Cat litter is a hotly debated topic, and there are all types of opinions out there. As a cat owner that’s pretty much tried every single litter type, pine pellet litter is definitely something I can recommend to all cat owners in all types of homes. If your cat isn’t too picky about litter types, give cat pine pellet litter a try. I haven’t looked back since.
Pine litter is not like other litter as it doesn’t clump, which can confuse some people. After this article, you’ll learn that pine litter is not only easy to use but has properties that make it much better than the traditional cat clumping litter.
Pine Pellet Litter: Main Pros & Cons
|Pros of Using Pine Litter||Cons of Using Pine Litter|
|Never have to dump out your box.||One more step to do (scooping and sifting).|
|One of the cheapest litter types.||Cats may need to be transitioned to it.|
|Minimal litter tracking.||May track if not sifted for days.|
|Good at controlling pee (ammonia) smells.||Not great at controlling feces odor.|
|Sustainable & biodegradable.||It is confusing to use at first.|
Other reasons to use pine pellet litter for your cats:
- Non-toxic & natural. Pine pellets are generally safe for cats as long the pellets are made from untreated wood in which all pine pellet brands made for cats are.
- Much healthier for everyone. Almost no dust is produced when scooping or adding into the litter box.
- Efficient. Cat owners never have to dump out and replace the litter in the box. Unsoiled/new pellets remain at the top and the sawdust settles to the bottom. It keeps a clear separation between soiled/unsoiled litter. Nothing is wasted and saves ‘good’ pellets from being thrown away.
- Flushable & disintegrates when wet. Because pine litter disintegrates into sawdust, the dust or pellets can easily be flushed down the toilet without worrying about clogs.
Properties Comparison: Traditional Clumping Cat Litter VS Pine Pellet Litter
Pine pellet is usually lauded for being much better than the traditional cat clumping litter. But why? This table might help cat owners understand:
|Comparison Category||Traditional Clumping Cat Litter (Clay, Tofu, Crystal)||Pine Pellet Litter||Winner|
|Regular Tasks||Only scooping is required.||Scooping and sifting are required.||Traditional Cat Litter|
|Medium Term Tasks||Requires replacing full litter box every few days.||No medium-term tasks.||Pine Litter|
|Tracking||Tracks everywhere.||Minimal tracking.||Pine Litter|
|Pee Odor Control||Good pee smell suppression.||Good pee smell suppression.||Tie|
|Feces/Poo Odor Control||Good feces odor control.||Does not control poo odor well.||Traditional Cat Litter|
|General Long-Term Odor Control||Terrible odor control after a few days.||Consistent odor control.||Pine Litter|
Out of all the 6 important categories, pine pellet litter has won 3 of them and tied one. Very clearly, the winner. The one thing that traditional cat litter has on pine pellets is the occupation of mind space of regular people thinking they need clumping litter for cats (this was many cat owners and me).
For most cat owners, the main type of litter that most people commonly use is clay litter (that gray sand clumping litter). Most people get it because it’s the most commonly available, and it’s what we see the most on store shelves, TV, youtube, on ads.
Not knowing or researching that other litter types are better for cats until they encounter the problems everyone uses clumping litter has: litter tracking and the amount of waste that has to be dumped out every few days.
Daily Cleaning Process Comparison: Clumping Cat Litter VS Pine Pellet Litter
As said mentioned above, pine pellet litter is not clumping litter. Therefore, there’s a slightly different process to go through when cat owners use pine pellet litter. Also, pine litter will require a different litter box as well (see below).
The traditional clumping cat litter box will basically be a single bottom container. Some might have a top cover, different entries, or features.
A pine pellet litter box will have 2 sections. The sifter top section contains the pellets at the top (with holes for the dissolved sawdust to pass) and a bottom section to catch the sawdust on the bottom.
Some pine pellet litter boxes may have hoods like this one or just an open box with the sifter and the bottom container.
|Regular Scooping Process||Traditional Clumping Cat Litter||Pine Pellet Litter|
|1||Cat feces & urine creates clumps.||Cat feces & urine dissolves the pellets into sawdust.|
|2||Scoop out all clumps into a trash bag.||Scoop out the feces & sift dissolved pellets into the holes.|
|3||Add new litter.||Dump into trash or flush.|
|4||After a few days, dump out the whole box and replace it with entirely new litter.||Add new litter.|
Traditional cat clumping litter is honestly only good for a couple of days, and then it starts falling apart (literally) and begins to turn to dust and stays at the bottom of the litter box. Eventually, it begins so smelly that you need to dump the entire thing and replace it with fresh litter.
