Your Guide to Zero Waste Cat Litter

British Blue cat climbing out a litter tray robot on a wooden floor next to a wooden bookshelf - zero waste cat litter title image

Are you looking into the best eco-friendly cat litter? Me too. I seem to spend my life cleaning out litter trays and I’ve recently become conscious of how much waste we’re creating.

I’m an Experienced Cat Poop Scooper!

When I tell you I’ve done over 60 house and cat sits for pet owners it won’t surprise you to learn I have experience of scooping cat waste from many different types of kitty litter! I’ve used a few different types personally over the years and now I’m making a conscious effort to use environmentally friendly ones where possible.

Moving on From Conventional Cat Litter

I’ve got into the habit of using ones with bentonite clay because 1. if there are any local pet stores where I’m staying then overwhelming what they offer are bags of traditional clay litters and 2. it does do a good job of absorbing both liquid and smell.

However, it’s not a biodegradable cat litter and it creates a lot of dust. I also just found out that the way it’s mined is really destructive to the land and wildlife. (Look up strip mining to hear the horror of it.) So I’m looking for alternative ways of filling the litter boxes.

Silica Cat Litter

Clear silica gel crystal cat litter is marginally better although it’s still not one of the most environmentally friendly options. Silica is still a mineral that has to be mined too. And for me, wherever I’m staying seems to be really humid and then crystals fill up with water from the air reducing their effectiveness.

So putting conventional cat litter to one side, let’s have a look at some of the biodegradable options.

Best Eco-Friendly Cat Litters

Wood-Based Cat Litter

Wood Pellets

Wood pellet litter has been around for a while and is the cheapest of these options. I like the pine smell and that the pellets are generally made of 100% natural materials. One of the things I dislike about some of the traditional cat litter brands is that they have horrible synthetic fragrances in them. I avoid them where possible but sometimes the plain ones just aren’t available.

Pine pellets (and sometimes spruce) for wood-based litter are a good option because the wood is generally either a by-product of another industry or it’s responsibly sourced from a sustainable source. The compacted sawdust pellets are relatively good at containing smells, can hold up to about 3 times their weight in liquid and produce very little dust.

However, I do find that it’s harder to clear out the soiled pellets when they disintegrate into the tray. Once you remove the solid waste you basically need to leave the rest until it’s ready to be changed and then chuck it all out.

Luckily the rest is biodegradable litter that you can put in your compost. But you might need to clean out the tray more frequently to get rid of the broken-down pellets.

This isn’t my cats’ favourite because they don’t like standing on the bigger pellets and can’t dig into it as much as some of the others.

Wood Clumping Litter

Wood-based clumping litter is a combination of wood shavings (like cedar shavings) and other plant-based fibres like corn. Because of the combination of fibres, the chippings can be smaller than litter that is just made of wood fibre.

Plus, this type has a larger surface area in comparison so it’s a great option for mopping up wee. Smaller particles drop through the litter to the bottom keep it pretty dust-free too.

It’s high quality, comes in different textures (like the one above as well as small pellets) and can be good for sustainable living if the wood is sourced fairly locally and has a short transit route.

After my cats got used to it we really liked this litter and it really keeps the smells away.

Corn Cat Litter

Corn litter is another zero waste cat litter that’s made from corn kernels. It works similarly to the wood fiber litter above, clumping with liquids. If you can get it, this is one of the best options as it really controls odours and obviously has no silica dust.

If like me, you have sensitive cats who doesn’t like standing on big pellets then this could be the best choice for your cat litter box. The particles are much smaller than the wood pellets.

Tofu Cat Litter

Tofu cat litter is another of the newer options and another more expensive one. However, the litter is long-lasting and I like the fact that it’s made from food waste.

As with others, tofu is really natural and although some are scented, many are not. That makes them completely non-toxic even if your pet decides to have a little nibble on the pellets!

Speaking of pellets, they’re very small, like the wood-based clumping ones so good for delicate little beans.

