A second cat joins my household Monday and his brother will also be staying here till next Saturday. Adding cats always means thinking about the adequacy of your litter for the new load and looking also at new littler boxes.
I’ve used FreshStep Multi-Cat Clumping Litter with Febreeze for years. Many of my breeder friends who generally have many cats in their households swear by World’s Best (made from corn and supposedly flushable. Neither of those are in the list below.
The Best Cat Litter
By Shannon Palus and Kaitlyn Wells Updated July 29, 2021
- We’ve reviewed this guide from top to bottom, and we still think this is the best cat litter you can buy.
The stinky, sometimes sticky mess that cats leave in the litter box is easier to handle if you have the right cat litter. After two years of testing 17 cat litters, we think Dr. Elsey’s Ultra does the best job of making litter box chores a little easier, because it masks odors, clumps well, and keeps dust to a minimum. Plus, it’s cheaper than many other options—an important factor, considering this is something you’ll use a lot of in a cat’s lifetime.
How we picked
- Easy to carry We judged the cat litter contenders by how easy their containers were to lift, carry, and pour.
- Odor absorbing We sniffed out how well each formula controlled odors by adding the sulfur-smelling hing spice and an ammonia mixture to each pan.
- Simple to scoop We tested the litter’s scoopability, clumping, and our ability to clean caked-on messes at the bottom of the pans.
- Dust free We preferred litter that produced minimal dust while refilling or scooping dirty litter from the pan.
No brand of cat litter outperforms Dr. Elsey’s Ultra’s combination of solid odor control, scoopability, and low dust profile—all at an affordable price. It’s the only cat litter we found that completely traps simulated cat-waste odors. And its neutral smell is easier to stomach than some litters’ fruity fragrances, which clash with litter box odors. Dr. Elsey’s granules are of average size, so cats are less likely to track litter throughout the house. This litter also quickly clumps when wet, and the clumps retain their shape when you’re scooping better than most other litters. Dr. Elsey’s also produces less dust than half of the brands we tested, and the dust won’t overwhelm you when you’re pouring fresh litter into the pan or scooping out a day’s worth of cat mess. But this litter is sold in a giant plastic bag, which is a pain to carry and pour from. And like most of the litters we tested, Dr. Elsey’s granules are likely to stick to the bottom of a dirty litter pan and can be a pain to deep-clean.
This litter does a good job of controlling odors, and it doesn’t leave gunky messes stuck to the box like other litters we tested. But it’s more expensive per pound than our top pick.$30* from Walmart$30 from Chewy
*At the time of publishing, the price was $15.
No litter is so good at controlling scents that it can replace regular scooping and strategic box placement. But if you are very sensitive to litter smells or hate having to constantly dust surfaces near the litter box, consider Arm & Hammer Cloud Control Clumping Litter. It does a good job of trapping odors, and it smells more neutral, not fruity like some other litters we tested, so it’s easier on your nose come scooping time. This litter has fine, sand-like litter granules that form tight clumps and won’t stick to the bottom of a dirty litter pan—but those fine granules do track more litter throughout the home than our main pick does. This cat litter’s low-dust profile means you won’t cough uncontrollably when you’re pouring, scooping, or deep-cleaning the litter box. Arm & Hammer Cloud Control is a good litter overall, but it’s generally about 30 percent more expensive per pound than Dr. Elsey’s Ultra, and most people (and cats) won’t get much more value out of it.
Out of five scoops we used during testing, the DurAnimals DuraScoop Original Cat Litter Scoop is the one we’d buy for ourselves. It’s the only scoop that wasn’t gross by the end of testing, with minimal pee and litter crust on the edge, and no bits of litter stuck in the mesh. The scoop’s generous size and sturdy construction make it easy to rake through the litter box and catch everything. Though the DuraScoop costs more than other scoops, it’s a one-time purchase that will make one of the more unpleasant parts of your day nicer and keep your litter box cleaner.
Everything we recommend
This cat litter forms sturdy clumps, effectively controls odors, and is one of the cheapest options available.
