The 5 best cat litters for odor control and clumping

The 5 best cat litters for odor control and clumping

Top kitty litter

Activated charcoal controls odors in Tidy Cats Naturally Strong.

Shoshi Parks/BI

Clay-based Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter is very absorbent, odor-controlling, and dust-free.

Activated charcoal suppresses odors, creates tight, easy-to-clean clumps, is fragrance- and dye-free, lightweight, produces minimum dust, and is affordable.

Cons: Litter outside box

Tidy Cats Naturally Strong Litter has a gritty, sandy feel that most cats love or tolerate well. It produces small dust that can irritate cats’ lungs.

This kitty litter absorbs fluids rapidly and forms a tight, easy-to-remove clump. Clay rarely stuck to the litter box. Naturally Strong Litter contains activated charcoal for odor control and was successful during our three-week test.

This litter costs around 16 cents more per pound than Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter. Naturally Strong, like other clay litters, tracks outside the box, though less than Tidy Cats Free and Clean Lightweight Litter.

Cheapest cat litter

Dr. Elsey’s Multi-Cat Litter clumps well and is affordable.

Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter has good odor control, low dust, and little tracking.

Pros: Medium-grain clay litter, tight-clumping, odorless, little dust, low tracking, controls odors well, inexpensive

Odors might build up.

After a veterinarian behaviorist recommended Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter, I’ve used it for years. I was curious how a cheap kitty litter would compare to other brands. Well, actually.

Medium-grain unscented clay litter lets cats scratch, dig, and bury waste. It’s beneficial for cats with respiratory concerns because it produces little dust.

It absorbs fluids quickly and clumps tightly. With its heavier grains, it left less trash than our top pick. This litter suppresses odors with sodium bentonite clay, not charcoal. If I don’t clean the box every few months, scents build up.

Dr. Elsey’s and Frisco Scoopable Unscented Litter are the two most affordable brands in this guide.

Non-clumping cat litter

Pretty Litter monitors cats’ urine health and keeps litter boxes clean.

Pretty Litter’s color-changing silica gel composition detects feline urine problems early.

Pros: Changes color to monitor cat’s urine health, safe silica gel, absorbs and regulates odors, automatic delivery, 30-day money-back guarantee, fairly priced, lightweight formula

Cons: Ammonia smell and bogus health readings at end of litter’s life (12 days for two cats) (around 14 days for two cats)

Dr. Catherine Tannert, co-medical director of VCA Old Marple Animal Hospital in Springfield, Pennsylvania, says feline urinary tract disorders (FLUTD) are frequent. Cats can disguise pain and discomfort, making it difficult to diagnose a condition.

Pretty Litter’s color-changing silica gel litter monitors a cat’s urine wellness. When a cat’s pee is overly acidic, alkaline, or contains blood, the litter turns dark yellow, blue, or red.

Despite its low weight, Pretty Litter didn’t stick to my cats’ feet as much as clay litters. Dust- and fragrance-free, yet with a chemical scent.

Not clumping, Pretty Litter. Instead, pee is absorbed into lightweight silica gel flakes derived from safe naturally occurring minerals. Light, sandy flakes satisfy cats’ urge to dig and bury excrement. Daily scooping is required.

Pretty Litter reduced odors. As the litter aged (two weeks for two cats), I noticed a mild ammonia smell. Simultaneously, trash might give incorrect color readings. My cat’s blue urine caused a difficult morning. I hadn’t changed the litter fast enough, it turned out.

A bag lasts one month for one cat. Pretty Litter costs $22/month for one cat. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you or your cat aren’t satisfied.

Cat litter paper

The litter is nearly dust-free and absorbent.

kocat’s Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Litter is absorbent and produces little dust.

Made from sustainably derived paper pellets, devoid of dyes and synthetic chemicals, very little dust, biodegradable, soft, less than 1 inch long, odorless.

Expensive, some cats don’t like pellet litter

Small, hard paper pellets can help cats with respiratory issues. In my initial round of tests, kocat’s Paper Pellet Litter worked best. It swiftly absorbed fluids and didn’t shred.

The pellets were the softest and smallest of the paper litters, making them better for scratching, burrowing, and burying. Non-clumping litter. Instead, paper pellets absorb liquid before crumbling apart and becoming mulch. Solids require scooping.

