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Clumping vs Non-Clumping Cat Litter: Pros, Cons & Which to Choose

You may be surprised by how many brands of litter are available and may need help deciding which is best. Well, there are two main types of cat litter: clumping and non-clumping. Each has pros and cons, which will apply differently to each person depending on their needs. In this article, we’ll examine clumping and non-clumping litter in detail, so you can decide which is better for your feline.

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At A Glance

Clumping Litter

  • Naturally clumps
  • Easy to sift through and clean
  • Traps odors
  • Typically made of clay litter
Non- Clumping Litter
  • Does not clump
  • Less dust
  • Larger granules
  • Can be made from recycled materials

3 cat face divider Overview of Clumping Cat Litter

Clumping cat litter is essentially cat litter that clumps together when your cat urinates. When your cat pees in the litter box, the litter particles will quickly adhere to it because of a chemical called bentonite.

This makes it easy to scoop out while keeping the rest of the litter clean. There is less waste when you scoop it out, so you won’t need to clean and empty the tray as often. Also, clumping litter locks in foul odors and reduces the litter box smell.

clumping cat litter
Image Credit: Karnstocks, Shutterstock

Types of Clumping Litter

Clumping litter is available in different materials, such as clay, wood, corn, and tofu. Clay is the most commonly used and absorbent of all the options. It is also the cheapest option, and cats are naturally drawn to it. The other materials don’t form clumps that are as solid as clay clumps, but they are still easy to scoop. Wheat litter is newer on the market. It adheres well to cat waste because of its small particles.

Generally, clumping litter comes with various scents, textures, and granule sizes. As with most products, each brand is different and has various pros and cons to consider, so it’s important to read the packaging.

close up scoop on clumping tofu cat litter
Image Credit: Anciens Huang, Shutterstock

Downsides of Clumping Litter

Clumping litter is generally finer than non-clumping litter, which makes it easier to form clumps. However, because it’s finer, the litter is dustier and problematic for cats with asthma or allergies. This also results in more particles getting stuck in your cat’s paws that will likely get tracked around the house.

Clumping litter is not suitable for kittens because it can swell up to 15 times its size when it makes contact with moisture, and if your curious kitten swallows it, it can expand in the stomach and cause a fatal blockage. However, tofu clumping litter is safe for kittens to ingest but is very expensive.


  • Easy to scoop
  • Don’t need to clean the litter box as often
  • Traps odors
  • Different options available
  • Dusty
  • Gets stuck to cats paws
  • Not recommended for kittens or cats with allergies or asthma

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Overview of Non-Clumping Cat Litter

Non-clumping litter works the same as clumping litter but without clumping. Non-clumping litter was also on the market way before the clumping variety. It is different in that it doesn’t contain the same properties that cause the litter to clump together. Instead, it allows the urine to soak through. The particles are usually bigger and have less dust which is a great benefit for cats with asthma or allergies.

Non-clumping litter is more effective and lasts longer when it’s used in a litter box with a removable tray and absorbent pads. The urine passes through the litter and is deposited in the pads at the bottom. If you remove the feces and pads soon after they’re deposited, the litter box will stay fresh for longer.

Some cats prefer the texture of the non-clumping litter, and another perk is that it is not as heavy when you are doing your shopping or carrying it from the car. Non-clumping litter is also the better choice for kittens because they are less likely to experience a medical emergency if they ingest it.

Wood cat litter
Image Credit: alenka2194, Shutterstock


Types of Non-Clumping Litter

Non-clumping litter is available in a variety of materials, and on the plus side, many of them are made from recycled materials. Again, clay litter is the most common cat litter available because it is so absorbent. There are also silica-based litters that are specially formulated to be safe, absorbent, and odor resistant.

Plant-based or eco-friendly litter like wood and paper aren’t as absorbent and don’t have great odor control, but they still work well if you remove the feces often and clean the tray regularly. Pine wood shavings are also a good option since they are absorbent and provide a lovely smell that can help mask the odors. Paper pellets are another completely safe and eco-friendly option, but like other natural options, they don’t last as long.

green litter box with crystal litter
Image Credit: Dmitrii Pridannikov, Shutterstock

Downsides of Non-clumping Litter

While non-clumping litter can work well for feces, it is different for urine. Sometimes the urine can take a while to sink down which saturates the surrounding particles, and other times it can pool at the bottom, which means you need to clean the litter tray a lot more often. However, spending more money on a litter box with a removable tray will prevent the pooling issue.

Non-clumping litter also tends to smell more, especially with plant-based or eco-friendly materials.

While non-clumping litter is often cheaper, depending on the material, you may go through more of it, which can end up costing more.


  • Can be made from recycled materials
  • Less dusty
  • Some cats prefer it
  • It’s lighter to carry
  • Wasteful
  • More odor than clumping litter

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Which Cat Litter Should I Choose?

When it comes to choosing the best litter for you, it depends on your needs, your cat’s age, and your cat’s preference. Generally, clumping litter is the cleanest and most convenient option. While it costs more, it allows you to stretch it a little further, saving you money in the long run. However, if your cat suffers from asthma or allergies, a less dusty or non-clumping option is better. Non-clumping is also a safer option for kittens since clumping litter can be dangerous if ingested.

Both litters can cause tracking around the house, but because non-clumping litter has larger particles, it is less likely to create a mess.

When to Use a Clumping Litter

When to Use a Non-Clumping Litter
  • You have kittens
  • Your cat suffers from asthma
  • Your cat suffers from allergies
  • You prefer plant-based cat litter

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Whichever litter you choose, you will still need to ensure that your cat’s litter box is always clean. Clumping and non-clumping varieties have advantages and disadvantages, but you must determine which type appeals to your cat the most. It can also be a process of trial and error, as your cat may be the one that makes the final choice. Of course, if your cat tends to eat their litter, non-clumping is the only safe option.

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 Featured Image Credit: Left – Clumping (Sai Jirawadee, Shutterstock); Right – Non-Clumping (New Africa, Shutterstock)