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Can I Use Sand As Cat Litter? The Pros and Cons

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 4 minutes

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If you’re;

  1. Looking for an alternative to expensive cat litter, or 
  2. You have run out and you’re looking for something else to use

You might wonder, ‘Can I use sand as cat litter?’

In this article, we’ll cover;

  • The benefits of using sand for cat litter
  • The drawbacks of using sand, and
  • How to use sand as cat litter for best results

Key Takeaways 

You can use sand as cat litter. In fact, there are some benefits to using sand. Cats like it, it’s safe, and it’s a natural product.

That said, it also has its drawbacks. Sand on its own doesn’t control odours well, it’s messy and it can contain parasites. But there are things you can do to fix these issues.

The Benefits of Using Sand For Cat Litter

Using sand in your cat’s litter box has a few benefits;

Cats Like Toileting in Sand 

If you’ve ever had a sandpit in the garden and left the cover off, you might have noticed cat poo in it.

This is because cats originate from the desert so it’s in their instinct to use sand as a toilet. In fact, before the production of commercial cat litter, cat owners used sand for their cats to toilet in. 

So,  if your cat refuses to use their litter box, sand might be the solution.

It’s not a miracle solution though and just because lots of cats like sand, it doesn’t mean yours will. A sudden switch from regular litter to sand could put them off. If you plan on making a permanent switch, do it gradually.

Sand Clumps

If you’re a fan of clumping cat litter, sand is a good alternative because it clumps too.

OK, it doesn’t form the rock-hard balls that clay litter does. In fact, they’re often quite loose. But they’re firm enough to make scooping easy.

Sand is Safe For Cats

Commercial cat litter manufacturers design their products for humans more than cats. This often makes them less than ideal for our cats.

For example, scented cat litter helps us humans cope better with the smell. But the chemicals used in some products can cause problems with a cat’s respiratory system.

Clumping clay litter can also pose a danger. Especially if they have a tendency to eat their litter. Clumping litter can expand in their bowel and cause blockages. These instances are rare, but they can and do happen.

Even the best cat litters aren’t ideal in all cases.

Sand doesn’t contain chemicals that add scents or make litter clump. And because it’s sandy, cats don’t like to eat it.

Sand is a Natural Product

Sand is 100% natural so it has very little impact on the environment.  If you want your cat litter to be eco-friendly, sand is a good choice.

Sand is Cheap

In a lot of cases, a bag of sand will cost less than a bag of litter so it’s easier on your pocket. Or if you live next to the beach, you can get it for free (although you’ll need to sterilise it).

The Downsides to Using Sand in the Litter Box

There are also some downsides to filling the litter box full of sand.

Sand Doesn’t Control Odours

If you don’t scoop the litter box often enough it will start to smell, often of ammonia.

Not only will the smell drive you mad, but it can also affect you and your cat’s health.

That said, there are things you can do to combat smelly sand which we’ll get to in the next section.

Sand Can Be Messy

Sand as cat litter can be messy.

Grains of sand can stick to your cats’ feet and fur and track all over the house

Also, cats often love to play in sand which means they could end up kicking sand all over the place.

Feeling the sand between your feet when you’re on holiday is one thing. But walking through the house and stepping in sand you know is from your cat’s toilet isn’t quite the same!

Sand Can Contain Parasites

Kids’ play sand and kiln-dried sand are sterile products and are perfectly safe to use as cat litter.

That said, if you collect sand from the beach or other places, it can contain parasites such as;

  • Hookworms
  • MRSA
  • Fungi, and
  • Roundworms

So, you’ll need to sterilise it before using it.

You Can’t Use Sand in Automatic Litter Boxes

If you have an electric litter box that cleans itself, you can’t use sand. While these are becoming more and more popular, they often need a certain type of clumping litter.

How to Use Sand As Cat Litter

There are three things you can do to address the problems of using sand in the litter box.

Sanitizing Sand

Again, if you buy kids play sand or kiln-dried sand, you won’t need to do anything.

But if you collect sand from the beach or other places, you’ll need to kill any bacteria or parasites.

To do this you’ll need to bake the sand in the oven for at least 20 minutes at 200° Celsius.

Controlling Odours

To keep smells to a minimum you’ll want to add a cat litter deodorizer to the sand. 

Our favourite is Rocco & Roxie Litter Box Odour Eliminator

but you could also use baking soda.

This will control odours as well as any other litter.

Reduce the Tracking

There are two things you can do to reduce the chances of sand getting everywhere.

  1. Use a high-sided litter box – If your cat does get a bit over-excited, a high-sided litter box will stop it from going all over.
  2. Use a cat litter mat – a good cat litter mat will trap much of the sand as they step out of their litter.

In Conclusion

There are several benefits to using sand for cat litter. And although there are a few downsides too, you can address those to use sand like any other litter.

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.

2 thoughts on “Can I Use Sand As Cat Litter? The Pros and Cons”

  1. Thanks for your help I can tell ya’ll are good people 👍. I’ve had more dogs in my life most were rescue dogs 🐕 I never really liked cats until I saw this little red kitty sitting on the center yellow dividing line on my rural country road.

    Because of her red hair I named her Miss Kitty after Miss Kitty on Gun Smoke I’ve had her for 14 years 😺

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