Tofu cat litter is one of many natural alternatives on the market but there are a few factors that make it superior to clay. We spoke to vets and cat behavior experts, delving deep into the subject of tofu cat litter to determine what makes it better than clay litter and why you should consider it.
The word “tofu” brings to mind the image of spongy blocks of plant protein. Its drab color and bland flavor may not do much to endear tofu to your tastebuds, but this vegetarian alternative is more versatile than you might realize. In fact, the soybeans from which it is derived can be used in all manner of ways – even cat litter!
Since cat litter was invented more than six decades ago, cat lovers around the world have strived to perfect it. The development of clumping clay litter in the 1980s revolutionized the industry and, in recent years, natural and alternative cat litters have steadily risen among the ranks.
But how do you make cat litter out of tofu and does it actually work? Tofu cat litter offers an eco-friendly and biodegradable alternative to traditional clay cat litter and myriad cat lovers agree: it works.
We consulted veterinarian Dr. Megan Teiber and cat behaviorist Nicole Van Andel on the subject of alternative cat litters, specifically inquiring about tofu versus clay litter. Here’s what we learned and all the reasons why we think you should give tofu cat litter a try.
What is Tofu Cat Litter?
Tofu cat litter is nothing like the cubes of soy-based protein that come standard with many vegan and vegetarian entrees. It’s made from the same food-grade pulp of soybeans, but it’s a byproduct of the process through which edible tofu is made.
Because it is made from 100% soybean byproduct, tofu cat litter is a non-toxic, all-natural alternative to conventional cat litter. It’s typically shaped in narrow, cylindrical granules that are lighter than clay and have a slightly softer texture. Tofu litters are generally unscented and uncolored, though some manufacturers choose to add fragrance or colorant to their products.
Tofu cat litter is largely dust-free, and the elongated granules tend to track less
than conventional clay litter. Because the product is biodegradable, it’s safe to flush which makes it easy to dispose of.
5 Benefits of Tofu Cat Litter Over Clay
Clay cat litter is cheap and readily available – you don’t even have to go to the pet store to buy it. You can find clay litter in most grocery stores, drug stores, and discount stores. Just because clay litter is often the most convenient option, however, doesn’t mean it’s the best.
When selecting products for your cat, there’s no shame in considering your own convenience but keep your cat as the priority. Take his needs and preferences into account. After all, you are your cat’s guardian, and his safety and wellbeing are your responsibility.
If you’re trying to make a more responsible choice about what cat litter you use, here are five reasons we think you should consider tofu cat litter over clay:
1. It’s less dusty.
Dusty cat litter makes it impossible to keep the area surrounding your litter box clean. It settles on surfaces after you pour in the new litter and your cat kicks up a cloud every time he digs in the litter box. Not only is dusty cat litter messy, but it could be hazardous to your cat’s health.
Dr. Megan Teiber suggests that clay cat litter produces dust that “may trigger symptoms in cats that are prone to asthma or allergies.” Dust from cat litter can contribute to upper respiratory tract infections, frequent sneezing, shortness of breath, and other issues. Tofu cat litter is largely dust-free, making it a much safer alternative in this respect.
2. It has a soft texture.
Aside from the dust clay cat litter tends to produce, the granules themselves can sometimes be sharp or oddly shaped which makes them tough on sensitive cat paws. Tofu litter, by contrast, has a softer texture that is gentler on your cat’s feet. Veterinarians often recommend avoiding clay litter after surgery or other injuries because the small, absorbent granules could find their way into the wound and cause problems.
3. It’s less likely to cause a GI obstruction.
While you’re unlikely to find your cat regularly snacking from his own litter box, there is some risk for accidental ingestion of cat litter. Kittens in particular are prone to exploring new things by taste. Clay cat litter – especially clumping varieties – swells upon contact with moisture and can create intestinal blockages that may become life-threatening.
Dr. Megan Teiber suggests: “it would never be recommended to allow a cat to ingest a large amount of any type of litter but alternatives such as tofu will be safer if small amounts are ingested.” Tofu litter is all-natural, non-toxic, and typically free from artificial additives.
4. It’s environmentally-friendly.
Even if you’re not ready to change your entire lifestyle for the sake of the environment, it’s worth thinking about making a few simple changes where you can. Something as easy as switching from clay to an environmentally-friendly cat litter like tofu could make a difference.
