Are you struggling to choose between cat litter vs pellets?

Since maintaining a clean litter box is essential for keeping odors at bay, it’s natural to wonder what the best type of litter for your furry friend is.

Fortunately, I’m here to talk about the pros and cons of clay cat litter vs pellets litter.  

Just keep reading.

Here’s a Quick Clay Cat Litter vs Pellets Comparison Table.

 Odor controlEco friendlyCostDust Cats PreferHealth Risks
Clay cat litterVery goodNot eco friendlyLess than pelletsCan be very dustyCats prefer the textureClumping can cause intestinal obstructions
Pellet cat litterVery goodIs eco friendlyMore expensiveLow dustSome find it too big and roughNon-toxic

Clay Cat Litter Overview

bentonite clay litter

Traditional clay litter is made from sodium bentonite. When wet, the clay particles absorb the liquid and stick together to form a clump. 

Some non-clumping cat litters are also made from clay, such as calcium bentonite. This type of clay also absorbs moisture, but the particles don’t clump together.  

Pros of Clay Litter

Comparing cat pellets vs litter, clay brands have several pros over pine pellet litters. Let’s discuss them in detail. 

1. Easy to Maintain

Easy maintenance is why thousands of cat owners still prefer clumping clay brands. You just have to scoop the urine clumps/feces and remove them from the toilet box.

2. Low Cost

Clumping cat litters have a lower price than plant-based, wood non-clumping brands, or silica crystal litter.

For example, the cheapest cat clay litter costs pet owners per month $20 on average and $150 a year, while premium wood pellets cost $35. 

3. Good Odor Control 

Most clay brands absorb cat urine well and lock the unpleasant odors. Some manufacturers also add natural odor-controlling substances, such as baking soda. 

4. Cats Like It

bengal cat in a litter box

It’s no wonder that cats like the fine texture of clay so much. It’s close to dry soil, a natural cat litter box choice for feral cats. 

Cons of Clay Litter

While many pet owners prefer bentonite to non-clumping pellet litter, clay has several major cons, some of which may surprise you. 

1. Dust Cloud 

Clay generates a lot of dust, and breathing this dust isn’t healthy for the cat or its owner, especially if you have respiratory problems.  

Furthermore, some clumping clay litter brands contain crystalline silica dust, which can build up inside your cat’s lungs. It’s also a known cancer-causing agent.

And even the best dust-free cat litter still produces some dust clouds, so it’s hard to find a real dust-free formula.

2. Health Risk

cats testing the cat litters depth

As I explained, sodium bentonite forms hard clumps in contact with moisture. And here is where the problem lies – ingesting sodium bentonite can cause an intestinal obstruction. 

As cat expert, Jackson Galaxy, explains, “It forms the same insoluble mass you see in the box inside your cat if they groom it off of their paws.” (1)

And some brands use chemicals in their formula to improve odor control, which can make your cat sick in the long run if they tend to eat litter. 

3. Not Environmental Friendly 

cat litter being scraped

Bentonite clay is extracted through a form of strip mining, which damages the land and the environment. (2)

Moreover, clay isn’t biodegradable, so it won’t decompose when it gets to the landfill. Instead, it will continue to pollute nature. So, clay isn’t a good choice if you’re worried about the environment. 

4. Tracking

While many manufacturers advertise their clay brand as no-dust, no-tracking, almost all clay formulas stick to the cat’s paws and track around the house. That’s due to the fine granule size. 

ALSO CHECK: Paper Cat Litter Pros and Cons

Cat Litter Pellet Overview

While popular, clumping brands are in demand, they aren’t the only option on the market. So, what are the different types of cat litter? 

Besides traditional clay litter, some owners use silica gel litters (crystal litter) or opt for a non-clumping brand. 

kitten pooping on his litter box

Unlike normal litter, non-clumping cat litter pellets are made from recycled materials or natural materials:  

  • Natural wood pellet litter is made from recycled wood or lumber scraps, such as pine or cedar
  • Paper pellet litter is made from recycled paper/newspaper
  • Plant-based brands are made from wheat, corn, tofu, etc 

So, let’s see the benefits and drawbacks of the best pellets for cat litter. 

