You love your cat, but you don’t love the large carbon pawprint they leave behind. They consume a massive amount of animal-based protein and require piles of litter that end up in landfills. You might assume that there’s no going green for your obligate carnivore companion.
Fret no more! There’s hope in solving this cat climate crisis, and it all starts with what you choose to put in your cat’s litter box. “In 2022 the cat litter market was estimated at nearly $3 billion, with biobased cat litter constituting less than half of the sales,” says Dr. Steve Vaughn, PhD, Research Plant Physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). By swapping mined litter for biobased, over half of pet parents could reduce their cat's carbon pawprint.
Switching cat litter can be no easy feat for a finicky feline. But thanks to researchers, pet parents, and veterinarians who have feline-tested litters for things like odor control, liquid absorption, dust production, and particle tracking, as well as how likely a cat is to use the litter, we’ve rounded up the best sustainable cat litters worth a try.
What is sustainable cat litter?
Sustainable means a product is made with the environment and people in mind. When evaluating the industry's most sustainable cat litter, we look for brands that make a conscious effort to incorporate eco-friendly initiatives, like reducing packaging and transport emissions and sourcing biobased materials.
We also look for brands that care about their employees as much as the earth, by ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions.
What to look for when buying sustainable cat litter
Selecting sustainable litter can be challenging. Here are some clues to look for:
Substrate material. Biobased litter alternatives include corn, wheat, recycled paper, and wood flakes or fibers. Vaughn is also hopeful to see soybean hull litter make it to the shelves soon. Unlike clay and silica-based litters, these materials are biodegradable, don't require mining, and can be flushed down the toilet. “Biobased litter is produced from renewable sources that do not have finite limits,” Vaughn explains.
Sustainable partnerships, affiliations, and awards. Association with the Pet Sustainability Coalition, Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forest Initiative, Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, or Sustainable Connections indicates a brand is working toward and complying with sustainable practices.
Brand transparency. A brand might be greenwashing consumers with marketing buzzwords rather than making a real difference if their eco-initiatives aren’t easy to find. Whenever a brand doesn't disclose sustainable practices online, customer service representatives should have the information on hand.
Our picks: The best sustainable cat litter
Our guide to the best eco-friendly cat litter considered Vaughn’s research, which included testing sustainable cat litter in the lab. We even cat-tested litter at home, and we considered real pet parent reviews.
Best Vet-recommended Sustainable Litter: Ecoshell Naturally Fresh Litter
“The cats in my family like Blue Naturally Fresh litter, which is made from ground walnut shells,” Dr. Lee Pickett, V.M.D., tells Figo during a litter box etiquette Q&A. And we love that the brand is transparent in their eco-effects. From solar-powered facilities to reducing their carbon footprint within a 16-mile production radius, their detailed website is loud and proud of their green initiatives.
Pet parent review: “It smells of nutty soil or wet hardwood sawdust. No cat pee smell and it lasts way longer than clay, somehow.”
Best Clumping Sustainable Litter: So Phresh Extreme Clumping Unscented Grass Seed Cat Litter
Sustainable doesn’t mean sacrificing clumping abilities. So Phresh is made by Petco brand and is a member of the Pet Sustainability Coalition. This earth-friendly litter is made from grass seed which, as you might guess, is 100% biodegradable.
Pet parent review: “I love everything about this litter. It really is dust free. It desiccates the cat droppings so they are basically odorless. If you go a little longer than you should between cleanouts, you will get a "farmy-grassy" smell. Still much better than any of the light-clumping litters I have used! Also, because it is not laden with chemicals I feel more at ease about it being in my house.”
Best Pine-based Sustainable Litter: Feline Pine
Another recommended litter from Lee, Feline Pine is a sustainable pine sawdust option that clumps. Feline Pine uses reclaimed shavings from the lumber industry to create their earth-friendly litter; no new trees are ever cut for production. Besides being kinder to the earth, this litter is super absorbent and smells great.
Pet parent review: “This is so much better than regular litter. I no longer have the litter box smell. It just smells like trees or park, so it definitely helps with the urine smell.”
Best Odor-Reducing Sustainable Litter: ökocat Natural Wood Cat Litter
Stopping the litter box stink is a top priority whether you have a kitten, an adult feline, or a clowder of cats. With over 7,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, this natural cat litter is every eco-minded pet parent’s dream. According to the award-winning brand (Northwest Clean Air Agency (NWCAA) Gold & Platinum Awards), the upcycled wood fibers stop enzymes from bonding with liquid or solid waste, which prevents ammonia and odors from forming.
Pet parent review: “The price of this litter is what hindered me, but I bought a box anyway. Let me tell you, I AM NEVER GOING BACK TO ANY OTHER LITTER! This litter lasts so much longer! The price is well worth it once you see how long one little bag lasts. This litter clumps very well, it doesn't track unless Kitters kick it out of the box intentionally, it smells great, natural, not perfume, doesn't stick to my cat, and easier than clay litter to scoop!”
Best Corn-based Sustainable Litter: World’s Best Cat Litter
This compressed corn litter locks in odors and clumps just as well as clay options. In fact, it clumps so well that it’s our go-to litter for our automated Litter-Robots. Plus, it’s got all-day odor control without any irritating perfumes or harmful chemicals.
Pet parent review: “I find that this litter is the best I have ever used, eliminating 90% litter box odor. It clumps well, and my Kitties smell fresher as well.”
Dr. Steven Vaughn has a B.S. in Botany, an M.S. in Plant Breeding, and a Ph.D. in Agronomy (the study of using plants in unexpected ways). Together with researchers at the USDA, he’s on a mission to produce the next best sustainable cat litter.
Janelle is a cat mum to two resident adventure kitties, Lyra and Atlas, and numerous cat and kitten fosters. Janelle and her furry family enjoy filling their days with hiking, kayaking, and seeking out the best cat-friendly destinations around the Pacific Northwest. You can follow Janelle, her adventure kitties, and adoptable fosters at @paws_pdx.