Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More

Crystal Litter Vs Clumping Cat Litter: What’s Best For My Cat?

Nicole Cosgrove

There are many noticeable differences between crystal and clumping cat litter. We all want our cats to be as comfortable as possible when using the litter box, so choosing a litter type that is not only right for your cat, but also affordable, convenient, and odor-controlling for you is important.

A clean and fresh-smelling litter box is guaranteed to encourage your cat to use it correctly, as no cat wants to use a dirty litter box that gathers a strong odor. This is where the importance of crystal or clumping cat litter comes into play, and it is worth knowing which type is best for you and your cat.

 

divider-cat

Overview of Crystal Cat Litter:

cat looking at the crystal litter
Image Credit: Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock

Crystal cat litter is one of the most popular forms of litter for cats. It is inexpensive, readily available, and great at controlling odors. Crystal cat litter is made of silica crystal beads that are typically dust-free. These beads are excellent at neutralizing odors and last longer in comparison to other litter types.

This type of cat litter is entirely non-toxic and contains no clumping or expanding chemicals. There is no risk if your cat does decide to lick crystal cat litter as there is minimal dust and hazardous materials that can make their way into your cat’s delicate stomach. Silica gel crystals are also super light and durable, which makes them easy to clean up and dispose of, whether your cat has messed some on the floor or when you are cleaning the litter box.

How It Works

The silica gel beads absorb all the moisture when your cat urinates on it. The pores trap in odors from their waste and eliminate all sources of moisture to ensure that your cat’s litter is kept fresh for longer. The silica beads effectively dehydrate cat waste to ensure that nothing can stick to your cat’s fur and paws. It instantly neutralizes strong odors, but it does not hold the moisture which is instead slowly released into the air.

When to Use Crystal Cat Litter

Since crystal cat litter is dust and toxin-free, it can be used with cats that have allergies and asthma that could otherwise be triggered by a dusty litter. It also reduces the amount of dust and pollutants that gather onto your cat’s fur when they use the litter box. Thus, reducing particles from escaping from the litter box and smelling up your house. Some cats prefer the dry and durable texture of silica gel beads, which encourages them to use the litter box without being fussy about what’s under their paws.

What Crystal Cat Litter Has to Offer

This type of cat litter is ideal for cat owners who do not desire the dust and mess associated with other forms of cat litter. If you are sensitive to smells coming from the litter box, this may be the better option for you. Crystal cat litter can last for a long-time, which reduces the amount of time you need to spend cleaning your cat’s litter box. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint and saves you money on having to buy cat litter frequently. If only one cat uses crystal cat litter, it can last for a month with little smelling towards the end.

Pros
  • Eliminates moisture and dehydrates cat waste
Cons
  • Slowly releases moisture into the air

divider-cat

Overview of Clumping Cat Litter:

clumping litter
Image Credit: Boibin, Shutterstock

Clumping cat litter has been designed to effectively remove urine and feces from the litter box without making it difficult to navigate where your cat has left their waste. Most clumping cat litters contain a material known as sodium bentonite which allows the litter to thicken and form a solid clump when the litter absorbs moisture. The active ingredient is inert and non-toxic, and the clumping aspect may appear as a solid ball of cement. Once a specific area has been used and moisture has been retained, when your cat goes to use the same spot again, the material will not be able to clump the waste again. Clumping cat litter is virtually odorless and can help keep a litter box clean and tidy.

How It Works

When your cat urinates or passes waste onto a specific area of the clumping cat litter, the sodium bentonite expands and encloses the waste which contains moisture. This moisture activates the product, and the waste gets instantly concealed in a thick solid mass. Clumping cat litter is also referred to as a scoopable litter, as it is easy to tidy up once your cat has done its business. The absorbent clay sodium bentonite is convenient at its job as a litter and there are both scented and non-scented options available since it does not contain smell very well.

When to Use Clumping Cat Litter

Clumping cat litter can be used if your cat does not want to use a litter box that has previous waste sitting in it. The clay-based material makes it easy to clean and remove as soon as your cat has done its business to impress even the fussiest cat. Once the litter has been covered by sodium bentonite, your cat may even be encouraged to use the litter box again because it will be unable to dig the previous waste up. This type of litter is also ideal for cat owners who have other pets like dogs who may want to dig through your cat’s litter box. This allows the waste to remain in the litter box.

