Clumping cat litter

It’s hard to believe that a cat litter could be controversial, but it can–and clumping clay litter is the focus of the debate. The issue that gets some owners riled up is the sodium bentonite clay found in most clumping litters. The highly absorbent clay clumps, swells, and solidifies when the cat urinates on it, meaning you can remove liquid as well as solid waste–thus providing better odor control. But stories abound on the internet that sodium bentonite is dangerous to cats.

The theory holds that, when the cat inhales the clay dust or ingests the litter through grooming (or, in the case of curious kittens, eats it outright), the clay clumps together and swells in the body, just like it does in the litter box. This could cause potentially fatal lung problems and intestinal blockage.

Unfortunately, no one’s ever studied whether this actually happens, and if so, how common it is. Manufacturers point out that there are no documented cases of any cat dying or getting sick from clumping litter. And despite the controversy, clumping litter has a soft, sandy feel that’s attractive to cats. Owners appreciate fewer litter changes and less odor. Some owners who like clumping litter choose to use something else during their cat’s kitten phase, then make the switch.

If you do choose clumping litter, remove clumps daily or whenever you notice them. You should change the litter entirely every two weeks to control bacteria.

Rating: 3 paws

Pros of clumping litter

  • Easy to scoop
  • Good odor control
  • Needs less frequent changing
  • Dust-free formulations available
  • Some are flushable

Cons of clumping litter

  • Some owners fear that cats who eat or inhale the litter may suffer intestinal blockages or respiratory problems
  • Inhaling the dust can cause respiratory problems in cats and people
  • Because the clay comes from strip-mining, it’s not eco-friendly

Sample brands

Nature’s Miracle Odor Control Clumping Cat Litter
Fresh Step Multiple Cat Strength Scoopable Litter
Scoop Away Fresh Scent Clumping Cat Litter

Cat litter
Clay litter
Clumping litter
Biodegradable litter