Wood pellet cat litter is one of the most popular and budget-friendly natural litter types on the market today. It’s usually not fancy, and that’s exactly the point. It’s lightweight, made with very few ingredients, and circumvents all the health problems associated with traditional clay cat litter (we explore those problems in more detail here). In this article, we’ll give you our picks for the best wood pellet cat litters and explain why so many cat parents are choosing wood fiber to line their feline’s bathroom.
Here at tuft + paw, we are cat experts. Over the last couple years, we've spent countless hours determining which litter features are most important to cats and cat parents alike. To compile this list, we consulted a cat behaviorist, veterinarian, and hundreds of customer reviews to figure out which wood cat litters provide the best all-around experience.
uncomfortable texture, pine scent, hard to clean, not great value, poor quality packaging
$24.93 for 20 lbs = $1.25/lb
What Is Wood Pellet Cat Litter?
Wood pellet cat litter is, quite simply, cat litter made from wood. It’s made by taking dried wood shavings (usually soft woods like pine, fir, or cypress) and compressing them into absorbent pellets. Some companies also treat the pellets with cat-safe additives like baking soda or plant starches for additional absorbency, clumping, or deodorizing power. The two main styles of wood cat litter are large pellets and small granules, which can range in size and wood types.
Wood Pellet Litter vs Granular Wood Litter
So which type of wood cat litter should you use? That all depends on what features you're looking for. Wood pellets are probably the most popular variety thanks to their low price and low tracking, but many granular wood litters offer benefits that pellets don't.
Choose wood pellet litter if you prefer:
a serious bargain — Wood pellets are one of the cheapest types of natural litter on the market.
non-clumping — Most wood pellet litters are non-clumping and dissolve into sawdust whenthey absorb moisture. When wood pellets are paired with a sifting litter box, you'll barely have to scoop.
low tracking — Pellets rarely cling to cat fur and are too large to be tracked far outside the box.
Choose granular wood litter if you prefer:
clumping — Many granular wood litters contain clumping agents, but usually don't form the tightest clumps. Still, if you like to scoop waste from the litter box ASAP, wood clumping litters get the job done.
flushability — Many clumping granular wood litters are flushable, but always double check the packaging before you flush litter down the toilet.
paw-friendly texture — Granular wood litter has a softer texture than pellets. If your cat has sensitive paws or is used to clay, granular wood litter is probably the move.
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How to Use Wood Pellet Litter
Nearly all wood pellet litters are non-clumping. When the dehydrated wood fibers encounter moisture, they rapidly absorb it and expand, causing the pellet to break down and releasing the wood fibres as sawdust. Over time, that sawdust will accumulate in the litter box and result in progressively more dust and tracking—unless you have a good cleaning method, that is. Here are the two most popular cleaning methods for non-clumping wood pellet litter.
Cleaning with a Sifting Litter Box
Fill the top pan of the sifting litter box with a several-inch layer of wood pellets.
Scoop poops as normal. After scooping the poops, give the pellets a good stir to push any sawdust to the bottom pan.
Every few days as needed, give the whole litter box a good shake. Like sifting flour, this will ensure that all sawdust has fallen to the bottom pan, leaving only clean pellets up top
Remove the top pan and dispose of the sawdust that has accumulated in the bottom pan.
Top up the litter box with fresh pellets and repeat!
Cleaning with a Regular Litter Box
Fill the litter box with a several-inch layer of wood pellets.
Scoop poops as normal. When you notice a build up of sawdust, grab a plastic bag and scoop up some litter, getting as much sawdust as possible.
Shake the scoop over the the plastic bag, allowing the sawdust to sift out and leaving only clean pellets in the scoop.
Repeat this process as many times as necessary until there is a negligible amount of sawdust left in the litter box.
Top up the litter box with fresh pellets and repeat!
As you can see, using wood pellets in a regular litter box makes for a more time-consuming cleaning process. However, you'll still enjoy all the other benefits of wood pellet litter.
How to Use Granular Wood Litter
The cleaning process for clumping granular wood litter in exactly the same as clumping clay litter. Scoop poops and urine clumps at least once per day. With some brands you can flush the clumps down the toilet, but double check that the packaging says "flushable". Every month or so, completely empty the litter box and wash it with soap and water.