What Clumping Cat Litter Has to Offer

This type of cat litter offers you convenience and reassurance. Mainly because it is easy to remove from the litter box. If you are concerned that your cat is not using the litter box, searching for any clumps within the litter can help reassure you that your cat is indeed going about its business, even if you are not there to monitor them.

Pros
  • Easy to clean and remove
Cons
  • Dusty and high maintenance

divider-cat

Factors to Consider

Before choosing a litter for your feline friend, it is ideal to consider what type of cat litter they may require.

These are the main factors that should be looked at regarding which litter may be better for your cat:
  • The texture: some cats prefer to dig around in the litter box to cover their waste. Whereas some cats do not have this instinct and may instead leave the waste lying in plain view.
  • The convenience: some cat owners prefer using a litter that does not have to be changed regularly. While others prefer removing the waste from the litter box as soon as it’s produced.
  • The smell factor: crystal cat litters are better at neutralizing odors that come from litter boxes even once it has been used a few times. Clumping cat litter makes it easy to remove and dispose of the waste to eliminate all traces of odor.
  • Dust and toxicity: silica gel beads are dust-free and non-toxic which makes it safe for your cat to inhale or lick. Clumping cat litter’s clay-based formula is dustier, but both types are non-toxic.
  • Mess: Clay-based litter is messier and can get stuck on your cat’s fur. If the litter box tips over, the material gets scattered around the area and dust particles are released into the air. Crystal cat litter is easy to find and clean up if it does get messed. It is also less likely to get caught on your cat’s fur.

What Are the Main Differences?

The main differences between crystal and clumping cat litter are the price, maintenance, availability, dust factor, and absorption rate.

Image Credit: Left – Crystal Cat Litter (Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock); Right – Clumping Cat Litter (KARNSTOCKS, Shutterstock)
Crystal cat litter
  • Made of large silica gel beads
  • Durable and lightweight
  • Odor neutralizing
  • Absorbs moisture but releases it back into the air
  • Dust and toxin-free
  • Attractive
  • Easy to dig through
  • Difficult to find cat’s waste
  • Urine can get stuck on the bottom of the litter box
  • Dehydrates feces
Clumping cat litter
  • Made of clay sodium bentonite
  • Dusty
  • Non-toxic
  • Clumps around waste
  • Absorbs moisture well
  • Easy to find cat’s waste
  • Difficult to dig up
  • Scoopable
  • Does not eliminate the smell
  • Easy to clean and remove

Why Is Cat Litter Important?

Cat litter can be considered a necessity, much like cat food is. Litter is needed to line the inside of a litter box to ensure that your cat has a comfortable and hygienic place to do its business. Cats will rarely use a litter box lined with newspaper or paper towels as the texture is not right for digging and it feels uncomfortable on their feed. Cat litters help to encourage your cat to use their instincts by digging a hole and then covering up their waste with litter. Cat litter is not only important for your cat but also for you. Cat owners do not want a smelly litter box sitting around with their cat’s waste on a show for everyone to see. Cat litter helps combat this problem by keeping your cats waste under control.

The Cost Factor

The overall cost of your cat’s litter will depend on the brand, place of purchase, and the type of cat litter. Crystal litter is generally cheaper than clumping cat litter and it is more readily available. Crystal cat litter is even commonly found in the pet section of a grocery store, which makes it easy to grab when you out shopping for you and your family without having to take trips to different pet stores.

Crystal cat litter also lasts longer which means it does not have to be replaced as often as other forms of litter. This saves you from having to purchasing litter often or in bulk to keep up with your cat’s daily litter box routines.

However, clumping cat litter is not far behind when it comes to the cost. Some brands of this litter are inexpensive and can be found at many different pet stores. Cheaper brands may be of a poorer quality which is something you may not want with a litter type that is already dusty even in a more expensive form.

White-and-ginger-cat-and-black-and-white-cat-sitting-on-a-litter-tray
Image Credit: Leoniek-van-der-Vliet, Shutterstock

divider-cat

The Main Types of Cat Litter

Crystal litter

The main active ingredient is silica gel beads that appear as tiny rock-like crystals. Most silica gel beads have specks of blue or green throughout the litter which may make them look more attractive in comparison to other litter types.

