There are plenty of good reasons why you might want to switch your cat to a new litter. Allergies (human or cat), too much tracking, scent, environmental concerns, or maybe your cat just doesn’t like their litter anymore.
We want to help make both you and your cat’s lives easier by providing you with the best tips to help them transition to a new litter. Here at tuft + paw, we are cat experts. We're intimately familiar with features that are most important to cats and we also spoke to actual cat and cat furniture experts to make this guide.
If your cat doesn’t seem to be a fan of their litter, this is a good indication that it’s time to switch things up. Some cats are picky about textures, others will reject high-tracking litters that stick to their paws, and others will simply reject any litter that has a scent—regardless of whether the scent is natural or synthetic.
Knowing your cat doesn't like their litter is easy enough to pinpoint. You’ll know your cat doesn’t like their litter box if they completely stop using it. Partial use can also be a good indicator that your cat isn’t a fan (i.e. trying to use it, but misses or goes near the box but not inside it).
It could also be an issue around the cleanliness of the litter. If you’re not cleaning the litter box regularly or you’re not doing a thorough job, that could be the issue. Even if you can’t detect an odor, cats have a much stronger sense of smell in comparison to humans.
2. You’re not a fan of the litter
You also have to consider your own needs. For example, if you're annoyed about dust, litter scattered throughout the house, or bad odors - it could be a reason to switch things up.
It’s about finding a balance between a litter that both you and your cat love.
3. Long-term health concerns
Did you know that many conventional cat litters have a lot of health concerns associated with them? Respiratory concerns from dust or ingesting clumping clay litters can cause extreme distress are two of the main reasons to stay away from many conventional litters.
We recommend staying away from litters that:
Have sodium bentonite listed as an ingredient (clumping litters can cause death if consumed)
Have silica listed as an ingredient (lung carcinogen for both humans and cats)
Have fragrances (most notably citrus, eucalyptus, peppermint, and tea tree oil are toxic for cats)
4. Environmental concerns
Many cat litters are really bad for the environment. There are a lot of cat families, which equates to a lot of conventional cat litters being thrown into the garbage.
Luckily, there are eco-friendly cat litter options available, which we always encourage cat people to look into (more on this below).
The Best Cat Litters for Picky Cats
If you’re convinced that making the switch is the right move for you and your cat, then now you have to decide on a litter that is going to meet both your needs. Let’s chat about some of the most popular cat litter options for picky cats (see our full guide on cat litter options here).
We’re not the biggest fans of clumping clay litters because of the safety concerns associated with them. Most notably, if you have a cat that is prone to eating things they shouldn’t, stay away from these litters. Consuming clumping clay litter can swell in the digestive tract and result in death.
Having said that, clay litter does have great absorbency making it an option for odor control. In addition, cats generally like the feel of clay litter on their paws. Plus, the clumping action makes it easy to scoop and clean out the box. And it's cheap.
If your cat doesn’t seem to like their current litter, switch to an unscented clay litter that you can clean regularly with ease. Remember, cats are intelligent, they like a clean area to do their business.
Made from the shells of crushed walnuts, walnut litter is a great natural litter option. While walnut litter won’t clump as well as its clay counterpart, it’s much safer for your kitty. In addition, because of its relatively easy clean-up process and its minimal dust-producing qualities, cat owners generally like this option for a clean home.
With that in mind, not all cats are going to love the feel of walnut shells on their paws, so while this option tends to be a good pick for humans, it’s not always a favorite for cats.
Credit: Chewy Facebook Page
3. Tofu Cat Litter
At this point, you have one option that cats like, and one option that humans like. Is there a compromise where both humans and cats can equally enjoy?
Our (admittedly biased) opinion is that the best option is the newest type of litter which is growing in popularity, and that is tofu cat litter.
Made from soybean byproducts, tofu cat litter can be flushed down the toilet (like - seriously, it disintegrates in water), doesn’t produce any dust, is low-tracking, is environmentally friendly, is absorbent, and helps control odors. Because it's in the form of larger pellets instead of kernels, it barely tracks.
That might seem like a lot of benefits, but there's a reason this is quickly becoming the go-to choice for most cat families. Tofu litter clumps together without any safety concerns, also making it a safe option.
We love tofu cat litter but no matter how great the litter is, if you don’t transition your cat to a new litter properly, they’ll show resistance. It's a delicate process, but we’re going to help you out with some easy tips you can implement to help transition smoothly.
1. Avoid big changes
When transitioning your cat to a new litter, it’s important to keep everything else about her private litter box time the same. This includes actual details about the box, like the box’s location, but it also includes avoiding other major changes to your cat’s day-to-day activities. For example, perhaps you just adopted a new cat (your second cat) and you’re thinking you want to start them on tofu litter. This is great for the new cat, but don’t make the mistake of also transitioning your first cat at the same time. Introducing another cat into the home is stressful enough for your cat. A change in litter will only add to that stress.
You’ll also want to avoid changing your cat’s litter during stressful times in your home. For example, if you’re having renovations done or you have relatives visiting, these are not great times to try changing your cat’s litter. Instead, opt for low stress times where your cat feels safe and comfortable.
2. Slow and steady always wins
Cats are intelligent - an overnight change in litter is going to be noticed. But you'll have more success by making the transition more gradual.
Rather than changing over the litter all at once, gradually incorporate the new litter by mixing it with the old. On the first week - go for an 80/20 ratio, and the next, try 60/40. Over time, increase the ratio until your cat is exclusively using the new litter.
During the transition, keep the old litter as the top layer of litter.
3. Positive associations help
This might not be every cat owner's favorite tip, but desperate times etc... If possible, save some of your cat’s feces from their old litter and add it to their new litter. Because your cat has likely conjured up sensory memories that they associate with their old litter, adding feces from their old litter into the new one can help them create positive associations. It will also help signal to them that this is where they should do their business.
If your cat is food motivated, providing them with food rewards for using their litter box might be helpful. When you see them successfully use the new litter, reward with a couple of treats. Importantly, never punish your cat for not using a new litter.
Are you ready to transition your cat to a new litter?
While it can take some trial and error, with time and patience, you can provide your cat with a safer, higher-quality litter that, in the long run, will benefit both you, your cat, and the environment.