For the first 37 years of commercial cat litter’s existence, non-clumping litter was the only show in town. Today, clumping cat litter has supplanted it as the most popular option, but many cat parents still opt for non-clumping cat litter for the particular advantages it offers. In this article, we'll give you our expert picks for the best non-clumping cat litters on the market today and also provide some insight into why non-clumping cat litter might be the right choice for you.
Here at tuft + paw, we are cat experts. We're intimately familiar with which litter features are most important to cats and cat parents alike. To compile this list, we consulted cat behaviorist Nicole Van Andel, veterinarian Megan Teiber, and hundreds of customer reviews to determine which non-clumping litters deliver on their promises.
monitors cat health, super absorbent, good odor control, lightweight, easy to clean, long lasting, unscented, cat-friendly texture, available via subscription or one-time purchase
expensive, not very eco-friendly, some tracking, slightly dusty
silica gel crystals, color-changing compounds
$24 for 6 lbs = $4.00/lb
What Is Non-Clumping Cat Litter?
Non-clumping cat litter is—you guessed it—litter that doesn’t form clumps when wet. These old-school litters are made from highly absorbent materials but lack the binding agents that create clumps. Conventional non-clumping litter is made from clay, but many alternatives are available today.
Non-clumping clay cat litter was accidentally invented in 1947 when Edward Lowe lent his neighbour some absorbent clay to use in their cat’s litter box. The clay absorbed more moisture and locked in odors better than sand, soil, or ash, which were the primary cat litter materials of the day. Since then clay has been the dominant cat litter material on the market, though many great alternatives exist today.
Clumping cat litter would not be invented until 1984, though it soon became the most popular cat litter option. Clumping is a feature beloved by most cat parents, including us, which is why we developed our own clumping tofu litter. If you want to learn more about clumping litter, you can read our list of the best clumping cat litters.
How to Use Non-Clumping Cat Litter
Using non-clumping cat litter is very simple: scoop solid waste, stir the litter daily to ensure all liquid waste is absorbed, and then change out the whole litter box every week or so. Odors can build up fairly quickly in non-clumping cat litter because used litter stays in the box, but the cheaper price tag and convenience of not scooping dirty litter is a tradeoff that many cat parents prefer. Assuming the cat parent cleans the litter box every day (which they should be), using non-clumping cat litter is probably about the same amount of work as clumping cat litter. Which option you choose depends on your and your cat’s personal preferences.
Non-clumping cat litter still has a few advantages over its more popular clumping cousin. Here are the main reasons why some cat parents prefer non-clumping litter.
Non-clumping cat litter is generally cheaper than clumping cat litter. If you have a tight budget, there are many non-clumping options that offer solid performance without breaking the bank.
Safer to Ingest
Let’s be clear: non-clumping cat litter is NOT safe to ingest. However, it is safer than clumping cat litter, which if eaten can expand in the digestive tract and cause GI blockages. If your cat is a curious kitten or has a history of eating things they shouldn’t, non-clumping cat litter is probably the safer option.
You only need to scoop solid waste when using a non-clumping litter. Liquid waste is absorbed by the litter and should be stirred around to be fully absorbed and allowed to evaporate. This prevents urine from pooling and causing a stink.
Easier to Clean the Litter Box
Clumping litter, especially clay, is notorious for cementing itself to the litter box. Non-clumping litter is less prone to this because it lacks the binding agents found in clumping litter. This means that when you get around to changing the litter box and cleaning it out, a non-clumping litter will thankfully leave less “cemented” residue.
Compatible With Sifting Litter Boxes
Non-clumping pellet litters that break down when wet are perfect for use with a sifting litter box (e.g. wood pellet litters). Wet pellets will dissolve and fall to the bottom layer of the litter box, leaving a clean layer of litter on the top. You just have to scoop poops and occasionally give the box a shake. Many cat parents love this system and find it even more convenient than clumping litter.
Our video below has a few more tips on how to keep your cat's litter box spick and span.
Drawbacks of Non-Clumping Cat Litter
Of course, there are reasons why most cat parents opt for clumping cat litter these days. Here are some of the downsides of using non-clumping cat litter.
Dirty Litter Stays In the Box
No clumping means that removing used litter from the box is virtually impossible. Stirring is meant to minimize odor and maximize liquid absorption, but in the end you’re still leaving cat urine inside the litter box. If your specific litter does not have great odor control or your cat pees very frequently, non-clumping litter can quickly become saturated and stinky, forcing a full litter box change.
Since dirty litter accumulates in a non-clumping litter, you’ll have to completely change over the litter more often than with clumping litter—every 1-2 weeks vs every 3-4 weeks. This means non-clumping litter is used up significantly faster than clumping litter, so in some cases non-clumping litter can be more expensive long term. Additionally, topping up the litter box with fresh litter is less effective with non-clumping litters because the old litter is still dirty.