Wood-based

This type of cat litter is made of a natural pellet. It is larger and coarser than other traditional cat litters.

Clay-based

This contains sodium bentonite which rapidly expands and hardens when it comes into contact with moisture. It has a sand appearance and texture.

Grass litter

This is a natural cat litter that consists of grass seeds.

Paper-based

This is a pelleted litter that looks like wood-based cat litter. It is low-tracking and scent-free. Every brand consists of a different smell and texture.

Food-based

This litter type includes walnut shells, corn litter, and wheat litter. These are uncommon forms of cat litter that have fewer benefits when compared to clay or crystal cat litter. In some cases, there is little to no odor control and poor absorbency.

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

Safety

Neither crystal nor clumping litter is good for your cat to eat. If your cat does ingest their litter, it can cause an obstruction in their stomach which requires emergency veterinary intervention. Clumping cat litter is more harmful to your cat if it is ingested. The consistency will rapidly harden due to your cat’s saliva and cause blockages in smaller quantities than other cat litters.

Which Is Right for Your Cat?

  • Does your cat fuss about using a dirty litter box that has previous waste? Clumping cat litter will be the better option. You can easily remove the clumps after your cat has been in the litter box to hopefully encourage them to do it again.
  • If you want an odor-neutralizing litter that is easy to manage and lasts long, then crystal cat litter is better suited for your cat.
When to Use Crystal Litter
  • If you or your cat suffer from allergies or asthma
  • For cats that like to dig and cover their waste
  • Smelly litter boxes
  • If you want to go longer without having to clean or remove your cat’s litter
  • If you’re on a tight budget
When to Use Clumping Litter
  • Cats that do not use a litter box with previous waste in
  • If you have other pets that mess with your cat’s litter box
  • To easily identify if your cats have been using the litter box
  • To make it more convenient to remove with ease
  • For cats that do not eat or lick their litter

divider-cat

Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Crystal Cat Litter Ultra Micro Crystals Cat Litter Ultra Micro Crystals Cat Litter
Our Favorite Clumping Cat Litter Ultra-Premium Clumping cat litter Ultra-Premium Clumping cat litter

Our Favorite Crystal Cat Litter:

Ultra Micro Crystals Cat Litter

Ultra Micro Crystals Cat Litter is a fresh and attractive-looking cat litter that works well as a silica gel bead-based litter. It has maximum odor control to keep your cat’s litter box smelling and looking fresh while having an absorption surface with 1000s of mini-channels for effective liquid waste absorption. It rapidly dehydrates solid waste which helps aid in odor control. This cat little has very little dust, so it is safe for cats with sensitive respiratory systems.


Our Favorite Clumping Cat Litter:

Ultra-Premium Clumping cat litter

This Ultra-Premium Clumping cat litter is 99.9% dust-free which makes it the second-best choice of cat litter for families and felines with allergies or asthma. It has good odor control and is ideal for sifting in mechanical litter boxes to make it easy to dispose of your cat’s waste. The sodium bentonite forms a solid mass around your cat’s waste so that you can scoop it up with ease. It should not be flushed as it can block the plumbing systems and it is recommended to change daily to ensure maximum litter box hygiene.

divider-cat

Conclusion

Both crystal and clumping cat litter can work for you and your cat depending on which type of litter you prefer more. Some cats may require more trial and error before a dedicated litter type can be chosen. Fussy cats may lean more to the lightweight and solid texture of crystal clumping litter. While you may enjoy the odor-free and dust control this litter has to offer.

Whereas some cats will take a liking to clump cat litter that can be removed daily to ensure that the litter box is free of waste that would prevent them from using it. The daily changes and extra maintenance this litter require may not be something you mind if it makes your cat happy.

The best thing to do is to compare the two products thoroughly and find which one suits you and your cat’s needs.

Related Read: 10 Best Cat Litters: Reviews & Top Picks


Featured Image Credit: (Left) Valentina Zavrazhina, Shutterstock, (Right) Axel Bueckert, 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.