site logo
natural ingredients in cat litters explained

Natural Ingredients in Cat Litters Explained by a Veterinarian

From clay alternatives to eco-friendly options, explore how these elements enhance your feline friend's litter box experience.

Have you ever struggled with managing the unpleasant odors from your cat’s litter box? Well, you’re not alone. I often encounter pet parents seeking a solution that doesn’t just disguise odors, but rather, effectively manages them, while also being kind to Mother Earth.

Enter natural cat litters – an option growing in popularity due to their environmentally friendly credentials and often superior odor control.

Traditional clay-based litters can contribute to strip mining, and their non-biodegradable nature poses disposal problems both of which negatively impact the environment.

In contrast, natural cat litter options offer a sustainable approach, utilizing biodegradable materials such as corn, wheat, or wood.

Choosing natural cat litter isn’t just about being environmentally conscious. It also comes down to what’s best for our feline friends. Cats have a reputation for being finicky, and rightly so when it comes to their litter. Hard on odors but soft on paws, natural cat litters cater to both their comfort and hygiene.

And let’s not forget about us, the pet owners. A dust-free, easy-to-maintain litter can make the task of cleaning the litter box feel less of a chore.

The organic materials in natural cat litters not only break down harmlessly but often provide excellent odor control naturally, without the need for added artificial fragrances – a win for your cat’s health and our planet.

What Are Natural Cat Litters?

Natural cat litter is a step in the right direction for eco-conscious pet parents. Made from biodegradable, sustainable materials, natural litters provide a safe, dust-free option for your feline friends while being kind to our planet.

Natural cat litters offer significant benefits:

  • Environmental Sustainability: These litters are typically biodegradable, made from renewable materials like wood, corn, or wheat. They lessen the burden on landfills, unlike clay litter.
  • Improved Health: With less dust and chemical additives, natural cat litters can be a godsend for cats with allergies or sensitivities. This is especially true for kittens whose immune systems are still developing.
  • Natural Odor Control: Unscented doesn’t mean smellier. Many natural litters harness the natural odor-absorbing qualities of their materials, reducing the artificial scents that can irritate sensitive noses.
  • Effective Absorbency: The clumping action in these litters often matches the traditional ones. This makes maintaining a clean litter box easier and helps to reduce tracking.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Despite a possible higher upfront cost, the absence of chemicals and the reduced amount of litter needed for change-outs can make these cost-effective solutions in the long run.

What Is Natural Cat Litter Made Of?

Wood Shavings

wood cat litter

Wood shavings are eco-friendly option used in natural cat litters, prized for their sustainability and natural scent. Typically sourced from pine, cedar, or other softwoods, these shavings have excellent absorbency and naturally neutralize odors without the use of artificial fragrances.

Wood-based litters can also be lighter than clay litters, making them easier to handle and dispose of. They are usually biodegradable and can be composted after use, contributing to their eco-friendly profile.

However, pet owners should be cautious as some types of wood, like cedar and pine, can release aromatic oils that may irritate sensitive cats or humans with respiratory issues.


pine cat litter

Pine is a popular material used in natural cat litters due to its naturally pleasant scent and excellent moisture-absorbing properties. Made from recycled sawdust and pine wood scraps, pine litter is compressed into pellets or granules that expand and break down when wet, helping to trap odors effectively.

This type of litter is environmentally friendly, as it is both biodegradable and typically sourced from sustainable forests. Pine litter is also dust-free and does not contain the chemicals found in some clumping litters, making it a healthier choice for both cats and their owners.

However, as with other wood-based litters, the natural aromatic oils in pine can sometimes be irritating to cats or people with allergies or respiratory sensitivities.


corn cat litter

Corn is a popular choice for natural cat litter due to its high absorbency and natural odor control properties. Made from ground corn or processed corn kernels, this type of litter clumps well, making it easy for pet owners to scoop and maintain the litter box.

