Cheaper Kitty Litter Alternatives

by Reader Contributors

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Finding the best cat litter for controlling both odor and cost can be tough. Our frugal readers share their most cost-effective (and odor-effective!) solutions.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
We just added a kitten to our family. My question is about kitty litter. I understand that some litters are better than others and some of the best kitty litters are pretty expensive. I’ve had some recommend the “scoopable” litter and others say to avoid the scoopable litter.

How do I select the best litter for odor control, convenience, and price? I’d love advice from your readers on cheap, yet effective kitty litter solutions.

Cheaper Kitty Litter Alternatives

We reached out to our frugal readers who, as always, had some wonderfully frugal solutions to share. You’re sure to find some ways to save in their advice below.

Horse Bedding Pellets Work Great as a Cat Litter Alternative

We have five cats in our home and are always looking for an inexpensive alternative to the clumping, odor control stuff you can get at the grocery or pet store. Go to a tractor supply or feed store in your area and get horse bedding pellets. A big bag sells for cheap, and it smells great. More importantly, the cats love it! We rarely have to change the litter completely. The pellets are very absorbent. I just need to scoop out the solid stuff in the morning and evening as usual.
Linda in Reston, VA

Consider Using Ground Corn

Ground corn works beautifully. It clumps well, has a soft texture and is non-toxic. Adding a shake of baking soda after filling the litter pan increases odor absorption. After scooping out the waste, the remaining corn litter may be put into the compost or tossed around the yard for fertilization. Ground corn makes an excellent fertilizer with anti-fungal properties. It can also be mixed with water to make a soothing dip for pets with flea or skin allergies.

Ground corn may be purchased at feed stores, farm and ranch supplies and many nurseries. Be sure to ask for ground corn, not corn meal.
Kristie in Boerne, Texas

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Visit a Feed Store

If you live near a feed store, try chicken mash. It’s similar to World’s Best Cat Litter, but it’s much cheaper. Clean the box daily and odor shouldn’t be a problem.
Linda (via Facebook)

Mask Odors and Eliminate Dust

We use pine litter. I was tired of all the dust and tracking from clumping litter. It has a fresh, natural scent, masks odors, and doesn’t create dust. It also solved a behavioral problem we were having with a cat spraying in the house.

It can be expensive, but I recently found that I can buy it for a third of the cost of the pet store if I buy it at the local hardware store in a bag labeled as horse bedding.
Anne Marie

Make a 50/50 Mix

Mix the scoopable brand of kitty litter with a plain generic brand of kitty litter. Do this at a 50/50 mix. This still allows the litter to clump up from the moisture, but will stretch the litter further. You might want to try to mix it with more of the generic litter, until you see that the litter doesn’t clump anymore. My mother has done this for years, and it really works well!

Also, if you could be more flexible, shredded used paper (even newspaper) can be used instead of cat litter. There’s no dust, and it’s very affordable. Simply change the paper everyday. Line the pan with used plastic grocery bags before placing the paper inside, and it will be even easier to clean up.
Candy in Alabama

Clean Daily

Unless your cat is very picky, the best litter depends on your finances, your willingness and ability to clean out the cat box often, and your willingness to accept litter being tracked through the house. I personally prefer clumping litters. Their advantages include less dust and usually less tracking. Over time, I have not found them to cost more than old-fashioned clay litter.

I generally have bought the one that had a coupon or was the cheapest per use. Buying by the pound can be deceptive, as weight is not as important as volume. Just sift the litter at least daily and all will be fine.

Use Rabbit Food

We buy a 50-pound bag of rabbit food (compressed grass pellets) at the feed store. We put about a 1/2-inch in the bottom of the litter box and scoop out the clumps every evening and refill. It’s totally safe to flush it down the sewer and biodegradable. It doesn’t smell, doesn’t make much dust, and our cat seems to like it well enough.
Brenda in Washington

Think Outside the Box

Our daughter and son-in-law taught their kitty to use the toilet! There’s no smell and no litter! It worked. Search online for instructions.

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Yesterday’s Mail Is Today’s Litter

A few years ago, tired of paying the price of kitty litter, I gradually switched my cat over to shredded paper. Because he was older, it did require a little bit of graduating him over, by mixing his regular litter with the paper until he understood the paper was fine to use. This is completely free, but does require a little more frequent changing to keep odors under control. We shred all of our incoming mail in a cross-cut shredder after we’ve taken care of it. Between junk mail and paid bills, we have plenty of shredded paper supply.

On litter changing day, I line the pan with a thick layer of flyers, sprinkle it with a bit of baking soda (optional), and then put down a thick layer of shredded paper. Our cat is happy that the paper still allows him to bury his waste, and it costs us nothing. Using a pair of latex gloves, I can roll up the bottom layer of flyers with all the waste inside to make changing the litter easier, but my husband prefers to just dump it all into a garbage bag.

Mix in Baking Soda for Odor Control

There are many kinds of litter. The usual ones are clay-based, but there are litters made from wheat, corn cobs, wood, newspaper, and more. Some litter can be flushed down the toilet and some can be composted (but never compost the feces). People choose litter based on how “green” they are or the cost or the level of odor control. For the most part, a kitten can use any of these litters.

After that, your choice depends a bit on your living circumstances. Is the litter box near the kitchen? Then you might want to pay more for extra odor control. Is the litter box in a room that’s seldom used? Then you can probably use a cheaper litter with minimal odor control. I buy the cheapest store brand of scoopable litter and add a little baking soda to the bottom of the box.

Two Cheaper Cat Litter Alternatives to Try

  1. Don’t use the clumping clay litter, pearls or crystals. They are full of awful chemicals. They are usually scented (a cat’s sense of smell is very strong and the strong scent may make them potty elsewhere), and when they clean themselves, the clay becomes like cement in their intestines. If you have a kitty with asthma or allergies or if you have either condition, the dust kicked up from that type of litter can also aggravate it. Instead, try a biodegradable cat litter made of wheat, corn, pine or recycled newspaper. We use feline pine. Not only does it work well, but also it’s not any more expensive than any other litter. It smells good and it absorbs the odor better. Plus, our cats love it. At first, they weren’t crazy about it, so we mixed it with the clay kind and gradually added more pine and less clay. If all that isn’t enough, it’s also good for the environment.
  2. Change your cat food. I know you’re wondering what that has to do with litter, so let me explain. Most commercial cat food is mostly fillers, preservatives and chemicals. If you really knew what was in your cat’s food, you’d never want to touch it again. But I’ll spare you the gross details. Suffice to say, it’s mostly junk. What happens when junk is ingested? Most of it becomes waste. So, if you switch to a better food, your cats will use the bathroom less often (and they’ll be healthier). We like Flint River Ranch natural cat food and so do our cats, but there are other good products. It’s more expensive than the stuff you get at the grocery store, but it lasts longer. And you save money on the litter.


Reviewed July 2023

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