What is Clumping Litter and Should You Use it? You Might be Surprised!

Sparrow Going Potty - Best Clumping Litter

Litter. Seems like a pretty simple concept, but we could talk about it for days. Clumps make your life easier, but what is clumping litter made of and is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

There are so many different varieties of litter available these days, it makes my head spin. You may think it makes no difference considering it’s just going to get crapped all over, but our feline friends have different ideas. They’re picky. They’re also delicate, especially the wheezy little asthmatic types. The litter you choose matters to your cat, so let’s take a look at how to get it right.



What’s The Big Deal?

Not only does the litter you choose have to meet the precious standards of your cat, it makes a difference Cat Bathroom - What is Clumping Litter?to you, too. Nobody likes cleaning out a gross litter box or spending a fortune on something that’s ultimately going to be shat all over. Good clumping litter makes your cleaning job easier and its ability to control odours makes a more pleasant home for both you and your cat.

It matters to your cat as well – and not just because cats are picky princesses. Cats mark their territory with their business and if they don’t like what you’re supplying they’ll take their business elsewhere with little regard for you. The smell, texture and general experience cats have with their litter needs to meet their fastidious standards without grossing you out.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of dust, the mortal enemy of asthma cats. Different litters produce different dust, which is bad in a number of different ways. Not all dust-free litters are created equal and neither are all asthma cats, so you might have to experiment a bit to find out which one works for everybody.



What is Clumping Litter Made of?

All kinds of things. Back in the nasty old days, cats did their business outside or in boxes of sand or fireplace ash inside. As you can imagine, houses with inside cats were generally covered in sand or ash. In 1947, a guy named Edward Lowe gave his neighbour something called Fuller’s Earth, a clay that could absorb its weight in water.

Not surprisingly, Mrs Neighbour found this clay worked better than sand or ashes so Ed Lowe decided to package it and sell it as ‘Kitty Litter’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

Broom Broom - What is Clumping Litter?

Clumping clay litters are still around, but these days they have competition. Many of us prefer to use natural products and litter is no exception – clay has an impact on both the environment and kitty’s health. Clay is strip-mined (bad) and used clay litter never biodegrades in landfill (also bad).

Clay litters are not only really freaking dusty, they also contain silica, a known carcinogen. The good news is you can still enjoy clumpy litter goodness without destroying the environment or your cat.



Litter is Made of All Kinds of Things!

These days there are a variety of different clumping litters available to suit even the fussiest of poopers.A Bunch of Sawdust- What is Clumping Litter? Natural litters are made of things such as corn, wheat, walnut husks, various woods and even paper. These are generally lighter, less dusty and less of a hazard to your cat and the world.

The clumping ability of natural litters varies depending on what they’re made of so if clumping is important to you materials such as paper are no good. It’s also important to note that some natural litters contain sodium bentonite, a type of clay which allows for better clumping. This is bad news for the environment (especially if you flush it) and bad news for your asthmatic in terms of dust.



Clumping Vs Non Clumping Litter

Clumping Litter

  • Makes your cleaning job easier by trapping your cat’s wee in tight clumps, which you then just scoop out and leave the rest.
  • Generally means you just get rid of what’s used and leave the rest, topping up when the box gets low.Sparrow Going Potty - Best Clumping Litter
  • More expensive, but you use less.


Non-Clumping Litter

  • Lower maintenance, as scooping of liquid waste is not required.
  • Typically cheaper.
  • Better moisture absorption, but harder to tell where the waste is.
  • Doesn’t hold odour as well and generally requires a refresh of the whole litter box when it becomes too stinky.



What is The Best Kitty Litter For Asthma Cats?

Whether you choose clumping or non-clumping litter, it needs to be dust free – especially if your cat is a digger. I don’t think I have to go into the details of why this is important, you already know that dust is no good for asthma. I go for natural, biodegradable materials that I can flush or dispose of in the garbage.

Clumping or non clumping is purely a personal preference thing, it will depend on how much odour control you need and how much time you want to spend digging in a litter box. From my experience, the softer the litter, the easier it is to scoop.

Poo - Best Clumping Litter

Odour control is another important factor, for the comfort of both yourself and your kitty friend, however you should steer clear of scented litters. Most of the time they smell worse than what you cat’s doing in them and the smell can be so overpowering that you cat won’t go anywhere near it. A litter that’s gentle on paws is a must, especially for the soft-footed indoor types.