Corn-based litters are also biodegradable and can be more environmentally friendly than clay-based alternatives. Additionally, they are generally dust-free, which is beneficial for both cats and their owners who may suffer from allergies.

However, it’s important to note that some cats may be allergic to corn, and as it is a food-based product, it can potentially attract pests if not stored properly or changed frequently.


Product and in article images 99

Wheat is used in natural cat litter for its clumping capabilities and eco-friendly attributes. This type of litter is made from ground wheat or wheat by-products, which naturally form clumps when moistened by cat urine.

The starch in the wheat acts as a natural binding agent, allowing for easy cleanup and effective odor control without the addition of synthetic chemicals. Wheat-based litter is also biodegradable and can be composted, offering an environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional clay litters.

Wheat litter also tends to be dust-free and soft on paws, making it a comfortable choice for cats. However, like other plant-based litters, it may attract pests if not properly maintained, and it’s important to consider potential wheat allergies in sensitive cats.

Recycled Paper

paper cat litter

Recycled paper is another environmentally conscious choice for cat litter, made from post-consumer paper waste that has been processed into pellets or granules.

This type of litter is highly absorbent, effectively soaking up moisture and controlling odors without the use of added chemicals, making it ideal for cats and owners with sensitivities to dust or fragrances. Because it’s softer than wood or clay alternatives, recycled paper litter is gentle on the paws of cats, particularly those with declawed paws or mobility issues.

The lightweight nature of recycled paper makes it easy to handle and dispose of, and being biodegradable, it poses less of an environmental burden. Recycled paper litter is also non-clumping, which can simplify cleaning for some owners, though it may require more frequent changing to maintain freshness.

Walnut Shells

walnut shell cat litter

Walnut shells are utilized in natural cat litters for their outstanding odor control and strong clumping properties. Made from crushed walnut shells, this type of litter is dark in color and offers a natural alternative to clay-based litters.

It effectively absorbs moisture and neutralizes odors, making it a favorite among pet owners for its efficacy. Walnut shell litter is also biodegradable and compostable, enhancing its appeal to environmentally conscious pet owners.

Walnut litter is also generally dust-free, which reduces the mess around the litter box and minimizes respiratory discomfort for both cats and their owners. However, it is important for pet owners to be aware that, as a nut product, walnut litter could pose an allergy risk for households with nut allergies.


grass seed cat litter

Here’s a fresh one: grass cat litter. Grass is an innovative ingredient used in natural cat litters for its light weight, clumping ability, and eco-friendly characteristics.

Made from finely ground grass fibers, this type of litter forms tight clumps when exposed to moisture, making it easy to scoop and maintain. Grass litter is known for its superior odor control, often neutralizing smells without the need for artificial fragrances. It is highly absorbent, effectively managing moisture which helps to keep the litter box dry and odor-free.

As you might expect, grass-based litters are biodegradable and typically free from chemicals and clay, making them a safe and sustainable choice for environmentally conscious pet owners. They are also usually dust-free and soft, which can be beneficial for sensitive cats and reduce tracking around the home.


Understanding the variety of natural ingredients used in cat litter can help pet owners make informed choices that align with their environmental values and their cats’ health needs.

From the high absorbency and odor-neutralizing properties of corn and wheat, to the lightweight and dust-free benefits of recycled paper and grass, natural litters offer a range of options. Materials like wood shavings, pine, and walnut shells also provide unique advantages such as biodegradability and natural scents that keep litter boxes fresh.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More articles from the Pet Health Guru
why is my dog eating poop

Why is My Dog Eating His Poop?

World's Most Absorbent Cat Litters Compared

The 5 World’s Most Absorbent Cat Litters Compared

how do you know if your cat has a UTI

How Do You Know If Your Cat Has a UTI? Recognizing Signs and Symptoms

white specks in dog poop

White Specks in Dog Poop: What They Really Mean

Why is my cat laying in the litter box

Why is my cat laying in the litter box?

Unscented vs scented cat litters

Unscented vs Scented Cat Litters – Which is Best?

Scroll to Top