Clay Cat Litter - Cat Info Detective

Clay Cat Litter

Skye Blake looking left through magnifying glass

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

paw prints coming in from a distance

Clay is the most popular litter and was the first to be used indoors. It’s one of the most economical and comes in clumping and non-clumping versions.

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 their kitties tracked it all over the house. It didn’t control odor 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 she could use instead of sand 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 end up in landfills and 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”.1

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.

pine trees

“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).

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

cat's paw and toe beans

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

Calcium bentonite is the type of Fuller’s earth clay most commonly used in traditional non-clumping cat litter.

It’s a natural material made from aluminum silicate and minerals.

Non-clumping litter is often used for kittens as they sometimes eat bits of litter. Clumping litter can swell up, causing blockages in their little digestive systems!

kitten pooping in litter box

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

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.

tabby kitten lying in a basket

Non-clumping litter absorbs liquid but doesn’t form balls or stick together. Once it reaches the saturation point, it must be replaced to keep odors from being a problem.

Non-clumping clay must be dumped and completely changed at least once a week to avoid odor buildup.

Activated charcoal or baking soda is often added for odor control. Once a week replacement assumes one cat using a standard-sized litter box with 2-3″ of litter.

Grey tabby cat hanging out in a litter box

Pros: Inexpensive, holds its weight in moisture and odor, easy to get large quantities, some cats prefer it

Cons:  Heavy (especially when wet), dusty, difficult to remove all soiled litter, odor can build up, requires more frequent changing, larger granules are often uncomfortable on sensitive toe beans, smaller granules stick to paws and and track a lot.

Some Available Brands of Non-Clumping Clay

Cat in a bag

Some non-clumping clay litter brands are listed below. This list is by no means exhaustive. It’s for your convenience only… I make no money from it.

Fresh Step Febreze Scented Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter


Scented with Febreze and containing activated carbon to eliminate odors, this litter’s fragrance is activated every time your kitty uses it.

Some reviewers said it was fine, others that it’s too strong, and yet others that it was terrible at containing odors.

To be fair, many people have unrealistic expectations of litter when it comes to odor, etc.

They believe it should keep the house smelling fresh even though they leave boxes uncleaned for days, even weeks!

3 cats snoozing

Would you like to use a toilet that hasn’t been flushed for days?? Would you expect it to smell fresh and clean? I think not!

This litter absorbs liquids quickly and weighs 30% less than other clay litters.

Some reviewers said it sticks to their cat’s fur and feet, especially persians (long-haired). Others said it stuck terribly to the sides and bottom.

The description claims it’s low dust but there’s disagreement on that in reviews.

Happy Cat Kitty Litter (Zeolite)

curious cat

Happy Cat is made from clinoptilolite zeolite,  a mineral with a “… unique honeycomb structure [that] not only absorbs ammonia and its odors but prevents many of the bacterias that develop odors over time.”3

It’s processed and produced in the USA.

Happy Cat Kitty Litter is a granular form of litter designed for low tracking and good odor elimination.

It’s similar to aquarium gravel and is not for use in the Tidy Cat Breeze System.

tabby cat sleeping-fangs

Instructions: “Fill litter box 1/2 full with Happy Cat Litter. Although this litter is designed to be non-clumping, it is still necessary to scoop solids for feline hygiene. The odor causing ions will be captured and eliminated, while harmless water is evaporated off. Complete or top half box changes are necessary in a 3-4 week period with one cat.”4

Most reviewers of this litter felt that it didn’t live up to the claims. They said it was dusty and did nothing for odor, having to be replaced quickly.

One person used and liked it for kittens. He was able to scoop it almost like clumping.

Simple Solution 30-Day Super Absorbent Cat Litter

white cat lounging

Simple Solution 30-Day Cat Litter is made from a lightweight mineral called attapulgite clay. This clay is claimed to be 300% more absorbent than traditional clay litters.

“With its three-dimensional chain structure, attapulgite has one-of-a-kind colloidal, absorbent and adsorbent properties. When fully hydrated, it thickens liquids without swelling.”5“Attapulgite mines offer highly absorbent, rheology-stable minerals for many applications”, BASF, July 30, 2018

Attapulgite clay is mined only in southwestern Georgia and northern Florida, USA. It’s named after Attapulgus, Georgia, where a lot of it is found.

clay being worked by potter

It’s similar to silica litter in that it traps moisture and odor so there are no clumps to scoop. Just scoop the poop and stir the rest.

Attapulgite is soft in itself but Simple Solution has added aloe to make it even nicer on your kitty’s paws. It’s also pink… don’t know why but it sure is interesting!

Reviewers disagreed on most everything about this litter. Some people loved it and felt it lived up to the claims.

Others thought it was terrible and didn’t absorb or control odors.

Some like the fragrance, others thought it was too strong. It can be difficult to find.

Tidy Cats Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter

Sphynx cat in window

(Instant Action, 24/7, Odor Absorb)

All forms of this litter say they’re low-dust, low-tracking, have great absorption, and powerful odor control.

24/7 – Has extended release deodorizing system and triple odor protection technology. The latest reviews say it looks like it’s changed from what it was before.

