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10 Clever Alternatives to Cat Litter

Nicole Cosgrove

Many people look for cat litter alternatives for a variety of reasons. Some wish to save money while others want to know what substitutes are available in case they can’t get cat litter or they run out of it.

If you’re looking for some cat litter substitutes, we’re here to help! Below are some interesting and even clever alternatives to cat litter you may never have thought of on your own.

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1. Newspapers and Junk Mail

Instead of letting your old newspapers and junk mail pile up before taking it to the recycling center, you can use it to make some cat litter. All you need to do is shred some paper, place it in the litter box, then mix it with some water and dish soap.

After letting the paper, water, and dish soap sit for a few minutes, drain the mixture to rinse off the dish soap. Then sprinkle a liberal amount of baking soda on the mixture and take it out in the sun to dry. Once it becomes dry and crumbly, it’s done.

Making this type of litter is much easier and faster if you use a paper shredder, plus the litter looks more uniform this way. Otherwise, you can shred the paper using your hands or a pair of scissors.

stack of newspapers
Image Credit: congerdesign, Pixabay

2. Wood Shavings

If you do any woodworking at home or know someone who does, collect all the leftover wood shavings to use as litter. Otherwise, you can get wood shavings cheap or even free from a lumber company. Once you have some shavings of wood, simply add them to your litter box at a depth of about 3 inches.

An advantage of using wood shavings is that the natural smell of the wood will help mask the strong ammonia smell caused by cat urine.

3. Sawdust

Like wood shavings, you can collect sawdust from your own woodworking space or get it from a lumber company or even a factory that makes wood furniture. The best sawdust to use is that with a coarse, rather than dusty consistency.

A word of caution about using sawdust as cat litter. According to the experts at Cancer.org, sawdust is a known human carcinogen which means it may be harmful to cats as well, although that’s never been proven.

To play it safe, if you have a choice between wood shavings and sawdust, choose the shavings. This way, you’ll be given the peace of mind knowing you’re not putting your cat at risk by making your own cat litter.

owner cleaning her cat's litter tray
Image Credit: Yuliya Alekseeva, Shutterstock

4. Wood Pellets Used for Home Heating

Nowadays, many homeowners are heating their homes using wood pellets. These pellets are made from ground-up wood and they’re soft and lightweight. They make a good substitute for cat litter and they’re easy to find at home improvement and hardware stores.

A big advantage to using pellets is that they’re very absorbent and natural smelling so they’ll soak up your cat’s urine and mask its unpleasant smell. Just be sure you use pellets that have not been treated with any chemicals.

5. Sand

Sand can make a great cat litter even though it can be messy. You can buy sand at hardware stores that is sold for use in children’s sandboxes. You can also buy big bags of sand at landscaping stores. If you want to use sand, put some in your litter box then add some baking soda to help absorb odors.

To keep the mess at bay, use a rubber mat under your litter box that makes clean-up easier. If you don’t have a rubber mat, you can use cardboard or any other flat material that can be either thrown away or washed periodically.

person changing cat litter
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

6. Small Animal Bedding

A good alternative to cat litter that’s easy to find is small animal bedding. This type of bedding is often made of things like all-natural aspen shavings that are specially processed to do away with dust and wood debris.

Small animal bedding is very absorbent and will do an excellent job at eliminating the foul smell of cat urine and feces. When shopping for bedding, look for a brand that’s free of chemicals and artificial coloring to ensure it’s safe for your cat to use.

7. Poultry Feed

Perhaps the most interesting cat litter substitute, poultry feed is an effective and inexpensive product that absorbs well, making it a viable option for your litter box. Poultry feed that comes in pellet form looks a lot like cat litter pellets and it can be combined with baking soda to make it odor-busting.

You can find poultry feed at farm animal supply stores that’s sold in bulk to save yourself a considerable amount of money. One drawback to using poultry feed is that it can attract insects and mice since it’s made of things like wheat, peas, milo, flaxseed, and alfalfa.

kitten on wheat based cat litter
Image Credit: Amazon

8. Potting Soil

It’s no secret that outdoor cats will head to the nearest garden to do their business because they like to relieve themselves in soil. You can use regular potting soil as an alternative to cat litter for your indoor cat.

Of course, potting soil used as litter can get messy and your cat can track the soil all over your home. This option is best if your litter box is placed on the porch or in the laundry room so you can keep your home free of soil.

You can get great deals on bulk potting soil at garden stores so keep your eye out for sales if this is the way you want to go. Just be prepared to clean up after your cat uses the litter box because soil can be very messy to use as litter!

9. Housetraining Pads for Puppies

Many dog owners use disposable puppy pads to housebreak young puppies. While these pads are made for dogs, they can work for cats too and especially young cats and those that refuse to use the litter box.

Simply place a pad or two on the floor and encourage your cat to do his business there. Once your cat uses the pad, give him lots of praise. You should also work on training your cat to leave the pads alone and so he knows they’re not toys and something fun to drag around the house.

kitten on litter tray outdoors
Image Credit: Mr.Piya Meena, Shutterstock

10. A Human Toilet

Believe it or not, a cat can be trained to use a human toilet with some patience and a little bit of luck! Cat toilet training has become so popular that you can now find cat toilet training kits for sale that make the whole process much easier.

A cat toilet training kit typically consists of a series of toilet-shaped trays and flushable cat litter. You simply start with the first tray, place it on the rim of the toilet under the seat and fill it with the litter. Then you must show your cat the new litter that’s on the toilet and encourage him to do his business there.

Once you’ve taught your cat to use the first tray, you move on to the next in the series that sits lower in the toilet and so on until you get to the last tray that sits deeply in the toilet bowl.

If you succeed at training your cat to use the toilet, you’ll never have to buy litter again. Plus, it will be fun to show your friends how sophisticated your cat has become!

Introducing New Litter to Your Cat

You know that cats are finicky creatures that don’t adapt well to changes. A sudden change in his litter may tick your cat off wherein he will refuse to use the litter box. A good way to avoid this problem is to slowly introduce the new litter to your feline friend.

Start by adding a bit of the litter alternative to your usual cat litter. This way, your cat is more likely to accept the new litter later on. Gradually decrease how much regular litter you put in the box until you’ve completely switched over to the litter substitute.

You don’t have to hassle with any of this if you decide to skip right to the human toilet training option. If that’s the route you decide to take, we wish you all the luck in the world!

To help encourage you, there are many people who’ve successfully trained their cats to use human toilets. Hopefully, you can become one of these people! To better your odds, be sure to check out a few cat toilet training kits because they do work for many cat owners!

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Whether you want to find a cheaper alternative to cat litter, your cat has a litter allergy, or he simply doesn’t like the litter you use, there are many clever alternatives out there. We suggest starting with the first cat litter alternative on the list above and work your way down until you find the perfect solution for you and your beloved cat.


Featured Image Credit: Andriy Blokhin, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.