Why Cats Usually Prefer Clumping to Non-clumping Litter

Most cats prefer clumping litter, but different cats have different preferences. Your cat might like non-clumping litter better, especially if they were raised with it. With a new cat, try and find out what they’re used to. Avoid litters with added fragrances, as they can cause litterbox avoidance.

In this article, I’ll discuss the differences between clumping and non-clumping litters, and which one cats prefer. I’ll also answer more of your cat clumping and non-clumping litter questions so that you can make the best choice for you and your cat.


Most Cats Prefer Clumping Litter

Most cats prefer scent-free clumping litter with small particles.

Most cat owners prefer cleaning the box with clumping litter too, so it’s a win-win!


A Cleaner Litterbox Because of Clumping Litter

Clumping litter is easiest to clean as well, and you won’t have to leave soiled litter behind as you clean the box—which can cause some cats to avoid using the litterbox.

Cats are very clean animals, and they don’t like walking on soiled litter or using a smelly box. Some cats are so finicky that the box has to be scooped every time they use it, or they won’t again!

The easier it is for you to keep the litterbox clean, the more likely your cat will use it consistently.

While non-clumping litter came first, and allowed us to keep cats indoors—which was a great benefit to their health, and has allowed their lifespan to increase drastically—clumping litter changed the game for cats and people.

Some non-clumping litters offer a better imitation of dirt or sand, which is what cats would bury their waste in naturally. However, you have to think that cats don’t naturally use a box to go potty in!

Outdoors, they’d be able to wander about and use the bathroom wherever they like. They’d never have to return to the same spot twice if they didn’t want to.

So while some cats do prefer the feel of non-clumping litter, most cats would rather have clumping litter and a clean, scent-free litter box.


Usually Cats Prefer What They are Used To

Which kind of litter your cat prefers will vary. Most like the small particles and ability to move clumping litter aside easily. Others, however, prefer the feel of non-clumping litter.

Your best bet is to stick to what your cat knows. If you’re about to adopt a cat, ask the rescue, shelter, or breeder you’re adopting from what kind of litter they use currently. Use the same type and brand as them, at least in the beginning.

This will ease your cat’s transition and ensure they continue using the box. If you’d like to change the litter going forward, you can do so gradually—by first mixing the old and new litters, then transitioning fully to the new litter.

Lastly, feel free to give your cat options! While it’s more expensive in the beginning, it’s the only real way to know what they prefer.

Fill different boxes with different litter types, and then purchase more of whatever they use most regularly.

Lastly, like I discussed above, keep in mind that cats really like a clean box. The litter you choose should be easy for you so that you keep up with it!


Pros of Clumping Cat Litter

  • Clumps together when wet, allowing you to easily remove pee from the litterbox
  • Most cats prefer it to non-clumping litter
  • The litterbox needs to be emptied and cleaned less often
  • Longer-lasting


Cons of Clumping Cat Litter

  • Usually produces more dust
  • Can contain carcinogens such as silica, so check the ingredient list carefully before purchasing
  • Is heavy to lift, though there are light-weight litters on the market
  • Tends to be more expensive


Pros of Non-Clumping Cat Litter

  • Typically cheaper than clumping litter
  • Less dusty
  • Some cats prefer the feel of it to clumping litter


Cons of Non-Clumping Cat Litter

  • Soiled litter cannot be scooped without emptying the entire litterbox
  • Urine will collect in the bottom of the box if the litter isn’t emptied and refilled frequently
  • Shorter-lasting


Alternatives to Clay Clumping Litter

When we talk about litter, especially clumping litter, we’re usually referring to clay litter. It’s the most widely available, sold in most grocery and pet stores.

Despite its downsides, it’s cheap and easy to obtain.

However, the downsides are pretty great to the health of our cats, ourselves, and the planet.

Clay litter produces dust that affects our breathing and lungs, especially if we or our cats suffer from asthma or respiratory problems already.

If your cat eats great amounts of litter (or you have a dog who likes to snack in the litter box!), this can be bad for them as well—it’s, of course, not meant to be consumed!

Clay litter is also incredibly bad for the environment.

If you’d like to avoid clay litter or make a change to something more natural, I’ll go over some alternatives below.

First, remember to never switch your litter entirely overnight. This can cause litterbox avoidance, or your cat refusing to use the box.

