Idea for Alternative Cat Litter

With this idea for using alternative cat litters, you can save money and avoid the unpleasant smells that many traditional cat litters emit.

  • Cat Litters
    Avoid cat litters that contain chemicals and other unwanted substances by opting for a more organic spread.
    Photo by Fotolia/borzywoj

  • Cat Litters

I didn’t like the artificial perfumes in my cats’ litter, nor the waste that the litter created. Even the “eco” litters were lacking — they smelled bad, didn’t clump and were expensive. So I spent months experimenting with materials to use for an alternative cat litter, and I eventually found that straw or pine pellets, which are usually sold as horse bedding, worked best.

I used the straw pellets until my local Agway stopped carrying them. Now I use the pine pellets, which work just as well. These pine pellets have a number of benefits. They’re cheap — one 40-pound bag costs $6 and will last my two cats close to a month and a half. And they don’t smell bad — if anything, they smell kind of woody or grassy. Plus, liquid causes the pine pellets to immediately disintegrate into sawdust, so it’s easy to spot and remove urine.

Hannah Dobbz
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

8/9/2019 2:22:45 PM

I have many cats (not quite a hoarder yet, but getting there) and I, too, use equine pine pellets from Tractor Supply for all the litter boxes. Starting a few years ago, I've been experimenting and I found that by carefully removing any solid residue (I got those sifting cat boxes which make even tiny missed pieces of the toxic waste easy to spot) I can reuse the urine-soaked sawdust in my compost pile. My property has oodles of deciduous trees so I have huge compost piles. The high nitrogen in the urine really speeds up the heating and breakdown cycles. It is my understanding that you can not get toxoplasmosis (or worms) from the urine (both shed in feces). Regardless, it's in the hot compost pile so I'm not worried as that should destroy any pathogens that could get through. I use these same pellets for the hen house bedding (works great with the ducks as they can ruin pine shreds very quickly), and for the rabbits as well. I reuse those litters in gardening too but only after a hot compost cycle AND aging for a year (or more). This year is the first time I've been able to actually use this product in my garden and, despite a super rainy growing season here, my garden is very, very productive so I think it's working. Best, I no longer have to haul heavy clay to the curb each week to be hauled to the landfill- double win! To get your cats used to this litter, fill the pan with clean pellets and spray the top with water just enough to break down the top pellets and this helps the cats to see it as "dig-able" litter. You only have to do this the first few boxes full to help them recognize it as litter. Most of my cats adjusted quickly but one needed me to purchase a litter attractant to get her to use it and, for that cat's box, I also leave a fair amount of the used litter (scooping only the really wet spots rather than shaking the tray to remove all the used sawdust) as she needs to feel a lot more sawdust in it - maybe her feet are more sensitive to the pellets. It's my understanding that these pellets have been high-heat treated so there is no toxic pine oil left on/in them. I know I have used them for many years on both kittens and (MANY!) cats and have never had a problem. My cats all live to very old age - one is 24 right now and I've never had sick cats either - very low vet bills here and 95% for maintenance things. It's a LOT less mess than the scoopable clay litters and, don't even get me started on non-scoopable clay...oh ick! I'd not be able to keep this many cats in my home if this system wasn't absorbing the smells too because *I* am very sensitive to smells. It's MUCH cheaper, much easier, much cleaner (you can pick up the pellets they knock out and toss them back in rather than trying to contain the sandy mess of scoopable), and now I can heat my compost piles much faster by reusing the urine-soaked sawdust. I am soooo glad I switched!

2/8/2018 10:05:54 AM

I use shredded news paper for my cat's litter. It took a few days for my cat to realize that this is her litter box but now she is adjusted to it. We have been doing this way for many years now. Though there is still odor, it's completely free! I get a local free news paper, rip the paper along the grain to make thin strips and put them on top of solid sheet of news paper at the bottom. Using a paper shredder does not work, the paper clogs the shredder, plus the cats tend to kick it out of the box more.

1/28/2018 7:56:42 AM

I use the Horse pellets (pine if I can find it or Spruce, no Cedar or hemlock) too but I wet them first. A large horse feed scoop and 1 full spray bottle worth of water in a bucket. It all expands and I get twice as much use out of it. I do this because I have one cat that thinks the pellets are poop and will refuse to go in :) Works great.

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