Most wood litters are made from scrap wood fiber that's left over from other industries. Plus, unlike clay or silica, wood is a renewable resource that does not require any mining in the sourcing process. Wood is generally considered to be a natural cat litter type.
Wood is a natural, plant-based, biodegradable material, so you don't need to worry about used wood litter sitting in the landfill for decades. Many brands are flushable too, but always double check the brand's guidelines before flushing, as well as the legality of flushing cat litter in your city.
Natural Odor Control
Wood litter does an excellent job of controlling litter box odors, even without added deodorizers. Wood fiber is inherently absorbent and has a pleasant scent of its own, so it's kind of like having a naturally scented litter. If you get a wood litter with added deodorizers (e.g. baking soda), you'll likely have a good handle on litter box odors.
Any good quality wood litter will go through a process called "de-dusting", where the largerfibers are separated from smaller wood dust particles. This makes most wood litters significantly less dusty than clay litters. Of course, wood pellets will eventually break down into sawdust as they're used, so regular cleaning is required to keep the dust content low. Compared to some natural litters like tofu, wood has a bit more dust (check out tofu litter vs wood litter for a more detailed comparison).
Wood pellets are one of the lowest tracking litter types you can buy. The large pellets don't cling to fur or paws the way smaller particles do, and they're also large enough to minimize scatter when your cat digs in the litter box. If you combine wood pellets with a litter mat and high-sided litter box, you can nearly eliminate tracking. Granular wood litters track more than their pellet counterparts, but it all comes down to particle size—if the granules are mid-sized, they usually won't track as bad as clay.
Purpose-made wood cat litter is totally safe and non-toxic for cats. Some tree species (like pine) contain essential oils and phenols which are toxic to cats, but any decent litter brand will kiln-dry the wood to evaporate the harmful compounds. If you're buying generic wood pellets to use as cat litter, double check with the brand that they're kiln-dried and free from additives (e.g. fire accelerants).
Wood pellet litter is undoubtedly one of the most cost-effective litter types. It's significantly less expensive than most natural litters, and in some cases is even cheaper than clay. Granular wood litters can be a little pricier, but are usually still cheaper than crystal, tofu, or grain-based litters.
Wood litter is quite lightweight because of how dehydrated it is, typically retaining only 9-12% of its original moisture. It's usually not as light as crystal or tofu litter, but it's definitely easier to transport home than clay.
Resistant to Spoilage
Many tree species used to make wood cat litter (e.g. pine, cypress) have antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. They also won't attract the insects and pests that can sometimes be drawn to food-based litter materials.
Drawbacks of Wood Pellet Cat Litter
Non-clumping wood pellet litters disintegrate into sawdust when they absorb moisture. If you're using a regular litter box, this sawdust can build up and cause more dust and tracking than you originally bargained for. Granular wood litters will also break down over time and cause similar problems.
Hard to Clean
Without a sifting litter box, wood pellet litters can be quite a hassle to clean. The large pellets don't fit through the slots of most litter scoops, so it can be tricky to scoop out solid waste without also throwing out some clean pellets. On the other hand, clumping granular wood litters are simple to clean since they can be used with the litter equipment that most cat parents have.
While effective, wood pellet litters don't exactly provide the 5-star comfort experience for cats. The large pellets have a rough texture that can be especially unpleasant for declawed cats or those with sensitive paws. Granular wood litters have a more paw-friendly texture than pellets.
Wood has a fresh scent that most humans enjoy, but it's not one that cats prefer. As a rule of thumb, cats don't love herbal smells—a preference made more pronounced by their extra sensitive noses. Many cats will use wood litters and don't seem bothered, but some picky cats may reject the litter box due to the smell.
Incompatible with Automatic Litter Boxes
Wood pellet litters are not compatible with automatic litter boxes due to their large pellet size and lack of clumping. You might be able to use a clumping granular wood litter, but the softer clumps could break up during the cleaning process.
In our research, we have found that three potential health concerns frequently come up when cat parents discuss wood cat litter: phenols and essential oils, wood dust, and carbon monoxide. Let's go over why these potential hazards are not cause for alarm.
Phenols & Essential Oils
Many types of wood contain phenols and essential oils (e.g. pine oil) that are toxic to cats. As we mentioned earlier, any purpose-made wood cat litter will be kiln-dried, which evaporates phenols and essential oils. Kiln-drying is standard practice in the lumber industry to prevent wood warping, so any wood pellet product is probably kiln-dried. If you're unsure, double check with the manufacturer.
