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Nine packages of cat litter stacked in a pyramid Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

The Best Cat Litter of 2022

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Nine packages of cat litter stacked in a pyramid Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

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Editor's Choice Product image of Boxiecat All Natural Scent-Free
Best Overall

Boxiecat All Natural Scent-Free

This Boxiecat litter is a breeze to open, carry, pour, and reseal. It absorbed more than twice as much liquid as the others we tested. Read More

Pros

  • Easy to pour and store
  • Very absorbent
  • Doesn't kick up dust

Cons

  • Thinner clumps
Editor's Choice Product image of Frisco Odor Defense Unscented
Best Value

Frisco Odor Defense Unscented

A truly unscented litter, Frisco Odor Defense creates large solid clumps, and is a great value. Read More

Pros

  • Economical
  • Remains odorless
  • Absorbent

Cons

  • Heavy bag
Product image of Scoop Away Unscented

Scoop Away Unscented

This more affordable option is easy to move thanks to its handle, but it came in last in terms of masking odors. Read More

Pros

  • Absorbent
  • Faint pleasant smell
  • Sturdy handle

Cons

  • Not as great at masking odors
Product image of Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented

Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented

This Ever Clean litter soaks up liquid and doesn't lose much volume when scooping, but it gets dusty after a few days. Read More

Pros

  • Sturdy box
  • Solid clumps

Cons

  • Not truly unscented
  • Dusty after a few days
Product image of So Phresh Advanced Odor Control Fragrance Free

So Phresh Advanced Odor Control Fragrance Free

This So Phresh litter was the dustiest we tested. It's also difficult to empty the plastic bucket because of the handle. Read More

Pros

  • Pleasant smell
  • Solid packaging

Cons

  • Very dusty
  • Difficult to pour

When you really think about it, cat litter is a remarkable thing. Not the product itself, mind you, but the fact that you can dump a few pounds of chipped clay into a plastic cat litter box, and your pet will instinctively know to do their business in there.

Of course, there are some remarkable brands of cat litter to choose from, and all those choices can really make your head spin. Should you go with scented or unscented? Clumping or non-clumping? Lightweight? Multi-cat? But which is the best one that, most importantly, your cat will love too?

We’ve taken a look at some of the bestselling products on the market. For the record, we stuck to unscented clumping clay litters. We found that you can’t go wrong with Boxiecat Premium Unscented (available at Amazon). It was easy to handle and did well at clumping, blocking odors, and not tracking too much outside the box.

In terms of price, Frisco Unscented Odor Defense (available at Chewy) provided the most economical, bang-for-your-buck experience without sacrificing performance.

Here are the best cat litters we tested, ranked in order:

  1. Boxiecat Premium Unscented
  2. Frisco Unscented Odor Defense
  3. Scoop Away Unscented
  4. Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented
  5. So Phresh Advanced Odor Control
  6. Dr. Elsey’s Ultra
  7. Fresh Step Simply Unscented
  8. Tidy Cat Natural Strong
  9. Arm & Hammer Unscented Multi-cat
orange cat sniffing package of boxiecat cat litter
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

Boxiecat All Natural Scent-Free aced nearly all of our tests for the best cat litter.

Best Overall
Boxiecat All Natural Scent-Free

Right away, you notice that this litter is in a bag, which isn't a great start as they can be pretty unwieldy. But Boxiecat already thought about that—and a whole lot of other great features.

First, this 28-pound bag isn’t unreasonably heavy. Could the brand have put a cutout on top to help hang onto the bag? Sure, but it’s not 100% necessary. Carrying: check.

To open the packaging, the manufacturer includes a handy guide on the bag to show the best place to cut. As you’ll see in a second, that also helps with re-sealing. Opening: check.

The pull-out plastic handle on the side of the bag is our favorite design aspect—we really wish other manufacturers offered this feature, too. Pouring: big-time check.

When you’re done pouring the litter, all you have to do is curl up the top of the bag, and pull away the handy piece of tape off the back, then adhere it over the top and onto the front. It helps loose litter from going everywhere and protects what’s already in the bag. Storing: check.