I can’t say how effectively kocat reduces odors or holds up because neither of my cats used it. The pellets’ weight and form make them low-tracking compared to clay and natural kinds. Nearly dust-free litter. Biodegradable, odorless pellets.

kocat’s Non-Clumping Paper Pellet Litter is 35% to 60% more expensive. kocat uses environmentally sourced dye-free white paper instead of recycled paper. Less green, but better for sensitive cats.

Multicat litter

The odor-absorbing World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter is eco-friendly.

World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter is natural, eco-friendly, and odor-absorbing.

Pros: Made from compressed corn kernels, comparable feel to clay litters, suppresses odors well, minimal dust, affordable

Without frequent cleaning, odors can build up after three weeks of use by two cats.

World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter topped 12 natural litters we tested for clumping and odor control. Compressed corn kernels form its lightweight granules. They’re harder than clay litters in our best overall and best budget categories, but cats can still scratch them.

World’s Best absorbed liquids instantly to form solid clumps that kept their shape when removed. When cleaned twice a day, the litter’s corn-cereal fragrance controls odors well. Leaving clumps in for 24 hours increased the ammonia smell. In the last five days of our three-week test, the litter was less effective at absorbing scents. Considering this, I expect ammonia scents to be stronger in four weeks.

This litter tracks less than our top clay litters. The litter lacks synthetic additions, chemicals, and scents and produces little dust. Two cats can use a 15-pound bag of Multiple Cat Litter for a month.


Good litter, Cat’s Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping tracked readily.

Recommended clumping clay litters
Cat’s Pride Unscented Natural Care Multi-Cat Clumping Litter absorbed liquids instantly and produced clumps that broke apart slightly more often than our top recommendations. Heavier litters are tracked more. A pound of litter is donated for every 15-pound jug purchased.

This litter was on par with the brand’s Naturally Strong litter, which was the best overall. It absorbed liquids on touch, clumped tightly, and regulated odors with charcoal. It tracked more than Naturally Strong litter, with grains sometimes following my cats to the couch.
Frisco Scoopable Litter is a deal. It controls odors as well as Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Multi-Cat Strength Litter, but forms thinner, more fragile clumps that spread more widely. It’s odorless and among the least dusty solutions, making it a fantastic budget alternative.
Not-recommended clay clumping litters

Although it’s unscented, Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Litter smells like laundry detergent. It produced firm clumps but had the most dust.
This lightweight, unscented litter absorbs liquid and clumps well, however the wetness at the pan’s bottom was difficult to remove.
The litter created minimal dust and clumped well, but it didn’t absorb all the liquid, leaving moist clay at the bottom of the pan. It’s soapy-smelling.

Arm & Hammer’s Cloud Control was the least absorbent clay litter, although it clumped liquid well. Cloud Control is a dust-free heavy litter with a laundry fragrance.

Recommended non-clumping litter
This lightly fragrant crystal litter absorbs moisture and smells. Petsafe’s non-clumping crystal litter is produced from silica gel and lasts one cat 30 days. Pretty Litter won because it indicates when a cat may have urinary issues.
Not-recommended paper cat litter

Purina discontinued three Yesterday’s News paper litters we evaluated.
Frisco’s paper litter incorporates baking soda for odor control and minimum dust. Long, firm pellets rendered it unsuitable for scratching and coating.

Recommended natural cat litters
This grass litter worked like clay clumping litter. The particles absorbed moisture quickly and clumped. Soft, dust-free, and odor-trapping, this litter’s high price kept it from the top rank.

Made from corn and with very little dust, World’s Best Original Unscented Cat Litter absorbed moisture nicely and created solid clumps.

My cats and I enjoyed Zero Mess cat litter, which combines maize kernels and plant fibers to absorb fluids and form clumping. It reduced odors well. Despite costing 25% more, it wasn’t better than World’s Best Multiple Cat Litter.
Littermaid Natural Premium Walnut Clumping Litter clumped well and reduced odors. This softer, heavier substrate tracked less and produced less dust than its competitors. Littermaid absorbs liquids slowly.
This litter absorbed liquids and prevented smells well. It clumped better than Feline Pine and Okocat’s Original Litter, although clumps fell apart more easily after cleaning. My cats preferred the softer, smaller granules and used it more than other wood litters, but not as often as grass, walnut, or grain.
Not-recommended natural cat litters

This litter’s absorbency disappointed me. Liquid spilled over the litter and soaked the pan bottom. The litter’s quick-falling clumps made it difficult to clean.
Frisco Clumping Grass Litter: Compared to Smart Cat’s All Natural Clumping Grass Litter, Frisco’s recipe made clumps harder to remove.

kocat Original Wood Clumping Litter: Made of the same sustainably produced wood as Super Soft Clumping, it absorbs moisture swiftly. This litter didn’t compact well. Some parts stuck together, while others disintegrated quickly. Dry granules are harsh and rigid, which sensitive cats may avoid.