Even if you choose the safest, most cat friendly and environmentally friendly litter known to man it’s still going to stink if you don’t clean it. Clumping litters make for the quickest and most convenient clean-up and are more economical over the long term, but care needs to be taken to protect your cat from hidden dangers and yourself from unnecessary nastiness.


To clump, or not to clump…what kind of litter do you use? Head to the comments and let us know…

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  1. Hi there,
    Thanks for sharing. From what I read, I think clumping litter is better. You said it holds in odors better and longer. To me, that’s the best part. My friend and his girlfriend have 3 cats in his apartment. They’re super cute. However, I can tell that he is looking to find the solution to get rid of the bad odor in the house.

    1. Yep, 3 cats in an apartment would make for a stinky place! The litter they’re using will definitely make a difference – stay tuned for my review of the best there is! Thanks Kien.

  2. Thank you for the clumping litter info and it sounds much better to me then non-clumping especially being able to take out only whats used, great article thank you

    1. Thanks Jay. It’s definitely more economical to use clumping litter, you just have to be careful of what it’s made from.

  3. Well, now I know a lot more about kitty litter than I ever thought there was to know! I’ve had several cats, and very fortunately, none have been athsmatic, so I wish you well in your adaptation to your kitty’s illness. It’s very good to know the types of litter, the pros and cons about the kitty’s health, people health, convenience, and the effects on the environment. Thanks for a very informative posting!

  4. Hi, thankyou so much for your article, I found it really interesting. I have two cats of my own and have really never thought to much about the litter. I use the recycled paper pellets, there suppose to be organic. Are these okay? I have been using this brand for years. Thanks again. Joanne

    1. Hi Joanne, thanks for enjoying my article. Paper pellets are great, they do a good job with odour control, they’re basically dust-free and biodegradable. If that’s what you’ve been using and you and your cat like it, there’s no reason to change.

  5. Some of my cats prefer the clumping litter and some avoid it like the plague. (The long-haired ones get it caught in their toe hair, I think.) As a result, in our multi-litterbox household we use some clumping and some not, but all fragrence-free. Excellent info here as always. Thanks for a great read!

    1. Welcome back, nice to see you here again Celtiyote. So nice of you to give your kitties a choice, I bet that makes life better for them and for you. I do like the idea of letting our cats tell us what they like. Thanks for saying hi!

  6. What a fascinating post!

    I always thought litter was litter and my ALWAYS job to empty it lol

    Really liked the history lesson too.
    So where do we get clumping litter, is it specially marked?

    1. Hi Mark,

      thanks for your compliment! You can find all kinds of litters at the supermarket or at pet supply stores, most will list what they’re made of and whether they’re clumping or not on the packaging.

      Thanks for your comment.

  7. Wow! I did not expect to read about cats with asthma, I was thinking of cats that were okay to be around people with asthma. Now that I’ve written that, it seems dumb! I mean my pup has seizures and OCD. This is very informative, I’m a big supporter of saving the Earth and didn’t realize some litters didn’t degrade over time. I love your site! Please keep writing, you never know how many dingbats like me are out there! 😉

    1. Keli, thanks for making me laugh! It’s really not that dingbatty, cats with asthma is just a ridiculous concept. Hope to see you back here again!

  8. What a fun site and lot’s of great information. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas to take better care of my little kitty on clumping litter vs. non clumping.

  9. We had a hard time finding a litter that worked for our kitty but finally found one to her liking. It was a clumping litter. It definitely makes a big difference.

    1. Hi Brent,

      yeah it sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to find the right one, good to hear you’ve hit the jackpot. Thanks for stopping by again.

  10. I definitely agree about the clumping litter being best, or what I interpreted as you saying that. I like being able to scoop out and just refill with a bit and totally clean the litter once a week. It seems to work pretty well. I would like organic, but like everything else it’s more expensive I think. I will definitely be checking to see what our litter is made of, but we tried others and our kitty is picky and didn’t like it.

    1. Hi Maria, thanks for sharing your insights. Most kitties are picky so if you’re using something he likes and you decide to change, it’s best to do it slowly and gradually. Good luck!

  11. Hi Shirley,

    Great article once again, had a good chuckle along the way. We have had to go back to using the litter tray as we have just moved and our cat is not too keen on venturing outside just yet, but I find the clumping litter definitely does make life easier during the clean up, and he doesn’t seem to mind too much.

    Thanks again.

    1. Hey thanks Adam, it’s nice to see you back here again. Thanks for taking the time to say hi, glad you’re still enjoying my stuff.

