When making the switch to paper litter, a slow transition is best for most cats.
Cats are creatures of habit. Sudden changes, especially to food and litter routines, can be very upsetting.
The consistency, scent, and texture of paper litter will be drastically different from what your cat is used to — especially when transitioning from clay litter.
Allow your cat time to adjust to the change.
By slowly introducing the new litter, you can make the process less painful for both you and your pet.
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How to transition to paper litter
You’ll need to have some of your cat’s current litter available for this method. Don’t wait to transition until you’ve run completely out!
- Start with a clean, empty litter box. Fill the bottom of the box with about an inch of paper litter. Without mixing, top the paper litter with about two inches of your cat’s current litter. By not mixing, you allow your cat to discover the new litter on their own.
- After a week or two, empty and clean the litter box. Pour around two inches of paper litter and top with about an inch of their current litter. Again, do not mix.
- After another week or two, empty and clean the litter box. Fill with about three inches of paper litter.
- Most cats will have become familiar with the new litter, and will continue using the litter box normally. If so, congratulations! The transition was a success. If they’re hesitant or display any odd behaviors, like going outside the box, go back a step or two and try again.
Continue to monitor after the switch
Great! You’ve successfully transitioned your cat to paper litter. Things seem to be going smoothly.
But your job isn’t over quite yet.
For the weeks and months following the transition, it’s important to keep a slightly closer eye on your pet’s litter habits.
Look for changes in their routine and any new or odd behaviors. Monitor frequency of use and the amount of urine and feces.
Litter box avoidance can take many forms.
Some cats may still grudgingly use the litter box, but may “hold it” until the last minute to avoid the stress caused by a litter situation they don’t particularly care for.
Other times, cats may use the litter box intermittently, but may find another area to use discreetly. Depending on the area, we may not notice immediately (like that dark, damp corner in the back of the basement).
In fact, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with and monitor your pet’s litter habits regardless. Keeping an eye out for changes may help you to identify stressors or health problems early, which may help prevent more serious problems from developing.
Why won’t my cat use paper litter?
There are a few possible reasons your cat isn’t taking to their new paper litter.
The most common reason is that you’ve tried to make the transition too quickly. Some cats may need additional time to become comfortable with the change. Try repeating the transition method above, while taking things a bit slower. Repeating steps or increasing the time at each step may be helpful.
Other times, the texture of the litter may be to blame. Declawed, senior, large breed, and overweight cats may be uncomfortable standing on coarse pellets due to increased sensitivity. If your cat seems hesitant to step into the litter box, try a granular or shredded paper litter, which will be more gentle on their paws.
And lastly, some cats may just not like paper litter. Like people, cats have unique and individual preferences. Unfortunately, they can’t always clearly communicate those preferences.
If you’ve tried a slow transition with different textures and your cat still isn’t comfortable with paper litter, that’s okay. Don’t force it.
There are other plant-based alternatives with many of the same benefits — like those made from wood, corn, wheat, or tofu.
Paper cat litter is better for your cat’s health and better for the environment than traditional clay litter.
When making the switch to paper litter, a slow transition works best for most cats. Just remember to be patient and not force things. Paper litter isn’t the right choice for every cat.
- Stella, J. L., Lord, L. K., & Buffington, T. (2011). Sickness behaviors in response to unusual external events in healthy cats and cats with feline interstitial cystitis. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(1), 67–73. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.238.1.67
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.