“What can I use instead of cat litter?” I’ve often encountered this question on so many occasions from first-time cat owners that I personally know.
As someone who has been in their predicament, I understand what they’re trying to say. They wish to save on costs. These fur parents often run on emergencies and would like to know if there are any worthy cat litter alternatives out there.
If you’re facing this very same dilemma, then cheer up! I’ve already compiled the best DIY cat litter options to help you out. Read on to learn more about using these substitutes, and find out the pros and cons of each.
Why Not Just Buy Kitty Litter?
There are many reasons as to why you’d rather want to avoid using commercial cat litters. These include the following:
You can save on costs if you choose to switch to a homemade cat litter. Commercial cat litters can be expensive. Since you’re going to replenish them regularly, these high costs add up. You could be surprised by how much you spend on cat litters each year.
Some litters, especially the clay-based ones, may have carcinogens in them. Hence, these can cause allergic reactions to your cats. Some cat litter products can even trigger asthma in felines.
The clay used in kitty litter is obtained through strip mining, which destroys forests and wildlife habitats. Some litters, while labeled as “flushable,” may not be totally compatible with sewage systems. Thus, they may contaminate our water sources.
If you wish to follow a more sustainable and self-reliant way of living, you’d want to cut down on many commercial products. These include cat litters that have been manufactured in ways that deplete our natural resources. By preparing some cat litter alternatives yourself, you can cease from being too dependent on commercial litters.
You may have found a cat litter product that is near perfect and defies all the other reasons above — the litter is affordable, hypoallergenic, eco-friendly, and sustainable. In that case, you might want to stick to that particular commercial cat litter brand.
But, you could still face some emergency situations where you’d run out of your cat’s favorite litter. In that case, having knowledge of several cat litter substitutes truly helps. These emergency cat litter options can provide convenience and can help you keep your cool when your kitty is about to throw a tantrum (and pee just anywhere!).
Top 10 Cat Litter Substitutes
There are many cat litter alternatives out there, but I’ve personally handpicked the top ten favorites of our fellow cat parents. Let’s check them out.
Shred Newspaper and Junk Mail
Before the rise of commercial cat litters, cat owners have already been using plain newspaper as the “place of business” for their indoor cats. Even vets suggest lining the litter box with used papers after declawing your cat.
Newspapers are readily available and cheap. These papers, along with junk mail, may only be piling up in your garage when they can be repurposed into cat litter instead. If you turn these papers into cat litter substitutes, your cat can feel naturally inclined to use them.
When repurposing newspapers into cat litter, you will need lots and lots of them. You may run out of those junk papers pretty soon. So, if you wish to pile up some more, you can ask from your neighbors. Or, you may check with your local distributor for outdated newspapers.
How to make it
It’s pretty easy to prepare a homemade cat litter using newspapers (and junk mail, if you have them). Just follow these steps.
Shred the pieces of newspaper. You can use a paper shredder to finish it quickly.
- For best results, shred the papers in long and thin strips.
- Soak the shredded pieces in warm water and dish soap. Leave them soaked until the water turns gray and the consistency is like that of oatmeal.
- For even better results, soak the papers long enough to take away all the ink. You don’t want any leftover ink messing with your cat’s paws.
- Drain the gray water. Replace it with clean water for another period of soaking. This time, don’t add soap.
- Drain the second batch of water.
- Put on your gloves. Sprinkling baking soda on the wet pieces of paper. Knead them and squeeze out the liquid.
- Get a screen and spread the now-crumbly but still moist paper over it.
- Set the screen up for air drying or sun drying. (“Baking” the pieces in the oven will also do.)
- When the crumbly pieces of paper are completely dried, they’re finally ready for use.
Use Wood Shavings or Sawdust
Wood shavings and sawdust can also work as alternative cat litter. You can obtain a bunch of them in woodworking shops. If you have your own shop or you work on wood a lot, then that’s even better.
Shavings and sawdust are relatively inexpensive. They have a natural scent that can mask the smell of ammonia from cat urine. They are readily available in local cabinet shops and can even be obtained for free.
Sawdust and wood shavings have been ranked by the Scientific American as among the most eco-friendly cat litter substitutes.
It is quite unfortunate that wood dust has been identified as a human carcinogen. As such, there is a slight chance that it can also be carcinogenic to cats. So, you might need to be more cautious about using sawdust as a substitute cat litter.
On the other hand, if you were to choose between shavings and sawdust, it may be better off to choose the former. Shavings are bigger and are less likely to be inhaled by your kitty compared to wood dust.
Chicken feeds come in pellet forms that resemble commercial cat litter pellets. When you combine them with baking soda and cedar shavings, they can make a good cat litter substitute.
Chicken feed pellets are very absorbent. If you have chickens around and hence, already have a few stocks of feed, then good for you. You already have a handy alternative in case you run out of your trusted commercial litter.
If you’re not careful, however, a litter tray filled with chicken feed can attract bugs and mice. Thus, you may need to be a little more aggressive about placing the litter box somewhere free from these creatures.
Use Sand as Cat Litter
For centuries, outdoor cats have already been using sand as the fortress for their hidden “treasures.” When the situation calls for it, or if you simply prefer to be more economical, you can have your indoor cat use sand as litter.
Cats are naturally attracted to sand. You can place a generous amount of sand into your kitty’s litter box and your feline would be readily inclined to come for a visit.
