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Best Biodegradable Cat Litter

By: Carl Laron on February 14, 2017

Some cat litter is biodegradable or compostable

Biodegradable cat litters are becoming increasingly popular as they have their own unique advantages. For one, they are an ideal flushable cat litter; even clumping biodegradable cat litters don't contain the clumping agents used in clay litter, and hence will not clog your plumbing system the way that clay products can. They can also be recycled or composted because they're biodegradable and won't sit in a landfill for decades. Biodegradable cat litter can be made from a variety of un-litter-like substances, including wheat, corn, walnut shells, dried wood, grass or even recycled newspapers. One caveat is that some cats may not take to the larger-sized pellets found in many of these natural litters, as reviewers say they tend to prefer the fine, sand-like texture of clay litter. Also, if you're planning to switch from a clay litter to a biodegradable solution, it may be best to start off with a small bag first; cats are creatures of habit and may not appreciate you switching litters.

If you're looking for an organic cat litter that clumps, World's Best Cat Litter (Est. $29 for 28 lbs.) is a top choice. This highly reviewed and highly recommended corn-based cat litter earns praise from many (but not all) experts and gets strong feedback from users. It clumps on contact with urine, so the litter box is easier to clean. It does a great job of neutralizing odors, though some say its large-sized pellets -- made of ground corn -- can be a bit dusty. The biggest downside is the premium price tag: It costs more than twice as much as your regular brand of cat litter. Many owners say you get what you pay for, while some aren't so sure.

Many experts are impressed. At Catster.com, Caroline Golon says World's Best Cat Litter clumps "extremely well." She also calls it a "power player" when it comes to controlling odors. Cat expert Franny Syufy at About.com names it as the top choice among cat litter. "Except for its price, World's Best Cat Litter lives up to its name," she says.

User reviews are largely positive, too. For example, while some of the reviews were originally posted on the company's web site, the litter earns a 4.8 star rating based on nearly 3,600 reviews at Petco.com. At Amazon.com, we spotted a 4.2 star rating based on nearly 1,450 reviews. At Chewy.com, it gets a 4.6 star rating based on more than 475 reviews. World's Best Cat Litter Multiple Cat Formula (Est. $23 for 28 lbs.) is also available if you need stronger odor control for multiple cats. It, too, earns favorable reviews -- for example a 4.8 star rating at Petco.com based on nearly 2,400 reviews.

Our recommendation for World's Best Cat Litter does come with a couple of caveats, however. Because it (like many biodegradable litters) is based on plant material, care should be taken with storage to prevent insect infestations and to prevent the growth of mold, and the deadly aflatoxins they can produce. Expert feedback, and the company's guidelines, say to seal the package or to store in a sealed container in a cool dry place and to avoid putting your litter pan anywhere that's excessively humid. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, of CatInfo.org says that because it can be fairly (or sometimes very) dusty, it's not a good choice if your cat is asthmatic, but adds "All of the above said, I really do not have a huge problem with people using WBCL."

If those issues are a worry, SmartCat All Natural Clumping Litter (Est. $30 for 20 lbs.) looks to be a good alternative. At CatInfo.org, Pierson notes that she's switched to SmartCat, which is grass-based, in place of the clay-based Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra (Est. $15 for 40 lbs.) (covered in our section on clay-based clumping litter). The litter is light weight, which is a plus… and a minus because it's less-dense composition lets cats sink in deeper, something that not all felines are all that fond of in a litter. She also reports that, as with any lighter litter, the best results are achieved with higher fill levels (to keep waste from reaching the bottom of the litter pan where it can lead to messier clean ups and a less sanitary box), which adds to cat acceptance issues, and product cost.

Other experts are just as impressed as Pierson. At The Happy Litter Box, Caroline Golon includes SmartCat among the products listed in 4 Cat Litters To Try, but notes that while it is dust free, its light weight contributes to an issue with tracking. Were it not for that, Golon says "I would have switched to this litter for life (and still might)." Cat nutrition blogger Anne Jablonski calls her test of SmartCat a "smashing success." Pluses she cites include great clumping action, lack of dust, and good acceptance, at least by her cats.