On a day-to-day basis, pine pellets have one extra step, and that is sifting the sawdust. However, it is super quick and easy to do. It’s a small sacrifice for not dumping out the entire heavy litter box and replace it with new litter. That whole process is just a mess, so I’m sure I’m not the only one getting clay litter everywhere when doing it.
Visual Guide For How to Use Pine Litter & Pine Litter Box
After scooping out the cat feces, use the scooper to push and sift the sawdust down to the bottom container.
The red circles are the dissolved sawdust from absorbing cat urine.
Pine litter sawdust sifts through the holes and goes down to a separate container. There’s a complete separation now between fresh (black box), clean litter, and soiled litter on the bottom (red box)!
The difference between this sawdust and the regular type of dust found in clumping litter is that there is no way to remove that soiled clumping litter dust. It’s mixed in with the fresh litter (which is a waste).
Easily dump out the lower container that’s filled with pine dust. The good pine pellets remain untouched at the top, ready to be used again.
As you can imagine, it prolongs the use of your litter and saves cat owners more money in the long run!
It’s also very environmentally friendly as the pine dust can be easily broken down in the environment. Some people even use it in their compost!
Pine litter boxes are almost self-cleaning in a way. As cats pee inside the box and cover their pee or poo, some of the dust naturally goes down into the separate dustpan due to the cat’s movement of the box. All it requires is a little bit of extra sifting and shaking to get the rest of the sawdust through!
How Much Does Pine Litter Track?
We all know that litter tracking is an everyday occurrence. Managing litter tracking is something that I have written about before here about how to control litter tracking, and this is probably one of the best properties of pine litter. It tracks so minimally that I don’t see the litter anywhere other than near the litter box area. As long as cat owners have some basic litter controlling measures, such as a litter mat, the pellets will not fly everywhere.
Rating cat litter that tracks the most to the least:
- Crystal/silica gel litter
- Sand/clay litter
- Tofu litter
- Normal pellet litter
- Pine pellet litter
Pine is the winner hands down for the litter that spreads around the least. Even if a couple of pine pellets come out of the box, they’re very easy to spot and clean up.
When I discovered pine pellet litter, I was pretty upset that I found this out quite late to my cat-owning life. The only time pine pellet litter might spread is if cat owners leave the litter box for too long without sifting because the sawdust can build up – but this is an issue for all litter if you don’t scoop regularly.
Cost of Pine Pellet Litter
Just looking on the most popular/best seller’s page on Amazon for regular litter, it seems that, on average, it is about $1.1/kg of regular clay-based clumping litter.
In comparison for pine litter, looking at the best sellers it would amount to $1.6-1.8/kg.
Keep in mind that Pine Litter easily lasts much longer than clay! So it ends up being cheaper!
Again, cat owners won’t be going through the litter as fast as you would clay since pine pellets are very efficient for cleaning and scooping. When compared to regular litter, you must refill it often and dump it completely when it becomes too soiled! Therefore, regular litter is actually quite wasteful.
Pine litter is the only way to go to prevent tracking all over the apartment. It's natural, cheap, and incredibly easy to clean and manage. Use with a sifting litter box like the Purina Hooded Litter Box!
Health Benefits of Pine Pellet Litter
Obviously, dust is not ideal in any situation. In a small space, such as my studio apartment, any dust you breathe might be so concentrated and smelly that it might cause issues if you have respiratory problems. Cat owners will be happy to know that pine litter has minimal dust clouding, and the sawdust that does form when the cats urinate is heavy/moist, so it doesn’t spread around in the air.
Compared with traditional cat clumping litter (such as clay), each time I scoop or dump out the clay/sand, I can visibly see the cloud of dust, and it makes me wear a mask every time.
Pine litter separates its dust on the bottom container and scooping does not cause the dust at the bottom to fly around (no dust clouds!). The bottom container just needs to be dumped out in a bag and you’re done!
The surprising thing is that the pine dust doesn’t smell like urine, unlike the clay sand. Even when the dust container is filled with sawdust, I can hardly smell the pee at the end of the day. Compare this to sand/clay litter, where it literally punches your nose with ammonia if you wait long enough.
How Do You Transition From Normal Litter to Pine Litter?
Transitioning to Pine Pellet Litter in Single Cat Households
- First, completely change out the litter box and litter. After putting in the pine litter, add a thin layer of your cat’s previous litter on it. This lets them transition slowly to pine litter.
- Now, if they really don’t like it – put a larger layer of their previous clumping litter on top of the pine pellets until the cats are okay with it. If you see them going in the litter box, that’s a success.
