Alternatives to Alternative Cat Litter
December 12, 2009 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Are there any decent alternatives to Feline Pine that my kitty will actually use?

Sammy Katz and I have been happy users of Feline Pine for almost three years now. I made the switch because he's a notorious litter-tracker and I was looking for something that was environmentally friendly. He had no problems with the initial switch and, though he mostly goes outside (he's indoor-outdoor; we've had trouble completely transitioning him to the inside because we live in a small studio, but we've gotten him down to only going out for about thirty minutes in the morning), he used it happily when he had to.

Until a few weeks ago, when he abruptly started spraying around the house if we wouldn't get up early enough to let him out. We had a vet check him out (everything is fine), and got a Feliway diffuser, which has put an end to the spraying. But he still won't use his box. It's been raining for the past two days, and he just held everything in--for over thirty hours! I had Mr. WanKenobi pick up some different litter from the supermarket, to see if that helped. He got some Tidy Cat and as soon as we filled it, Sammy ran to the box and immediately peed.

So I guess he's not happy with the Feline Pine.

But I hate normal cat litter--I hate the smell, the environmental unsoundness, and the way he kicks it all over the place. I know there are a lot of natural cat litters: have any feline-pine resistant-kitty owners had success with other brands like World's Best or Swheat Scoop (and, possibly stupid question, but Mr. WanKenobi has celiac's disease--would having a pan of Swheat Schoop in our tiny apartment be a bad idea in light of that?), and how are they in terms of tracking and odor control?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Which version of Feline Pine, the clumping or the pellet type? You may want to try Yesterday's Mews (it may be Yesterday's News?). It's a recycled newspaper pellet litter.
posted by kellyblah at 5:18 PM on December 12, 2009

Check for "Good Mews" or an equivalent. It's made with paper instead of pine or wheat tailings. Bigger pieces means less tracking and easier cleanup. No smell whatsoever.

If kitty refuses to use that, then perhaps the larger size litters are hurting his feets?

He might also just not like the pine anymore. I know it has no scent that we can detect, but perhaps kitty can smell a piney/urine scent. That would not be pleasant with such a sensitive sniffer!

I agree about regular clay litters, so ugly all the way around! Perhaps you can get a box enclosure or ramp to help prevent tracking and kicking. Walmart has good ones for very cheap.

Unless the Mr. is eating the litter, I couldn't really see it harming him, but you might do an experiment with it, have the Mr. keep a record of how he feels while that litter is in the house....
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 5:19 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

World's Best Cat Litter is the only stuff my picky insane damaged cat will use. It's made from corn husks, so it barely smells like anything. My cat has trouble covering up her business, but when she does, the odor is minimal - and I'll come in and cover it for her if I'm not up for scooping at the moment. If there's extra smell for whatever reason, I sprinkle some baking soda in there. It really clumps fantastically. As for tracking, it does track a little, but since it's so good at clumping, and it's just little bit of dried corn husk, it's no big deal, and it's never more than a few grains. It's also completely flushable. If it clogs your toilet a little, all you have to do is wait maybe ten minutes and the clump will break down completely. If you're still having trouble with him kicking it everywhere, try getting a box with higher sides.
posted by Mizu at 5:23 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Which version of Feline Pine, the clumping or the pellet type? You may want to try Yesterday's Mews (it may be Yesterday's News?). It's a recycled newspaper pellet litter.

Pellet. I suspect that it's the size of the litter that's a problem for him, because he actually seemed okay with using his very dirty box between spraying in the house for awhile--but I thought that the dirtiness might have been contributing, changed it, and he stopped using the box entirely. I even tried wetting the pellets to break it up, but he seemed to decide sometime in the interim that the litter was totally unacceptable generally (or my theory about the pellet size is off, or cats is just crazy), because that didn't work. Sorry, should have specified.

I also didn't realize that Feline Pine had a clumping version (I've been buying the generic). I'll look that up--has anyone whose cat didn't like the pellet feline pine tolerated the clumping sort?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:25 PM on December 12, 2009

If you're still having trouble with him kicking it everywhere, try getting a box with higher sides.

