11 Cat Litter Alternatives That Can Be Used in an Emergency or to Save Money

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If you own a cat, buying litter is necessary but expensive. This article will discuss some cheaper cat litter alternatives, such as soil, sand, or woodchip, which you may like to consider.

According to Battersea Cat and Dog Home, it costs an average of £300 a year (approximately $400) to buy cat litter. If your cat lives to be 14 years old, you would have spent a staggering £4200 ($5500) on something that will be thrown in the bin or flushed down the toilet.

It’s no wonder that many people are looking for cat litter alternatives.

Let’s look at eleven cat litter alternatives and discuss the benefits and disadvantages of each. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of the most common types of commercial cat litter. Finally, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on training your cat to use a human toilet.

Cat Litter Alternatives

If you own a cat buying a litter box and cat litter is a must, but as we’ve noted above, the cost can quickly mount up. Here are some cheaper options you may like to consider:

1. Sand

Some advantages of using sand are its convenience and affordability. Sand is also much more environmentally friendly and has a lesser risk of being dangerous if your cat accidentally ingests it.

However, it is not sufficient for retaining urine odors and can make litter boxes stink up pretty fast. As well as this, it is much more trackable as it is made up of tiny grains and is overall more difficult to clean up.

cat litter alternatives
Cat litter alternatives: Your cat will enjoy digging in sand or soil but sand may be messier than cat litter


  • Convenient and affordable
  • Safe for cats 
  • Eco-friendly


  • You may end up with odor problems
  • Your cat may track sand all over the house
  • Messier and harder to clean up

2. Woodchips or sawdust

Using wood chips or sawdust can be more beneficial than using regular cat litter as it is inexpensive and pretty environmentally friendly. Although it may need to be replaced and cleaned more frequently, sawdust has a natural scent that masks the smell of ammonia pretty well.

On the other hand, some trees have been classified as human carcinogens and can therefore cause people to have allergic reactions.


  • Inexpensive
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Scent masks the smell well


  • Many people (and perhaps even cats) are allergic to sawdust
  • Can create dust which may get into your cat’s eyes, ears, and nose causing health issues

3. Shredded Paper

Using shredded paper as an alternative is healthy for your cat and is extremely easy to access. It’s also scent-free, low tracking, and good for the environment.

However, it’s not the best at preventing or controlling the smell of ammonia, and you will need a large and consistent supply of it which might mean it ends up being more expensive than using clay litter after a time. As well as this, it’s not guaranteed that all cats will like its texture. 

Related Article: How Often Do Cats Pee?


  • Cheap and easy to access
  • Doesn’t track
  • Better for the environment


  • No odor control
  • Some cats don’t like the texture of paper
  • You’ll need a large supply

4. Puppy training pads

Puppy training pads may be an excellent alternative to use due to them being highly absorbent and very easy to clean up. They also dry quickly and are a good solution if your cat doesn’t seem to like litter boxes.

However, puppy pads do not have any odor masking properties and are not likely to be enjoyed by cats as they enjoy digging.


  • Very absorbent 
  • Easy to clean up the mess


  • Cats like digging, and many won’t use a puppy pad

5. Soil

Using soil instead of regular clay litter could be really appealing to cats as they are naturally drawn to its texture, and it can fulfill their desire to dig. Not to mention the fact that soil is very easily accessible and inexpensive.

That being said, it is quite easy to track and is probably the messiest alternative to clay litter.

best cat litter box for an apartment
Soil is one of the best cat litter alternatives as its easy for your cat to dig in, but may be messy.


  • Cheap and easily available
  • Allows your cat to dig


  • Things can get pretty messy in your home when you use soil

6. Wood Pellets

Some advantages of using wood pellets are that they are environmentally friendly and healthy for both you and your cat. They also have an effective control when it comes to urine odor control and is not as likely to be tracked or create dust.

