To Clump or not to Clump? A Look at Non-Clumping Cat Litter

Scooping Litter

Cat litter, like everything else in modern life, has evolved over time. In the past, pet owners filled litter boxes with everything from sand to ashes, which got the basic job done but didn't do much about smells or make the box particularly easy to clean. These substances gave way to modern clay cat litter products -- but even in this day and age, you still have to choose between clumping and non-clumping cat litter. Let's take a look at each of these options to see which of them might prove the smartest choice for your kitty's comfort, health, and preferences.

Non-Clumping Cat Litter: The Original Choice

Cat with Cat Litters
Non-clumping litter, also called absorbing cat litter, served as the one and only commercial option for most cat owners for many years, starting in the 1940s. Some non-clumping litter is made from organic materials such as pine or wood, but most of it consists of a form of clay called bentonite. The clay does a good job of absorbing both odors and urine -- although once the litter becomes saturated, you may end up with a puddle of it at the bottom of the litter box. Be prepared to change non-clumping litter frequently.
Cats often like non-clumping litter because it behaves more like the dirt they would walk on in the wild. Owners often like it because it produces relatively little dust.

Clumping Cat Litter: Efficiency and Convenience

Clumping cat litter came along in the 1980s, leading to the use of silica gels that would react to moisture by binding to it. The great selling point of clumping cat litter is the ease and efficiency with which a cat owner can clean the litter box. A few scoops of of the clumped-together material leaves the unused litter clean, dry, odorless, and ready for future use, with no need to change the entire litter supply or clean pooled urine out of the bottom of the box.
The downside of clumping litter is that it tends to kick up more dust than the non-clumping variety, and it can take on a sticky consistency that your cat may not like. It also costs more, although this disadvantage might be offset a little by the fact that you're throwing away less litter with each cleaning.

Health Considerations

Two Types Of Cat Litter
Does your cat have a respiratory issue such as asthma? If so, you want to use the least dusty cat litter you can get your hands on. This usually means going with non-clumping cat litter instead of clumping cat litter. Generally speaking, the smaller the particles, the better the clumping action -- and the dustier the litter. Non-clumping cat litter usually has larger particles, thus resulting in fewer clouds of dust to disturb your cat's airways (and possibly yours as well).

Fine-Tuning Your Options

Even today's non-clumping cat litter isn't always made of clay. You can still get products made of pine, for instance; they may smell better to you than they do to your cat, but at least they produce minimal dust. Recycled corn, wheat, and even newspaper can can make good cat litter; just make sure that your cat doesn't have an allergy to any of these substances beforehand if at all possible. Whatever you do, make certain the litter you choose doesn't contain crystalline silica quartz, since this substance can cause cancer.

Of course, it's your cat's preferences that will really seal the deal. Try a few types of non-clumping and clumping litter to discover which one your kitty seems to like best. A happy cat means a happy home -- and a happy litter box is a great place to start!



Christine Whitt
Christine Whitt

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