Oh, and I have the world's hugest, tallest-walled cat box--seriously, the biggest I could find at the pet store. He won't use the covered sort of box, and is a huge dude who always seems very eager to totally. cover. everything.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:28 PM on December 12, 2009

When is the last time you washed out the box itself? I wonder if the smelly replacement litter actually covered up some strong (for his nose) orders that the pine wasn't up to covering up. (I'm actually sure that you are fastidious with the box, but I had to come up with some suggestion so that I could say: Damn, what a handsome boy Mr. Katz is!)
posted by thebrokedown at 5:34 PM on December 12, 2009

I have a huge kitty who hates the covered sort of box with the biggest tallest widest cat box I could find in the store, too. I have it set on a sort of yoga-type mat, that's made out of spongy foam sort of material? It washes very clean and protects my carpet. I bought it in the pet store but I'm sure you can find similar materials elsewhere.
posted by Mizu at 5:37 PM on December 12, 2009

Scrubbed the box when I changed the litter, about a week ago.

I'll give one of those a try, Mizu!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:40 PM on December 12, 2009

My cat prefers clay litter, but lately we have both liked Arm & Hammer Essentials. It is made with corn, has a light, pleasant scent, is very absorbent, and handles odors well.
posted by Houstonian at 5:43 PM on December 12, 2009

Seconding World's Best. I have two cats in a small studio, and it works well for us, too. Odor is very minimal, it doesn't seem to track much (except for the stuff that gets kicked out of the box), the cats seem to like it (though they're not that picky), and one bag lasts a really long time.
posted by Knicke at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2009

I also use Worlds Best Cat Litter (based on corn) and although I was skeptical at first.. I really like it (and more importantly, my female kitty does too). It clumps really well and minimizes the odor better than I expected (I honestly smell nothing unless I go into the bathroom immediately after she's used the box). The only bullet point it may not solve for you is the "tracking litter outside the box". I keep a little handbroom in the bathroom and sweep up the scattered litter every couple days. May or may not be ideal solution for you, though in a small studio apartment.
posted by jmnugent at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2009

Another vote for World's Best. I've tried Feline Pine, Yesterday's News, Shweat Scoop, and Arm & Hammer's Essentials, and World's Best tracks less, has better odor control, and clumps better.
posted by amarynth at 5:52 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

We're also on World's Best, after problems with Feline Pine. We also add a sprinkling of the Nature's Miracle litter (corn again, with the enzymatic stuff and a bit of pine scent) on top. It definitely needs matting and a small amount of sweeping, though.
posted by holgate at 6:53 PM on December 12, 2009

I really like Essentials that Houstonian linked to. It does track a bit but seems much more manageable than regular old litter. It smells much better and seems to last quite awhile. I tried to transition my cat to Feline Pine and he was very explicit in how much he didn't like it. Essentials is a little cheaper but it's not the cheapest out there.
posted by amanda at 7:36 PM on December 12, 2009

I have a cat who isn't fussy and one who is. Neither liked the pine pellets, but they both like the World's Best. I find it works quite well--it does track, but it's less dusty than clay litter.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:08 PM on December 12, 2009

A warning if you're interested in trying the clumping Feline Pine: If your cat is very expressive when displeased, keep in mind that the clumping version of Feline Pine is a lot easier to scatter and kick all over the place, and more of a pain to clean up than the pellets. Our cat uses the pellets, but when we experimentally gave him a litterbox-full of the clumping kind, two days in a row we found this scene.
posted by illenion at 9:10 PM on December 12, 2009

Previously. We ended up using World's Best as a result and are very satisfied with it. World's Best is made from corn, so I'm not sure if that has any implications with the celiac issue.
posted by electroboy at 10:16 PM on December 12, 2009

I had a cat that all of a sudden quit using the box consistently. After medical reasons were ruled out I was introduced to a litter called Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract. (available at Petsmart and the like)

It is specially designed to help re-train a cat to the litterbox. My cat apparently loved it.
She went back to the littler box. Though, after a few months of going back to my usual litter she went outside the box again and i went back to the Cat Attract and she again quit going outside. So I ended up just using it as my regular litter even though it is more expensive than Tidy Cats or Scoop Away etc...

It is clay based, so perhaps you could try using it to re-train your cat and then gradually phase over to your littler of choice. It controlled odor well in my opinion.

