Cat litter, like everything else in modern life, has evolved over time. In the past, pet owners filled litter boxes with everything from sand to ashes, which got the basic job done but didn't do much about smells or make the box particularly easy to clean. These substances gave way to modern clay cat litter products -- but even in this day and age, you still have to choose between clumping and non-clumping cat litter. Let's take a look at each of these options to see which of them might prove the smartest choice for your kitty's comfort, health, and preferences.
Non-Clumping Cat Litter: The Original Choice
Non-clumping litter, also called absorbing cat litter, served as the one and only commercial option for most cat owners for many years, starting in the 1940s. Some non-clumping litter is made from organic materials such as pine or wood, but most of it consists of a form of clay called bentonite. The clay does a good job of absorbing both odors and urine -- although once the litter becomes saturated, you may end up with a puddle of it at the bottom of the litter box. Be prepared to change non-clumping litter frequently.
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Clumping Cat Litter: Efficiency and Convenience
The downside of clumping litter is that it tends to kick up more dust than the non-clumping variety, and it can take on a sticky consistency that your cat may not like. It also costs more, although this disadvantage might be offset a little by the fact that you're throwing away less litter with each cleaning.
Does your cat have a respiratory issue such as asthma? If so, you want to use the least dusty cat litter you can get your hands on. This usually means going with non-clumping cat litter instead of clumping cat litter. Generally speaking, the smaller the particles, the better the clumping action -- and the dustier the litter. Non-clumping cat litter usually has larger particles, thus resulting in fewer clouds of dust to disturb your cat's airways (and possibly yours as well).
Fine-Tuning Your Options