Sand also clumps pretty well as soon as it’s wet. Moreover, it doesn’t retain urine odors.
Since sand is composed of very fine grains, it can easily get carried by your cat’s paws. Consequently, the sand grains get tracked around the house pretty easily. So, be sure to prepare a trusty litter mat to minimize the tracking.
While sand doesn’t hold on to ammonia odors, you can still improve upon its odor control. You may sprinkle one cup of baking soda into the sand. Mix them well before offering the “sandbox” for your cat to use.
You may not be raising some chickens in your yard, but you might have adopted a couple of rabbits and fed them with Alfalfa pellets. If that’s the case, you could also double this rabbit feed into a substitute cat litter.
Since Alfalfa pellets primarily go into rabbits’ mouths, they are, of course, biodegradable. They’re also eco-friendly.
If you put too much of these pellets in the litter box, you may notice increased dust in the surrounding area. The pellets can also get easily tracked.
Horse bedding pellets
Horse bedding pellets are made from sawdust. While the use of these pellets as litter is quite unusual, they have some desirable characteristics that make them a good litter alternative.
These bedding pellets are highly absorbent. You can just mix them with baking soda and a little water, and they’re good to go. These pellets are also affordable.
Horse bedding pellets have the tendency to swell up when wet. Then, they can quickly disintegrate into what they’ve been made of, i.e., sawdust. If you pour too much of these pellets into the litter box, they might overflow. Some of the sawdust can also get scattered on the floor.
Whole wheat can be another emergency cat litter option. You can grind the whole wheat berries into a coarse powder, or you can break them down even further to produce a finer result — depending on what your cat prefers.
Ground whole wheat can clump together when wet. The fine particles can also be composted, so they’re pretty much an eco-friendly alternative to commercial cat litters.
By itself, ground whole wheat may not be able to mask poop and pee odors. As always, you can add some baking soda to help control those nasty smells.
Like sand, the soil has been many cats’ natural go-to when eliminating their waste. If you’re willing to find ways to keep the dirt from getting scattered all over your place, then you can use potting soil as a litter alternative for your indoor cats.
Potting soil is available virtually anywhere. There’s no need to spend a buck to get a bucket full of soil. Cats also love the soil’s texture. They’d certainly be naturally drawn to a litter box full of potting soil.
Unfortunately, potting soil is the messiest cat litter substitute on this list. It does not clump well either, nor does it cover cat poop odors. With its dark dirt colors, the soil can turn your place into a very untidy haven, especially when the particles get kicked and tracked out of the litter box.
Worse, if you get soil from just about anywhere, it might be carrying a considerable number of germs.
Still, if you wish to save on costs forever and try out soil, then make sure to have a plan about keeping your home fresh and clean. Place several litter mats around the litter box. And again, add baking soda for odor control.
Better yet, just let your kitty use an area in your yard as his comfort room. That way, you can keep your savings and maintain your indoors more easily.
This sounds pretty unusual, but yes, artificial turf can also be used as a cat litter alternative and not just cover sports fields. Just buy a roll of artificial grass and cut it into pieces. Place the pieces into the litter box and they’re good to go.
Unlike soil, artificial grass is pleasing to the eyes — even when you put them indoors. It’s also easy to prepare and maintain. You can just shake the poop out of the turf into the trash. Then, rinse the artificial turf with water using a hose.
Not all cats would like the idea of doing their business on artificial grass. It’s unnatural, quite obviously, and simply hard to scratch. Cats can’t hide their feces in it either. If your cat attempts to bury his poop, he could destroy the turf.
Puppy pads are, yes, meant for puppies and even for big dogs. But, they can also work for cats. These pads are composed of layers of absorbent material. Unlike cats, dogs don’t dig. So dog parents train their boys to keep their mess on those pads, not someplace else.
Puppy pads lay flat on the ground or on your floor. If for some reason, your cat can’t climb into a litter box, then a puppy pad would be a great alternative for catching pee and poop. It’s highly absorbent and typically dries fast.
Cats have the innate urge to dig and scratch. When they keep doing that on a puppy pad, it can get easily destroyed. The poop also remains exposed, which can be frustrating for your feline. There’s nothing to cover the solid waste, so its odors end up circulating around your home — unless, of course, you take it out immediately. And that’s going to be a tough job.
Materials to avoid as cat litter substitutes
While I’ve included the following substitutes in the list above, I’d rather be clear and say that I do not recommend them.
- Potting Soil: As I’ve told you, it’s incredibly messy. It can even bring you more problems than solutions (think: germs, microbes, etc.) when you use it in place of a commercial cat litter.
- Some wood shavings: Not all kinds of wood are safe for cats. Some of them can be toxic, so be sure to find out first before attempting to use a bag of wood shavings as a substitute for litter.
Thus far, we’ve learned that many cat litter alternatives actually exist and that they’re mostly cheap and readily available in case of emergencies.
So, which litter substitute is your favorite?
If you haven’t tried any of the above yet, I suggest you do the following:
- Prepare your DIY cat litter.
- Put it in a separate litter box.
- Observe how your cat reacts to it.
- If your cat likes it, you now have a homemade litter to depend on.
Now you have the answer to the question “What can I use instead of cat litter“. Then feel free to share your experience in the comment section below!