Wood and pine pellets are becoming an increasingly popular alternative to clay cat litter, and for good reason. They’re better for your cat’s health, better for the environment, and create less mess. But they’re not the best option in every situation.
Let’s learn more about the pros and cons of wood and pine pellet cat litter.
Table of Contents
Pros of wood and pine pellet cat litter
Wood pellets are a healthy alternative to clay
Wood and pine pellet litters are a healthy alternative to traditional clay cat litter.
Wood pellets are made from all-natural ingredients — free of the chemical additives, synthetic fragrances, and clumping agents found in many other types of litter.
They’re also virtually dust-free, reducing the risk for respiratory issues caused by frequent exposure to crystalline silica and other irritants.
Wood and pine pellet litter is eco-friendly
Pine pellet litters are an environmentally friendly alternative to clay cat litter.
Unlike clay litter, which is harvested through the damaging process of strip mining, wood pellets are made from a renewable resource. Most wood pellets are made from reclaimed lumber, a byproduct of the furniture industry that would otherwise go to waste. Which also means that no new trees are cut down for production.
Plus, wood pellet litters are both biodegradable and compostable — which can help reduce the amount of waste being sent to the landfill.
Pine naturally suppresses bacteria
Pine has natural antimicrobial properties.
Shikimic acid, found in pine, has been shown to suppress and control harmful bacteria. Which can help keep your litter box fresh and sanitary between cleanings.
Pine effectively controls the odors of urine and ammonia
Most types of cat litter simply attempt to mask odor, but pine litter actually helps to suppress and eliminate odor.
When wood pellets become wet, they break down into sawdust, which traps and eliminates the odors of urine and ammonia. And because of the natural antimicrobial properties of pine, pine pellets actively suppress odor-causing bacteria.
Pellet litter creates less mess
Pine pellets create less mess than most other types of litter.
Because pine pellets are virtually dust-free and the pellets themselves are much larger and heavier than granular litter, tracking, scattering, and dusty pawprints are kept to a minimum.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a completely mess-free litter. Your cat will still occasionally find a way to toss the odd pellet halfway across the room and some sawdust will inevitably end up outside the litter box.
Pellets are lightweight
Wood and pine pellet cat litter is significantly lighter than clay litter, making it easier to lift, pour, and discard.
Wood pellets last longer than most other litters
When compared to clay litter and granular, plant-based litters, wood pellets last much longer between changes. On average, wood pellet litter needs to be changed once every four weeks.
Pine pellets are the cheapest plant-based litter
Wood and pine pellets are the least expensive plant-based litter.
To further reduce cost, bulk equine bedding and bulk wood stove fuel pellets can be used as litter. Just make sure the pellets are safe for your cat first.
Wood litter has a mild, natural scent
Unlike the overpowering artificial fragrances of many clay litters, wood pellet cat litter has a mild, natural scent.
Cons of wood and pine pellet cat litter
Not effective at controlling the odor of feces
While wood pellets are fantastic at minimizing the odors of urine and ammonia, they don’t work as well with poop.
Odor spreads through the process of diffusion, in which airborne odor particles spread randomly through open air. The larger size of the pellets allows more open airways through which smell can diffuse.
To make matters worse, some cats won’t bury their poop in pellets. Even those that would normally bury their waste in a granular litter.
To minimize the downside, scoop solids as soon as possible. If that’s not something you want to do, consider a granular, plant-based litter, which are generally more effective at managing the odor of feces.
Wood pellets cost more than clay litter
Compared to other plant-based litters, pine pellets are a bargain. But it’s hard to compete with the price of clay cat litter.
Just don’t let the price per pound fool you. Because they’re lighter-weight and need to be changed less often, wood pellets last much longer than clay litter by weight.
To reduce cost further, you can buy bulk horse bedding pellets or wood stove pellets rather than a commercial brand like Feline Pine. Just make sure they’re kiln dried, made from untreated wood, and contain no additives.
Wood pellet litter works best with a sifting litter box
When switching to wood pellet litter, you’ll likely want to invest in a new litter box.
While wood pellets can be used with a regular litter box, a wood pellet-specific sifting litter box will minimize waste, extend the life of your litter, and make cleaning easier and more efficient.
Wood pellets don’t clump. Instead, when wet, they dissolve into sawdust that traps moisture. Unfortunately, when used in a regular litter box, sawdust is difficult to completely remove. When sawdust is re-soaked by urine, the litter become less effective at controlling odor and bacteria.
While wood pellets can be used in a regular litter box, though less efficiently, pellets can’t be used in an automatic litter box. The larger size of the pellets will block and potentially damage the scooping mechanism.
Pine pellets contain trace amounts of phenol
Pine naturally contains an aromatic chemical compound called phenol, which is extremely toxic to cats.
Most wood pellets, however, are treated with a process called kiln drying that heats wood at high temperatures to dry and harden. Through this process, a majority of phenol is evaporated. But small amounts remain.
It’s commonly accepted that these trace amounts of phenol pose no risk to cats, and millions of cats use pine litter regularly with no signs of adverse effects. But if you’d rather play it safe, consider trying an alternative plant-based litter.
Wood pellets don’t clump
Wood pellet cat litter doesn’t not clump. Instead, wet pellets dissolve into sawdust that absorbs moisture. To clean, litter is sifted to separate unused pellets from sawdust.
Though it’s not strictly a downside, and some cat parents actually prefer non-clumping litter, wood pellet litter boxes do take a bit longer to clean as a result.
Wood pellets may attract insects
Certain bugs are attracted to wood. Others to organic waste, like feces. As a result, you may notice more insects in and around your litter box after a switch to wood pellet litter.
But the infestation is more than likely not being caused by the new litter. Instead, insects are being drawn to the litter box from other locations in the home where they would normally stay.
Wood pellet litter may sometimes attract bugs, but it’s actually just making an already existing problem more obvious.
Pellet litter may be a little harder to find
Though it’s likely not an issue for most, wood pellet cat litter can be more challenging to find. Particularly in rural areas.
Clay cat litter can be bought at any grocery store, convenience store, drug store, or big box store. To find wood pellet litter, you may need to go a pet store specifically. As wood pellet litter continues to become more and more popular, this is becoming less of an issue.
The texture of pellets may hurt some cats paws
The coarse texture of pellet litter may be painful to some cats paws. Senior cats, overweight cats, large breeds, and cats who have been declawed are particularly prone to having sensitive paws.
Some cats simply won’t like the texture because it’s so different from the dirt or sand they’d use in the wild.
Some cats just won’t like pellets
Some cats don’t like pellet litter, often for no apparent reason.
And that’s okay. Don’t force it.
If you’ve tried to make the switch slowly and your cat still won’t use pellets, there are other plant-based alternatives with a more-familiar texture and many of the same benefits. Granular paper litter, ground walnut shell litter, and grass seed litter, just to name a few.
If you’re looking for a plant-based litter that is good for your cat’s health, eco-friendly, and affordable, wood pellet cat litter is a great option. But, as with most things, there are downsides.
- IBPSA News. (2018, March 20) Health Risks of Chemically Scented Products for Pets and People. International Boarding & Pet Services Association. Retrieved January 2, 2021, from https://www.ibpsa.com/blog/2018/03/20/fragrance-stinks-health-risks-chemically-scented-products-pets-people/
- 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
- Zeng W., He Q., Sun Q., Zhong K., & Gao H. (2012, February 1). Antibacterial activity of water-soluble extract from pine needles of Cedrus deodara. International Journal of Food Microbiology, volume 153, issues 1-2, pages 78-84. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2011.10.019
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.