- Each time you scoop from the litter box, slowly decrease the amount of their previous litter until eventually, you don’t have to add anymore clumping litter for the cats to go in the litter box! It’s okay if their previous litter clumps – just scoop it out.
Transitioning to Pine Pellet Litter in Multiple Cat Households
- If you have multiple cats like mine, I assume that you also have multiple litter boxes. I would have one litter box with the regular litter and one with the pine litter.
- I would actually put some of the pine litter with the regular litter box and then some litter from the regular to the pine litter box. This is so can associate the smell of the pine litter with going to the bathroom.
- Watch and keep a record of who uses the pine litter box. Once all your cats have used the pine litter box at least once, you can remove the traditional clumping cat litter and litter box.
The switch will be fairly quick because cats will likely realize that the pine litter is the one that smells a bit fresher (since it’s being sifted regularly) than the regular litter box, which still contains some soiled litter at the bottom.
How many litter boxes should you have with multiple cats using pine litter? I developed a great guide for people living in apartments: how many litter boxes do you need in an apartment?
Behavioral Benefits of Pine Litter
Since their litter box stays cleaner, behaviourally, cats will be more inclined to go into the litter box to do their business. It allows you to be out of the house for a couple of days and be comfortable that they have a relatively almost self-cleaning litter box for a couple of days before you come home and dump out the dust and scoop the poop.
Whereas before, when I was using the regular clumping litter, I would be worried if I were out of the house only for a day or two as the cats might have left me a surprise somewhere!
What’s The Best Litter Box For Pine Litter?
So we’ve almost reached the end of this article, and maybe you’d like to give pine a shot. The next step would be to choose a litter box for pine litter, and I’d like to recommend this one that I am currently using.
Purina Tidy Cats Hooded Litter Box
I really love this litter box because it is hooded, which means cat owners can flip the hood up if it’s time to scoop or flip the hood down to contain the odor and hide whatever is inside. The hooded design also helps cats enter the litter box more easily by simply flipping up the hood!
This litter box kit contains some pads and pellets (don't use them). I recommend just putting away the pellets that they give you and get pine litter. Pine litter works very well with this litter box and it's very easy to clean.
So is Pine Litter Right For Your Cats?
In conclusion, I have completely transitioned now to pine litter, and the cats are happy. If you haven’t made the switch yet, I hope you consider it! Nothing comes close to how sanitary, easy, clean, cheap, and environmentally friendly as pine pellet litter. It’s been years using pine litter now, and I haven’t been tempted to try anything else.
However, as much as we want the best for our cats. Sometimes they want other things. This is an unfortunate truth in owning cats. They decide, not us. Most of the time, though, if they avoid a certain type of litter, it can be for many reasons. Not the litter itself. Be sure that they don’t have any medical issues and are spayed and neutered.
If you have any questions, feel free to post here or on my youtube channel! For other apartment litter box solutions and tips, see The Complete Apartment Litter Solutions!
38 thoughts on “Complete Guide to Pine Pellet Litter: Pros/Cons/Comparisons”
i love your blog!
Do you have a link where I can buy the litter box online?
Hi! Thanks for the comment – I think everything, if not almost everything is on the recommended products page!
Have just started the transition from clay to pine pellet litter. I have found your blog extremely helpful. Thank you! – I have 2 cats and yes we all live in a small apartment.
Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that my articles have been helpful to you and your cat’s lives!
Phew – Appreciate the confirmation that email not published!
I was wondering how often you dump the saw dust from the bottom compartment with this method. I was also wondering if you lined the bottom in anyway like the box was originally designed for.
I dump it daily, as I have 4 cats it tends fill up quite quickly. I takes about 2 days for it to completely fill up (with 2 litter boxes) and I generally want to dump it out before it gets a chance to get full!
And no I didn’t line the bottom at all but I guess it’s possible – maybe it’ll absorb the smell better! I don’t know haha I’ve never tried it.
I use this exact setup. I have both the hooded box and the non hooded box. I also use the Amazon generic version of the Breeze pads to help soak up urine, and I change it 1-2 times per week depending on how soiled it gets.
Amazon Basics Cat Pad Refills for Litter Box https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07K8S9ZQZ/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_ZJZRXH4G111HJ2WNQB0E
Why the litter box roofs……. almost universally panned because cats desire awareness of surroundings while peeing and pooing…… do better by your cats yo
Hi! You’re absolutely right! Actually, the way the cats use these hooded litter boxes is quite unique in the way that they don’t go completely inside but half of their body is poked outside so that they’re aware of the environment and can still do their business (they basically perch on the opening). It would be a different story if the opening had a closing. If they need even more room, then the hood can be flipped open. The hooded litter box is the best one I found that was perfectly in the middle of allowing cats to be aware and has some sort of odor control (when compared to a completely open one).