Pros of Pellet Non-Clumping Litter 

When comparing pellets vs. litter, pine pellets have a few clear advantages.

1. Safe and Non-Toxic Materials 

As you can see from this video, non-clumping brands don’t clump when exposed to moisture. So, wood pellet cat litter isn’t dangerous, even if your kitty snacks on it. 

A non-clumping type of cat litter is also better for kittens because it won’t form hard clumps in the stomach and contains natural materials. 

2. Less Dust 

Natural pellet litter produces much less dust than traditional clay brands, so it’s less likely to cause respiratory problems.  

3. Biodegradable Materials

wood cat litter

Unlike clay-based litter, natural pellet brands compost after a while. 

Moreover, manufacturers use lumber scraps or other recycled material to produce wood pine litter, so they aren’t harming the environment.

4. Long-Lasting/Quick Absorbency

When comparing litter to wood pellets, you’ll find that most wood pellet litters are more expensive than clay. However, pellets last longer than traditional brands. 

And wood/paper is an excellent absorbent material, so it quickly soaks up cat urine and suppresses the odors of urine.  

As such, pellets are worth the extra cost and can be a cheaper alternative to clay litter in the long run. 

5. Less Tracking 

grabbing some horse pellets

Paper and wood pellets are larger in size than traditional clay brands with fine particles. The larger size matters because the pellets are less likely to stick to your cat’s paws. 

6. Lightweight Formula

Most non-clumping brands are lighter than bentonite clay. As such, it’s easier to pour the pellets and move the bag around. 

7. Natural Scent for Effective Odor Control 

Pine pellet cat litter has a natural pine scent, which is great for controlling and reducing the unpleasant litter box odor. 

8. Cheap Alternatives

Besides traditional pellet litter, many owners use horse pellets as cat litter. Woodstove pellets are also a popular option. Just make sure stove pellets contain no dangers, like phenol, which is toxic to cats. (3)

These pellets are cheap, and they have excellent absorption abilities. 

Cons

While paper/wood pellets are a great natural product, you should keep in mind the following cons: 

1. Potential Health Risk 

cat lying on the litter box but why is my cat sleeping in the litter box ?

Pinewood contains phenol, a chemical toxic to cats. Fortunately, pine oils are removed during the manufacturing process of wood cat litter

However, not all equine bedding pine pellets are treated to remove the pine oils from the recycled wood. So, using animal bedding pellets as an alternative litter is a bit risky. 

2. Allergic Reaction

Cats can be allergic to pine cat litter because of left-over pollens, mold, and dust from the manufacturing process. So, look for excessive grooming, skin irritations, and wheezing sounds. 

3. Not Suitable for Automatic Litter Boxes

lady scooping her cat's litter

The good news is that you don’t need special boxes for pine pellets or paper litter. Your regular litter box will do just fine.

The bad news is that you can’t use non-clumping brands in self-cleaning, automatic cat toilet boxes. These types of toilet boxes work with brands that clump into hard particles or use crystal litter. 

4. Not All Cats Like Them 

Unfortunately, not all cats like the texture of the pellet form. For some cats, the larger pellets are too uncomfortable on the paws. 

5. Messy 

As vet specialists explain, “Removing soiled, non-clumping litter is often difficult without changing the entire box.” (4) And sometimes urine pools in the bottom of the box, making it hard to clean. 

How to Use Cat Litter Pellet? 

Using cat litter pellets is a straightforward process:

  • If you have never used pellets before, fill the toilet box with one inch of pellets and two inches of your regular clay litter.
  • Wait 1-2 weeks and pour two inches of pellets and one inch of clay. 
  • Finally, fill your cat’s toilet box with three inches of wood pellets.
  • When the pellets absorb your cat’s urine, they’ll dissolve into sawdust, while cat poop will be buried or left on top.  