Weaker Odor Control
Clumping litter generally has better odor control than non-clumping litter. Clumps seal in odors and can be easily removed from the litter box, keeping the remaining litter nice and clean. Non-clumping litter does not have this advantage, so odors can build up more quickly. This makes deodorizing additives (e.g. baking soda) extra valuable in non-clumping litter.
Less DataAbout Cat’s Urine
Urine is absorbed throughout non-clumping litter rather than in discrete clumps, so you don’t get the same amount of data about your cat’s peeing habits (e.g. color, frequency, urine volume). Not all non-clumping litters have this problem, but darker colored and pellet litters usually do.
Our Criteria for Finding the Best Non-Clumping Cat Litters
The following criteria were developed in consultation with veterinarian Megan Teiber and cat behaviorist Nicole Van Andel.
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.
Ease of cleaning — How well the litter coats solid waste, how easily disposable it is, and how much it sticks to the litter box.
Absorption — How much liquid the litter can absorb before becoming saturated. This is a crucial aspect of odor control.
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.
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 — Sustainably harvested and biodegradable materials were heavily preferred.
Ease of handling — How easy the litter is to transport, pour, and handle.
Price: $17.99 for 5 lbs = $3.60/lb Rating: 4.7/5 with 1659 reviews on CatSpot Ingredients: coconut
Our choice for the best non-clumping cat litter on the market is CatSpot Coconut Non-Clumping Cat Litter. This is a granular litter made from 100% coconut shells, so it is fully compostable and has a soft soil-like texture. Users raved about its impressive absorbency, good odor control, and very light weight (which make it easy to handle). It coats and dehydrates solid waste very well and does not “cement” to the litter box. We also like that it is unscented that the bag is recyclable.
According to CatSpot, their coconut litter can absorb 560% of its weight in liquid. Many reviewers recommended using a thinner layer of litter than suggested—about 1 inch—because the litter swells significantly as it absorbs urine over time. CatSpot recommends changing the litter every 15 days, though some reviewers found it lasted longer or shorter depending on their cat’s litter box habits.
The main complaints about CatSpot Coconut Litter are that it’s quite expensive ($3.60/lb) and that it tracks easily. This is the tradeoff when using a lightweight litter: light particles are more likely to cling to your cat or be kicked out of the litter box. In fact, the litter is so light that some cats tipped their litter boxes over when leaning on the sides. These problems can be minimized by using a litter mat and a sturdy high-sided litter box. A few users also found the small and lightweight litter particles to be slightly dusty, though still less dusty than clay.
Price: $26.23 for 25 lbs = $1.05/lb Rating: 4.2/5 with 362 reviews on Chewy Ingredients: recycled paper, baking soda
Fresh News is a pellet litter made from post-consumer recycled paper. Users consistently love the absorbency, low tracking, and very low dust content of the large paper pellets. In fact, Fresh News is so low dust that veterinarian Megan Teiber recommends it for any cat with wounds, allergies, or respiratory issues. This litter is also quite eco-friendly considering that it’s compostable and no new trees are cut down to make it.
Fresh News’ main weakness is that it’s not the easiest to clean. The dark pellets don’t noticeably change color when wet so it’s hard to know which pellets to remove, but they also don’t evenly distribute moisture like granular non-clumping litters. Wet pellets get mushy if left in the box, but will eventually dry out and crumble. The pellets do not cling to solid waste and are hard to scoop. The reviews for odor control are mixed, though the addition of baking soda helps. Furthermore, some cats may not like the feel of the large pellets under their paws.
Another point of contention is that the price of Fresh News has gone up by nearly 40% since its main competitor, Yesterday’s News, was discontinued. It used to be one of the most affordable natural litters on the market, but now its pricing falls in the middle of the pack.
Price: $24.99 for 40 lbs = $0.62/lb Rating: 4.2/5 with 2215 reviews on Chewy Ingredients: pine
Feline Pine is a staple in the non-clumping cat litter world. These pine pellets are perhaps the most cost-effective natural litter on the market at $0.62/lb, and some cat parents are saving even more money by buying generic horse bedding or wood burning stove pellets. Just make sure the pellets are kiln-dried—this process removes phenolic pine oils that are toxic to cats. Feline Pine users love its low tracking and low dust properties. The natural absorbency and scent of the pine provides good odor control as well. We like that the pine material is reclaimed from the lumber industry and that the litter is compostable.
When Feline Pine gets wet, the pellets dissolve back into sawdust. Over time, this can lead to sawdust buildup in the litter box which is more easily tracked than the clean pellets. We recommend pairing Feline Pine litter with a sifting litter box so that sawdust falls to the bottom and cannot be tracked around the house.
The main drawback of Feline Pine is that not all cats will use it. The pine scent, though pleasant for humans, can be off-putting to cats, and the large firm pellets can be uncomfortable to step on. Scooping out poops can also be a hassle given the large pellet size.
