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Best Biodegradable Cat Litter

By: Carl Laron on February 14, 2018

Some cat litter is biodegradable or compostable

Biodegradable cat litters are becoming increasingly popular as they have their own unique advantages. One major plus is that they can 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 clumping clay litter, covered elsewhere in this report. 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.

Many biodegradable cat litters are also flushable, something that thrills owners, but that might not be the best thing for the environment. As noted by Shannon Palus at Wirecutter, "the US Environmental Protection Agency classifies pet waste as a pollutant, which can introduce excess nutrients and harmful microorganisms like parasites and coliform bacteria into rivers, streams, and groundwater." She adds that toxoplasmosis from cat waste is a particular concern. "In California, evidence has linked toxoplasmosis from cat feces to increased mortality in sea otters, prompting legislation to attach anti-flushing notices on cat litter bags."

If you're looking for an organic cat litter that clumps, World's Best Cat Litter (Est. $35 for 28 lbs.) is a top choice. This 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, Caroline Golon says World's Best Cat Litter clumps "extremely well." She also calls it a "power player" when it comes to controlling odors. Daniela Caride at Taildom gives World's Best her highest A rating. But not every expert is completely sold. CatLitterHelp.com opines that the smell of the original version is a "much too powerful," and that the editors would be more inclined to recommend it if the price were lower. It gets three stars there, though some of the other varieties, such as World's Best Cat Litter Lavender Scented Multiple Cat Clumping (Est. $30 for 28 pounds), score higher.

Cat owner reviews are highly positive. For example, the original version earns a 4.2 star rating based on more than 1,850 reviews at Amazon. Elsewhere it earns 4.4 stars in nearly 620 reviews at Chewy, with around 90 percent of cat owners giving it a recommendation. The biggest accumulations of cat owner reviews we spotted are at Petco and PetSmart. While those sites include reviews from their own customers, there are lots that were originally posted at the maker's web site. Be that as it may, World's Best Cat Litter earns 4.8 star ratings at both sites, with posted reviews approaching 4,000 at each.

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. Pierson notes that she's switched to SmartCat, which is grass-based, in place of the clay-based Dr. Elsey's Ultra (Est. $18 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.

Some other experts are just as impressed as Pierson. For example, 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. However, we did see some anecdotal blog posts from cat aficionados around the Internet that said while they loved the litter, their cats were sometimes not as pleased, echoing Pierson's comments.

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 on a par. At Amazon, SmartCat draws a rating of 4.2 stars based on nearly 450 reviews. At Chewy, the litter earns a score of 4.6 stars based on around 220 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. $35 for 36 lbs.) does decently in the eyes of some reviewers. This clumping litter is made out of wheat kernels. It rates a grade of B at Taildom, where Daniela Caride echoes comments made by other experts and cat owners that satisfactory results require a lot of diligence. 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." But the experts at CatLitterHelp.com are clearly unimpressed. "The utilization of wheat really misses the mark on this litter," they say. "The clumps struggle, the cat smells easily get out of control, and it is quite dusty with difficult cleanup."

User reviews are okay, but not as strong as with some other plant-based biodegradable litters. We saw a score of 4 stars at Amazon based on nearly 350 review. Feedback is better at Chewy, where it garners a 4.4 star rating based on nearly 370 reviews.

Among biodegradable clumping litters, we saw the most divergence of opinion when it comes to Blue Naturally Fresh (Est. $25 for 26 pounds). Golon gives this walnut-shell-based litter good feedback at Catster, 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 reviews that voiced the same sentiments as Golon, we also saw lots that said the exact opposite -- poor cat acceptance, poor clumping, and excessive dust. That mixed feedback is reflected at Petco, for example, where the litter earns a rating of 3.8 stars based on over 110 reviews, and at Amazon, where it earns a 3.8 star score based on nearly 1,300 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. $17 for 40 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.

Expert reviews are mixed. 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) or the Favorite High Sided 19" Double Trayed Pine Sifter Cat Litter Box (Est. $16). CatLitterHelp.com gives it three stars. It's value and environmental friendliness make it worth considering, the editors say, but add that "There are some issues with this product that range from potential odor control problems to the mess that the pine can form when it breaks down." Among users, the litter earns 4.4 stars after nearly 590 reviews at Chewy, and 4.2-stars after nearly 980 reviews at Amazon.

If you want a clumping pine litter, Arm & Hammer also makes Feline Pine Original Cat Scoop Litter (Est. $20 for 14 lbs.). CatLitterHelp.com gives it a three star rating. The editors say that clumping and odor control performance are fine, but that it's a bit "messy" with both dust and tracking a concern. User feedback is limited, but it earns a 4.2 star score at Amazon based on just over 60 reviews.

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