How could such a cute little fluff-ball be so stinky!? Kittens and adult cats, in spite of their adorable nature, pack a pee-pee and poop punch that will make your entire home smell like your cat's personal porta-potty! And that's not even considering the paw-prints from dusty cat litter, the fur, and the scratchy-scratchy. Most cat owners report scooping the litter box about once or twice a day, and completely changing out the cat litter about once a week.
To find you the best cat litters of the year, we reviewed over a dozen different products, testing them for odor control, clumping, dust, and safety and health implications for your little feline friend. Below are the top 5 results that we found, followed by our full reviews. To see all the factors we considered in our testing, scroll down to the bottom of this article.
|Brand and Link to Amazon||Our Rating|
|#1. Ever Clean Cat Litter|
|#2. Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal|
|#3. Purina Tidy Cats Litter|
|#4. Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Litter|
|#5. SmartCat All Natural Litter|
Here are the Best Cat Litters of 2021!
1. Ever Clean Extra Strength Cat Litter, Unscented. About 55-60 cents per pound. This is the best cat litter we've tested, in several regards. First, it is unscented but does an excellent job masking urine and feces odors. That means that your home won't smell like some terrible mixture of perfumes and cat urine, it just won't smell at all. We were very impressed with its ammonia-shield odor control. In our testing, we usually just wait until we smell the faint odor to know that one of our cats has used the box; literally a day later we had to go check it because we started to worry that our cat wasn't using it at all. Lo and behold, it had been used twice for pee and once for poop, and we didn't even realize. The odor control was just that good. Second, it does a great job locking in the moisture of urine, leaving the urine right on the surface of the litter box in a perfect little pod-shaped clump. Urine never went below about an inch deep into the box, even with our larger and older cat. Third, we loved the dust control. This litter is like a coarse dark sand, and even when pouring into the litter box there was minimal dust generated. Dusty footprints leading away from the litter box were basically non-existent. Fourth, we liked the simplicity of the ingredients: bentonite clay (which I actually use for facial masks!), activated charcoal (which people sometimes eat for tummy problems), and borates (which help with clumping and keep bugs away). So this cat litter has a lot going for it. It's not made for multi-cat use, but they do make a version for that (here). Overall, this is the best cat litter we tested, and that says a lot!
2. Arm & Hammer Clump & Seal Platinum Cat Litter. About 70-75 cents per pound. This is an excellent cat litter, with a slightly more expensive price tag than the Ever Clean litter, with overall highly similar effectiveness. When you see the Arm & Hammer name, people immediately think of baking soda and how effective it is as a deodorizer. Given its baking soda content, not surprisingly this Platinum multi-cat litter is right up there with the best in terms of odor control. It blocks and absorbs the ammonia and poopy smells all day long, and you will notice the difference in odor immediately. It does this not only through baking soda, but also a very mild fragrance that's been added. Nothing major, just a tiny bit of a fragrance that you're unlikely to smell across the room. Along with the baking soda, which by the way is basically invisible in this litter, it uses a bentonite clay base and limestone. The granules are very small and soft to the touch, like coarse sand granules on the beach. When we initially tested this, we were worried that the small granule size would end up trapped in paws and tracked all over the house. Not many problems there. There was no sign of dust tracking on the floor or furniture, though there were some granules scattered around the floor beside the litter box. One reason it's always a good idea to have a rubber mat or outdoor carpet under and surrounding a litter box! And it's on wonder this stuff is called Clump & Seal, because the clumping is absolutely amazing. Clumps are solid like concrete patties, and the urine doesn't get very deep into the litter box before getting completely surrounded by a massive clump. Kudos to Arm & Hammer for doing a great job sealing in odors with these super-clumps. The packaging claims 7-days odor free use, though we had luck changing it every 5-6 days when used with more than one cat. Overall, aside from the higher price, this ranks right up there with the Ever Clean for a great-performing cat litter. Highly recommended!
