Clay Cat Litter - Cat Info Detective

Clay Cat Litter

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings fellow feline detectives! Skye Blake here… makin’ tracks in clay cat litter!

Clay is the most popular cat litter and was the first to be used indoors.

paw prints coming in from a distance

It’s one of the most economical and comes in clumping and non-clumping versions.

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.

Sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.

History of Clay Cat Litter

minerals for clay litter

Clay litter has an interesting history…

Before 1947, cats were kept outside unless it was necessary to bring them in. People used messy sand or ashes as litter.

It stuck to paws and kitties tracked it all over the house. Yuk!

It didn’t control odor, either and had to be changed frequently.

scooping clumping clay litter

In 1947 traditional clay litter was created and sold as “Kitty Litter” by H. Edward Lowe after a neighbor lady asked him for help in finding a better, more absorbent litter than sand or ashes.

This evolved by 1964 into “Tidy Cat” litter.

In 1976, while studying clay, a biochemist, Thomas Nelson, discovered that some clays are very good at trapping urea (the chemical in pee that causes that horrible ammonia odor).

cat covering waste in clay litter box

Mr. Nelson also found out that clay will form clumps if it’s not baked, making it easy to scoop.

Then in 1984 a company, Harvest Ventures, began selling “Better Way Cat Litter”, as the first clumping litter, which became very popular.

Now there are many clumping litters made from a variety of substances.

Environmental Concerns About Clay Litter

Clay mining for litter

Clay is a type of soil, so it doesn’t break down like biodegradable materials.

Some people claim this becomes a problem when millions of pounds of clay cat litter end up in landfills. This deserves further research.

They also claim the surface mining methods for clay harm the environment and this also deserves further research.

fat tawny cat

According to the Wyoming Mining Association website, a reclamation process is followed for every area that’s mined.

The top soil and overburden is removed and saved.

Once mining is finished, the overburden is used to fill in holes and “the land is contoured to match the original topography”.1https://www.wyomingmining.org/reclamation/

pine trees

After mining is finished, the top soil is replaced and planted with grasses, shrubs and rock piles, which encourage animals to return to the area.

Surface coal mining is governed by a law called the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act or SMCRA, which was passed in 1977.

The law’s main purpose is to establish how surface coal mines must reclaim the ground that is removed during mining.”2 https://www.wyomingmining.org/

cat's paw and toe beans

“Surface coal mines follow strict laws and work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (WDEQ), Office of Surface Mining (OSM), Game and Fish, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Some people have concerns about cats licking clay litter off their paws and hardening into clumps in their intestines.

However, veterinarians say this is a rare occurrence and more a problem for dogs than cats.

Non-Clumping Clay Litter

cat covering waste in clay litter box

Non-clumping clay cat litter is calcium bentonite, a type of Fuller’s earth clay made from aluminum silicate and minerals.

It’s used when you don’t want the litter to form clumps.

Manufacturers often add baking soda or activated charcoal to help control odors.

kitten pooping in litter box

It’s often used for young kittens since they tend to eat litter.

Clumping litter can swell up, causing blockages in their little digestive systems!

Some adult cats also prefer non-clumping since it doesn’t stick to their paws.

black kitten resting

Some clay litters contain a certain type of silica dust, which has been linked to respiratory problems in people and cats, so check the labels to see if it’s mentioned.

This silica is not the same as silica gel.

Since non-clumping litter absorbs liquid but doesn’t form balls or stick together, it reaches a saturation point.

tabby kitten lying in a basket

Then it must be replaced, and the litter box washed, to keep odors from being a problem.

Most people do this at least once a week but that varies according to the number of cats using the box and their health.

Once a week replacement assumes one cat is using a standard-sized litter box with 2-3″ of litter.

Grey tabby cat hanging out in a litter box

Non-clumping litter is usually inexpensive compared to other litters and is easy to get in large quantities, which is nice for multi-cat households.

Possible problems with non-clumping clay are…

tabby cat standing in litter box
  • Heavy (especially when wet)
  • Dusty
  • Difficult to remove all soiled litter
cat watching other cat in litter box
  • Odor can build up
  • Requires more frequent changing than some other litters
  • Larger granules are often uncomfortable on sensitive toe beans
  • Smaller granules stick to paws and track a lot

Brands of Non-Clumping Clay

Cat in a bag

Non-clumping clay cat litter is available in grocery and pet stores, along with online sellers like Amazon and Chewy.

Any information about specific brands given on this page are for your information only… I make no money from it.

Check descriptions and reviews carefully for any products you wish to buy… quality, sizes, colors, etc., can’t be guaranteed by anyone but the manufacturer.

