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Home > Cats > Lightweight Cat Litter vs Regular (Clay): The Differences

Lightweight Cat Litter vs Regular (Clay): The Differences

Lightweight vs Regular Clay Cat Litter

Cat litter is notoriously heavy. If you have more than one cat, you probably don’t look forward to hauling that bag or box into the house every month. To solve this problem, various cat litter brands have started releasing lightweight litters. But what benefits do these products have, and more importantly, are they safe for cats? Let’s take a look at these details and a few of the differences between lightweight cat litter and regular clay cat litter.


Overview of Lightweight Cat Litter

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Image By: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

Lightweight cat litter is clay-based but mixed with lightweight substances like perlite. This makes the litter weigh up to 50% less per volume. So, you’ll still get the same amount of litter but without the hassle of dragging a 30-pound box around.

How Does Lightweight Litter Work?

Lightweight litter absorbs, traps, and clumps, just like clay litter. Its base material is clay, and the bits are bulked up with minerals such as perlite (volcanic glass) and silica, so the volume is the same, but the weight is lower. It’s often mixed with deodorizers like baking soda to help cover up any smells.

The perlite used is expanded perlite and is a common lightweight ingredient in gardening compounds. The added perlite combined with silica is meant to increase each clay clump’s size and absorbing power without adding much to the weight.

Less weight means the litter is easier to move around, store, and use and shouldn’t have any noticeable differences compared with regular clay litter.

Is Lightweight Litter Safe?

Not all lightweight litter has a readily available ingredient list. The exact materials used are considered “proprietary,” so producers don’t always disclose them, which can leave pet parents wary of trying them out.

Major producers of lightweight litters all bear the mark of extensive testing—by their metrics—of their safety, and no ingredients can be found that are toxic to animals, as silica gel is non-toxic and consumption safe, which is why silica cat litter exists.

However, perlite is listed as a nuisance dust, creating problems for those with preexisting lung conditions like asthma. If you or your cat suffers from breathing problems, you’ll want to steer clear of lightweight litter.

Does Lightweight Litter Work?

Reviews of lightweight cat litter seem to indicate happy pet parents overall. For example, Purina’s Tidy Cats Lightweight has hundreds of reviews and a four-star rating.

Critical reviews of the Lightweight litter tend to surround problems with the litter sticking to the cats and being tracked around the house.

  • Easy to carry and scoop
  • May have a high incidence of litter tracking, especially for long-haired cats


Overview of Regular (Clay) Litter

Clumping Litter
Image By: Axel Bueckert, Shutterstock

Clay litter is an old family favorite. It is made up of absorbent clay. The clay is often mixed with odor-neutralizing compounds like charcoal and baking soda that trap odors when the cat uses the litter box.

How Does Clay Litter Work?

Regular clay litter enables urine to run to the bottom of the litter box, where the absorbent clay soaks up the puddle. Regular scooping of the feces in the box helps keep the odors down and prolong the longevity of the remaining litter, but the saturated litter can’t be scooped out on its own. One cat can usually saturate an entire tray of clay litter within a week, and then it needs to be changed out completely.

Clumping clay litter uses a type of clay called sodium bentonite. It’s unique because when the litter absorbs urine, it expands the clay and binds it together into a large clump that can be scooped from the box daily.

The ability to scoop out the used litter immediately is a powerful asset in further controlling odors and ammonia from the litter box.

Is Clay Litter Safe?

Clay litter is pet safe, but it can be dusty, making it a non-option for people with small animals like gerbils or rabbits, as they can get respiratory illnesses from the dust.

Does Clay Litter Work?

Clay litter works as intended, though “as intended” isn’t always ideal for every family. For instance, if your cat takes long pees, clay litter might actively harm your cat in certain situations.

However, that doesn’t mean that clay litter’s position as the most popular type is unearned. Clay litter is easy to use and cost efficient, and it works strictly as intended, all of which are great traits to have in a product.

  • Cost efficient
  • Low litter-tracking rate
  • Reliable
  • Can’t use it if you have small pets


Our Favorite Lightweight Cat Litter

Tidy Cats Free & Clean Lightweight Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter

Tidy Cats Lightweight Free and Clear

Tidy Cats Free & Clean Lightweight Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter is a repackaging of the regular Tidy Cats Free & Clean litter. It’s unscented with no perfumes or dyes, so it’s safe for cats with sensitive skin. Some pet parents still found they had problems with tracking, but Free & Clear maintains a high rating with hundreds of reviews and a competitive price point.

Our Favorite Regular (Clay) Litter

Frisco Multi-cat Fresh Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter

Frisco Multi-Cat Fresh Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter

Frisco Multi-cat Fresh Scented Clumping Clay Cat Litter is perhaps the most popular clumping clay cat litter, as it has thousands of positive reviews. Many pet parents recommend Frisco Multi-cat, which sports excellent absorption, odor control, and a price point that you just can’t beat.



Litter is a touchy subject because cats can be notoriously picky about it. But that’s all the more reason to make sure your cat is getting the best litter for their needs and yours. If you’re having trouble lifting their regular clay litter, a lightweight litter is safe for cats and might be just the thing for your household!

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