Clumping Vs. Non-Clumping Cat Litter: What’s the best

Is clumping or non-clumping cat litter better? To answer that, we've prepared a clumping vs non-clumping cat litter comparison in this article, detailing the primary differences between the two.

I know how it can be a confusing and frustrating task for newbies in the cat parenting world to choose which litter to use with their kitty babies.

clumping-vs-non-clumping-cat-litter

That said, I'd like to reduce your burden and give you a verdict on how each of these two litter types performs with respect to absorbency, odor control, tracking, scooping, and more.

So, let's get right to it!

Here's a summary of how clumping and non-clumping litters generally compare. We've analyzed which type of litter does a better job, depending on several categories.

I'll explain how we've come up with the results in the discussion that follows.

Features

Clumping

Non-Clumping

Odor Control

Its clumping mechanism traps odors efficiently

May not trap all odors since it doesn't lock in moisture

Absorbency

Quickly absorbs urine and fecal moisture

May pool urine at the bottom of the litter box, leaving some moisture unabsorbed and feel wet

Dust Control

Usually with smaller granules that easily disintegrate into dust particles

Usually with larger pellets that help prevent disintegration into clouds of dust

Tracking

Usually with smaller granules that can stick to your cat's paws and easily get tracked around the house

Usually with larger pellets that don't get stuck into your cat's paws, hence it's low tracking

Ease of Scooping

Forms solid clumps that are easily scoopable

Not scoopable

Below is a detailed discussion on how clumping and non-clumping litters differ from each other.

1. Material

Material

Comparison

Clumping

Quick-clumping-cat-litter

Back then, clumping litter was made up primarily of sodium bentonite. This type of clay clumps together when exposed to moisture.


Later on, inventors have developed a variety of clumping cat litter without sodium bentonite. These variants turned out to be more friendly to the environment.


Here are some examples of nature-friendly clumping cat litter ingredients and the corresponding products that use them as the primary clumping litter component.

Non-clumping

non-clumping clay

The very first non-clumping litter was composed mainly of calcium bentonite. In other words, it was a type of clay but it won't clump together when wet.

Through the years, manufacturers have been able to produce other types of non-clumping litter. Luckily, there are now plant-based alternatives available. 

These biodegradable non-clumping ingredients include: 

  • Pine
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Beet pulp
  • Recycled Paper
  • Wood..etc.

Now, while some of the above materials have also been used to make clumping litters, they're usually shaped into larger pellet forms (instead of tiny granules) to produce a non-clumping type of litter.

On the other hand, there are also crystal or silica gel litters. Most of them are non-clumping and are typically round in shape.

2. Odor Control

The difference between clumping and non-clumping litter in terms of odor control primarily depends on their structure and the properties of the ingredients used for their production.

Odor Control

Comparison

Clumping

Odor control

Clumping litters use the action of clumping to deodorize the litter and your kitty's waste.

Most of the odor-controlling litters feature a clumping mechanism since it's the best way for locking in moisture and their associated smells right on contact.

Non-clumping

Non-clumping litters such as those made of wood pellets do not rely on a clumping mechanism to absorb odors. Rather, they employ the natural absorbent properties of the material to get rid of smells.

Aside from that, some non-clumping litters add odor-controlling ingredients such as activated charcoal. Some even use artificial fragrances just to mask unwanted odors.

The Winner

In terms of odor control, my personal best is the clumping type of litter.

A clumping litter's ability to clump makes it very effective in locking in odors on contact.

While a non-clumping litter can still absorb some odors, the smells could still linger around, especially once the litter pellets or crystals already become saturated.

3. Absorbency

When comparing clumping vs non-clumping litter varieties, take note that the odor control and absorbency factors are closely related. Usually, whichever is more absorbent is also more effective at controlling odors. And vice versa.

Odor Control

Comparison

Clumping

Absorbency of clumping

As I've mentioned in the previous section, clumping litters can quickly form hard clumps as soon as it gets in contact with urine. This clumping mechanism allows the litter granules to lock in the liquid waste immediately.

So, the overall absorbent effect of clumping litters is quite efficient.

Non-clumping

Non-clumping litters have varying mechanisms of absorption, depending on their main composition.

What's common among all types of non-clumping litter is that they have a particular saturation point, which ultimately limits their ability to absorb more moisture.

In the case of non-clumping clay litter, its calcium bentonite component is capable of absorbing its equivalent weight in fluid.

Meanwhile, silica gel or crystal litter can absorb up to 40x its weight, and that's because of its tiny pores. This looks really promising, but not all silica-based litters are able to absorb liquid as quickly as clumping litters do.

Fresh News Paper Cat Litter Large Particles

Some other non-clumping litter ingredients have varying absorption capacities. A paper litter, for instance, can absorb up to 3x the moisture by mass compared to the traditional non-clumping clay litter.

The Winner

In terms of absorbency, we have a clear winner in this clumping vs non-clumping litter comparison. For us, it's the clumping litter.

  • Clumping litters have a faster and more absorption mechanism compared to non-clumping ones. 
  • The non-clumping variants rely heavily on the absorption capacity of their individual pellets. When the pellets reach their saturation point, they can no longer absorb more moisture.