Feline Pine Clumping Wood Litter: This was the softest but dustiest wood litter. Its clumping abilities also disappointed me. It progressively absorbed wet and grew mealy, not solid.

Naturally Fresh Quick-Clumping Walnut Litter was my least favorite. It absorbed liquid well but clumped OK. Many clumps fell apart, making removal harder. This nut-shell kind was the dustiest.

Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Ultra Odor Control Walnut Litter: Like Quick-Clumping, Multi-Cat has a firmer, rockier foundation than Littermaid’s walnut litter and fair clumping potential. This mixture glued clumped litter to the litter pan.
We test cat litter.

Dust testing four clumping clay litters.

Pre-cat and cat phases of cat litter testing. First, I compared litters in heats of four for clumping ability, dustiness, fragrance, and texture.

Each heat’s top two litters advanced. Each was dumped into a litter pan for one to four weeks to test odor control and tracking. My cats refused to use litters tested for two weeks or less, or we tested them before getting the bulk of the litters for this guidance. I considered each litter’s qualities:

Cats prefer soft, grainy litter that’s simple to dig, so I examined each litter’s form, texture, softness, and density. I weighed 1/4 cup of each to compare.
Cats are sensitive to dust and fragrance, therefore I tested each’s intensity. I recorded how much litter dust was produced when pouring and scooping, as well as how much coated the bowl or box.

Dr. Catherine Tannert, co-medical director of VCA Old Marple Animal Hospital, said, “Cats prefer unscented litter to the cloying smell of kitty litters developed for the owner’s perception of cleanliness.” I sniffed each litter in both phases of testing, including the thankless job of lifting clumps to my nose to gauge how much ammonia they emitted.

In phase one testing, I compared a little amount of each litter in smooth plastic dishes similar to litter pans. I poured 1/4 cup of water to each bowl twice to see how quickly it absorbed and how nicely it clumped when scooped. After each trial, I emptied the bowls to look for moisture that had left the clumps.

Top two litters in each category were tested for odor management and tracking for one to four weeks. I cleaned the litter box twice a day, noticing how easily clumps came out and how much ended up on the floor. A daily nose test checked smells. Because my cats wouldn’t use paper litter, I couldn’t test phase two.

I compared litter costs per pound. I calculated the weight of lightweight clay litters and adjusted the price.
Litter types


Nearly every veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist, and cat specialist I’ve spoken to believes that most cats prefer nonperfumed clay litters. Dr. Karen Sueda, a veterinarian behaviorist at VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, recommends fine-grained, clay-based clumping litter.

Most clay cat litters are created from sodium bentonite clay, a naturally occurring substance obtained through strip-mining. Clay litters with activated charcoal absorb odors. They’re unscented and scented. Traditional clay litters are dusty when poured, scratched, or cleaned, while newer formulas produce less dust.

Pros: Preferred or tolerated by most cats because they make natural toileting behaviors like digging and covering waste easy; absorb liquids instantly and form tight clumps for easy cleaning; control odors, especially formulas with activated charcoal; cost efficient; some formulas are virtually dust free

Cons: Heavier than other cat litters; created in an environmentally unfriendly way; scented formulas can be too strong for a cat’s delicate nose; readily tracked out of litter boxes, especially lighter weight formulas; some formulas are quite dusty.


Dr. Zay Satchu, chief veterinary officer at Bond Vet, advises paper litter for asthmatic or surgical cats. Paper litter is less dusty than clay and less prone to stick to incision areas.

Most paper litters are made from recycled or sustainably generated wood pellets. Non-clumping pellets absorb fluids and break apart over time. Paper litter litter box solids only.

Pros: Good for cats with respiratory problems, only solids need to be scooped, pellet recipes are low-tracking, created from recycled materials

Some cats dislike the texture and weight of paper pellets, and pellets fall apart and smell when they absorb urine.

Silica litter

Silica gel or crystal litters are formed from sodium silicate sand. Inhaling tiny silica dust over time could cause respiratory difficulties in cats.

Silica gel litters are ultra-absorbent odor-eaters, however the non-clumping grains may become less efficient at reducing ammonia odors with time. Crystal silica litters may be overly sharp for sensitive paws.

Pros: Ultra-absorbent and good at reducing odors; non-clumping recipe doesn’t require liquid removal.