  12. This is a great article. I have to admit that I never really thought about the dust. I might have to rethink my litter choice!

    I used to have a Cat Genie self-cleaning cat box – that thing is seriously brilliant. It uses reusable plastic(?) pellets that get washed over and over with a sanitizing liquid, and the cat waste is ground up and gets flushed. It even blows the pellets dry. You don’t even have to touch anything! My cat loved it so much, he would use the litter box and then come to fetch me so that I could push the button to start the cleaning process. I’m sure if he could have pushed the button himself he would have 🙂 How spoiled!

    1. Thanks Nancy, your cat sounds hilarious! I might have to look into this self cleaning litter box, thanks for the tip!

  13. Wow! I had no idea there was so much to know about kitty litter. I don’t own a cat but found this article very informative and interesting. I am friends with a crazy cat lady, (just an expression of course 😉 I am going to send her a link to this page.
    Thanks for a great read!

    1. Hi Josh, thanks for sharing…the more the merrier when crazy cat ladies are concerned, especially around here..

    1. Hi Victoria,

      I’m glad you asked – I have one particular brand that I recommend, but cats will be cats. Sparrow loves it, but that could just be because it’s all he’s ever used, I did my research when he was little and found one that’s soft on his little paws and virtually dust-free. Other than those considerations and being environmentally friendly it really doesn’t matter which brand or type you use, as long as you and the kitty are happy with it.

      Thanks for reading!

  14. I am curious if the clumping litter does, in fact, smell less than non-clumping. I found that no matter what, I had to clean the box several times a day to keep the smell at bay. Is there a clumping brand that is better for odor control? I would gladly spend more money if it made not only cleaning the box easier but also helped with the smell!

    1. Hi Heather,

      here’s the thing about litter: cats defecate in it, it’s going to smell. It probably depends on where you keep it, as well…if you can keep the window open a crack that’s going to help with the smell problem. I can’t speak for every type of litter, the one I use is great (at least, none of my visitors have mentioned that my place smells bad) so I guess it’s a matter of trying a few different litters and finding one that works for you and your cat. Come back and let us know if you find a winner.

  15. Great information. I noticed you discussed how to not get litter with dust. I have used clay little in the past and it doesn’t benefit anyone in the home (human and animals) Would it say “dust free” on the box or you just have to just look up the brand. I actually use clump litter for my cat because it is so much easier to clean.

    1. Thanks Liz, yeah I’m pretty sure if a litter is dust free it will mention it on the packaging – it’s a good selling point. Good on you for switching from the clay litter, it’s really not nice stuff.

  16. What a great article, I have been a cat owner over the years so I know how picky they can be about their littler. I really also enjoyed the history of litter, I never knew where it came from.
    I really like the information about clumping litter vs. no clumping litter. I have tried both over the years but have had trouble trying to find the perfect balance. I tend to lean toward the clumping litter due to the odor control.
    I like the fact that you talked about cats who can be asthmatic. It is very important to keep the dust level down not only for the cats health and well-being but their humans too.
    Thank you again for an informative article.

  17. HA HA HA HA HA HA!! The wording is amazing and i laughed!! I kept reading just to see what you would say next!!

    As far as litter goes, I use Special Kitty. I think it might have some dust but not alot. It smells good and works better than the expensive brand. I dont know why anyone would use non clumping. ECH!

    Thanks for the info and belly laugh. Your conversation style is awesome!!

    1. Hahah thanks Tammy, I’m glad you like my style. Agreed on the clumping litter and hey if you and your cat like Special Kitty then great, keep doing what you’re doing. Come back again some time for another laugh.

  18. Thanks so much for this very informative in-depth article. The variety of cat litter out there is similar to toilet paper ie. 2-ply, 3-ply, ridges, no ridges, jumbo. We’re a society obsessed with pooping! LOL

    All kidding aside, my cat is not asthmatic yet I really don’t want him exposed to dust at all. Do the litters made from walnut shells or wheat produce a lot of dust? Can you recommend a natural unscented, non-clay litter?

  19. Great article. Do you have an opinion on what litter box is the best? My cat is slightly asthmatic, so I’m trying to find out if a littler box with a lid is a bad idea for her..or maybe it doesn’t matter if the litter is dust free? Thanks!

    1. It probably doesn’t matter, but most cats don’t like to be blind like that when they’re doing their business – they’re already vulnerable enough in that situation. Let your kitty tell you what’s best though.

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