Wood and Pine Pellet Cat Litter – Guide and FAQ

Wood pellet cat litter is made from compressed wood fiber. Usually pine, but other softwoods, hardwoods, and mixed varieties are common. Wood pellets are becoming increasingly popular as cat litter because of their ability to absorb moisture, control odor, and naturally suppress bacteria.

Are Wood Pellets Safe for Cats?

Carbolic acid, or phenol, is a naturally occurring aromatic compound found in many types of wood — and is extremely toxic to cats.

Cats aren’t equipped with the enzyme needed to break down phenolic compounds. Meaning contact can lead to liver damage, liver failure, or death.

Luckily, most wood pellets are treated with a process called kiln-drying, in which pellets are heated at high temperatures over long periods to dry and harden the wood. This process causes a large majority of phenol to evaporate, making the pellets safe for use by cats. Though some particularly cautious cat parents still avoid wood pellet litter entirely, taking a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach.

A further danger of wood pellets are chemical additives sometimes added to increase efficiency and temperature while burning or as a binding agent. Pellets containing treated lumber may also be harmful and are best avoided.

Pile of wood stove pellets

Using a wood pellet cat litter, like Feline Pine, that is specifically manufactured and marketed as cat litter will be pet-safe. But choosing to use wood stove pellets or horse bedding pellets will require a little research beforehand.

If you choose to use wood pellets that aren’t specifically made to be used as cat litter, contact the manufacturer to make sure the pellets have been kiln-dried sufficiently to remove phenol and are made of 100% natural fibers with no chemical additives.

The Pros & Cons of Wood Pellet Cat Litter

Pros of Wood Pellet Cat Litter

  • Healthy for you and your cat.
  • Environmentally friendly.
  • Naturally controls the odor of urine and ammonia.
  • Naturally antibacterial.
  • Low tracking and dust-free.
  • Affordable.

Cons of Wood Pellet Cat Litter

  • Some cats won’t like the texture.
  • Not as effective at controlling the smell of poop.
  • Costs more than clay litter, unless purchased in bulk.
  • You’ll want a sifting litter pan or scoop.
  • May contain trace amounts of phenol.
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more about the pros and cons of pine pellet litter.

How Does Wood Pellet Cat Litter Work?

In the wild, cats bury their waste to hide their scent from predators and from more dominant cats that share their territory. Modern, domesticated cats instinctively look for patches of loose dirt or sand to bury their waste. And when finding that there are no random piles of dirt or sand in the house, look for the next best thing — which is most often the litter box.

Wood pellets act as a substitute for traditional cat litter in much the same way traditional cat litter acts as a substitute for dirt or sand. It’s the area in the house that allows them to most closely follow their instinctual drive to bury their waste.

Wood pellets work by absorbing urine and dissolving into sawdust, trapping and neutralizing the odors of urine and ammonia. Poop is either buried or left atop the litter to be scooped, depending on your cat’s preference. Because wood pellets don’t clump, sawdust needs to be sifted to be removed.

Do Cats Actually Like Wood Pellet Litter?

Cat climbing into covered litter box

Not all cats will like wood pellet litter. Some cats may feel pain or discomfort due to its coarse texture, particularly cats who have been declawed and senior cats, as well as overweight or large-breed cats. Others may be off-put by the unfamiliar scent or consistency. But a majority of cats will adjust without too much trouble.

If your cat doesn’t like wood pellet litter, there are other plant-based litters that share many of the same benefits while having a granular, more clay-like texture.

How Often Should Wood Pellet Litter be Changed?

Wood pellet litter should on average be fully changed about once every four to six weeks. Though there are some who prefer to continually reuse unsoiled pellets and top off as needed.

Wood pellets in litter box

Consistent cleaning habits and a sifting litter box or scoop to help thoroughly remove sawdust will extend the life of each batch of litter. Whereas having multiple cats, bouts of diarrhea, and urinary issues may shorten the life of each batch.

If you notice that the litter box smells, even after sifting and scooping, it may be time to wash the litter box and fully change the pellets.

How Do You Clean a Wood Pellet Litter Box?

Because wood pellet litters don’t clump and instead dissolve into sawdust when wet, it’s strongly recommended to use either a sifting litter tray or sifting scoop. To clean the litter box, scoop solids as normal, then sift to separate sawdust from unused pellets. Toss the poop and sawdust, then top off with fresh pellets to the desired level.

Scoop and sift at least once a day, more often if you have multiple cats. Wash the litter box with warm water and a mild detergent at least once a month.

How Do You Dispose of Wood Pellet Litter?

The best methods of disposing of wood pellet cat litter are to compost or bag and trash.

Composting, nature’s recycling service, is the preferred option. But certainly less convenient. Keep in mind, compost containing cat waste should only be used for ornamental plants. As the composting process isn’t guaranteed to eliminate the harmful parasites sometimes found in cat poop.