Each bag comes with a little booklet explaining the product, and how to use it. One thing it mentioned, that might be a factor with your cat, is the size/texture of the litter. Dr.Elsey mentions that most litters are designed for people not cats, and the textures/scents added can be unpleasant to paws/noses. I believe the feline pine is pellets? perhaps your kitty doesn't like to step on it?
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 11:28 PM on December 12, 2009

Also, I did use the Swheat Scoop for a while. Overall I really disliked it. The smell it manifested when combined with cat urine was... while not the stinky cat-pee ammonia... FUNKY. It really bothered my nose and the more I smelled it the more I couldn't deal with it.
Also, the urine doesn't clump well at all, though my cats seemed to like it just fine.
posted by fogonlittlecatfeet at 11:34 PM on December 12, 2009

I use Nature's Miracle litter and I believe it is corn based. It keeps the smell down well and clumps. It is about $10 for a 10 pund bag. But a secret for bargain can buy the same litter at Walmart under the brand name Fresh Results for $6.22 per 10 pound bag. It's the exact same thing by the same manufacturere but packaged differently for Walmart.
posted by murrey at 5:55 AM on December 13, 2009

Sodium silicate (e.g. Tidy Cats Crystals) works extremely well, is flushable and when attended to daily is utterly odorless. Better still, rather than leave tracks of clay, when it tracks at all, it is sweepable with no residue.

With a name like sodium silicate, I imagine many people might think "ooh, scary chemical sounding thing!". But if Mother Earth News is recommending it for preservation of eggs for human consumption, it probably isn't all that scary.

There are multiple brands of the same stuff which is all the same stuff. Don't get "Crystal Blend" or something like that, "blend" means "blended with clay" which gives you all the fun of clay. Also the price noted above is really high, I can get 3.5kg for about US$12 at retail.
posted by fydfyd at 7:31 AM on December 13, 2009

Word of warning: my cats, who don't like pine either, WOULD NOT use World's Best cat litter at all. Tried for months, gradually changing over, and I loved the idea of it as well as the fact that the company comped me some bags for a review--but the cats were having none of it.
posted by misha at 10:51 AM on December 13, 2009

I have a wheat intolerance and while getting rid of Swheat Scoop didn't change my life, I think it did make a definite difference. It's a fairly dusty litter, and the dust got on everything - I'm sure it was getting into me in various ways.

(Also, I had one absolutely horrendous experience with some sort of tiny bugs in the litter that took over my bathroom before I actually looked and saw the dust was MOVING OMG EEEEEW. Four hours and several gallons of bleach later, I switched to Feline Pine.)
posted by restless_nomad at 11:01 AM on December 13, 2009

So if I understand correctly, he used Feline Pine for several years until one day he suddenly refused? Damn cats, why DO we love them. But I wonder if something happened, if there was An Event?

I mean, who the hell knows what goes on inside a cat's head. But it sounds like something happened such that he suddenly associated Feline Pine with Very Bad Things.

Have you tried gradually re-introducing the Feline Pine back into his litter, a little at a time?
posted by ErikaB at 12:11 PM on December 13, 2009

I hated World's Best. It smelled, to me, like old, wet corn when the cats peed.

We use PC Green cat litter instead. It's similar in size to Swheat Scoop, which I also liked, but it's got a more pleasant scent and is cheaper.

Our cats still manage to track it everywhere though. I tried those big blue crystals, too, and not only did the cats kick them out of the pan, but the gaps between the large crystals allowed the urine to pool in the bottom of the pan until I cleaned it one day and found a lovely urine soup. AWESOME.
posted by Ouisch at 4:06 PM on December 13, 2009

Metafilter has covered getting rid of litter for good.

One of my cats is fine right up unti the day the pan goes away... so for now I'm back on the litter box. But it's worth a try.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:39 PM on December 13, 2009

I've tried to toilet train him in the past, but to no avail (could be because he thinks of the toilet as his own personal water fountain).

Thanks for all the advice, everyone, though this isn't fully resolved yet. My mother-in-law just happened to give us a big bag of world's best for Christmas, and Sammy used it while away, but is being a little snotty about it now that we're back at the apartment. I'm going to stick with it through the bag and see if he gives in, but if not, I'll try some of the other brands suggested here. Onward!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:16 AM on January 4, 2010

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