As for Boxiecat’s performance, it topped our saturation test, absorbing more than double of many others we tested. It also lost the least amount of litter after our absorption test, showing it does a great job of making tight, sizeable clumps. One downside: Liquid didn’t penetrate that deep into the clay, so you may be dealing with thinner clumps when scooping.

Boxiecat also held true to its promise of being unscented and low dust. Most of all, my cats took right to it, and the amount of litter they tracked out of the box was negligible.

Pros

  • Easy to pour and store

  • Very absorbent

  • Doesn't kick up dust

Cons

  • Thinner clumps

orange cat in plastic litter box next to package of frisco cat litter
Credit: Reviewed / Betsey Goldwasser

This Frisco cat litter from Chewy is truly unscented and created large clumps.

Best Value
Frisco Odor Defense Unscented

Frisco Unscented Odor Defense was the most affordable product we tested and it still finished just shy of the top spot. Its best performance was in our saturation test, where it came second only to our top pick, and was still leaps ahead of the rest of the pack. It also just came a hair short of winning our odor absorption test.

What did we specifically like? For starters, it truly remained odorless throughout testing. Any liquids deposited in the clay created one big clump. There wasn’t as much dust when we first began, though when waiting a few days between cleanings, you may notice a sizable dust cloud.

Its biggest downfall is its size. At 35 pounds, it’s the heaviest bag we tested, and it’s unfortunately the only option from the brand. There were only two small holes to hang onto, which made for precarious handling. We could never quite pour as much litter as we were planning to, so we recommend reaching for a scooper.

Pros

  • Economical

  • Remains odorless

  • Absorbent

Cons

  • Heavy bag

How We Tested Cat Litter

The Testers

Two cats laying on wood flooring
Credit: Reviewed / Nick Bove

Servo and Gypsy got their paws dirty while testing the best cat litter.

Hi there, I’m Nick Bove. I’ve tested a bunch of products for Reviewed, from laser levels to digital picture frames, but this is the first time I’ve really gotten help on one of these assignments.

My furry companions that assisted me this time around are my two cats, Gypsy and Servo. I got them when they were just one month old. They’re sisters from the same litter, though you may not be able to tell that from just looking at them. Servo is a short-haired tuxedo and Gypsy is a short-haired tabby.

Thankfully, they’re pretty easy to handle. I like to joke that Servo is half-dog because she’ll loyally follow me around the house, she loves to meet new people, and she’ll even greet me at the door when I come home. Gypsy, meanwhile, is a lazy bag of bones who spends half her time sleeping. I love them both to pieces.

They’ve both shared the same food, toys, and, yes, litter since the beginning. They both prefer mild-scented clumping litter in large, high-walled boxes. Mostly, I’m just glad that after almost 10 years, they’re finally pulling their own weight and earning a paycheck.

The Tests

aluminum trays filled with cat litter
Credit: Reviewed / Nick Bove

We tested several cat litters to look at absorption, saturation, how they handled odor, and more.

We performed a wide variety of tests, both objective and subjective. After looking to see how heavy and maneuverable each product was, we poured 1,000 grams of litter into a pan, then added 5 tablespoons of water. After scooping out the clump, we remeasured the litter. That would tell us how effective each was at absorbing liquid into tight, compact clumps.

The next test involved pushing the litter to the sides of the pan and dropping in 3 tablespoons of water along the edge. Not all cats urinate in the center of the box, especially if it hasn’t been recently scooped. This can make it difficult to scoop, and clumps can easily break apart, leading to increased smells.

Next, we took 500 grams of litter in an aluminum pan and slowly added water while stirring. Eventually this slurry of muddy clay wouldn’t accept anymore water. The more liquid a litter can accept, the more value you get out of the product.

We also wanted to see how good these products are at masking smells, because if you’ve ever smelled cat urine, you know how pervasive that odor can be. So we took a small amount of ultra-potent fox urine and poured it in each litter, let it set for a period of time, and then took an air quality meter to measure the volatile organic compounds. The less VOCs measured, the better the litter did at covering up the aromas.

