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Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

Help! I have not had a cat in over 50 years and my husband brought me a rescue kitten about a month and a half ago. He was 5 weeks old and had to fed by eye dropper. Of course, we have become quite attached to him, but as VERY inexperienced pet parents I have decided I must be very allergic to the clay based litter and am on a search to find the best possible choice for both of us! I feel that the litter causes acrid fumes that cause breathing problems for both my husband and me. By the way, I am currently trying the wheat based litter, but I still think I can smell something unpleasant.

~ Nancy

Kissy sitting on the couch

Kissy loves sitting on top of the couch, but she hates stinky cat litter! Photo by JaneA Kelley

Siouxsie: First of all, Nancy, you’re not alone in your quest for a cat litter that doesn’t cause respiratory problems. Many cat lovers have the same issue.

Thomas: The dust in clay litter is usually the culprit. But scented litters can be bad for allergies and breathing issues, too.

Kissy: Mama says stinky cat litter makes her gag, so she can only imagine how hard they are on our sensitive little noses!

Siouxsie: The good news is that there are lots and lots of choices these days when it comes to cat litter.

Thomas: And almost every company makes unscented litters — not just because of human issues but because cats don’t like stinky litter, either.

Kissy: The first thing we’d recommend is that you use an unscented clumping litter. That will relieve one source of acrid smell — cat urine in the box. The pee makes clumps that you can easily scoop out of the box.

Siouxsie: Clumping clay litter tends to be very dusty, though, so that could aggravate your breathing problems.

Thomas: We’ve tried just about every kind of litter there is, so we can give you some tips from what we’ve learned. Clumping corn litter is very effective at odor control and it has a naturally sweet smell. The trouble with it is that it’s very dusty.

Kissy: We’ve tried the wheat stuff, too, and we find that it doesn’t clump very well. We’ve also found that it tends to start stinking earlier than other plant-based litters.

Siouxsie: Silica pellet litter is good for absorbing urine and keeping odors at bay. But you really have to change it just as often as the instructions say — if you let it stay in the box too long, it’ll stop absorbing odor  and the reek will just about knock you over.

Thomas: Pine sawdust litter has a naturally good smell, but in our experience it doesn’t clump all that well so you’ll need to change out the litter pretty frequently.

Kissy: Recycled newspaper pellets and pine pellets work all right, but some cats don’t like how it feels under their feet.

Siouxsie: The best litter we’ve found so far is Blue Naturally Fresh, a clumping formula made of walnut shells. It clumps like concrete, the odor control is great, and the scatter is pretty minimal.

Thomas: If you have an issue with acrid smells, though, you might not like the walnut shell litter — at least at first. Walnut shells have a lot of tannic acid in them, and you do get a pretty strong whiff of that “tannic odor” when you first open the bag.

Kissy: The good news is that the smell dissipates pretty quickly.

Siouxsie: If you want to try it, we’d recommend you get a small bag. Naturally Fresh is available at most pet stores these days.

Thomas: We’ve found that the original formula actually clumps better than the multi-cat formula, which is pretty unusual since it’s supposed to work the other way around.

Kissy: By the way, if you’re from Blue and you’ve come here because you found that we’ve linked to your site, Mama says she’d really like to talk to you! Tee hee hee!

Siouxsie: Stop that, Kissy! This is not the time for shameless begging!

Kissy: *grump*

Thomas: Nancy, we hope we’ve been able to help you find a cat litter that works for your sweet kitty, and that leaves you and your husband able to breathe, too.

Siouxsie: Please let us know if any of these litters work for you — and if not, did you find one that does? Your answer could be very helpful to our other readers.