Don’t Be Fooled By Deceptive Marketing! Clay Cat Litter Is Dangerous!

Thu, Jun 18, 2009

Litter & Hygiene

I think deceptive marketing is a terrible thing, especially when it can have a detrimental effect on the health and well being of cats. As a result of the research I have done, I am against using clay cat litter for a number of reasons. Here’s the summary:


  1. Clay is strip mined to produce clay cat litter.
  2. Used clumping clay cat litter NEVER biodegrades in the landfill.


  1. Clay litter contains silica, which is a known carcinogen when inhaled.
  2. Clumping clay litter contains sodium bentonite which expands to 15 times its volume and forms an INSOLUBLE mass when it contacts liquid. It does the same thing when cats ingest it as they groom themselves after using the litter box.

The alternative is to use a “natural” litter, one made from corn, soy, pine, paper and other natural, renewable resources. Here’s the deceptive part, CLAY IS NATURAL! So of course the manufacturers are printing that on their packages and using the term “natural” in all their marketing. Clay litters can also claim to be “chemical-free” and “naturally occurring.” Don’t be fooled! The fact is, it’s still clay!

PLEASE consider switching to a natural litter for your health and the health of your cats. I used clay litter for years before I learned about this issue, and I will admit, the natural litters just don’t work like the clay litter does, so switching can be frustrating. Plus, the natural litters can be pricey, but if you’re committed, you can find some great natural litters that will do the trick. You just have to be dedicated to stopping the use of clay litter.

(I guess this means that none of the clay litter manufacturers will be asking to advertise on Moderncat.)

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66 Responses to “Don’t Be Fooled By Deceptive Marketing! Clay Cat Litter Is Dangerous!”

  1. 1

    well said. there are just too many crazy products out there! i use the smart cat box which uses safflower seeds, which i can just pick up at the garden store! it works great!

  2. 2
    Carrie Fagerstrom

    I need an alternative that’s affordable for ten cats. So far, nothing comes close. What’s the smart cat box?

  3. 3

    The Smart Cat Box is great! I have one and love it, so does Flora, it’s her favorite litter box.

  4. 4

    Pine litter has adverse effects on cats as well. It is one of the most common causes of litterbox avoidance and innapropriate elimination, next to things like stress, urinary tract infections and general dislike of the conditions of the box. Many cats reject the smell of pine litter and take to urinating elsewhere.

  5. 5

    My cats were suffering from allergies until I switched from clay litter to a ground corn litter (World’s Best). It’s flushable, it biodegrades in the landfill, and it completely hides the cat urine smell. Honestly, I smell absolutely no litter smell any more since I got away from the clay litter. Great article, Moderncat!

  6. 6

    *gasp* I love finding out about important, helpful info. Also I feel terrible that I believed the whole thing about clay cat liter being “good”. Plus when I had my first kitten (now about 3 yrs old) I gradually started to buy clay cat liter for $0.99 for a few pounds in a bag. I was thinking about going back to it later because of cost issues. Now, I weighing my options more carefully. Thanks ModernCat for the info.

  7. 7

    Hi everyone! Best litter I have ever used: “Pet’s Preference”. It’s recycled paper pellets, flushable, nontracking, and doesn’t smell. It doesn’t clump, but it’s always easy to tell where the pee is and easy to scoop out. I honestly can’t think of one thing about this stuff that bugs me except that sometimes the pet stores here change distributors and it’s hard to find.

    They don’t have a website that I can find and I think it’s actually marketed more as animal bedding, but I promise promise promise–you’ll love the stuff if you try it.

  8. 8
    Kim >> hiphopsideproject

    We got our new kittens about 2 weeks ago, and were using clay litter. i have asthma, and it was starting to flare up really badly, originally I just put it down to the new dander and that I’d get used to it as I usually do. With no change after 10 days, I decided I’d need to get a hepa filter. The other day I sat clearing the litter tray and my asthma flared super bad. LIGHTBULB! It was the litter all along. Two days ago we switched to wood pellet litter, just the cheapest brand, to see if it was the reason. Lo, and behold, my asthma has gone. We’ll be buying a better brand of grain/wood litter this week and won’t be going back to clay!