3. Purina Tidy Cats Breeze Cat Litter Pellets. Expensive, but an easy to use and great-performing system. These pellets are a unique addition to the cat litter market, and a nice change from typical clay-based cat litters. The pellets are shaped a bit like rabbit food pellets, and work with the Breeze Litter System (see that here). We do not recommend using this cat litter with any other litter box, it simply will not work. The Breeze system uses these pellets to direct urine down into an absorbant Breeze pad that you can easily change about once a week. Any feces can be scooped right out of the pellets. The beauty of this system is that you only really need to completely swap out the pellets about once a month, as long as you poop-scoop as usual, and change out the pee-pad in the bottom drawer. So this is a completely different way of dealing with cat litter, and to be honest we thought it worked quite well at controlling odor, being virtually dust-free, and helping keep things neat and tidy around the litter box. Odor control is done primarily through the unscented Tidy Cats pee-pads that sit in the bottom drawer of the system: they do a great job locking in the ammonia odor, as long as you change the pad every 5-7 days. The pellets themselves also control odor and help dehydrate feces to reduce odor and make scooping easy. The pellets are made from recycled paper and other alternate non-clay materials, are light-weight, and can be used with little kittens. Though we didn't do it, you can also wash the pellets and use them for longer than a month, if desired. There is no dust whatsoever, so there's no paw tracking. This system does work for multiple cats, though we always recommend having at least one litter box per cat. Cons? Well, the system and its refills are pretty expensive relative to a basic litter box and clay-based litter. The system itself costs about $30, which includes the box with pad drawer, pee pads, and a 3.5 pound bag of litter. The pee pads need to be replaced once a week at a cost of about $6 each, and the pellets need to be replaced every month at a cost of about $15 for a bag. So it becomes about $20 per month to use this system, unless you wash and reuse the pellets, which can bring you down to an average of about $10 per month. So overall, this is an excellent system, but it's also quite costly to use.
4. Dr. Elsey's Precious Cat Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter. About 40 cents per pound. Back in 2012-2013, this was our #1 cat litter. Around 2014, the company changed their formula slightly and it became a bit dustier and not quite as good at controlling odors. It used to control dust and odor as well as the Ever Clean, and now it's not quite as good as it. So it has dropped down on our list, though it is still one of the best cat litters available on the market today. This is the only all-natural cat litter on our list, and is hypo-allergenic (great for allergy-prone parents!), fragrance-free, deodorant-free, chemical-free, and uses a mixture of heavy non-tracking granules along with a coarse grain clay. Together these ingredients do a very good job with odor control and and an OK job keeping dust from tracking all over the home. The dust control is definitely not as good as the others on this list. Anyone claiming differently probably hasn't done an actual hands-on review since the formula was changed several years ago. It does kick up some dust when pouring into the litter box, but you will find some tracking on the floor or furniture, especially as the litter sits in the box for longer periods of time. We always suggest putting a rubber pad around a litter box to catch stray little pieces that fall off paws as they exit the box. Given that it's all natural and uses no deodorants or perfumes, we were a little concerned about odor control. But in our testing, it always does a pretty good job a locking in ammonia odors and keeping the poopy smells to a minimum. This cat litter is suited for multi-cat use, though we recommend separate boxes. It is also great for using with mechanical scooping machines. Overall, this is a great cat litter at a very affordable price. Perfect for budget-minded people who want high quality, hypoallergenic, all natural cat litter that can keep up with the premium brands. Note that like most cat litters, Dr. Elsey's comes in small or large bags, and you tend to save a lot when buying in larger quantities.
5. SmartCat All Natural Clumping Cat Litter. About $1.50 per pound. This is the most expensive on our list, but we do hope its price will start declining over the years (as demand grows). Instead of using clay, this all natural cat litter uses cut grass! Yes, really, just grass. It doesn't really smell like grass at all, but it's just grass: no chemicals, clay, fragrances, silica, or anything else. If you're super invested in using a product that is all natural, sustainable, and good for your cat and the planet, this is a great option. When we first opened the package and felt the litter, we were surprised by the texture and consistency. It's soft like nice sand, with a bit more texture than that. It's relatively light-weight, a little bit "fluffy," has no dust at all, and easy to manage. In our testing, we thought this cat litter was fantastic at urine odor control. Honestly, it's like they hadn't even peed, we were really surprised by its ability to use adsorption (yes, ADsorption) to alter the chemical composition of ammonia and stop the odor immediately. That was awesome! And scooping up the fresh urine was also great, with nicely formed clumps that don't break apart during scooping. So, no dust, no odor, and great clumping. Oh, and not much tracking to be seen around the floor and furniture, so that's another great aspect of this cat litter. If you have multiple cats, the ability for this to block odors will work probably be excellent for your situation. So this is an excellent cat litter, and an awesome alternative to the usual clay-based litter. You might wonder why it isn't higher on our list? Well, it's one of the best cat litters money can buy, but also one of the most expensive ones. The harvesting of grass and manufacturing processes make this an expensive litter to make. As demand increases and they increase the efficiency of their processes, hopefully the price will start to settle down. Right now, a 20-pound bag is about $30 or so.
