Let’s face it: cleaning out cat litter boxes isn’t much fun. Almost equally dreaded is dealing with the pungent smells of a cat litter box that has run its course and needs fresh litter. We feel that these are the two most important criteria that most people look for when shopping for a cat litter: how long the litter will keep cat waste smells in check. In fact, we receive more questions about these attributes than any other. People want to know the simple answer: What are the longest lasting cat litters?
Before we get into our choices, let’s break down what make a cat litter long lasting. There can be great variation in litters, from the materials used to the clumping ability (or lack thereof) to the intended purpose (multi-cat, single cat, long-haired, kittens, etc.). So what is the common theme we have seen in the cat litters that last the longest?
What traits do long lasting cat litters typically have?
Ability to hold moisture
Moisture is litter’s worst enemy. Once the granules are fully saturated that is when they begin to break down, releasing all of the odor that they have stored and making for a huge mess during cleanup. This is why litter manufacturers do extensive research to find materials that can hold in a lot of moisture. Some of the best moisture retention materials are clay, wood pellets, and some crystals. Many of the natural offerings can struggle with absorption, and are rather intended to simply remove the sections that your cat uses as needed.
Clumps are basically prisons for odor. A proper clump will form a physical seal around cat waste, holding in both the moisture and ultimately the smell. While this is somewhat related to moisture absorption, there is a great variance in the clumping ability from one product to another. Some products might retain a lot of moisture, but have very soft clumps that easily break apart while other examples might struggle with maximizing fluid retention but form super hard clumps.
That being said, there are a lot of non-clumping litters that still do a very good job of odor retention, but they will typically have an overall lower litter box life if you are doing your proper maintenance on the litter box in regards to removing clumps.
A good alert that it is time to replace the litter box is obviously when the smells start to creep out. Because what good does great clumping litter do if the litter box smells awful? Like the other parameters, there can be a huge fluctuation in how well a particular litter performs in the odor department. However, there tend to be some common trends on materials. Crystals, for instance, are oftentimes leading the pack in their ability to hold in smells. This is followed by crystal/clay hybrids, then clays, and finally the all-natural (wood, corn, etc.) usually come in at the bottom of the list.
This doesn’t mean that you should automatically throw out the idea of going with a corn or paper pellet litter. They can have their own benefits in regards to being more affordable, better for the environment, more comfortable for the cat’s paws, less tracking, etc.
There are some other minor metrics but those are the big three variables that seem to play the largest role.
Other Variations outside of the Litter
While we wish these were the only considerations you need to have, that simply is not the case. There can be many fluctuations in regards to your cat(s) that can have a huge effect on the effectiveness and ultimately the life of a given batch of litter.
Number of cats
Obviously, the more cats using a given litter box the shorter period of time it will be sustainable. More cats mean more waste, more tracking, and less time in between uses to let clumps properly harden. In addition, some litters are optimized for multi-cat households and will see an added boost in these environments but may struggle compared to an optimized single-cat litter, and vice versa.
Temperament of cats
Cats can be very individualized in how they use their litter box. Some have a favorite « spot » that they constantly go to, while other will meander all around the litter box. Some can be very finicky, kicking and tracking litter all over the place while others go in, do their business, and go out. While this might seem like a minor thing, they can have a huge impact on the performance ultimately the life of a litter. Some litters need an hour or more to fully seal a clump, and having a cat constantly kicking litter around can really hurt performance. Other litters might really struggle with having a highly concentrated area of waste but do much better with a consistent layering around the entire box.
Cat diet and digestive process
For those that have had multiple cats, there is sometimes one cat that seems to have much stinkier and messier business than the others. This could be due to their diet or simply to how they process their food. Some litters will do better with cats that have more solid waste while others will thrive with more liquid waste.
How long is « long lasting »?
So when we talk about long lasting cat litter, how long are we talking about? As you might suspect that can depend on the variances discussed above, but we have found that in many single-cat scenarios a good and compatible litter can last upwards of 2 weeks or more before issues of smell start to arise. For multi-cat boxes a week and a half is a good metric to achieve.
So what is the longest lasting cat litter?
As we have shown there can be a lot of various inputs that go into making a litter long lasting, both directly and indirectly related to the litter itself. So now the important question: what is the best? Which one lasts the longest? Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut « best » but we do have some choices that we have determined to typically be leading the pack in terms of performance. As with many things to do with your pets, we encourage you to shop around and try some different products out and see what bests for your particular scenario.
UltraPet Crystal Clear Litter Pearls: This is one of our favorite crystal cat litters, and has some of the longest performance life of any we have come across. This is mostly due to the phenomenal odor control ability that it is. That being said, it is actually surprisingly absorbent for a crystal cat litter as well. It is a great choice if you are willing to pay the premium price. It is available in 7-pound bags, is comprised of silica gel, and is available in the premium-price tier.
Cat’s Pride Fresh & Light Ultimate Care Premium Unscented Hypoallergenic Multi-Cat: A combination of great clumping and good odor control means that this product should keep your litter box odor free for 2 weeks or more depending on circumstances. It does require a bit more maintenance in regards to clump removal but if you stick to that you should be very satisfied. It is available in 12-pound jugs, is comprised of clay, and is available in the mid to premium-priced tier.
Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance: Super effective clumping is to thank for this product’s efficient odor control. It is a great long-term solution for those with busy litter boxes. It is available in 14 and 20-pound jugs, 27 and 35-pound pails, and 23, 27, and 40-pound boxes, is comprised of clay, and is available in mid to premium-price tiers.
Precious Cat Ultra: Some of the best clump ability per dollar you will find, this is a good solution for those on a tight budget but don’t want to skimp on long lasting litters. It is available in 18, 40, and 80-pound bags and 40-pound boxes, is comprised of clay, and is available in the budget-price tier.
Fresh Step Extreme Odor Control Unscented: The tight small clumps that this product creates are great at locking in odor and prolonging litter box life, meaning day after day of smell-free litter. It is available in 20 and 25-pound boxes, is comprised of clay, carbon, and antimicrobial agents, and is available in the mid to premium-priced tier.
World’s Best Cat Litter Lavender Scented Multiple Cat Clumping: One of the best performing all-natural cat litters on the market. Despite what can oftentimes be a weakness, this product comes through and provides super long litter life while being better for the environment. It is available in 7, 8, 14, 15, and 28-pound bags, is comprised of wood fiber, corn kernels, and lavender oil composition, and is available in the mid-priced tier.