User feedback is also starting to accumulate, and while we don't see as many reviews as for World's Best Cat Litter, what's available is very encouraging. At Amazon.com, SmartCat gets good feedback from cat owners -- a rating of 4.4 stars based on more than 260 reviews. At Chewy.com, the litter earns a score of 4.7 stars based on around 105 reviews.

Although cat owners and experts recommend World's Best Cat Litter and SmartCat most often as the best biodegradable cat litters, they are far from the only choice. SWheat Scoop (Est. $25 for 25 lbs.) does decently in the eyes of some reviewers. This clumping litter is made out of wheat kernels, so it's a flushable cat litter that can also be recycled in yard mulch. It rates a grade of B at Taildom.com, where Daniela Caride echoes comments made by other experts and owners that satisfactory results require a lot of diligence on the part of the cat owner. The litter can harden to a near-cement-like consistency if not scooped out immediately, and the entire litter box should be changed out weekly to keep odor under control. Caride also encountered another issue: "But the worst part is that my dogs Geppetto and Lola loved the taste of the wheat litter, ate half a litter box twice and developed horrible diarrhea."

User reviews are okay, but not as strong as with some other plant-based biodegradable litters. We saw a score of 4.1 stars at Amazon.com based on more than 275 reviews, and 3.9 stars at Petco.com based on more than 140 reviews.

Among biodegradable clumping litters, we saw the most divergence of opinion when it comes to Blue Naturally Fresh (Est. $25 for 26 pounds). Golden gives this walnut-shell-based litter good feedback at Catster.com, saying that it clumps well and was readily accepted by her cats. She also said that there is "virtually no dust." On the downside, the brown color can sometimes obscure when scooping is required, and that any tracked litter will become readily apparent if you have light-colored floors.

Some confusion sets in, however, when looking at user reviews. While we saw lots of similar reviews, we also saw lots that said the exact opposite -- poor cat acceptance, poor clumping, and excessive dust. That mixed feedback is reflected at Petco.com, for example, where the litter earns a rating of 3.3 stars based on 100 reviews, and at Amazon.com, where it earns a 3.8 star score based on 940 reviews across all varieties (which includes scented and non-scented litter, plus clumping and non-clumping versions).

Experts typically point to clumping litters as a better choice as it makes it easier to provide a sanitary litter pan, but lots of cat owners point to Feline Pine (Est. $8 for 20 lbs.) as a pretty good non-clumping litter. It's made from kiln-dried pine, which is environmentally friendly. However, experts note that the pine scent might be more of a plus to pet owners rather than the pets themselves, and point out that unscented products are what testing shows is preferred by cats. At Taildom.com, Caride gives the pellet form of Feline Pine an A rating, though recommends pairing it with a type of litter box that will let the sawdust that forms when the litter comes in contact with urine to sift into a lower tray to aid in clean up, such as the All Pine Self-Cleaning Litter Box (Est. $24).

User reviews for Feline Pine cat litter are pretty good, 4.4 stars after nearly 360 reviews at Chewy.com, for example, though only 3.9-stars after nearly 590 reviews at Amazon.com. The ratings are dragged down a bit by complaints from some who say the product isn't as good as it used to be after a reformulation by its manufacturer, Arm & Hammer, but while these negative reviews hit a peak a couple of years back, such comments have grown less common (but not unheard of) of late.

If you want a clumping pine litter, Arm & Hammer also makes Feline Pine Original Cat Scoop Litter (Est. $20 for 14 lbs.). Expert reviewers, such as Caride, give it middling -- or worse -- evaluations, though much of that feedback originates from before some formula changes. User feedback on the current product is limited, and mixed -- a 3.9 star score at Amazon.com based on just over 40 reviews. Some note similar issues as with the previous version -- primarily that, for a clumping litter, clumping performance can be hit or miss, leaving litter box cleaners with a mess to deal with.

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