Tofu cat litter is made from soybean by-product, so it’s all-natural. Clay cat litter, by contrast, is typically made from sodium bentonite which is obtained via strip mining. This process requires the movement of massive amounts of soil and rock, often resulting in the destruction of natural habitats and contributing to soil erosion.
A practical benefit of tofu cat litter being more environmentally friendly than clay is that it is biodegradable. This means you can dispose of dirty litter through composting or even flush it directly down the toilet. Clay litter, on the other hand, generally ends up in landfills.
5. It’s lightweight.
Another practical benefit tofu cat litter has over clay is that it is lightweight. If you’ve ever struggled to tote heavy bags of litter from the store to your car and then into your house, you’ll appreciate this. Not only is tofu litter easier for many cat owners to handle when buying it, but it comes in handy when you’re scooping and cleaning the litter box as well.
Lightweight cat litter does exist, but it’s not always natural. Many lightweight litters are clay-based, made by mixing traditional clay litter with lighter materials like perlite or silica. This makes the litter easier to handle, but it still has the same problems as conventional clay litter. Tofu litter, on the other hand, is naturally lightweight and doesn’t require the use of additives to do its job.
What Do the Experts Have to Say?
Veterinarians and animal experts are largely in agreement that the best products for cats are the ones they will accept. Your cat doesn’t always know what’s best for him but if he flat out doesn’t accept your efforts to make improvements, there may not be much you can do.
Some cats simply may not like tofu cat litter but the experts we consulted believe it’s worth a try.
Nicole Van Andel suggests that while domesticated cats may instinctively be more drawn to clay litter that alternatives like tofu, “many clay-based formulas on the market are not necessarily natural.” That is, in the sense that they’re dissimilar to what a cat’s early ancestors would have used – materials like dirt and sand.
Van Andel says, “By domesticating cats and bringing them indoors, we have allowed them (and ourselves) to have more options on what they become accustomed to eliminating in. By using natural materials such as tofu, we are keeping things… well… natural, and basically sticking to what cats generally prefer.”
Tofu cat litter is inarguably more environmentally friendly than clay, but we wanted to know if it’s any safer, so we asked Dr. Megan Teiber whether there are any concerns with plant-based litter in terms of contamination or issues with mold and fungus.
While Dr. Teiber hasn’t clinically encountered problems with mold or mildew in alternative cat litters, she comments that “theoretically, plant-based litter like corn or tofu would be more prone to mold than clay.” She recommends keeping the litter dry and the litter box clean. If the container of tofu litter is exposed to moisture, it may be best to discard the batch out of an abundance of caution.
Tips for Transitioning to Tofu from Clay
Cats can be finicky and the last thing you want is to spend the time researching a new product (and the money buying it) just to find your cat isn’t interested. Getting your cat used to the new product slowly greatly reduces the risk of rejection. This is true for cat food as well as litter.
Nicole Van Andel comments that if your cat is currently used to a small-grain clay litter, he may be anxious about the switch to tofu. She offers the following tips for making the transition:
Start at the right time. When first introducing tofu litter, it’s wise to pick a time when you have a few days at home without any interruptions to your cat’s routine (i.e.: guests visiting). The transition process could take a few weeks, but the initial introduction shouldn’t be made when your cat is already stressed about something else.
Don’t change the litter box. Change one thing at a time. This means keeping the same litter box in the same location to avoid confusing your cat. Once your cat makes the transition, you can think about upgrading the litter box or moving it to a new location.
Add new litter to old. Start by combining the old litter with the tofu litter at a 80:20 ratio. Ideally you should remove the old litter and place the layer of tofu litter on the bottom of the box, adding the old litter on top without mixing. Your cat will uncover it as he digs around.
Slowly increase the ratio. After a week or so, increase the ratio of new to old cat litter. If the two litters have already been mixed together, you can do this by stirring a larger proportion of tofu litter into the existing mix.
Utilize positive reinforcement. Keep an eye on your cat’s litter box habits and use verbal praise and food rewards to encourage him to use the new litter. If your cat shows signs that he’s not accepting the new litter (i.e.: litter box avoidance), return to the 80:20 ratio for a little longer.
Once you’ve transitioned your cat completely onto tofu litter, litter box maintenance is largely the same – scoop at least once daily and clean the litter box at least once a month. Depending on the grain size of the tofu litter, you may need to buy a litter scoop with wider slots.