Like most things, paper cat litter has its pros and cons. It’s healthy for your cat, eco-friendly, low tracking, scent-free, and available in a variety of types and textures. Conversely, it’s not great at controlling odor, it’s more expensive than clay litter and not all cats will like it.
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of paper cat litter.
- Healthy for you and your cat.
- Environmentally friendly.
- Available in a variety of types and textures.
- Very low tracking and dust-free.
- Not the best at controlling odors.
- Costs more than clay and wood litter.
- Can be harder to find.
- Your cat may not like it.
Table of Contents
5 Pros of Paper Cat Litter
Healthy for you and your cat.
Some chemical additives, including artificial fragrances, found in many cat litters can be irritating, if not toxic, to cats. Likewise, many mass market litters contain high levels of silica dust, which has been linked to upper respiratory issues in cats and humans alike.
Clay litter also commonly contains bentonite clay, which can expand to up to 15 times its original size when wet. Which can lead to intestinal blockages and other complications when swallowed. Which is not uncommon during grooming or by curious kittens.
Many unscented paper litters are additive-free and create little to no dust, making them a much healthier option.
Because shredded paper litter is virtually dust-free, it’s often recommended for kittens and post-operative cats — those who have recently been spayed or neutered, and those who have open wounds, incisions, or sores.
But unfortunately, not all paper litters are created equal. Some clumping paper litters contain sodium bentonite as a clumping agent — which, in our opinion, should be avoided. If you opt for a clumping paper litter, look for one using natural, biodegradable, cat-safe ingredients to promote clumping — like guar gum and mineral oil.
Using a paper cat litter can help reduce your ecological footprint (and your cat’s ecological paw-print), especially when compared to standard clay litters.
Most paper cat litters are made from 95 to 100% recycled paper. Some others are from reclaimed fallen lumber or unused lumber scraps. In either case, this means that no new trees are cut down for production.
And because they’re typically made from all-natural ingredients, paper litters are both biodegradable and compostable. Again, try to avoid paper litter containing sodium bentonite or other non-biodegradable additives.
Clay litters in particular are terrible for the environment. Bentonite clay is harvested through the extremely damaging process of strip mining. Not to mention, clay litters aren’t biodegradable, contributing to the clogging of our landfills.
Available in a variety of types and textures.
Paper litter is available in both clumping shredded paper and non-clumping pellet varieties, as well as scented and unscented varieties.
With a variety of choices available, it’s easy to find a paper litter that matches your cat’s preferences.
Shredded paper litter in particular has a very soft texture — perfect for larger cats, cats who have been declawed, and senior cats with sensitive paws. Pellet litters in particular should be avoided for these cats due to their coarse texture.
Paper pellet litters are arguably the least messy variety of litter.
They’re certainly the lowest tracking litter available. Pellets, due to their larger size and heavier weight tend to track less. Plus, because paper pellets absorb and swell rather than dissolve, there is no sawdust to be tracked either as with wood pellets.
And because paper litter is dust-free, no more dusty pawprints!
Some cats, and some people, prefer an unscented litter.
While most plant-based litters will have no artificial fragrances, paper litters are unique in that they also have no natural scent. Wood, wheat, grass, and walnut shell litters will always have at least a mild, natural scent.
4 Cons of Paper Cat Litter
Not great at controlling odor.
On the other hand, because it’s completely unscented, paper litter does very little to control odor. And to make matters worse, some cats who normally bury their waste in granular litter won’t do so in a pellet litter.
If that’s a deal-breaker, consider pine pellets, which are the best litter at naturally suppressing the odors of urine and ammonia.
We strongly recommend avoiding any litter with artificial fragrances, as they can be irritating or harmful to pets.
Baking soda can be used with caution to help control odors. Sprinkling about a tablespoon or two at the bottom of the litter box, or leaving an open box nearby can help neutralize litter box odor. Keep in mind, however, that ingesting moderate to large amounts of baking soda can be toxic to cats.
Make sure not to add too much to the litter box and keep any open boxes out of your cat’s reach. Avoid using baking soda altogether with small cats (less than 11 lbs.), kittens, cats with respiratory issues, and cats with pica (a disorder in which people or animals compulsively eat items with no nutritional value).
Costs more than clay litter.
While paper litter isn’t prohibitively expensive, it’s certainly not as cheap as clay litter.
Pine pellet litter is a reasonable alternative, as it shares many of the same benefits as paper litter at a lower price.
Can be hard to find.
Clay litter and wood litters can easily be found at any grocery store or big-box store. But paper litter may require a special trip to a pet store or to be ordered online.
It is becoming easier and easier to find, so this may not be an issue in the future.
Some cats won’t like paper litter.
You’ll likely need to slowly transition your cat to paper litter because the texture and scent are so different from what they’re used to. Older cats and high-anxiety cats may be particularly resistant to the change.
And sometimes your cat may just not like paper litter. But that’s okay. Consider an alternative plant-based litter, as they share many of the same benefits.
If you’ve carefully considered the advantages and disadvantages of paper cat litter and have decided to make the switch, be sure to transition your cat slowly. Sudden changes can cause stress and may lead to unwanted behaviors like going outside the box.
- Scheer, R., & Moss, D. (2012, September 13). What Are the Most Ecofriendly Cat Litter Products on the Market? Scientific American. Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/green-friendly-cat-litter-options/
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2019, October 16). Crystalline Silica: Health Risks of Exposure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/silica/risks.html
- Caring for Your Cat or Dog After Surgery. (2010, June). ASPCA. Retrieved December 26, 2020, from https://www.aspca.org/sites/default/files/upload/images/caring-for-your-cat-or-dog-after-surgery-1.pdf
- Suszkiw, J. (2020, May 4). Building a Better, Biobased Cat Litter. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved May, 27, 2021, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2020/building-a-better-biobased-cat-litter/
About Matthew Alexander
Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.