Let’s face it: cleaning out Best 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 follow 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.