Price: $23.99 for 26 lbs = $0.92/lb Rating: 3.7/5 with 225 Chewy reviews Ingredients: English walnut shells
Naturally Fresh is better know for their clumping litter, but they have also developed a solid non-clumping formula with their Unscented Non-Clumping Pellet Walnut Litter. Made entirely from walnut shells at a solar-powered facility, this litter is a great option if you want something sustainably sourced and biodegradable. Reviewers appreciate the low tracking and low dust of this litter, which makes it a good choice for cats and humans with respiratory issues and allergies. The odor control is decent, while the litter itself is unscented and has a slight “forest” smell. It is also one of the more affordable litters on this list at $0.92/lb.
When wet, the pellets don’t break down as quickly as pine or paper pellets, but they will crumble eventually when dried out. They work decently with a sifting litter box, but aren’t as compatible as pine. A few reviewers mentioned the absorbency was average.
A common issue with Naturally Fresh’s non-clumping litter is that the size and dark color of the pellets make it hard to find and scoop solid waste. The pellets do not dehydrate or cling to solid waste. If used with a conventional litter box, the pellets will break down over time and contribute to more dust and tracking. Like the other pellet litters on this list, some cats may not enjoy the firm texture of Naturally Fresh.
Price: $24 for 6 lbs = $4.00/lb Rating: 4.9/5 stars with 23,830 ratings on PrettyLitter Ingredients: silica gel crystals, color-changing compounds
Pretty Litter is one of the most popular cat litters on the market today, and for good reason (it came in first on our list of the best crystal cat litters). This silica gel crystal litter changes color depending on the pH and blood content of your cat’s urine, which, in theory, helps cat parents catch certain health problems early and save on vet bills in the long run. Beyond this impressive feature, users often compliment the incredible absorbency, ease of cleaning, and long-lasting effectiveness of Pretty Litter. Reviews of its odor control are mostly great, though there is the occasional bad review. It does an excellent job of coating and dehydrating solid waste, and we also like that it is unscented and has a soft texture.
Pretty Litter recommends scooping poops and stirring the litter everyday to ensure liquid waste is completely absorbed. If these guidelines are followed, the brand claims that 4 lbs should last a full month. Some reviewers found that this was not the case for their cat and had to change the litter sooner. This seems to depend on how often your cat urinates and the potency of their urine odor.
The biggest gripe users have with Pretty Litter is the price tag: a hefty $4.00/lb. This one factor makes the litter quite polarizing, with dissatisfied users often expecting more for their dollar. Price aside, this is a very effective litter, but if you’re on a budget it might not be worth it for you. Pretty Litter is probably most worthwhile if you have an elderly cat or a cat with a history of urinary issues.
Pretty Litter’s dust and tracking are decent, but certainly worse than the pellet litters on this list due to its small lightweight particles. Another factor that prevents us from ranking Pretty Litter higher is that it is not very eco-friendly. We consider it less harmful than clay litters, but nonetheless silica crystals are a mined mineral and are not biodegradable. For more discussion on silica, check out the pros & cons of crystal litter.
Note: Silica gel crystal is different from the carcinogenic silica dust found in clay litter. It is not dangerous for cats or humans.
monitors cat health
good odor control
easy to clean
available via subscription or one-time purchase
not very eco-friendly
Non-Clumping Cat Litter FAQs
What is non-clumping cat litter, and how does it differ from clumping options?
Non-clumping cat litter is typically made from materials that do not form solid clumps when wet. It's different from clumping litter, which forms tight clumps for easier scooping, making it a suitable choice for those who prefer a different approach to waste management.
How often should I change an entire box of non-clumping cat litter?
Non-clumping cat litter requires more frequent changing compared to clumping varieties. It's advisable to change the entire box regularly, generally every two weeks, to maintain cleanliness and control odors effectively.
Do non-clumping cat litters control odors as effectively as clumping options?
Non-clumping cat litters work to control odors, but they may not be as effective as clumping litters. Regular scooping and changing of the litter box contents are crucial for optimal odor control with non-clumping options.
Can non-clumping cat litter be used with automatic litter boxes?
Some non-clumping cat litters are compatible with automatic litter boxes. However, it's essential to check the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific litter box model to ensure compatibility and efficient performance.
Are there any specific tips for transitioning my cat to non-clumping cat litter successfully?
Transitioning to non-clumping cat litter can be achieved gradually. Start by mixing small amounts with your cat's current litter, increasing the ratio over time. Monitor your cat's comfort and behavior during the transition, providing positive reinforcement as needed.
Conclusion: Your Cat Knows Best
We quote veterinarian Megan Teiber after every top 5 litter list and we’ll quote her again: “the best litter is the one your cat will use.” If you’re looking for a good non-clumping litter, we hope this list has been of some use for you. Overall, we think CatSpot will work best for the most households, but the other four litters can be excellent choices if they match your and your cat’s preferences. Pretty Litter is likely the best choice if you cat has recurring health problems and Feline Pine is the most budget friendly option. Naturally Fresh and Fresh News are ideal if you need a low dust litter or want something low tracking.