This litter does a good job of controlling odors, and it doesn’t leave gunky messes stuck to the box like other litters we tested. But it’s more expensive per pound than our top pick.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $15.
This large and easy-to-hold scoop makes a gross chore as pleasant as possible.
- Why you should trust us
- Why clay litter?
- How we picked
- Is clumping litter safe for kittens?
- How we tested
- Our pick: Dr. Elsey’s Ultra
- Flaws but not dealbreakers
- Also great: Arm & Hammer Cloud Control Clumping Litter
- The best litter scoop: DurAnimals DuraScoop Original Cat Litter Scoop
- The best alternatives to clay litter (according to Wirecutter staff)
- Do you need to switch litters?
- How to solve common litter box problems
- The competition
- Frequently asked questions
Buy This, Not That
4 absolute best cat litters, according to vets
Published: Aug. 8, 2019 at 9:14 a.m. ETBy
These cat litters are purrfect.
Cat owners spend about $165 a year on cat litter, according to Kiplinger — which means they’ll drop nearly $2,500 over the life of their beloved feline. And while many people think you need a fancy litter for better cat health and less smell and tracking, vets say there’s no need to drop a lot of loot on litter. Here are picks from vets and experts for the best litter for your cat.
This litter — a best-seller on Amazon with an impressive 15,000 reviews — is affordable and a reviewer’s favorite, with multiple sites, including Wirecutter, putting it on their “best” list. Wirecutter notes that it’s great at preventing litter tracking and “forms sturdy clumps, has decent odor control and low dust.”
Rachel Barrack, founder of concierge practice Animal Acupuncture, recommends it too, calling it a “great option for pet-owners with one or more cats.” She likes that it “is hypo-allergenic with no fragrances, but gets rid of odors” and notes that “the clumping nature of this litter allows for the easy removal of waste from the litter box, which will keep it from emitting any smelly odors.”
Vets often say that unscented clumping litter is best: “I always recommend unscented, clumping cat litter,” says Jim D. Carlson. “Scented litter is designed for humans, not cats. Felines have a strong sense of smell with 67 million scent receptors. Scented litter can be a litterbox deterrent and cause irritation of your cat’s sinuses and respiratory tract.”
Sara Ochoa of DogLab says this is what she personally uses with her cats: “The urine will fall through and collect on a pee pad on the bottom that can easily be switched and the litter can be easily scooped. This system has no odor and is very easy to clean,” she says.
This is clearly an Amazon customer favorite as well, with nearly 5,000 customer reviews, of which three-fourths are four or five star reviews. One customer simply writes: “This is the best litter system you can have in your home for all of the issues you face with litter boxes: Cost/Urine Smell/Tracking.”
The Tidy Cats brand also gets a vote from Dr. Nicole Fulcher, assistant director of Animal Medical Center of Mid-America, though she likes “the Tidy Cats varieties by Purina. There are several options that include clumping and non-clumping, and that are for multi-cat households etc.” The reason: “Soft-unscented clumping litters are preferred by most cats and these litters are easier for caregivers to clean.” Among her picks is the Purina Tidy Cats LightWeight 24/7 Performance, Clumping Cat Litter for Multiple Cats, roughly $20 on Amazon
This may be the litter for those who don’t like clumping litter. In addition to the Tidy Cats system, Ochoa says she loves Yesterday’s News. “Both of these litters are dust free and will not cause upper respiratory diseases.” What’s more, the manufacturer claims that this litter is 3x more absorbent than traditional clay litters and is unscented.
Other things to remember: Cats are picky. “It is best to try different types of cat litter to see which your cat prefers,” says Fulcher. “The old way of thinking was to stick to one type of litter, but it is best to try different types of substrate or litter and see which one your cat prefers.”
You also should scoop litter daily, says Matthew Goetz, medical director for the Arizona Animal Welfare League. “You don’t want to use a dirty bathroom, and neither do they.” He adds: “Pay attention to location. You may like the litterbox next to the dryer or out of the way, but if it buzzes or is awkward for them, they will stop using it.”