Walnut Shells

Walnut shells are another of the natural cat litter varieties and this one sounds a bit unusual! But like with some of the other natural products it’s an eco-friendly way of dealing with your cat’s waste. The good news about the walnut litter is that it has good odour neutralising properties and can absorb up to three times as much as conventional litter (clay).

You might find it doesn’t clump as well as the other options here. And while some people find it tracks less others find it dustier than other litters. Plus it can be harder to sift as the particles are bigger than clay.

The colour cat litter is darker than others which you’ll either prefer or not! It can be harder to see what you need to scoop but at the same time can make the tray look better because of that

Brands like Naturally Fresh sustainably plant new trees in the United States that are grown without pesticides (and include no toxic chemicals).

Grass Seed

This isn’t the cheapest option and it’s a newer type of litter. Like some of the others above it’s very light so your feline friend can easily dig in it and there are no big pellets pocking into their feet.

Grass seed is a great clumping option which is supposed to stop the litter being tracked through the house although in practise it’s not always the case. I have heard of people mixing the grass seed with walnut to create better clumping and less tracking and it’s a way of keeping the cost down.

How to Buy Sustainably

To be as green as possible choose a litter that comes in a cardboard box or other recyclable packaging. (Most of the sustainable ones do.) Buy bulk cat litter where possible so as to reduce the packaging (and keep your costs down too).

Disposing of Litter Waste

You’ll need to scoop out your cat’s waste daily, usually several times if you have a multiple-cat household. I’d normally recommend changing the whole lot for fresh cat litter weekly. But do check the packaging for what your eco-friendly litter suggests though as specific recommendations do vary depending on the type.

Throwing the Waste in the Bin for Landfill

The solid waste needs to go into landfill. Some of the cat owners I did housesits for had a dedicated bin for the cat’s waste. It keeps the smell out of your normal bin and saves using a plastic bag each time you clean the litter tray.

Line a bin with a biodegradable bag and you’re creating even less waste. If you’re going for a zero-waste cat then you could do away with the bag altogether and then just clean out the bin like you would the cat’s litter box.

My use of plastic bags has gone through the roof since I’ve had these two kitties of mine in Greece. I’m trying to only use compostable doggy-doo bags for the cat litter now. Although, sometimes that means I need to stock up on the eco-friendly bags when I see them.

Don’t Flush Your Cat’s Waste

I’m really not convinced about stuff that says it’s flushable litter. Certainly don’t put the clay stuff down the toilet or it’ll block the pipes. On top of that, your cat’s waste contains a bacteria called Toxoplasma gondii. It’s harmful to pregnant women so it’s really not a good idea to be releasing t.gondii into water systems.

Check locally for the best way to dispose of pet waste as some areas and states don’t allow you to flush it anyway.

Creating Compost

You can compost what’s left of your natural litter after you’ve removed the cat’s waste (solids). But you’ll need to use a separate compost bin and keep it away from the kitchen compost you use for your vegetable garden. Don’t use the cat litter compost on any edible plants if you’re growing your own food.

Finding the Best Cat Litter

The best cat litter is really the one that works best for you and fits with your cat’s life and how they are. You’ll find that your experience of a particular product can be different to someone else’s.

And how effective you find a specific litter to be can be affected by things like how many cats you have and whether you have an indoor cat that only uses their tray or whether your cats go outside too. Plus things like how available you are to clean out the tray throughout the day.

My cats were outdoor strays when I rescued them. But I was advised to keep them inside for a while when we moved house. So we had to start using litter trays and now my precious little princesses come IN out of the garden to use them.

Honestly! One of these days we’ll settle down in one spot and they’ll have to learn to go outside again! If your cats are the same, or they are indoor cats, then hopefully this has helped you pick a great eco-friendly option.

Introducing Your New Option to Fluffykins

Remember that cats are quite particular about things, especially new things. So introduce a new litter to them gradually. Add a couple of scoops of the new stuff to their existing litter until over time you’ve completely switched over to the new choice. Good luck!

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