The first commercial cat litter (called cat-box filler) came on the market in 1947 and was made up of plain clay. Clay has a gritty texture and consists of large particles that can sometimes get trapped between the pads on the cat’s paws.
While clay absorbs fairly well, the urine spreads and the clay becomes saturated. This means when cleaning the cat litter box the entire contents have to be dumped out. Fortunately, clay is very inexpensive.
In 1984 the now widely used clumping cat litter was invented. It consists of an absorbent type of clay called sodium bentonite. The urine clumps nicely and is easy to remove. The granular texture is easy on the kitty’s paws. While it is more expensive than clay litter, the litter box can be spotted cleaned and then topped off with fresh litter, so there is little waste.
There are also plant-based litters in the form of cedar chips or flakes, compressed wood pellets, and sawdust. These litters are not widely available and the price varies.
There is also a brand of cat litter made from pelletized newspaper. If you ever run out of cat litter, a shredded newspaper in the litter box works great as a temporary solution.
The newest material to be used as cat litter is silica, which is a highly absorptive mineral. Silica gel mixed with sand is a highly effective method of absorbing and trapping odors.
So the best cat litter for your cat is very simple. It is the one she will use. You may be tempted to buy the most expensive or best smelling cat litter but if your cat doesn’t like it, she won’t use it.
If you are undecided as to what type of litter to buy, try a little experiment. Fill two litter boxes with two different types of litter. Put the boxes side-by-side and let your cat choose which one she prefers. This experiment may seem a little silly, but remember if kitty doesn’t like the litter you chose for her, she won’t use it.