How to Clean and Change Cat Litter Pellets

Cleaning and changing cat litter pellets are a bit different comparing cat litter pellets vs litter:

  • Scoop the solid waste and dispose of it. Do not flush it! 
  • To change wood pellet cat litter or paper cat litter, use a litter scoop or a sifting litter tray to separate the sawdust from the dry pellets. 
  • Return the dry pellets to the box.
  • Add fresh pellets. 
  • Change the entire litter box every four to six weeks or when you think your cat needs clean litter. 

Watch this video for a demonstration.  

Are Pellets Better Than Clay Litter?

Comparing cat pellets vs clay litter, pellets are better for your cat’s health, they’re better for the environment, and can be cheaper in the long run.

Moreover, non-clumping brands have a better odor-control ability and are made of natural materials, so your cat won’t get exposed to toxic chemicals.

kitten stepping on the Wood pellets for cat litter

Finally, pellets are easier to dispose of than clay because you can flush the soiled pellets down the toilet without worrying about them clogging your pipes. 

And as this Reddit user says, “The difference is amazing. There is no smell, and I hardly have to touch the thing.” (5)

FAQs

DO CATS LIKE PELLET LITTER?

Some cats like the texture of pellets, while others won’t use pellets because they’re far too coarse for their sensitive paws.

HOW DO YOU SWITCH FROM LITTER TO PELLETS?

To switch, mix one inch of pellets with two inches of your regular litter. Observe your cat for changes in their toilet box habits and continue to decrease the amount of clay litter. 

IS PINE OR PAPER LITTER BETTER FOR CATS?

Both pine and paper litters are great eco-friendly options for cats. But wood is better for suppressing urine odors, while paper is easier to clean. 

IS PRETTY LITTER BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Pretty Litter is a silica gel litter, meaning it’s more eco-friendly than bentonite clay, but not the best since it’s not biodegradable. 

Conclusion

Pellets are the clear winner when comparing cat litter vs pellets. They provide outstanding odor control and keep your house relatively dust-free.

While they don’t have the same clumping abilities as clay, pellets are an excellent litter box alternative, even if you have to deal with a bit of a mess from time to time. 

hand grabbed cat litter pellets

What do you think about cat litter vs pellets? Which is better and why? Share your thoughts in the comment section. 

Resources:

  • 1  “The Benefits of Natural Litter.” Jackson Galaxy, 29 Sept. 2017, www.jacksongalaxy.com/blog/the-benefits-of-natural-litter/. Accessed 22 May 2022.
  • 2  “Eco-Friendly Cat Litter.” Www.petmd.com, www.petmd.com/cat/wellness/evr_ct_organic_litter. Accessed 22 May 2022.
  • 3 “Overview of Coal-Tar Products Poisoning – Toxicology.” MSD Veterinary Manual, www.msdvetmanual.com/toxicology/coal-tar-products-poisoning/overview-of-coal-tar-products-poisoning. Accessed 22 May 2022.
  • 4 “What Is the Best Cat Litter? Non-Clumping vs. Clumping Litter.” Www.petmd.com, www.petmd.com/cat/centers/litter/evr_ct_clumping-versus-non-clumping-cat-litter.
  • 5 “R/Catcare – Kitty Litter vs Wood Pellets – NO CONTEST.” Reddit, 2018, www.reddit.com/r/catcare/comments/9pm4sl/kitty_litter_vs_wood_pellets_no_contest/. Accessed 22 May 2022.
Grigorina S
Grigorina S

I’ve grown up surrounded by animals – dogs, cats, cows, goats, sheep, and horses and that has shaped me into what I am today – a crazy cat lady who always has a place for one more cat (or a dog). I’ve got two female cats – Kitty and Roni, and two tomcats – Blacky and Shaggy, but I also feed my neighbors’ cats when they come for a visit. I just can’t say no to them.

I discovered that writing is my vocation early in my school years. Since then I’ve taken part in several literature contests – writing horror and fantasy short stories and novellas.
For the past three years, I’ve been an ELS teacher, pouring my heart into showing children and teenagers how important English is for their future and trying to educate them how to treat their pets with care.

Find her on Instagram. Read her latest articles..

Learn more about Grigorina here