Some people had misunderstood that this is non-clumping and expected clumping.

scooping clumping clay litter

Instant Action – Has a fast-acting moisture-activated odor control system that gives immediate odor control.

It’s virtually maintenance-free for up to a week. Low-tracking and formulated for multiple cats.

Reviewers disagree on their satisfaction with this product, but overall those who prefer non-clumping like it.

There was some confusion with people thinking this was the same as another Tidy Cat product.


Odor Absorb – Is a newer product has excellent absorption and odor control. It comes in a 52lb. club-sized bag. Reviewers are very positive so far.

Clumping Clay Litter

ginger tabby using litter box

Sodium bentonite clay is the main component of clumping clay litter and is mined in Wyoming, USA. This clay clumps when wet, which helps control odor.

It absorbs up to 15 times it’s 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 finer grain, which often sticks to kitty paws and tracks all over the house. Mats can help with this.

Brands of Clumping Clay

clump in litter scoop

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

You can check the following list of brands.

Read the labels and product descriptions carefully to be sure you’re getting the one you want.

cat peeking out of top covered litter box

User reviews are not included as the list is too long for such detail, but you can find them where litter is sold.

Check the “List of Sources” section at the end of this page.

This list is long but by no means exhaustive. It’s for your convenience only… I make no money from it.

cat interested in litter


  • Advance High Performance Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Lightweight or Regular)
  • Arm & Hammer Litter Clump & Seal Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Multi-Cat, Ultra, Scented, Unscented, Lightweight, Regular)
  • Arm & Hammer Slide Cat Litter (Non-Stop Odor Control, Multi-Cat, Premium)
  • Better Way Eco Fresh Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • BoxiePro Deep Clean Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Boxiecat Premium Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Extra Strength, Deep Clean, Premium Scented or Unscented)
  • Cat Love Odor Defense Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Catit Multi-Cat Lavender Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Cat’s Pride Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Premium, Scoopable, Lightweight, Quick Action, Multi-Cat, Ultimate, Scented, Unscented)


  • Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Multi-Cat, Ultra, Scented, Unscented)
  • Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Respiratory Relief Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat Attract Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Ever Clean Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Extra Strength, Scented, Unscented, Lightweight, Multi-Cat)
  • Fresh Step® Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Multi-Cat, Ultra, Clean Paws, Scented, Unscented, Extreme Odor Control, Febreze Scented, Odor Shield, Triple Action, Lightweight)
  • Frisco Multi-Cat Baking Soda Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Multi-Cat, Baking Soda, Scented, Unscented, Odor Defense, Lightweight)
cat in a chair


  • Jonny Cat Original Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Original, Complete, Scented, Unscented)
  • All Natural Clumping Litter
  • Lucy Pet Products Lavender Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Scented, Unscented)
  • Nature’s Miracle Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Intense Defense, Scented, Unscented, Multi-Cat, Lightweight)
  • Pet Healthy Brands Perfect Cat Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Pettex Premium Grey Cat Litter
  • Pioneer Pet SmartCat Lightweight Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter
  • Premium Choice Carefree Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Unscented, Scented, Extra Strength)
white cat squatting in litter box


  • Sanicat Extreme Multi-Cat Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Extreme, Evolution, Oxify, Scented, Unscented, Adult, Kitten, Senior)
  • Scoop Away Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Complete Performance, Multi-Cat, Super Clump, Lightweight, Scented, Unscented)
  • So-Kleen Grey Cat Litter
  • Tidy Cats Clumping Clay Cat Litter (Instant Action, Naturally Strong, 24/7 Performance, Free & Clean, Lightweight, Glade Scented, 4-in-1 Scented, Unscented)
  • Tidy Max 4-in-1 Strength Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter (4-in-1 Strength, 24/7 Performance, Lightweight, Instant Action, Scented, Unscented)

Videos About Clay Cat Litter

video cameras

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

“How to Clean the Litter Box Video”, Yarimar Padua, April 7, 2015

“How To Keep Your Litter Box From Stinking Up Your House!! Control Litter Box Odors”, MyHecticLifePets, Oct 9, 2018

More Litter Options

Follow these trails below if you’re curious about other litters…

Bamboo Biodegradable
Yuca & Cane

Why Is My Cat Peeing Outside the Litter Box?The Cat Box…Location, Location, Location
Deciphering Cat Pee PatternsCleaning Cat Urine
The Territorial CatWhat’s the Best Cat Litter Box?
Symptoms of Illness in Your CatWhat Are the Best Types of Cat Litter?
Why Is My Cat Pooping Outside the Box?


Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary are always preferable and have the most reliable information because primary sources are 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.

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

List of Sources

Please note that some of the sources listed below sell litter products or link to places that do.

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

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


“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,

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

“Difference Between Adsorb and Absorb”,

“The Effect of Natural Zeolite on Kitty Litter”, KMI Zeolite, Inc.

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”,


“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,

“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

YouTube Videos

“How to Clean the Litter Box Video”, Yarimar Padua, April 7, 2015

“How To Keep Your Litter Box From Stinking Up Your House!! Control Litter Box Odors”, MyHecticLifePets, Oct 9, 2018

“Top 13 Best Cat Litters (We Tested Them All)”

“Types of Cat Litter Explained”, Dr. Jo Righetti, Purina Australia, August 31, 2016