Tabby, white cat playing

Double check to be sure you’re getting non-clumping litter since the bags can look similar.

Here are a few brands that are more easily available…

Purina Tidy Cats

Fresh Pet

Cat’s Pride

Jonny Cat

Clumping Clay Litter

ginger tabby using litter box

Many people like clumping clay litter because it forms a soft or hard ball or clump when wet that they can easily scoop and removed from the box.

It controls odor by removing the soiled litter and leaving what’s clean, so it isn’t wasted.

Sodium bentonite clay is the main component of clumping clay litter and is mined in Wyoming, USA.

cat napping on rug mat

It absorbs up to 15 times its normal size and can have quartz or diatomaceous earth added.

Generally clumping clay litters are inexpensive and have many options. They tend to be dusty, although many claim to be low dust.

Clumping litter is a finer grain than some others and it can stick to paws, tracking all over the house.

People often use litter mats outside the box to help keep tracking under control.

Brands of Clumping Clay

clump in litter scoop

There are so many brands and versions of clumping clay litter that it makes a cat dizzy!

They’re available in grocery and pet stores, along with online sellers like Amazon and Chewy.

Each has features you might find helpful, so check labels, product descriptions, and reviews carefully to be sure you’re getting what works for both you and your cat.

cat peeking out of top covered litter box

Any information about specific brands given on this page are for your information only… I make no money from it.

Arm & Hammer™BoxieCat®Cat’s Pride®
Dr. Elsey’s®Ever Clean®Fresh Step®
Hey Karen!Premium Choice Carefree Kitty™Scoop Away™
Tidy Cats®

Litterbox.com All-Natural Clumping Litter

Black cat in litter box

Litterbox.com is an online company that provides a subscription service for their clumping clay litter.

Their website says the clay is sun-dried to prevent the clouds of dust that happen with clay litter.

Reviewers mostly agree and say the dust is minimal.

cat watching other cat in litter box

There are some who use it in their Litter Robot® and say the dust builds up and stops the box from working.

Others say it works fine in their Litter Robot® and they’re able to use the litter much longer than usual.

People tend to buy whatever litter they want and expect automatic boxes to handle it well, which isn’t realistic.

Videos

Here are some helpful YouTube videos…

“Top 13 Best Cat Litters (We Tested Them All)”, All About Cats, April 1, 2020
“Types of Cat Litter Explained”, Dr. Jo Righetti, Purina Australia, August 31, 2016

Curious about other types of cat litter and boxes? Discover more at “Supplies for Cats“.

Having trouble with your cat peeing or pooping outside the litter box?

Find some answers to fix the problem and clean up the mess at “Behavior“.


Sources

Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.

However, sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

“7 Ways to Reduce Litter Box Smell (and Messes)”, by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed (“Dr. J”), Preventive Vet

A-H

“Attapulgite mines offer highly absorbent, rheology-stable minerals for many applications”, BASF, July 30, 2018

“Bentonite”, Wikipedia

“Bentonite and Fuller’s Earth Resources of the United States”. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1522.

“Best Cat Litter for Kittens”, by Mallory Crusta

“Cat Litter”, How Products Are Made, MadeHow.com

“Clumping Vs. Non-clumping Cat Litter”, Animal Planet

“Difference Between Adsorb and Absorb”, DifferenceBetween.net

Fuller’s Earth“, Wikipedia, Hosterman, John W.; Sam H. Patterson (1992)

“Tickled PINK: Simple Solution 30 Day Cat Litter Giveaway for You AND Your Shelter!”, by Debbie Glovatsky, Glogirly, May 22, 2014

“How Cat Litter is Made”, greenlivingideas.com

I-Z

“Kitty Litter”, by Amanda Yarnell, Chemical & Engineering News, Volume 82 Issue 17, p. 26, What’s That Stuff?, Issue Date: April 26, 2004

“Litter Box 101: What Type of Litter is Best For Your Cat”, by Jason Nicholas, BVetMed (“Dr. J”), Preventive Vet

“Non-Tech High Tech Litters the Landscape”, Andrew Kantor (2004-12-10), USA Today

Understanding Clay, Silica and Biodegradable Cat Litters“, by Lorie Huston, DVM, petmd.com

“What Is Cat Litter Made Of?”, May 1, 2014, World’s Best Cat Litter

“Which Cat Litter to Use: Silica vs. Clay-Based”, by Chris Brownlow, Chewy, Dec. 27, 2017

Wyoming Mining Association

Product Information and User Review Sources

Ace Hardware, Amazon, Chewy, Chuck and Dons, Costco, Dollar General, Fresh Step, Home Depot, Petco, Petsmart, Pettex, Purina, Sam’s Club, Target, Walmart

Updated April 13, 2024

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