The best performers advanced to the final step. Gypsy and Servo spent four days with each product. We put a porous mat in front of the box and looked at how much litter was tracked out by their paws. This also gave us a chance to see how these litters actually performed outside the lab. Some started to break down quickly, while others maintained their integrity.

What to Know About Buying Cat Litter

With various types of litter out there, here’s what to take into consideration—and how we landed on our test field:

  • Materials: Clay cat litters have a couple great things going for them: They're absorbent and quickly clump. They’re also the most popular, so you’ll have plenty of options. But there are other materials out there, from recycled paper to walnut shells and pine shavings, even corn kernels. Silica crystals, including PrettyLitter, are also available.

  • Clumping vs. non-clumping: Clumping formulas create solid masses and help make cleaning litter boxes a little easier. You may find yourself going through litter more quickly if you opt for something that doesn't clump or easily breaks down. However, a veterinarian may recommend use a non-clumping one in certain instances, so check with your vet.

  • Scented vs. unscented: The jury is out on which cats prefer. One study found no statistical significance one way or the other when it came to litter preference. While scented litters can help mask odors, cats have a heightened sense of smell. The animals (and their owners) can also be sensitive to fragrances.


Other Cat Litters We Tested

Product image of Scoop Away Unscented
Scoop Away Unscented

This Scoop Away litter will put you back only a few bucks compared to some premium offerings, but it really does perform as well as some of those pricier products.

This 25-pound box is fairly easy to lift and move around thanks to its sturdy plastic handle. The punch tab to get the litter out of the box is also a breeze to open. Probably the best thing about the product is its faint, pleasant smell. It isn’t overwhelming, especially when liquid is added to it.

There’s odor-neutralizing crystals in the clay shards, which the brand says controls the growth of bacterial odors in a cat’s ammonia-rich urine. Interestingly enough, this product actually finished at the bottom of our odor tests, so perhaps it got overwhelmed with scent masking upfront, as Scoop Away guarantees seven days of “odor protection” on the box.

It did really well in our absorption test, missing out on the top spot by only a gram-and-a-half. In the remaining tests, it performed slightly above average. But when you consider its relatively lower price point, some of Scoop Away’s misgivings can easily be looked over.

Pros

  • Absorbent

  • Faint pleasant smell

  • Sturdy handle

Cons

  • Not as great at masking odors

Product image of Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented
Ever Clean Extra Strength Unscented

The name of this product is a bit deceiving. It says it’s unscented, but we found there was a fairly strong, overly clean smell to it. That wasn’t a bad thing, especially at masking odors, but it became grating over time, especially compared to some truly unscented litters.

That being said, the litter was easy to handle and use. The box felt sturdy and not that heavy, and it wasn’t that difficult to open and pour. The litter did an admirable job of soaking up liquid in a solid clump, and it didn’t lose much litter after scooping.

Clumps did well at staying solid after several days of use and the cats didn’t track much litter out of the box. One downside was that it did get a bit dusty after a few days.

In the end, this litter is a solid, mid-tier product. It actually reminded me exactly of the Scoop Away litter, but the price per pound we calculated was much higher.

Pros

  • Sturdy box

  • Solid clumps

Cons

  • Not truly unscented

  • Dusty after a few days

Product image of So Phresh Advanced Odor Control Fragrance Free
So Phresh Advanced Odor Control Fragrance Free

This litter has two big things going for it. It comes in a solid plastic bucket with a resealable lid and a metal handle. That’s the kind of stout construction that just screams for reuse. Secondly, So Phresh exceeded its claim of advanced odor control, besting all of the other products when we dropped some fox urine in it.

On the other end of the spectrum, we found that it was extremely dusty. While other litters had little or no dust, a large cloud emanated from the pile right from the start. And speaking of pouring, it was surprisingly difficult to empty the product with any semblance of control, as the handle pivots at the top of the bin. As you empty out litter, it becomes easier, but lengthening and centering that handle could do wonders.