  9. 9

    For internationnal cat owner, can you post picture of said cat litter to avoid. I’ve never heard of that name for litter. But by the description… It sound familiar with the ONLY litter my french cat agree to use…

  10. 10

    I’ve tried switching to many other litters (World’s best cat litter was the worst, ironically) but one of my cats is a picky pee-body and won’t use anything except clay. If I replace it with something else, he uses it once, maybe twice, then goes all over the carpet. :(

    However, for those of you who have cats that will use anything, the best natural litter I found bar-none was Nature’s Miracle clumping cat litter. No scent whatsoever except the scent of pine. The other cats loved it, but Lump wouldn’t use it.

  11. 11

    I have 9 cats and had 10 when I decided it was time to switch cat litters for my health, the health of my fur babies, and the environment. I priced all the alternatives out there and was horrified by how expensive anything other than traditional cat litter was!! I talked to some of my animal loving friends and they told me that they got their “cat litter” at the farm supply shop. Its labeled as horse litter/bedding but it is the EXACT same stuff as the pine cat litter that is available by the same brand but TONS cheaper. The brand I buy is Equine Fresh. Their litter is 100% by-product pine. It smells great, keeps the amonia odor in check, and its only about $7.00 for 40lbs!!!!! I would highly recommend to anyone!

  12. 12

    I love that you bring us great info instead of things that you can get paid for!!! You are a saint!

    Thank you so much. I need to investigate the corn litter.

  13. 13

    I switched from clay litter over a year ago. I couldn’t tollerate the dust and I couldn’t find one that didn’t have that awful perfume smell. Someone had told me about an animal shelter that had switched to wood pellets (same ones used to heat homes) and would just buy them by the pallet. I looked into it and found that a 40lb bag costs about as much if not less than 40lbs of clay litter. I’d reccomend the hardwood pellets as that absorb more and last longer. There’s virtually no tracking and my cats are dust free! One thing to remember is to switch slowly and have one litterbox with the old litter just in case your cats refuse to try the new stuff.

  14. 14

    What about the crystal cat litter? I’ve been using that for a while now and my cat seems to enjoy it. It dries quickly so leaves absolutely no smell. The cashier at Trader Joe’s told me it was more eco friendly, but I’ve never heard anything definitive.

  15. 15

    @Coligny The first circle in this post shows a typical clay cat litter:

  16. 16

    “I will admit, the natural litters just don’t work like the clay litter does”

    The Worlds Best Cat Litter performs just as well as the premium Catsan clumping litter we previously used – it’s the same fine grain, and clumps just as well. As it’s flushable it means the tray gets cleaned out much more regularly too.

  17. 17

    I have 2 cats. I’ve recently tried to switch to World’s Best Cat Litter for a month. I liked it since it’s flushable so it’s easy to clean but my husband is more picky and he did not think the odor control was horrible. I really want to switch to something natural but I need something that has STRONG odor control, comparable to clay litter. Any suggestions? Thank you for your help!!!!

  18. 18

    Oops, I meant my husband thought the odor control of the World’s Best Litter was horrible. Sorry for the confusion.

  19. 19

    A word about silica gel litters. My understanding is that they still have the same issue with the silica dust being a carcinogen when inhaled, but you don’t have the sodium bentonite issues, but I’d need to do more research. Anyone know more about silica gel litter?

  20. 20

    I don’t disagree with anything you say, and I need to add some clarifying comments:

    Re: degrading in landfills: First off, nothing degrades in a landfill. No, not even World’s Best. Organic cat litter (ie, carbon based) will degrade in your compost heap, but not in a landfill. Landfills are covered up and sealed off from air. This precludes any sort of degrading process. Second, you can’t really talk about silica degrading. For the record, silica is sand. Clay is a type of dirt characterized by the size of the particles. It’s meaningless to talk about dirt of sand degrading.

    Re: health hazards of sand, ie, silica: I seriously doubt that the amount of silica in the dust produced by cat litter is going to cause respiratory problems for the average person or cat. Note I said cause – I’m not denying that people with existing problems like asthma might find the dust irritating. The wiki article you link to talks about sandblasting as a source of silica dust. A litter box produces much, much less dust than sandblasting.

    Re: clumping: not all clay clumps. I have used clay litter, but never clumping litter. It would be more accurate to warn people against the dangers of clumping litter.

    I switched over to non-clay litter because I thought it was insane to mine something out of the ground so that my cat could poop inside. I prefer to use recycled paper litter, but even with daily scooping, I can still smell ammonia. I use Feline Pine because to me, it hides the cat pee smell. I find the pine smell annoying, but it’s better than cat pee.