According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, wood dust from carpentry and milling processes is a known carcinogen to humans (Group 1). This sounds alarming, but remember that any decent wood litter brand will de-dust the wood shavings before packaging their litter, which removes most of the inhalable particles. What are left are larger sawdust particles, which can certainly cause a mess but are relatively harmless.
Over time, wood pellets are known to release carbon monoxide in a process called "off-gassing", which can be deadly in poorly ventilated storerooms with large quantities of wood pellets. Thankfully, storing wood pellets in a cool, well-ventilated area solves this problem. Furthermore, cat parents aren't usually storing enough litter for this to be a problem in the first place; nearly all the serious cases involved entire basements or silos filled with wood pellets.
Our Criteria for Choosing the Best Wood Cat Litter
The following criteria were developed in consultation with veterinarian Megan Teiber and cat behaviorist Nicole Van Andel.
Health and safety — All litters on this list are made with safe non-toxic materials. The fewer additives the better. This includes scents, preservatives, and colors.
Eco-friendly — Every litter on this list is made from sustainably harvested and biodegradable materials.
Tracking — How much litter ends up outside the litter box, and how far from the litter box it can get.
Dust — How dusty the litter is. This factor is very important for cats and people with respiratory issues and allergies.
Scent — Unscented is always preferable. Cats rely heavily on their sense of smell to interact with their surroundings, so strongly scented litter can be overwhelming. All wood litters have some degree of natural scent.
Ease of cleaning — How well the litter clumps/absorbs, coats solid waste, whether it’s flushable, and how much it sticks to the litter box.
Odor control — How well the litter neutralizes smells. Controlling urine smell is the key here, because no litter can truly neutralize the smell of solid waste. Keep in mind that odor control partially depends on individual cats and the strength of their urine odor.
Ease of handling — How easy the litter is to transport, pour, and handle.
Price: $19.99 for 13.2 lbs = $1.51/lb on Chewy Rating: 4.3/5 with 10,588 Amazon reviews Ingredients: recycled spruce, fir, and pine fiber
Our favourite wood litter is ökocat Original, which just happens to be the only granular litter on our list. This clumping litter has quite low dust content and great odor control. "Öko" is German for eco, so as you can imagine, ökocat goes the extra mile for sustainability—their manufacturing facility exclusively uses upcycled wood fiber, recycles 50% of its used water, and they prioritize local materials to reduce shipping emissions. Last but not least, the paw-friendly texture and flushability put this litter above the rest in our estimation.
Some common complaints about ökocat are that the small particles are prone to tracking and the clumping is on the soft side. With use, the wood particles can also break down and become dusty. The price isn't cheap either ($1.51/lb), but it's fair considering the features and eco-friendly benefits of this litter.
Price: $18.99 for 18 lbs = $1.05/lb on Chewy Rating: 4.2/5 with 5,882 Amazon reviews Ingredients: pine sawdust, baking soda
Feline Pine Platinum is a great option for cat owners looking to try wood pellet cat litter. Not only does it offer better odor control than the original formula (thank you baking soda), its large pellets are low tracking and low dust too.When used with a sifting litter box, these pellets can be a powerful weapon against litter box mess and odor. We also appreciate that Feline Pine is lightweight, biodegradable, and made from reclaimed pine shavings. Not bad value for $1.05/lb.
Of course, Feline Pine Platinum has a few shortcomings. Its rough texture and potent pine aroma can irritate sensitive cats, even discouraging them from using the litter box. Additionally, it's not the easiest to clean with a regular litter box— the non-clumping pellets disintegrate when used, and over time this will result in more sawdust tracking around your home.
Price: $7.49 for 40 lbs = 0.19/lb on Tractor Supply Co Rating: 4.8/5 with 4314 reviews on Tractor Supply Co Ingredients: 100% pine sawdust
Tractor Supply Co's pine pellets have become a secret weapon for thrifty cat parents willing to think…ahem, out of the box. These generic pellets clock in at the absurdly low price of $0.19/lb, and essentially do everything that Feline Pine's original formula can. The pellets are low tracking, low dust, and boast excellent odor control capabilities. They have solid absorbency, equal to most other wood pellet litters on the market. Plus, they're biodegradable too!
