This litter claims to monitor your cat’s health—but is it worth it?
I did a science experiment to find out
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As someone who owns both a cat and a dog, I feel confident in saying it’s much easier to tell when a dog is feeling sick. Because I’m usually present when my pooch goes to the bathroom, I’m able to monitor the frequency and (as gross as it is) the quality of her bowel movements. My cat, on the other hand, uses an automatic litter box, so I couldn’t tell you virtually anything about his bathroom habits.
All that to say, I understand the appeal of PrettyLitter, a special type of cat litter that claims to help you monitor your cat’s health. The concept sounds great, but we wanted to test it out for ourselves to see if it really worked. Here’s what we found.
What is PrettyLitter?
Unlike the rock-like clumping clay litter that most people use, PrettyLitter is actually a “crystal litter,” which works a bit differently. Crystal litters are made from silica gel crystals—the same material that's in those little "Do Not Eat" pouches that come in purses or coat pockets—and it’s extremely absorbent. Instead of clumping up when your cat goes to the bathroom, crystal litter absorbs the liquid, leaving only solids behind.
The appeal of crystal litter is that there’s less maintenance required. You simply need to dispose of solid waste on a regular basis, and the silica gel will absorb liquids for up to a month. When the gel is saturated (you can usually tell because it takes on a yellow hue), you simply discard the litter and put in a fresh layer for your cat.
However, PrettyLitter isn’t your average crystal litter. This “health-monitoring” litter takes it a step further, actually changing colors based on the pH of your cat’s urine. If their pee is overly acidic, the litter will take on a yellow or orange color, and if it’s too alkaline, it may turn blue. Additionally, if there’s blood present in their urine, the litter will turn red.
In addition to its health-tracking abilities, PrettyLitter is supposed to eliminate odors, and it creates less dust and is lighter weight than standard litter. You can get the litter delivered on a monthly subscription plan, and it will cost you $22 for one cat, $40 for two cats, or $60 for three cats.
We used PrettyLitter for a month—here’s what happened
Thankfully, my cat, Nugget, is very chill about his bathroom situation, so he needed no convincing to switch from traditional clumping litter to PrettyLitter.
The package includes a little measuring stick to ensure you’re putting enough litter into the box, and almost as soon as I set it up and walked away, he decided to use it. (If your cat is a little more particular, the company recommends mixing Pretty Litter with your existing litter for a month to slowly transition.)
Good absorption and minimal odor
I’ve tried crystal litter before, and PrettyLitter performed extremely similarly to other brands. It did a good job absorbing the urine—there was never any liquid at the bottom of the litter box—and it minimized odors, as well. Nugget’s litter box is in my office, and I was never plagued by any bathroom smells, even toward the end of the month when the litter was turning yellow.
Additionally, crystal litter really does cut back on how often you have to scoop, as you simply need to remove solid waste. However, you are supposed to “stir” the litter daily, which is pretty gross to do and usually sends up a cloud of chemical-smelling dust into your face. (This is one of the things I strongly dislike about crystal litter.)
I will say that other crystal litters we’ve used left Nugget smelling like chemicals, but we didn’t experience this issue with PrettyLitter.
Accurate color changing (from what we could tell)
Over the course of the month that we tested PrettyLitter, it was consistently yellow, which means the urine is in a normal pH range. This either meant that, 1. Nugget is a perfectly healthy kitty, or 2. the litter really wasn’t doing anything. To get some clarity, I concocted a little science experiment to conduct.
First, I took a tablespoon of baking soda and dissolved it in some water. Baking soda has a pH of around 9, which means it’s a moderately alkaline substance. I poured the liquid into the Pretty Litter, and within a few minutes, the crystals had taken on a slightly blue-green hue. (I tried to find a stronger basic substance to see if I could get the litter to turn more blue, but thanks to COVID-19, I haven’t been able to buy bleach in a few months.)
Next, I diluted some plain white vinegar in water. Vinegar is a strongly acidic liquid, with a pH of 2, and when I poured this mixture into the litter, it immediately turned a yellowy-orange color.
After these tests, I was confident that the PrettyLitter does what it claims, and that means Nugget is a healthy little bubba!
Here’s what a vet thinks
That sounds well and good, but is the pH of your kitty’s urine really a useful diagnostic tool? Or will it simply send you scurrying to the vet unnecessarily?
We wanted some expert insights on the medical value of this type of litter, so we talked to Dr. Tori Countner, DVM, owner of The Balanced Pet Vet. She explained that urine pH is often one of the factors she looks at when evaluating a cat’s overall health.
“The pH of cat urine can be a piece of the puzzle in diagnostic testing,” Dr. Countner explains. “I would look at the value with other parameters such as specific gravity, any glucose or sediment present, and other values.”
While it can be an important diagnostic tool, Countner says it shouldn’t be the only thing vets consider: “I don’t hang my hat on just the pH of their urine, as it can fluctuate throughout the day.” She also explained that a cat’s diet can impact the pH of their urine.
However, Countner does think a product like PrettyLitter could be useful for cats with certain medical conditions, as it can alert you to issues before they become too serious.
“If owners are working with their vet to dissolve or prevent bladder stones, this could be a helpful tool for at home pH monitoring,” Dr. Countner explains. “If they are prone to cystitis or UTIs, then picking up on blood in the urine before it becomes a bigger issue would be beneficial.”
Is PrettyLitter worth it?
If you’re wondering whether PrettyLitter actually does what it claims, the answer is yes—it will change color based on the pH of your cat’s urine. However, whether the product is worth it for your cat is a whole different question. This specialty litter costs $22 per bag, which is quite pricey, considering you can get a comparable amount of clumping litter for around $12–$15. In my experience, a small box of traditional litter will last a similar length of time, as well.
You do have to factor in the convenience factor, though. PrettyLitter (or any crystal litter) makes it quicker and easier to clean your cat’s litter box on a daily basis, as you only have to remove the solids. And, of course, if your cat has a history of illness that could be reflected in the pH of their urine, PrettyLitter may help you spot issues sooner.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.