However, they are more costly and difficult to access than clay litter and are likely to attract bugs.

best cat litter for allergies


  • Eco friendly
  • Unlikely to cause allergies or health issues in you or your cat
  • Offers odor control


  • May attract insects
  • Can be costly

7. Walnut litter

Using walnut litter can be more beneficial than using clay litter as it’s made from discarded walnut shells, meaning that it is a lot more eco-friendly. It also doesn’t generate a lot of dust and is efficient at absorbing odors. 

However, it takes quite a bit of time for it to absorb liquids properly and cannot be used by people with nut allergies. Furthermore, it tracks easily and is, therefore, more likely to create a mess.  


  • Doesn’t create dust
  • Absorbs odors


  • Isn’t absorbent
  • Not suitable for owners with nut allergies
  • Messy due to tracking

8. Corn-based chicken feed

Although using corn-based chicken feed instead of clay litter can sometimes attract things like bugs and mice, it’s significantly lighter. 

It also works much more naturally, clumping everything through the starches that are in the corn. It is also much safer if accidentally ingested and very absorbent. Furthermore, it can be bought in large amounts at once, making it cheaper. 

Related Article: Why Do Cats Poop Outside The Litter Box?

Surprisingly chicken feed is one of the best cat litter alternatives as it's very absorbent.


  • Very absorbent and clumping
  • Safe if ingested
  • Available cheaply in large amounts


  • Can attract rodents and insects

9. Horse bedding pellets

Horse bedding pellets may be a good alternative to clay litter as they’re cheaper and easier to clean. They’re also safer if accidentally ingested and are more eco-friendly. 

However, they can cause possible allergic reactions as they are made out of sawdust and have less clumping power. Moreover, not all cats like them, and they stink up quite a bit when they are wet, meaning they have minimal odor control.   


  • Cheap and easy to clean
  • Eco-friendly
  • Safe for cats if consumed


  • Can cause allergic reactions
  • Doesn’t clump well
  • Can end up smelling bad

10. Artificial grass

Some advantages of using artificial grass as an alternative to clay litter are that it has a pretty straightforward maintenance routine, and it’s perhaps more pleasing to look at. 

On the other hand, artificial grass can often feel unnatural to cats as they cannot scratch or dig without damaging it. This inability to scratch at it could possibly result in them creating a larger mess, making the cleaning process more difficult. 


  • Looks more attractive
  • Easy to clean


  • Cats are unable to dig

11. Let your cat go outdoors

If you live in the countryside or in a semi-rural location and have a yard, it may be possible to let your cat do his business outside. Obviously, this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you do have an outdoor space eliminating the need for a litter box will get rid of smells and mess while being better for the environment. 

In time your cat will learn to meow to be let out, and as cats are clean animals, this shouldn’t take long. You may also consider having a cat flap installed if you don’t have one so that your cat can come and go as he pleases.

is pampas grass poisonous to cats?


  • No smells or mess in your home
  • The best solution for the environment


  • Only suitable if you live in a rural area
  • May annoy the neighbors

The most common types of cat litter

Although all of the above options are viable alternatives to regular cat litter, they are more short-term solutions rather than long-term replacements.

Therefore it is preferable that you use a product that is marketed as a cat litter as it is specifically designed to reduce odors. Commercial cat litter also has a pleasant textures for your cat to enjoy, unlike some of the other items previously mentioned.

Here are some commercial cat litter options:

Clumping cat litter

Clumping cat litter is created to allow all urine and feces to be more easily removed from the litter box without having to empty the box fully. This is because of a chemical called bentonite, which is included in most clumping cat litter. 

This material helps the litter form into an easily removable, solid clump as it absorbs more and more liquids. Because of how easy it is to remove these clumps once they have fully solidified, your cat’s litter box stays cleaner for longer and doesn’t need to be refilled as frequently.   

Related article: Is Cat Litter Flushable?