As you would expect for such a low price, Tractor Supply Co pine pellets do have some drawbacks. The pellets have a rough texture and strong pine scent which some cats may not find comfortable. They can be difficult to clean without the use of a sifting cat litter box. There have also been reports of bags containing broken pellets, so some quality control issues may be present.
Price: $33.99 for 11.7 lbs = $2.91/lb on Chewy Rating: 4.3/5 with 799 Amazon reviews Ingredients: hinoki wood fiber, green tea leaves, potato starch
Weruva's cheekily-named It's a Tea Potty! Cat Litter is a unique entry on our list. Their formula combines recycled hinoki wood (a.k.a. Japanese cypress) and green tea leaves: two materials renowned for their natural odor control. The large pellets are lightweight and low-tracking, but what's unusual is that they clump as well. Plus, it’s flushable, so disposal is easy as can be.
Unfortunately, Weruva Cat Litter does have some drawbacks. Some picky cats might dislike the rough texture of the pellets and the strong cypress/green tea scent. Cleaning can be difficult because the clumping is weak and the big pellets aren't compatible with most litter scoops. Judging from reviews, it also seems that dust content varies from bag to bag. Finally, the high price of $2.91/lb may be out of budget for some cat parents.
Price: $24.93 for 20 lbs = $1.25/lb on Amazon Rating: 3.7/5 with 3154 Amazon reviews Ingredients: 100% pine sawdust
The final entry on our list is Small Pet Select’s pine cat litter. This is another non-clumping pellet litter made from 100% compressed pine sawdust. The pellets are low tracking and low dust, which minimizes litter clean up around the house. Additionally, this litter is lightweight and biodegradable, so transporting it and disposing of it is fairly easy. Small Pet Select's odor control was generally well received, but it did have a lower rating than the first four litters.
What puts this cat litter at the bottom of our list is its price—at $1.25/lb, it's just not great value compared to Feline Pine and Tractor Supply Co. As you probably guessed, the pellets can be rough on sensitive paws, some cats don't like the natural pine scent, and the non-clumping pellets are hard to clean without a sifting litter box. There have also been complaints about the litter being packed in the box without a plastic bag, resulting in some orders being ruined by rain if left out on the doorstep.
solid odor control
hard to clean
not great value
poor quality packaging
Wood Pellet Cat Litter FAQs
How do wood pellet cat litters work, and are they effective in controlling odors?
Wood pellet cat litters are made from compressed sawdust, and they work by absorbing moisture and either forming clumps or breaking back into sawdust. They are effective in controlling odors as they inhibit bacterial growth and neutralize unpleasant smells.
Are wood pellet cat litters safe for cats, especially those prone to allergies?
Wood pellet cat litters are generally safe for cats and are an excellent option for those prone to allergies. They are often free from harmful additives and fragrances, making them a hypoallergenic choice.
Can wood pellet cat litter be used with automatic litter boxes and self-cleaning systems?
No, wood pellet cat litters do not generally work well with automatic litter boxes.
Do wood pellet cat litters track less than other types of cat litter?
Wood pellet cat litters have larger, denser particles, which generally results in less tracking compared to finer litters. Using a litter mat outside the box can further help minimize tracking.
How do I properly dispose of used wood pellet cat litter, and is it environmentally friendly?
Wood pellet cat litter can often be disposed of in yard trimmings bins, as it is biodegradable. Just make sure the compost will not be used for growing food. This makes it an environmentally friendly option, but always check local regulations and guidelines for waste disposal in your area.
Conclusion: Your Cat Knows Best
If you made it all the way down here, you're probably an expert on wood cat litter by now! We hope these litter recommendations and tips have been helpful for you as you navigate the choppy seas of the cat litter world. We think that ökocat Original is the best overall wood cat litter, but you can't go wrong with Feline Pine Platinum or Tractor Supply Co's generic wood pellets either. Weruva's It's a Tea Potty! and Small Pet Select are solid choices as well, but they have some drawbacks that are worth evaluating. Ultimately, we agree with veterinarian Megan Teiber that "the best litter is the one your cat will use."
Okay, one last thing. All these wood litters excel in their own ways, but here at tuft + paw we didn't want to have to choose between clumping granular litters and low tracking pellets. That’s why developed our own clumping tofu litter called Really Great Cat Litter. It’s low tracking, all natural, and even flushable! Check it out if that’s your thing, or you can take a look at some of our other educational resources below.