Clumping litters do not only rely on the individual granules' absorbency but work to capture your kitty's urine and fecal moisture by locking them inside the clumps of litter. The clumps can even be as hard as a rock.

4. Dust Control

Dust can come from disintegrated particles of litter. It can be dangerous to inhale, as clouds of dust can disturb your cat's airways and yours. So, be sure to look at the litter label if it's certified 99% to 100% dust-free.

is-clumping-clay-litter-safe

As for which type of litter is better in terms of dust control, consider the following facts:

Odor Control

Comparison

Clumping

Both types of litter actually have dust.

The smaller the particles, the better is the clumping action. But, the smaller these particles, the dustier the litter. Indeed, many clumping litters are very dusty.

Non-clumping

On the other hand, a non-clumping cat litter usually has larger particles. And that's why it has fewer clouds of dust

The Winner

In terms of dust control, we have a clear winner in this clumping vs non-clumping litter comparison. For us, it's the non-clumping litter.

5. Tracking

Does not stick to cat paws

Cats can leave tracks or marks and pieces of litter all over the floor if the granules get stuck to their paws. This is what's called litter tracking, and it's not pleasing to deal with every single day.

Odor Control

Comparison

Clumping

As I've already explained, the smaller the litter particles, the better would be the clumping action. Unfortunately, though, this isn't the case with tracking.

The fact is, the smaller the litter's particles, the more they track.
Plus, take note of the fact that these small granules can stick to your kitty's paws. So, as your kitty roams around the house, these stuck bits of litter could easily get tracked on the floor.

Non-clumping

Again, the larger the litter particles, the less tracking. Since most non-clumping litters are in the form of large pellets, they don't track as much.

Also, since non-clumping litter particles don't stick together, they'd be the least likely to stick to your cat's paws, too. Less sticking also means less tracking.

The Winner

Our winning type of litter for anti-tracking properties is the non-clumping litter. Non-clumping litter particles have far bigger particle sizes, so they don't get as easily tracked as clumping litter granules do.

6. Easy to scoop

The easier it is to scoop the soiled litter, the faster you can get over with your daily litter box maintenance.

Odor Control

Comparison

Clumping

clumping-cat-litter-biodegradable

With clumping litter, it's far easier and more efficient for you to clean the litter box.

  • You only need to scoop the clumps of litter along with the solid waste.
  • There's no need for you to change the entire litter box contents.
  • There's no pooled urine that you have to clean out of the bottom of the box.
  • You get to throw away less litter with each cleaning schedule.

Non-clumping

Easy to scoop of ökocat Natural Wood Clumping

Non-clumping litters are generally not scoopable. The granules don't stick together, so the particles that you've been trying scoop simply fall too easily back into the litter box.

Once a non-clumping litter becomes saturated, you may end up with a puddle of urine at the bottom of the litter box. It's nasty to clean up, and a scooper with holes won't do any good.

You'll end up having to prepare to change the non-clumping litter frequently.

The Winner

Clumping litters are the easiest types of litter to scoop. The large clumps won't fall back into the litter box through your scooper's holes. You'll be saving a lot more of the unused litter than if you try to scoop a non-clumping litter.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why does my Clumping Cat Litter not clump?

There are several possibilities as to why your clumping cat litter does not clump. It can be your cat's problem or it can be the litter's inefficiency.

Take note that a clumping litter should clump with any cat. If you have multiple cats and you've noticed that the clumping litter doesn't work with one of your felines, the problem could be in that particular cat.

It could be due to repeated exposure to urine

repeated-exposure-to-urine

For one, the culprit could be your cat's litter box behavior. Tom could be constantly peeing on one side of the litter box without covering the soiled litter.

Even if the litter clumps the first time, your cat could pee on it again for several times during the day. In this case, that part of the litter eventually becomes wet again, and it could expand, get soggy, and no longer welcome more moisture. In short, the saturated granules of litter could stop clumping altogether.

Your cat could be a deep digger

your-cat-could-be-a-deep-digger

It's also possible that your cat is a deep digger. I mean he could dig right into the bottom of the litter pan and choose to pee on the bare bottom

This is another litter box behavior problem, which you can choose to deal with by using a litter box with a non-stick surface just to ease your burden on the cleaning part. Remember how problematic it can be if the litter granules did not clump together and instead formed a cement-like material at the bottom of the box!

Your current clumping litter could be ineffective

Non-clumping litter icon

On the other hand, your kitty could be completely normal, and the problem could totally be in the litter itself. To test this out, try to use other clumping litters and see if the problem with clumping still persists.

If not, then your current clumping litter brand may not be as efficient as you've expected it to be. Feel free to make a switch.


Final Verdict

We've looked at six different criteria to decide which type of litter is most preferable. And, based on our investigation, the winner turns out to be the clumping cat litter.

It has an efficient and quick moisture absorption properties, allowing it to capture nasty odors in seconds. It's also fairly easy to scoop, reducing your cleaning time quite significantly.

So, do you agree with our final verdict? Have you learned some valuable new information from the discussions in this article? If so, feel free to share it with your fellow cat lovers out there!

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