  • Very absorbent
  • Easy to clean
  • Controls odor


  • The cost

Non-clumping cat litter

Non-clumping cat litter is very efficient at removing odors due to its ability to absorb a large quantity of liquids at once. Some non-clumping cat litter may include ingredients such as charcoal or baking soda to further combat the scent of urine. 

However, as the litter box becomes more saturated, urine usually begins to pool at the bottom of the litter box. Because of this, it can be a challenge to remove the soiled litter without having to clean the whole box, and you may find that you need to replace the litter and clean the litter box once a week or more. 


  • Absorbs large quantities of liquid
  • Odor control


  • You’ll need to clean the whole box more often. 

Tofu cat litter

Tofu cat litter is produced from soya residue and is 100% environmentally friendly. This particular type of litter seems to have virtually no flaws. It has great absorption, almost no tracking as well as being safe if accidentally ingested, and lasts a long time.  


  • A very eco-friendly option
  • Absorbent and long-lasting
  • Non-tracking


  • Not much to complain about

Silica gel litter

Silica gel is an absorbent substance that provides good odor control, and it is what crystallized cat litter is made from. Silica gels have crystals that stop any bacteria from growing in your cat’s litter gel due to their dehydrating powers.


  • Able to reduce bacteria
  • Absorbent and easy to clean


  • A more expensive option

Can you teach your cat to use a human toilet?

cat litter alternatives

It is possible to train your cat to use the toilet, but it will require patience and persistence. Training a cat to use the toilet is one of the most popular cat litter alternatives.

Here are some step-by-step instructions which can be followed over a few weeks or months. Don’t rush to teach your cat to use the toilet, or he may become stressed and confused:

  • Start by placing the litter box near the toilet and gradually move it closer over time. This will allow your cat to get used to using the litter box in the bathroom. Cats are sensitive creatures and don’t like changes in their routine. Therefore, you should slowly move the litter box to avoid problems.
  • Once your cat is comfortable using the litter box in the bathroom, you can encourage him to use the toilet. You may need to purchase a special toilet seat that fits over your toilet. These are designed for young children and make the hole in the toilet bowl smaller. You can find these at children’s stores or online. Be sure to get one that is the right size for your cat. You don’t want it to be too small or too large.
  • Place the toilet seat down and put some of your cat’s favorite treats on the lid. Encourage your cat to jump up onto the seat by placing his front paws on it. 
  • Once he is comfortable doing this, you can try with the seat lifted and the child toilet seat fitted. Be sure to do this slowly and carefully so that he doesn’t fall off. 
  • You will need to be patient and reward your cat with treats for jumping up onto the toilet. It may take some time, but eventually, he should get used to it. 
  • The next time your cat needs to use the litter box, carefully lift him onto the toilet or encourage him to jump up. Remember to always praise him when he uses the toilet so that he knows he is doing something good.
  • It will take time and patience to train your cat to use the human toilet, but it is possible. Be sure to go slowly and carefully so that your cat doesn’t get scared or injured. With a little bit of work, you’ll be able to say goodbye to the litter box for good!

Is it hygienic for a cat to use a human toilet?

Most people believe that it is more hygienic for a cat to use a human toilet than a litter box. This is because cats can spread bacteria and diseases through their feces. When a cat uses a litter box, their feces can come into contact with the litter and be tracked around the house. This can lead to contamination of surfaces.

However, if a cat uses the toilet, their feces will be flushed away, and there is no risk of contamination.

There are some disadvantages to having your cat use the toilet. One is that it can be messy. If your cat doesn’t aim properly, urine and feces can end up on the floor or on the toilet seat. You’ll have to clean up after your cat and flush the toilet after him.

Cat litter alternatives: Final thoughts

Overall, there are many different types of cat litter out there that you can pick and choose from to find what suits you best. If you are looking for a cheaper or quicker alternative in emergency situations, things like soil and sand are great temporary options.

On the other hand, if you want to get rid of your cats litter box altogether, you could train your pet to use a human toilet or move to the countryside where he can do his business outdoors.

Article written by Viktoriya Litochenko

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