How we test cat litters.
You will go through a ton of cat litter over the course of your fluff-ball's life. When we got our first kitten about a decade ago, we naively assumed that all cat litters were alike: my husband went to the local KMart and purchased the cheapest cat litter he could find. He was pretty proud of himself until he realized that our house was soon becoming a stinky mess of cat litter, and trying to scoop out clumps was more like scooping out a mushy mess that would seep all the way down to the bottom of the litter box. At first, we just assumed that cat litter and litter boxes were just plain messy and smelly, and there wasn't any hope in helping that situation. Until my aunt, a bonified cat lady, came to visit and gawked at what we were up to. How could we possibly be using that terrible cat litter!? So that was the end of our wishful thinking that we could simply find the cheapest cat litter and assume it's doing a decent job.
Fast forward about 10 years and we have 3 cats, and have become experts at all things cat. As research scientists, we put our skills to work finding the best cat litter on the market. We have done hands-on testing and reviews on over 20 different brands to date, and have figured out what's the best for both single- and multi-cat households. Here are the factors we consider when finding the best cat litters of the year:
Odor Control. Most cat litters include some form of odor control, whether it's through natural sources like activated charcoal or baking soda, or through added fragrance to make an attempt at masking an odor. In our experience, cat litters with added fragrance are usually not as effective at containing an odor. Instead, they make your house smell like a bizarre mixture of ammonia/urine and perfume, which we don't find very appealing. In contrast, we have found great success with several unscented cat litters that do a great job locking in ammonia and fecal odors, without making your home smell like anything in particular (good or bad!). Cat litters without masking fragrances also tend to be relatively natural and environmentally friendly, given their simpler ingredients lists. Most cat litters marketed as multi-cat tend to be better at controlling odors; that's what makes it suitable for use by more than one cat, so they are less likely to be deterred by urine left by another cat.
Clumping and Dust. To us, this is the second most important thing to look for in a cat litter. A good cat litter will use granules, some very tiny (like coarse sand), and some relatively large (like Tic-Tac sized). What it will not use is a powdery filler material that will fly into the air during pouring, and leave tiny dusty paw prints all over your floor and furniture. That being said, you also want it to do a good job clumping urine and feces so that it doesn't saturate down to the bottom of the litter box. That's sometimes a difficult combination to find, because fine-grained powders can do a great job helping with clumping, but they also cause a lot of dust. So there's often a trade-off in effectiveness. The kitty litters we've identified below do a great job with both clumping and dust control, so you don't need to compromise.
Safety and Health. There are a few things to think about here. First, think about human exposure to ingredients found in cat litters. This exposure happens when litter dust gets into the air, when litter gets onto the hands (while petting your cat, or during scooping and clean-out), and when the litter is tracked around the house. This can be especially important for pregnant or breast-feeding women, and children. Second, think about your cat's exposure to harmful ingredients. This exposure happens through repeated daily exposure to chemicals, both by contact, licking it off the fur, and breathing in airborne particulate. Try to avoid cat litters containing silica (silicon dioxide), cobalt chloride, and artificial fragrances. However, we also want to mention that when we test all-natural and organic cat litters, we've never found them to be as effective as the others (so keep that in mind). Also, let's consider how to dispose of cat litter. Some brands are flush-friendly, but most are not. If it is a flushable variety of cat litter, you can also assume that it does not do a good job clumping: cat litters that absorb moisture and expand can never be flushed down the toilet because your pipes will get clogged. Finally, we suggest avoiding some of the corn-based natural cat litters: they are great at being a cat litter, but unfortunately also great at harboring and nesting bugs (moths, mites, flies, etc).