Inhaling silica dust over time may cause respiratory concerns, crystal formulations may be too sharp for sensitive paws, and odours might intensify when silica gel absorbs liquids.

Eco-friendly litter

Natural cat litters use grain, grass, wood, and walnut shells. Satchu says these biodegradable solutions are environmentally friendly and some have added benefits. Wood litters are low tracking and minimize odors due to their absorption ability, whereas grain litters are acceptable for cats who snack on litter.

A cat’s preference determines the best natural litter. “I try to encourage owners to choose one litter and stick with it,” said Satchu. “Any litter that keeps kitten on track is fine in my book.”

Many solutions are minimal dust, natural scents reduce smells without additions, biodegradable, and manufactured from sustainable resources.

Some cats may not appreciate the aroma or texture of natural litters, and lightweight formulas are more easily tracked than clay litters.

Litter FAQs

Best cat litter?

Every cat wants a toileting substrate they can readily dig and hide their feces in, says Dr. Karen Sueda of VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital. Cats with sensitive feet should avoid crystal or pellet litters.

Clumping vs. non-clumping litters:

Clay, maize, wood, and grass cat litters clump when exposed to urine and must be removed regularly.

Non-clumping litters absorb urine, but the silica, wood, or paper particles become soaked and break down over time. Each time the substrate is cleaned, ammonia must be distributed. Non-clumping and clumping litters both require daily scooping of solid waste.

Clumping and non-clumping litters control odors. Clumping formulations are scooped regularly. Non-clumping formulations collect urine. Clumping litters can be topped off as needed, while non-clumping litter boxes must be emptied and replenished every two to seven weeks.

Dust-free kitty litter?

Dusty natural and clay litters are bad for cats and people. Dust might make sensitive cats cough, sniff, or wheeze during or after using their litter. When humans fill or scoop the box, the same reaction occurs. Litter that produces less dust is less likely to cause respiratory issues.

Fragrance-free kitty litter?

Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinarian behaviorist at Midcoast Humane, says cats’ great sense of smell affects whether they use a litter box. Natural scents might repel cats. Calder, Sueda, and Tannert recommend unscented.

Flushable cat litter?

Some natural cat litters can reportedly be flushed. Natural cat litter can be flushed, but you shouldn’t. Low-flush toilets and human waste pipes can’t handle clumping.

Toxoplasma gondii in cat feces can induce flu-like symptoms, fetal development abnormalities, brain damage, and premature birth in newborns. This parasite can end up in treated water put back into the environment, damaging fish, killing native vegetation, and making leisure places dangerous. Studies show T. Gondii threatens sea otters.

How often does a cat litter box?

According to Sueda, cats urinate two to four times a day on average. Daily litter box cleaning can assist guardians detect a change in frequency that may indicate a health risk.

Cats usually defecate once or twice a day, but this varies. Changes in frequency may signal a health problem, like urination.

Size and number of litter boxes?

A litter box should be 1.5 times a cat’s length so they can scratch and bury feces. One litter box per cat plus one extra is recommended, with one on each floor. Multiple cats can use fewer extra-large litter boxes if they’re cleaned twice a day, says Sueda. See our litter box guide for additional info.

Why won’t my cat urinate?

If a cat stops peeing, they may have a feline urinary tract disease (FLUTD) including bladder irritation or urinary stones. Male cats are more vulnerable. “Male cats have a relatively narrow urethra, so crystals and mucus can create a clog or a single microscopic stone can become trapped,” said Tannert.

Toxins build up if a cat can’t urinate. If the blockage isn’t removed within 24 to 48 hours, death can follow. If a vet eliminates out physical concerns like FLUTD, anxiety may be the cause; a veterinary behaviorist can help.

What does it indicate when a cat uses the toilet?

Calder says cats that excrete outside the litter box are toileting or marking. In toileting, a cat eliminates outside the litter box. This behavior can arise when a cat doesn’t like their litter pan’s placement, size, type of litter, or cleanliness.

Other instances, going outside the box is connected to worry (a cat that fears being ambushed while using the litter box may stop using it) or a medical ailment like FLUTD. A cat may go outside the litter box if they find a place to scratch and bury their feces, such as filthy linen or a potted plant.

Marking happens on vertical surfaces, not horizontal ones. When a cat marks, it raises its tail to spray pheromones instead of squatting. “Most marking cats have conflict or anxiety,” says Calder. Intact males usually spray, although fixed men and females can, too.

Cat guides:


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