Instead, begin mixing the new litter in slowly over time, until you can fully replace it.


Wheat Clumping Litter

Clumping litter made from wheat isn’t quite as easy to scoop as clay litter, but is still better than non-clumping litters.

It is natural, and won’t hurt your cat if ingested. It also produces less dust than clay litters.


Corn Clumping Litter

This litter is more eco-friendly, but not nearly as convenient as clay litter. It absorbs less, smells more, and is slightly harder to scoop.

However, your cat is less likely to track it outside of the box due to the larger particles. Unfortunately, this might also make it uncomfortable for your cat to walk in.


Tofu Clumping Litter

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of tofu litter before researching for this article! It seems like a dream litter—it absorbs urine and odors, is dust-free, easy to scoop, and doesn’t get tracked outside of the box like clay.

It’s also chemical-free, completely pet-safe, and much better for the environment.

Unfortunately, it’s also many times the price of your average clay litter.


Grass Clumping Litter

Grass litter is another good choice that is quite expensive—though not so much as tofu litters. It clumps well, controls odors, and produces less dust.

Of course, being made of grass, it’s also incredibly eco-friendly!


Pine Non-Clumping Litter

Many humans love the scent of pine litter, but unfortunately our cats don’t have the same preferences. Some will avoid the litter due to the smell and texture.

However, it’s a more eco-friendly option if your cat will use it. It does absorb and hold in odors, and is less likely to be tracked through the house when your cat is done in the box.


Paper Pellet Non-Clumping Litter

Paper pellets absorb a lot, but don’t do much to prevent odor build-up. You’ll also need to buy more of it than clay litter, because it becomes soiled more quickly.

However, it has less dust and is less likely to stick to your cat’s feet.


Wood Pellet Non-Clumping Litter

Wood pellets don’t clump and many cats dislike the feel of them on their paws. It’s difficult to scoop, but can be sifted using a special, layered litterbox to make clean-up easier.

It won’t be dragged through the house on your cat’s paws, and produces less dust than clay litter. It’s also much cheaper than clay litter, which is great to see when looking at eco-friendly options.


Silica Crystal Gel Non-Clumping Litter

This litter produces less dust and won’t cling to your cat’s feet, but it may be uncomfortable for them to use and doesn’t control odor well.

Like all non-clumping litters, clean-up is also difficult.


Common Questions Related to Clumping and Non-Clumping Litter

How do I get my Cat Used to a New Type of Litter?

Begin by mixing 1/3 of the new litter with 2/3 of the old litter. The next time you change the litterbox, include 2/3 new litter and 1/3 old litter. Then, transition to fully new litter.

If your cat goes outside the box at any point, revert to the old litter. Attempt a slower transition or simply stick to what your cat knows.

You don’t want them to begin avoiding the litterbox altogether!


What if my Cat Isn’t Using the Litterbox?

First, bring your cat to the veterinarian to check for medical problems like a urinary tract infection. Once they have a clean bill of health, try offering several types of boxes and litter.

If your senior cat stops using the litterbox, they may be suffering from joint pain or arthritis. Try a shallower box that’s easier for them to climb in and out of.

Lastly, make sure to scoop the litterbox at least once a day and to replace the litter and deep-clean the box regularly.


How Many Litterboxes do I Need?

A single cat should have two litterboxes. For each additional cat, add another litterbox.


Can Natural Litters be Composted?

Though many natural litters say they can be composted, think twice before doing so!

Composting cat waste can spread disease such as Toxoplasmosis, especially if the compost is used to grow food.

You also shouldn’t flush animal waste, even if your litter claims it is flushable. Cat poop flushed down the toilet can harm wildlife and humans.


What’s the Best Litterbox for my Cat?

If your cat is already used to and using their litterbox consistently, there’s no need to change what works!

A good litter box is at least as long as your cat, is easy to get in and out of, and doesn’t make them feel cornered. Most cats dislike litterboxes with lids, which block their view, hold in odors, and sometimes make them feel trapped.

Older cats, kittens, and those with mobility issues should be given boxes with shallow sides, so it’s easy for them to climb in and out.

Deeper boxes can be helpful for active, young cats who kick litter out of the box.

Writer: Katelynn Sobus

I am a freelance writer who specializes in the pet industry.  My full bio