Clumping cat litter versus non-clumping cat litter and why clumping is the clear winner
There are two main types of cat litter - either clumping or non-clumping. Clumping is simply where the waste (especially the urine) “clumps” together in lumps. Non-clumping is where the constituent litter particles do not clump together (i.e. they remain as separate particles) despite being soaked in urine.
Solid waste (poo) is easily removed from a litter tray regardless of whether the litter is of a clumping or non-clumping type.
However, solid waste is not the issue - it is urine that presents the challenge!
It is important to remember two things:-
Cats do not "toilet" in a tidy way!
The majority of cats, when they have used a litter tray, will throw litter around the litter tray (and even sometimes outside it!).
That means, that if a non-clumping litter is used, all the urine-soaked particles of litter are mixed up with the clean particles of litter.
So how can you separate the soiled particles from the clean particles?
The answer is - you can't!
However, with a clumping litter, all the soiled particles remain in a clump and quite separate from the rest of the (clean) particles - so all the urine can be removed very easily indeed - leaving just clean litter in the tray.
Cats are extremely clean and hygienic
Nearly all cats are fastidiously clean, and only like to toilet in clean litter (i.e. not just completely free of solid waste, but also completely free of urine and urine odour). Non-clumping litters cannot get away from the fact that THE CAT CAN ALWAYS DETECT THAT URINE IS STILL PRESENT IN SOILED PARTICLES OF LITTER THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REMOVED FROM THE LITTER TRAY. A significant proportion of cats, once they detect urine in the litter, will not tread in the litter and therefore have no option but to find somewhere else (outside the litter tray) to urinate or defecate. Within a house, that usual means a carpet or other floor area. That is why occasional so-called “accidents” are not really accidents at all, nor are they examples of a cats with “dirty” habits. On the contrary, they are examples of cats exercising very high standards of hygiene in households where the owner does not understand what is going on.
If an alien landed on earth to observe human life, and watched some cat owners using non-clumping litter and some cat owners using clumping litter, he would be left scratching his head and asking "Why would anybody choose to use a non-clumping litter?".
The answer is - you wouldn't!
So why do probably the great majority of cat owners use non-clumping litters?
Firstly, out of ignorance. Simply because they are unaware of clumping litters.
Secondly, because it's the product that most supermarkets sell.
And thirdly, because it "appears" to be cheap. (Note the word "appears").
NON-CLUMPING litters include wood chip, and many clay-based litters (non-biodegradable litters typically made from calcium silicate or clay crystals of a gravel-type texture and are supposed to absorb the urine). Unfortunately they don’t. Some of the urine gets absorbed (turning the granules a darker colour) but the remainder of the urine collects in wet pools at the base of the litter tray. What a mess! Catsan do a version called “Hygiene Litter” comprising white granules, and Tesco and Sainsbury’s sell brown coloured versions of this type. All are a complete waste of time.
CLUMPING litters include:
Premium Ultra-Clumping (bio-degradable)
These are the “crème de la crème” of cat litters and are ultra-clumping and bio-degradable (can be flushed down the toilet) or alternately can be composted.
There are two main makes:
“Cats Best Oko Plus” is made from 100% pure organic wood fibres.
“World’s Best Cat Litter” is mad from whole kernel corn.
Premium Ultra-Clumping (clay base and not bio-degradable)
These are non-biodegradable (cannot be flushed down a toilet) and usually comprise very fine clay granules which quickly capture moisture in clumps which are easy to remove for a very practical, efficient and easy way to keep the litter tray fresh. Brands include Catsan “Ultra Clumping Litter”.
Standard Clumping (clay base)
These are also non-biodegradable (cannot be flushed down a toilet) and usually comprise a coarser and less refined clay aggregate compared to ultra-clumping litters. They create a degree of clumping, but not to the same efficient extent as ultra-clumping litters. They cost less than (clay-based) ultra-clumping litter, but unfortunately, this litter sticks to the litter tray like glue making it difficult to keep the litter tray clean.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for. In our opinion, the best products are all premium ultra-clumping litters and we would personally never entertain non-clumping brands. Do not be put off by the relatively high price of premium ultra-clumping litters compared to non-clumping litters or standard clumping litters, as you are not comparing “like for like”. Premium ultra-clumping litters are deceptively economic and hence offer great value, since there is absolutely no wastage, a quantity of ultra-clumping litter lasts far longer than the same quantity of non-clumping litter.
Home Loving Cats Cat Litter Awards
If you value quality, proper hygiene and convenience, Home Loving Cats recommend the following brands:
“Cats Best Oko Plus”, is made in Germany from 100% pure organic wood fibres.
Simply brilliant. Our favourite. We use it ourselves.
“World’s Best Cat Litter” is made in the U.S.A. from whole kernel corn.
Excellent, although the corn odour (not unpleasant) may not be to everyone’s liking.
Catsan “Ultra Clumping Litter” is made by Mars Inc from fine clay granules. Do not confuse this brown coloured, ultra-clumping product with the widely available white coloured Catsan "Hygiene" cat litter - which is absolute rubbish (as the inappropriately named "Hygiene" litter does not absorb urine sufficiently and leaves the litter tray in a stinking mess).
The Catsan “Ultra Clumping Litter” is excellent, but perhaps throws up more dust than our Gold and Silver Award winners. Also, unlike our Gold and Silver award winners, it is not biodegradable and therefore cannot be flushed down a toilet.
How To Purchase
The most economic way of buying cat litter is online.
For example, Pet Supermarket.co.uk offer free delivery! If you are likely to be out much of the time, it’s a good idea to get it delivered to a business address (where somebody will be available all the time to accept delivery).
Ultra-clumping litters can also be purchased from "Pets At Home" stores and "Jollyes" stores.