non-clumping

So which is best? Clumping or non-clumping cat litter?

In this article, we’ll break down the pros and cons of each.

Find the Best Cat Litter For You and Your Cat

We’ve used hundreds of cat litters since 2013 and product tested 72 this year. These are 9 of the best.

Non-Clumping Cat Litter

scooping non-clumping cat litter
ProsCons
blue tick Cheaper than clumping litterpink cross Harder to separate clean litter from soiled
blue tick Available in a wide variety of materialspink cross Often smells more than clumping litter
blue tick Contains less dust, better for your cat’s lungspink cross Need to empty and replace more often
blue tick Best for kittens and cats that eat their litterpink cross You might spend more money in the long run

Cats have been toileting in non-clumping litter long before clumping versions.

It’s available in lots of materials, including; clay, silica, paper, wood and more.

How Non-Clumping Litter Works

In general, non-clumping litter works the same as clumping litter, without the clumping. Depending on you and your cat’s preferences, this might be a positive or a negative.

Clay is the most absorbent type of non-clumping litter thanks to its porous nature. That said, it’s not great for the environment. It’s strip-mined and isn’t recyclable.

Silica works in a different way. It traps the smell of urine within the crystals and lets the liquid evaporate. Silica litter is excellent at controlling odours.

Plant-based litters like; corn, wood, wheat and paper aren’t quite as absorbent as clay or have the odour control of silica. That said, they still work well when you scoop them often and clean the litter tray regularly.

Why Choose Non-Clumping Litter?

Non-clumping cat litter is cheaper than clumping litter. It also comes in many different materials, including; clay, silica, wood, corn, paper, and more.

In most cases, it contains less dust, which is better for your cat’s respiratory system. Less dust also means less tracking around the house.

It’s also safer for kittens and some cats who eat their litter. Either through curiosity or conditions like Pica Syndrome.

The Downsides to Non-Clumping Litter

Although non-clumping litter is cheaper to buy, you might find yourself spending more.

When your cat uses the toilet, they dig in their tray to cover it over. This mixes the soiled litter into the clean litter, making scooping it out more difficult. As a result, you end up wasting litter as you scoop out the clean stuff.

We also find that non-clumping litter tend to smell more when it’s soiled. Especially plant-based litter like wood and corn.

As such, you need to completely empty and clean the tray more often, adding to the amount you waste.

Clumping Cat Litter

scooping clumping cat litter
ProsCons
blue tick Easier to scoop than non-clumping litterpink cross More expensive than non-clumping litter
blue tick No need to empty and replace as oftenpink cross Often contains more dust
blue tick Much less waste pink cross Can track more than clumping litter
blue tick Lasts longer than non-clumping litterpink cross Not for cats who eat their litter
blue tick Doesn’t smell as muchpink cross Not for cats with respiratory conditions

Clumping cat litter has become ever more popular over the years.

While clumping litter doesn’t come in as many materials, you still have some choice.

What is Clumping Cat Litter?

Clumping cat litter sets and forms clumps on contact with liquid.

Again, clay is the most absorbent type of clumping litter and creates the most solid clumps.

Clumping litter also comes in other materials like; corn, wood, and tofu. The clumps they form aren’t as solid as clay but they’re still easy to scoop.

Why Choose Clumping Cat Litter?

The main benefit of clumping litter is that it’s much easier to scoop. Your cat has a wee, it clumps and you remove the clump. The rest of the litter stays clean. There’s no mixing dirty litter into the clean as your cat digs to cover it over.

Not only does this means less waste when scooping, but it also means you can empty and clean the tray much less often.

A bag of clumping litter might cost more than non-clumping litter, but it’ll last much longer.

Also, when the litter clumps, it tends to lock in odours which means the litter box doesn’t smell.

The Downsides to Clumping Litter

Clumping litter is often finer than non-clumping litter, this is part of what makes it clump. As a result, it can often be dustier. So if your cat has allergies or asthma, it might not be a good choice.

Also, because it’s so fine, you might find it tracks more than the larger granules or pellets of non-clumping litter.

We don’t recommend clumping litter for kittens or cats that eat their litter.

Clumping litter can expand up to 15 times its original size in contact with moisture. If your kitten or cat swallows it, it could expand in their stomach or bowel and cause a blockage. Although rare, it can be fatal.

The only exception to this is Tofu litter. It clumps but it’s safe for cats to eat so the above issues don’t apply. That said, Tofu litter is very expensive.

If you have a kitten or cat with a condition like Pica Syndrome, stick to Tofu or non-clumping litter. You can change your kitten onto clumping litter when they’re around 6 months old.

Clumping vs No Clumping Litter: Which Should You Choose?

Whether you choose clumping or non-clumping cat litter is up to you.

As you can see, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Both have their benefits and drawbacks and choosing the right one is often a case of trial and error.

If you have kittens or cats that eat their litter, the choice can only be non-clumping litter. Unless you by Tofu litter but as we said, it’s expensive.

That said, have a look at our list of the best cat litters. That should help you choose.

Photo of author

Ben Doyle

Ben Doyle co-owns Pet Checkers with his wife, Vicki. He spends his days looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When he's not taking care of animals, he's writing about them.

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