If you’re unable to or not interested in composting, wood pellet litter should be bagged and sent to the landfill.

It shouldn’t be dumped outside or flushed.

What’s the Best Wood Pellet Cat Litter?

There really is no best wood pellet cat litter. Because they’re made from the same ingredients with very similar processes, all wood pellet litters tend to work very similarly. Just avoid wood pellet litters containing chemical additives, artificial fragrances, and baking soda.

Feline Pine Original Non-Clumping Litter

  • 100% pure, natural pine.
  • Contains no chemical additives, artificial fragrances, or baking soda.
  • Effective, natural odor control.
  • Natural antibacterial properties.
  • Better for the environment.
  • Better for your cat’s health than traditional clay litters.
  • Often the least expensive commercial wood pellet litter.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Cats be Allergic to Wood Pellets?

Cats can be allergic to pine or other types of wood common in wood pellets. Wood pellets contain organic compounds that can lead to respiratory distress or asthma when inhaled. Pine, for example, contains abietic acid which some cats may be allergic to. Kiln-drying doesn’t remove these allergens from wood.

If you notice increased scratching, signs of respiratory illness, or any other odd behavior after a switch to wood pellet litter, immediately discontinue use and contact your veterinarian.

How Do I Get My Cat to Use Wood Pellet Litter?

Cat sniffing wood pellet litter on scoop

To get your cat to use wood pellets, it’s important to slowly transition to the new litter. This allows them time to gradually become comfortable with the new texture and scent. Sudden, major changes can be stressful and can lead to unwanted behaviors — like going outside the box.

If you’ve already tried a slow transition but your cat is still having trouble adjusting, it’s important not to force it. 

Cats have preferences too. 

Consider trying a plant-based litter with a granular texture. Wheat, walnut shell, and corn-based litters all share many of the same benefits with a more familiar consistency.

Feline Pine vs Wood Pellets — What’s the Difference?

Feline Pine is a brand of wood pellet specifically made and marketed to be used as cat litter. There are other brands of pine pellet litter. And there are other wood pellets that may or may not be used as cat litter for a variety of reasons.

Similar to how Kleenex is a brand of tissue, Feline Pine is a brand of wood pellet litter.

Does Wood Pellet Cat Litter Have a Smell?

Most wood pellet litters have no artificial fragrance. Instead, they have a mild, natural scent. Pine pellets, for example, have a natural pine scent. In addition to pine’s natural ability to suppress the odors of ammonia and urine, the natural smell of the wood helps to mask other unpleasant odors.

Avoid wood pellets with added synthetic fragrances, as they can irritate or possibly be harmful to your pet.

How Much Wood Pellet Litter Should You Use?

On average, use about 3 inches of wood pellet cat litter. Though some cats may prefer less, and some more. If your cats dig excessively in the litter box, err on the side of adding more. As pellets dissolve, remove sawdust and add new pellets to maintain your desired depth.

Wood pellets being poured into litter box

What Type of Wood Pellets are Best for Cat Litter?

Pine pellets are commonly accepted as the best type of wood pellet for cat litter. Though other softwoods like fir and spruce will work similarly. Mixed-woods and hardwoods like oak, ash, and beech will work, but in our experience, the higher density makes absorption of urine less efficient. 

What if my Cat is Eating Wood Pellet Litter?

If your cat is eating litter, it’s not ideal. But wood pellet litters aren’t any more concerning when ingested than other litters. In fact, because wood pellets are non-clumping and free of chemical additives, it’s arguably less harmful.

But why is it happening?

Sometimes kittens may eat litter out of curiosity.

Other times it may be related to pica, a disorder in which people or animals compulsively eat items with no nutritional value. Pica can have both medical or behavioral causes, and it’s important to determine which. Consult your veterinarian if you notice this behavior routinely, in excess, or with a sudden onset.

What’s the Best Litter Box for Wood Pellet Litter?

If you have a sifting scoop, any litter box can be used with wood pellet litter. Though a sifting litter box will help make cleanup quite a bit easier and smoother. We’ve been using FRISCO’s Sifting Cat Litter Box, as it’s large enough for our big cats and has a low-enough profile so as not to tip over.

How Messy is Pine Litter?

When compared to traditional clay cat litter, pine pellets create considerably less mess. They’re low tracking and dust-free. Unfortunately, your cat will still likely track a bit of sawdust. Overall, paper pellets are the least messy cat litter that we’ve tried.

Is Wood Pellet Cat Litter Biodegradable? Compostable?

Pure wood pellet cat litter is both biodegradable and compostable, as long as it doesn’t contain any additives. Wood pellet litters containing baking soda, artificial fragrances, clumping agents, or any other chemical additive should not be composted.


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.