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7 Best Cat Litters of 2021, According to Pet Pros

These picks have superior odor control and minimal tracking.

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Let's face it: One of the best parts of having a cat, aside from the endless unconditional love they bring, is not having to take them outside to do their business. However, litter boxes (even self-cleaning boxes) come with their own set of problems ranging from smell, cleanup, and well, finicky cats (we love you, too.) With that being said, not all litters are created equal, and choosing the wrong one is no hissing matter.

Our home care experts and engineers in the Good Housekeeping Institute Pet Lab test everything needed to keep pets and owners happy, from the best food to pet cameras. To find the best cat litter, we take into account things like absorbency, odor control, tracking, and clumping ability. Our favorite litters were easy to scoop, helped control odors, and didn't track little particles all over. Here are the best cat litters that the Good Housekeeping Institute recommends from top-performing brands and online reviewer favorites:

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    Best Overall Cat Litter
    Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter
    Dr. Elsey's
    Dr. Elsey's

    • Chunky granules for low tracking
    • Reviewers noted superior odor control
    • Unscented

    • Heavy bags can be hard to pour

    This clay-based litter is uniquely formulated, combining non-tracking granules with a medium grain, so litter stays in the box where it belongs. It also has an excellent clumping ability that prevents moisture from reaching the bottom of the box for easy cleanup. Reviewers love the low dust factor and great odor control, making it a great litter for multiple cat households as well. And cats seem to love it, too!

    Best Value Cat Litter
    Fresh Scent Scoopable Clumping Cat Litter
    Special Kitty
    Special Kitty

    • Budget-friendly
    • Lightly scented
    • Claims to be 99% dust-free

    • Smallest jug is 20 lbs

    Great for multiple cats, reviewers love the light, fresh scent that helps with odor control. We found that the tight clumping formula makes scooping your cat's box a breeze. We also love that it comes with an easy-pour handle — and that you can get 20 pounds of this clay-based cat litter for under $6! 

    Best Odor Control Cat Litter
    Tidy Cats Pure Nature Clumping Cat Litter

    • Made with pine, corn, and cedar shavings
    • Lightweight bags available
    • Reviewers commented on the fresh, natural scent

    • Cats may be finicky to the materials

    Not only do we love that this litter is comprised of alternative ingredients, including pine, corn, and cedar, but it is also highly absorbent, allowing for easy clean-ups. And did we mention that this litter is formulated to fight even the toughest odors, leaving your home smelling fresh and clean? Our reviewers love that bags come in various sizes, making it easy to carry and pour.  

    Best Clumping Cat Litter
    Clumping Corn Cat Litter
    World's Best
    World's Best Cat Litter
    Now 25% off

    • Made of corn cob particles
    • Flushable and septic safe
    • Quick clumping

    • Pricey

    A runner-up to our top overall pick, World's Best Cat Litter is indeed one of the best. Although a bit pricier than some, our pros love that it is unscented and made with corn cob particles instead of clay. This clay alternative option clumps easily to make cleanups a breeze and the manufacturer claims that it is flushable and septic-safe, which was confirmed in our Lab tests.

    Best Plant-Based Cat Litter
    Unscented Clumping Wood Cat Litter

    • Unscented wood fibers
    • Low tracking
    • Inexpensive

    • May take a few days to get cat used to the wood material

    With a soft texture similar to that of clay, this litter is easy on paws and cats seem to like the fresh, natural scent reminiscent of the great outdoors. Made entirely from wood grains and particles, ökocat offers a clay alternative with reviewers raving about its low tracking, great clumping, and super absorbency. The wood fibers are meant to prevent enzymes from bonding with liquid to stop the creation of odors. We love that it is lightweight and has no artificial fragrance or dyes, making this perfect for the green-loving household. 

    Best Flushable Cat Litter
    Natural Clumping Wheat Cat Litter
    sWheat Scoop Cat Litter
    sWheat Scoop

    • Flushable and septic-safe
    • No added dyes or perfumes
    • Fast clumping

    • Expensive
    • Must watch for tiny bugs that wheat can attract (keep bag closed)

    Made of wheat and plant extracts to help eliminate odors, sWheat scoop premium cat litter claims to clump faster and firmer for easy scooping,  designed for cats who are sensitive to dust, perfumes, and dyes. Made from renewable plant sources, the manufacturer states that it is designed to be flushed, which we found to be true in testing. 

    Best Cat Litter for Multiple Cats
    Cloud Control Platinum Clumping Cat Litter
    Arm & Hammer

    • Long-lasting odor control
    • Tight clumps for easy scooping

    • Fine granules may track around the house

    If you have two or more cats in your home, then this is the litter for you. The odor control is long-lasting and can be scooped and cleaned without tremendous clouds of dust. We loved that the litter has fine, sand-like clay granules that form tight clumps and won't stick to the bottom of a dirty litter box, perfect for easy clean-ups.

    Best Crystal Cat Litter
    Premium Crystals Clumping Cat Litter
    Fresh Step
    Fresh Step

    • Super absorbent
    • Good odor control
    • Low tracking

    • Expensive
    • Cats may have to get use to the different texture

    Ditch the clay and switch to gel silica crystals, which the manufacturer claims is more absorbent and better odor control than traditional clay litters. This litter locks in odor and absorbs moisture on contact, plus it's scented and smells fresh and clean. It works with any traditional litter box and self-cleaning ones. While we haven't tested it in the Lab, reviewers love that it has virtually no tracking.

    How to find the best cat litter for your pet
    line, rectangle,
    Hearst Owned

    Not only are there different types of litter, there are also different materials that litter is made of. It will likely take some trial and error to find the right litter for you and your cat. According to American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), when analyzing all the different types of cat litter, you should identify what you consider to the most important factors (though ultimately, your cat may be the decision-maker in the end!):

    • Material: Most litters are made of bentonite clay, since it is inexpensive and can produce solid clumps to make scooping easier. However there are a bunch of new alternatives including gel crystals, pine, wheat, tofu, corn, and paper that are milled, sawed, ground, or cut into fine granules or chunky particles. Those without clay or silica dust are generally viewed as more eco-friendly, and the all-natural alternatives come with big advantages like being flushable, offer less dust for allergic cats, and less tracking around the house. Litters come in various scents and grain sizes, and cats seem to like the texture the best as it is closest to soil.
    • Absorbency: This is the ability for the material to hold the urine. Brands make claims that crystal litter is the most absorbent kind of litter available because it is made from sodium silicate sand that is processed with oxygen and water. The result is a bead-like crystal with tiny pores allowing for more liquids to sink in. In our road tests, we found that crystal litter does absorb more liquid, allowing for less clean-up and longer-lasting.
    • Odor control: Some litters include baking soda or activated charcoal that help keep urine and fecal odors at bay. However, these odor-masking scents can be a turnoff to your cat, so it may take a bit of trial and error to find the odor control that works for both you and your kitty.
    • Clumping ability: Clumping litter tends to help minimize messes and make it easier for you to scoop for easy clean-up because it is mixed with bentonite. Non-clumping is usually cheaper, but it's hard to scoop urine or fecal matter without changing the whole pan.
    • Dust levels: This isn’t just important to keep your floors and furniture dust-free, but also important for keeping yours and your cat’s lungs clean. Clumping cat litter tends to produce the most dust in general, but this may take a bit of trial and error.
    • Tracking: The goal is for your cat’s litter to stay in their box and not get tracked around the house. Keep in mind that clay litters tend to track more than some other materials and larger particles tend to track less than small ones. A mat outside the litter box also helps remove particles from kitty's paws.
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