Pros

  • Pleasant smell

  • Solid packaging

Cons

  • Very dusty

  • Difficult to pour

Product image of Dr. Elsey's Ultra Unscented
Dr. Elsey's Ultra Unscented

There wasn’t much of a smell to this Dr. Elsey's litter fresh out of the bag. When we added water to it, it created an inoffensive, neutral smell. Looking at the composition of the litter, there’s an even mix of clay shards and rounded clay pellets. The larger bits helped form robust clumps that penetrated deep into the pile, while the shards should help prevent tracking out of the box. Finally, there wasn’t much dust when we tested the product.

So how come it finished where it did? It was the smallest bag we tested, coming in at only 20 pounds, so cat owners will likely go through a few bags quicker than they anticipate (if you can handle a larger size, it is available in 40 pounds, too). It also didn’t do so well at absorbing liquids, finishing just below the average.

Dr. Elsey’s leaves us the most intrigued. It excelled in some regards, it could use some improvement in others. But it was also firmly in the middle of the pack.

Pros

  • Made large, solid clumps

  • Neutral smell

Cons

  • Scooping used a lot of litter

Product image of Fresh Step Simply Unscented
Fresh Step Simply Unscented

There’s a faint, pleasant smell to this Fresh Step litter. It’s accentuated when liquid is added to it, but it isn’t overwhelming. Better yet, the litter clumps nicely, though those clumps were in fairly flat layers.

Fresh Step claims that the product is 99.9% dust-free, and that rang true. We didn’t experience any dust when pouring the litter, which was fairly easy with the thick strap on top of the box. Even though it’s made of plastic, the wide handle won’t cut into your hands.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say. This product fared poorly in our saturation, absorption, and odor tests. In our opinion, there are much better litters out there.

Pros

  • No dust

  • Wide handle

Cons

  • Not as good at masking odors

  • Absorbed little liquid

Product image of Purina Tidy Cats Naturally Strong
Purina Tidy Cats Naturally Strong

“Naturally Strong” isn’t only the name of the product. It’s what you literally have to be to lift the 35-pound box. Thankfully, there’s a beefy, somewhat comfortable paper handle on top that gains points for being environmentally friendly. (Pet owners can also opt for smaller 13-pound bags.)

To get the litter out of the massive box, we awkwardly swung it between our legs. Pulling the punch tabs and scooping the litter is easier to handle, but that comes at the cost of speed and storage (as in, you are literally taking the entire top clean off the box).

But how did it perform? Not so well. It lost a lot of litter during absorption, and it didn’t take on that much water during saturation. It also didn’t mask odors as well as the others we tested. But worst of all, when scooping, we found the clumps instantly broke apart, leaving behind all sorts of little bits. That’s one thing when testing with water. It’s another entirely when dealing with pet waste.

Pros

  • Strong paper handle

  • No dust

Cons

  • Clumps easily break down

  • Doesn't mask odors all that well

Product image of Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Unscented
Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Unscented

Of all the litters we tested, this was the only one we had some serious difficulty opening. It almost required a knife to puncture the thick cardboard spout.

Once we broke inside, the results weren’t much more promising. The clean smell immediately hits you. It’s overpowering, to the point of lingering in the air and in the nostrils. Unscented, this product is not.

As for performance, this litter routinely finished last across the board. On the plus side, it did a decent job masking odors, and we found there wasn’t much dust.

When not testing several litters, my cats actually use a different Arm & Hammer one, so it was surprising to see how poorly this performed. When it comes to the difficulty unboxing, however, that seems to be a universal trait amongst Arm & Hammer litters.

Pros

  • No dust

  • Thick paper handle

Cons

  • Strong smell

  • Difficult to open box

Meet the tester

Nick Bove

Nick Bove

Contributor

@nickboveonair

Nick Bove is a journalist and broadcaster based out of Boston. He's currently a public address announcer at Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern, and is breaking into the voiceover industry. He's also lent his voice as a professional hockey broadcaster and news anchor for NBC News Radio. When he isn't speaking into a microphone, he's probably on a long hike or daydreaming of being the next Bob Costas.

See all of Nick Bove's reviews

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