  21. 21

    “ground corn litter (World’s Best). It’s flushable”

    please stop flushing cat litter down the toilet. what is the benefit of that? And if you’re on the coast, it’s extremely bad for the environment. don’t you watch the news????

    …as far as clay cat litter… I was walking to the grocery store the other day and decided to divert from the big box chain to whole foods (which is equally chainish, but sometimes has better options). i had never bought cat litter there. i was suprised to see, they only carried 3 versions of clay cat litter, then feline pine. i’ve tried feline pine and that just didn’t work w/ my cats, so that was out. for clay, they had their own house brand, and some brand that claimed to be “100% pure natural” clay, etc etc. i ended up buying tidy cats clay, since well it was the smallest size they had and the cheapest per unit cost and the other two brands were in plastic containers (wasteful).

    the packaging for the tidy cats looked the same (yellow with red highlights), but when i got it home I noticed it was not at all like the Tidy Cats i’ve been buying everywhere else. it was just pure clay and nothing else… (Kind of like i remember in “the old days” before they started adding in all those blue things, making the pebbles more round, etc). is this a special version they sell only at whole foods, or do they sell this elsewhere? does it have sodium bentonite in it (i’ll have to look at the packaging again, but i don’t remember it saying “clumping” so maybe that was the difference and they maybe don’t add this in?). as far as performance of it, i can’t tell a difference, it works just as well.

    all other times, Whole Foods is pretty environmentally conscious (more so than any other grocery store I can think of, even more so than local ones). i’m curious if anyone knows what their stance is on this?

    And for that matter, you could also argue that corn cat litter is bad for the environment. Over-production of corn is one of the worst things to happen to the American farming industry (and subsequently our entire food system) in decades. (If you care to read 400 pages on why corn is bad for the environment, pickup a copy of The Omnivore’s Dilemma… it’s a really great read)

  22. 22

    Amen, Sister! Great post about the multiple negative qualities of clay litter.
    I have had great luck with Swheat Scoop, which is wheat based. We adopted a 1 1/2 year old cat who came from a home where clay litter was used. We were concerned that she wouldn’t like the new litter at first because people told us that cats are very picky about switching cat litter. No worries – she took to the litter box within an hour of moving in, no issues whatsoever. This was back in January and we really have been very happy with Swheat Scoop ever since that first day. There is no dust, no odor, it clumps just fine and it is flushable, which is really important to us. Plus it’s made by a small, responsible company in northern Minnesota. I prefer to support the little guys over “The Man.”

  23. 23

    I tried one of the oh-so-wonderful corn based litters — talk about dust! Just because no one has ever done a study on the effects of corn dust on cats or people doesn’t mean that it’s good. Any particulates going into your lungs is bad.

    I know you’re well-intentioned, but you’re not giving any real alternatives.

  24. 24
  25. 25

    I agree with this completely. I have been using swheat scoop and it does a really good job of covering the odors and it doesn’t have that nasty chemical smell like the clay litters have. The other nice thing is with the natural stuff most of it you can flush down the toilet, so it stops you from using tons of plastic bags, even better for the environment.

  26. 26
    Anlina Sheng

    I have one box of clay litter left (out of four litter boxes) for my one fussy cat who refuses to use anything else I’ve tried. Even with regular clay litters she was peeing outside the box regularly, till I switched to Dr. Elsey’s Cat Attract. I’m not a fan of the clay litters, but I’ve had to provide it or constantly have to clean up cat pee.

    I’ve tried Swheat Scoop & World’s Best Cat Litter and didn’t care for either of them. The grainy smell was kind of nauseating when it mixed with pee, and I found the clumps were kind of sticky. I was using Feline Pine pellets for my other two cats, but if there is something softer (clay) that they have access too, they’ll ignore the boxes with pellets and just use the clay.

    So far my favourite non-clay litter is Feline Fresh.

    It has about the same granule size as the clay litters, so it has a good texture for the paws, and doesn’t track as badly as the grain based litters. It also has the same great odour control as Feline Pine and the clumps are really nice – they hold together and aren’t sticky, but they’re not rock solid and impossible to break up like clay clumps.

    I’m looking at herbal additives to add to it to boost the attraction for Feline Fresh and hopefully allow me to get rid of the clay stuff for good.

  27. 27

    I would really love to use natural cat litters, but unfortunately, living out in a very rural area means few to no brands are available to us here. We’re slave to what local stores will carry, and if you ask a specific shop if they would carry such products, the answer you always get is, “it’s too expensive, so no one here buys it.”

