When I first heard about the idea of cat litter alternatives being a thing, I didn’t believe that it could work as well as the “real” stuff. 

But I realized that I had not really considered why I was using store-brand cat litter in the first place.

Honestly, I used it because I really did not think about whether there were other options out there.

So I explored what to consider with cat litter alternatives and which other options existed!

Now, I’m sharing all of that with you below!

Are there any good cat litter alternatives? Why should you even bother looking for one? Find out those answers and more in our complete guide!

Why consider cat litter alternatives?

As I looked into more options for cat litter, I discovered that our modern cat litter was first invented by Ed Lowe.

Back in the day, cats were kept outside, with an area of ash, dirt, or sand as their “litter box area.”

As the story goes, a neighbor asked to borrow some ash for her cat.

Instead, he gave her what he had on hand, which was “Fuller’s Clay” which effectively became what we know today as our kind of clumping cat litter. 

Nowadays, however, there are many reasons why an owner would want to consider a cat litter alternative.

On my end, the main reason I went down this rabbit hole of cat litter alternatives was because my boyfriend and I ran out of litter one night during the holidays.

We did not have any in our apartment for our two cats, and began to wonder what we could do instead.

As I began to look into this, I realized that there were a couple of common reasons why cat owners claimed they wanted to switch out of traditional cat litter–besides our emergency situation of course. 

Are there any good cat litter alternatives? Why should you even bother looking for one? Find out those answers and more in our complete guide!

Cost

Everybody is different, but generally, you can expect to spend between $12-$20 on cat litter per month.

I do not think we need to go into how most pet products could either be DIY-ed or retrofitted out of other products you have at home for a lower cost.

Plastic cat litter boxes often are flimsy and there are other plastic bins out there that are made sturdier and more cheaper.

Generally, we noticed our solutions to cat litter were often things we could repurpose or were found in huge amounts marketed as something else. 

Health and Environmental Reasons

In addition to cost, there are also some health and environmental reasons to switch as well.

While I really do not want to go into a tirade, most kitty litter on the market is a combination of synthetic, man-made material.

The three biggest are clay, silica, and biodegradable litter.

Some ingredients, like the silica dust, in mass market cat litter can be harmful to your cat if they are sensitive to respiratory issues or have issues that make them prone to eating their poop

We do not want to get caught in the weeds of the environmental reasons on why clay and silica are so detrimental to the environment (in short, strip mining).

However,  you can check out a breakdown of the cost-benefits, from an environmentally minded perspective, here so you can make a better, informed decision.

What can be used instead of cat litter?

Are there any good cat litter alternatives? Why should you even bother looking for one? Find out those answers and more in our complete guide!

Now that you have an idea of why people might want to use cat litter alternatives, let us think about what can be used instead.

There are some common types of alternatives that are tried and tested, and we gave feedback on the types of things you should consider for the types of litter you might want or your situation.

Some of the things you want to look for in a cat litter alternative might be:

  1. How much does it cost per unit I am buying it in? How much product am I getting per unit and can I store it?
  2. Is it too heavy?
  3. How easily can I find this where I am living?
  4. How easy is it to clean up?
  5. Does it mask or deodorize the smell?

Take a look at some of the best options, along with video tutorials on how to use them. 

Sand

This is so close to a cat litter alternative, we are a little skeptical whether we wanted to speak about this or not because it is just so… basic.

Before we had our modern cat litter, cat owners set up a box of sand outside for their pets, so why not go back?

Sand is much more easily available in bulk in any area you live, whether it is a  rural or urban area.

Frankly, this was not our favorite. Although it is straightforward, it is heavy, so buying in bags does not make much sense.

It also does not neutralize the smell of your cat’s bathroom.

Pros:

  • Available in bulk most areas

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • Gets stuck in cat’s paws
  • Does not clump
  • Need to use with baking soda to deodorize

Newspaper or paper waste

This is a good option if you live in the city and suburbs.

Most things are paperless these days but we still get junk mail from time to time piling up.

