Paper vs Pine & Wood Litter – Which is Better for Your Cat?

When comparing paper litter vs pine litter, each type has its advantages and disadvantages. Both are eco-friendly and healthy options for your cat. But wood litter is better at controlling odor, while paper pellet litter makes less of a mess. 

Using Paper vs Pine Pellets

Wood pellet litter is designed to break apart into sawdust when wet. The sawdust absorbs moisture, and wood’s natural antimicrobial properties help to suppress odor and bacteria. To clean, sawdust is sifted from the unused pellets and discarded.  

Paper pellets, on the other hand, swell and absorb moisture when wet. Soiled pellets are scooped out and discarded whole.

While both pine and paper litter are most often found in pellet form, there are also granular alternatives to each type of pellet

Health Benefits of Paper vs Wood Litter

Both paper and wood litter are dust-free, sodium bentonite-free, and generally free of any potentially harmful additives — making both great options for your cat’s health.

Litter dust has been linked to respiratory issues in cats and humans alike. Sodium bentonite, a common clumping agent, can cause intestinal blockages.  Additives sometimes found in cat litter, like synthetic fragrances, can be irritating, if not harmful, to our pets. 

That being said, there is some controversy regarding the use of softwood litter for cats. Pine, cedar and other softwoods used to make pellet litter naturally contain phenol — organic compounds that are toxic to cats. Exposure can cause serious liver damage and sometimes death.

However, most are treated with a process called kiln drying which greatly reduces or eliminates the amount of phenol, making commercial wood pellets safe for use by cats

But if you’re still concerned, paper is a great alternative to wood — without the question marks. 

Comparing Environmental Impact 

Cat laying on newspapers

Paper and wood litter are just about equal in terms of environmental impact.

Both are made from renewable resources. Both are biodegradable and compostable. And neither require new trees to be cut down for production, as each is often made from lumber scraps or recycled paper.

A special shout out to brands like Yesterday’s News for using recyclable paper packaging instead of plastic.

Which is Best for Odor Control?

If odor control is a big factor to you, you will likely prefer wood litter over paper litter.

Wood litter is fantastic for controlling the odors of urine and ammonia. Pine, cedar, and other woods have a natural ability to suppress and control bacteria and odor. And what smell remains is usually masked by a mild, natural wood scent.

Paper litter, on the other hand, does very little to control smell. Paper litters containing baking soda may do a better job, but only to an extent. Nowhere near as good as their wood alternatives. 

Both wood and paper litter aren’t great at managing the smell of feces, but then again, most litters aren’t. The best solution is to scoop as soon as possible after your cat has a bowel movement. 

In either case, avoid any litter containing artificial fragrances. As they can be irritating or even harmful to pets. 

And be sure to scoop poop and clumps, sift sawdust, and remove soiled pellets at least once daily. Clean the litter box itself with warm water and a mild detergent at least once a month.

Proper upkeep goes a long way to controlling ‘litter box smell’, regardless of what litter you use. 

Let’s Talk Mess

Cat in pile of sawdust

Both wood and paper pellets are virtually dust-free, giving both a pretty big advantage over traditional litter. But paper pellets have the added advantage of also being the least tracking litter. 

While neither type of pellet is likely to track as often or as far as a granular litter, the sawdust from dissolved wood pellets will track. Whether by being kicked out of the litter box, or by sticking to paws and fur. 

Because paper pellets swell rather than dissolve, there is considerably less to be tracked, giving paper pellets our vote for ‘least messy litter’.


In a lot of ways, paper and wood litter — pine, cedar, or mixed varieties — are very similar. We strongly recommend either when compared to clay. But there are a few key differences that may make one preferable to you and your cat.

When comparing wood or pine litter vs paper litter, wood litter is better for odor control and paper litter is less messy. But both are better than traditional clay litter when it comes to the environment and your cat’s health.

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.