    The only brand I’ve ever seen around here that wasn’t clay is Feline Pine, which in my experience, has been hellish to use, and the cats often don’t like it.

    We have two cats, and go through litter quickly, so it’s not economical for us to drive 25+ miles just to get better litters (because despite their claims, no, one bag will not last us 30 days. the cats pee a lot!). Nor is it really financially feasible to stockpile pricier natural litters. I really wish we had other options, but for now, it just doesn’t look like we do.
    (I know all about the annoyances of clay litter. The cat box is in the laundry room, and heaven forbid we drip any water on the little particles that get on the floor – it’s impossible to get them back up.)

  28. 28

    Yes, pine is harmful to cats. Anything citrusy is abhorrent to cats’ sense of smell. And finding a cost-effective and health-conscious litter for nine cats? I await responses. I had a pellet stove and cannot imagine using the wood pellets, which are shiny on the outside due to being heat-compressed in processing and would NOT be at all absorbent. They are fairly dusty, too, and carry a carcinogen warning on the bag, but that may only be the burning product.

  29. 29

    I used to use Arm & Hammer . . . while quite possibly the dustiest clay litter out there . . it handled the stinky nature the best out of any litter I’d used.

    I have recently switched to The World’s Best, and while it has hardly any dust and clumps very well, it does NOT handle the odor at all. It smells funky and I’m REALLY missing my Arm & Hammer. But because I love my little kitties (if you can call 17 pounds each ‘little’), I’m going to keep after the natural litters. I want them to be as healthy as possible.

  30. 30

    My cat & I love Feline Pine. =^..^= :-)

  31. 31

    I toilet trained my cats.

    They were a little resistant at first, but no more litter, no more smell. And they get treats when they use the toilet. Everyone wins.

    Is where I learned about it.

  32. 32

    Arm & Hammer makes a corn-based product called Arm & Hammer Essentials: I would recommend it to anyone who’s cats will use World’s Best but are not happy with the odor absorption. Our rescue cat came from a home (and subequently a shelter) that used clay litter, and he happily uses this litter. The texture and scent is very similar to that of other clay-based litters I have seen (my parents used them for our cats when I was growing up).

  33. 33

    i think anyone on here who says “natural” cat litter doesn’t smell is not being entirely truthful or they empty the litter box after every use. seriously, that stuff reeks and in a closed litter box it can be noxious to the cats after only two uses. i had to use the recycled newspaper one once and it was horrible. it smelled awful and my cats tracked pee and pellets everywhere. until my vet tells me to stop using clumping litter, i’m going to keep using it. does anyone know of any cases where a cat died from ingesting clumping litter? have you ever heard of a cat getting injured from using clumping litter? i haven’t.

  34. 34

    Worlds Best Cat Litter all the way! or any natural corn based litter.

  35. 35

    We tried Feline Pine here, but my Lionel is a digger and did NOT care for the pellets at all. We had some leftover clay litter from before we switched, sitting in a bag next to the litter box…he actually ripped the bag open, backed himself into the clay and used it! We have since switched to Swheat Scoop, and have had no problems at all.

  36. 36

    We switched about a month ago from clay-based litter to a corn-based one that smells like pine. It’s sold at Wal-Mart and on the internet at The brand name is Pro-Pet Fresh Results.

    I did a review of it at

  37. 37

    That’s true about the Silica dust. I work in clay as a potter, and the silica dust, which is kind of like tiny little glass shards, gets into your lungs and can cause damage. Clay isn’t dangerous if it’s wet, but you can’t really keep wet clay in the litter box.

  38. 38

    Nature’s Miracle I think makes the very best odor control clumping litter. I actually love the smell. Never thought I’d say that about a cat litter.

  39. 39

    @mle please take a look at the website that I reference in my original post:

  40. 40

    Hi All.

    I thought I would chime in.. I use Yesterday’s New Natural Cat Litter.. Paper Pellets by Purina (the only purina I would ever use..).. My Himalayan likes it.. The only complaint I have is that it is not exactly dust free.. You will see granules of some dust like material in your litter pan etc.. It is extremely absorbent.. Easy to clean.. Comes in unscented normal texture (larger harder pellets) or soft texture in pine or unscented which is suppose to be more like clay.. It is also non toxic if ingested.. Can be pricey though!..