A great way to repurpose them is to shred it (even easier if you have a paper shredder). If you live in a city or urban area, most offices have paper waste that they are happy to give it away.

This is also lightweight, so it will be easy to transport and handle in bulk.

One caveat to using newspaper and paper waste is that if you do end up having an odor issue, you can always spray a deodorizer or odor neutralizer to help.

Paper products do not do well deodorizing smells, so if you are sensitive to that, be warned. 

Pros:

  • Easy to clean and lightweight
  • Very cheap and found in most households lying around
  • Absorbs cat pee smell well
  • Easy to clean and dispose
  • Great option if you live in the suburbs and city
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Use with a deodorizer
  • If you do not have a paper shredder, may need to shred by hand
  • Does not clump

Sawdust and Wood Shavings

Sawdust, wood shavings, or a combination of the two, make a slightly better cat litter alternative in our book because it better absorbs smells.

It also has the same benefits as newspapers and paper waste in that it minimizes mess and does not get stuck between your cat’s paws.

You can usually find that as horse bedding usually at farm stores.

If you live in an urban or suburban area, ask a store that specializes in landscaping or a mulch supplier if they have wood shavings in bulk.

An added environmental benefit is that it can be composted when you are done. It is also super lightweight so carrying it around will not be a chore.

Our caveat with sourcing wood shavings from other places is to consider the type of wood.

Wood shavings (like from cedar and pine) get their nice smell from the chemicals (called aromatic hydrocarbons and phenols) in the wood.

These chemicals, mainly from wood that is not heat-treated, may still be left over if not fired.

Pros:

  • Absorbs smell well
  • Has a nice smell
  • Easy to clean and dispose
  • Compostable
  • Sourced in bulk
  • Lightweight
  • Sawdust clumps up and easily disposable

Cons:

  • May be difficult to find in bulk if you live in the city
  • Source from places that use fire-treated wood 
  • Larger pieces do not clump up

Pine Pellets

We cannot stress how great of an alternative pine pellets are.

The benefits of pine pellets are very much like wood shavings; it is environmentally friendly because it is compostable, it is lightweight, smells great, and is pretty cheap.

You can find these the same places you can buy wood shavings.

The clean up is fairly simple. The greatest thing about pine pellets is that when moisture is introduced, it turns into sawdust!

That means if you have a sifting litter tray, cleaning up is very easy! We did not notice that if you leave the sawdust pile up at the bottom it gets dusty so we try to keep our litter boxes fairly clean.

Pros:

  • Absorbs smell well
  • Has a nice smell
  • Easy to clean by clumping
  • Sourced in bulk
  • Lightweight

Cons:

  • Maintenance required to prevent dust from tracking

Chicken Feed

We have friends that found chicken feed worked really well, and is even more lightweight than the wood alternatives mentioned today.

That is because they are made of ground corn and other grains.

We enjoyed using it because like pine pellets, it comes in pellets in dry form, but when you get it wet, crumbles, making cleaning with a sifting tray easier.

Alternatives like wood shavings and pine pellets did not make a really big mess, all things considered, but they did leave things dusty if we did not clean often.

Chicken feed is easier to clean up because it does not kick up dust. An issue we had is to source this in bulk where we live, which is mainly suburban and urban.

If you live in a rural area, this would probably be easier to find. And while we did not have issues, depending on where you live, chicken feed can possibly attract pests into your home.

Be sure to exercise caution and keep your cat litter box dry.

Pros:

  • Easy to clean up because it crumbles
  • Lightweight
  • Sourced in bulk

Cons:

  • Difficult to source in bulk if you live in a urban or suburban area
  • Keep dry to avoid pests

Conclusion

We have found that these are alternatives our other cat owner friends have tried and enjoyed and while we have our favorites, we had to sift through a few things to see what would work.

We also found that some options were not as accessible to us in bulk because of where we live, which also contributed to shipping costs if you do decide to try one of these options sometime.

Have you tried any of these cat litter alternatives? Which would you recommend? Share below!

Leslie Ch.
Leslie Ch.