  41. 41

    Yay! I’m happy to see you, Moderncat, using your platform to raise awareness! Next mission: cat food? ;)

    I’m an avid researcher when it comes to all things cat-related. I did research before I adopted my cats and found that clay litter is dangerous. After six years and numerous litters (luckily my cats are up for trying anything), I’ve found Feline Pine Scoop to be my favorite. It’s like Feline Pine (pellets), but ground finer – almost like sawdust without as much dust as other – even natural – litters. It controls the odor very well. It tracks, but nothing a sticky lint roller can’t tackle. My cats also prefer as much room as possible in their potty, so I’m limited to which box/pan I can use. I get round ones. Otherwise, the box mentioned here a few times would be intriguing. I’ve had a Litter Robot, Littermaid, and Petmate Purrforma Plus among others, and have always come back to plain ol’ (except for being huge and round) litter pans, as my cats prefer them. Your cats will let you know what they want if you pay attention.

    I recommend cleaning the entire litter out once a week & scooping twice a day. I concur with the lady who mentioned the non-biodegrading. I often see people with noble intentions purchasing biodegradable products, and then tossing them in the trash; it won’t biodegrade in a landfill. I also agree with not flushing the litter or toilet training kitties.

    Plenty of information is available online. Don’t count on your vets to have the knowledge you can easily find yourself. It’s your responsibility. Cats develop cancer and other illnesses – who knows what causes them? The least we can do is everything we can.

  42. 42

    Holy cow. That was a lot longer than it seemed as I was typing it. *blush*

  43. 43

    My kitties and I love Feline Pine as well. The key for me was purchasing two of their litter box system to make clean up easy. I have two cats, both adopted as adults from shelters separately and I started them with clay, but then read about the effects so shortly thereafter I tried a number of natural litters with mixed success and finally settled on Feline Pine, been using it for 2 years now and love it – v. little smell and for me v. cheap….but every cat is different, my cats have never peed outside of the litter box no matter how many times I changed their litter :-)

  44. 44

    I, like Mandy (comment #41) am also an avid researcher when it comes to issues cat related! I learned about the harmful effects of cat litter when I had my first kitten. She was having a lot of health issues and I stumbled across an immense amount of information regarding clay litter. After that I switched to Swheat Scoop and then learned about World’s best. I now have three cats – with a fourth on the way – and combine World’s Best and Swheat Scoop. My cats don’t like the scent of the Pine litter but have no problems using the World’s Best, etc. The great thing about World’s Best is their rewards program. You receive great coupons when you send in your UPC codes.

    I also have a Smart Litter Box for one of my cats. The best part of this litter box is *no smell* – seriously. The only issue I’ve had is that the box isn’t “deep enough” for my cat…she likes a lot of litter to scoop!

  45. 45

    How to know? I was trying to check the litter I use to see if it’s clay, but there’s no ingredients specified. So how do I find out?

  46. 46

    i commented above how whole foods just had clay and feline pine… i went to the same one again yesterday and they had something they didn’t have before… a green cat litter that was made of recycled post consumer paper… so i guess they do have another option, they were just out when i went a few days prior

  47. 47

    This is the perfect reason companies like those who make Feline Pine should donate to animal shelters and rescues. I have only ever used Feline Pine, and that’s because my cat was used to it since he used that at the rescue. To me, it “works” as well as anything. And it costs what it costs.

  48. 48

    wow i’m so glad to know this!
    thank you

  49. 49
    Missive Maven

    We (which includes 3 cats) swear by Feline Pine clumping litter. It works nearly as well as clay and controls odor MUCH better.

  50. 50

    I would like to stop using clay litter, but i live in Denmark and i can’t find non clay litter anywhere, any suggestion to what i can do?


  1. [...] NOTE:  All long haired cats should use NON CLUMPING litter and NEVER CLAY.  See this excellent post by Kate Benjamin of ModernCat for more information. [...]

  2. [...] NO to Clay Litter! April 7, 2010 Filed under: pets and animals — msktty89 @ 7:33 PM A wonderful article that summarizes why clay litter is an all-around bad idea.   Leave a [...]

  3. Quora says:

    What is the best cat litter for a kitten?…

    I volunteer for a feline rescue . We always use Nature’s Miracle for kittens. It doesn’t stick to their paws like clay litter does. There is almost zero dust issues that could affect kittens.[1] When the kittens groom they do not ingest the corn cob …

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