I was looking into this litter box and was put off by the liner (more cost for refills, more waste for environment, etc). But it sounds like you’re able to use it fine without a liner? Do you have any issues with pee getting on the bottom tray or with cleaning it? I assume that’s why a liner is recommended, lol. I’d be a lot more interested in this box knowing you don’t have to use a liner with it!
Hi! You’re right I don’t really use the liner with it. The pine dust just goes down to the bottom tray. As long as I dump it out before it fills up (usually daily with 4 cats) & it has enough pine inside it’s not really a problem. Just place a litter mat underneath the litter box to catch any dust that might fall out from the bottom of the tray!
That’s really good to know, thanks! I saw other reviewers say sometimes pee can get through the pine pellets to the bottom before it can be absorbed. But I guess if you put a thick enough layer on top it’s probably fine!
Also, how do you dispose of the poop? Do you put it in small baggies and throw those out every day, or do you use a litter disposal system that allows you to dump trash out less often? What is your opinion on such systems like litter genie?
I use a liner for that reason; the sawdust isn’t all dry. I use a Litter Genie, which I feel better about, since I don’t go into town often enough to dump my trash every day, more like once a week. I find that if I don’t sift often enough, the tray fills up, making it a lot harder to get all the sawdust into the Litter Genie without spilling sawdust onto the floor.
On occasion pee gets down there along with the pine dust – generally isn’t a problem since I dump it all into a bag with more dust anyways.
Yeah, every day I’ll scoop the waste on the top and then dump out the dust tray on the bottom into a bag – which goes into a larger garbage bag.
I eat to communicate Yes
I feel that. I also communicate to eat!
Do you have any tips on how to use pine pellet litter with the single-bottom container style litter box? That’s what I currently have and I won’t be able to invest in a new litter box for quite some time. TIA
You can use the litter box scooper as a sifter itself. Sift the sawdust into a bag and throw the unsoiled, undissolved litter back into the litter box! Another way is to make wholes in that current litter box and put it in a larger container that you have lying around!
Hi! I’m trying to transition my Russian blue kitten to pine litter and she seems to hate it so far… I’ve put a box of clay litter next to the tidy cats box and am adding a bit more pine litter to the clay box every day. The tidy cats box has pine litter on the bottom and clay on top. So far she keeps using the clay box with the pine mixed in. She sneezes a lot when using the box though. Do you think cats can be allergic to pine litter? Or maybe she’s just used to the smell yet? And any other tips for the transition? Thank you!
Hi! Yes, transitions can sometimes be difficult. Keep doing what you’re doing! As long as she doesn’t get rashes or isn’t heavy wheezing it’s generally fine. It’s possible it’s also from the sand dust that’s kicked up sometimes! I know my cats use to have a lot of sneezing when they used sand/clay litter in the past.
Just be aware of any other behavioral changes like going outside the litter box! However, for her to go into pine litter (although not the tidy cats litter box) is great progress! The only thing I would say is to maybe experiment with the location. Keep the tidy cats litter box in the same location (easy to access) but move the old litter box into a maybe more out of the way section of your home. Good luck!
Thank you!! I will try moving the old litter box or maybe just getting rid of it altogether!
Hi so I wanted to give you an update- my kitten started using the tidy cats litter box on her own after about a week! This may also be due to that I wasn’t cleaning the old box- I scooped the poop daily but otherwise left everything else in there while adding in more and more pine litter. I have now removed the old box altogether and she’s fully going in the pine litter box! Thank you for the tips and info!!
That’s so great, I’m happy everything worked out! I’m sure after using pine litter you’ll likely never want to switch again. I know I have never looked back after using it!
Hi Tn, so another update, I actually had to switch to a clumping litter after a couple months with pine litter because my RB kitty stopped going #2 in the box 🙁 At first she would do it every few weeks, then every week, then every day. This kept happening no matter how clean the box was, whether the hood was on or off, or what location the box was in. She would still pee in the box though. I’ve heard some people say that with pine litter cats don’t like doing #1 and #2 in the same box. Have you found this to be true? Any other tips for pine litter? I really want to go back to pine litter as the clumping litter I’m currently using (world’s best) has other issues.
Have you tried putting a layer of clumping litter over top of the pine litter to entice them back into pine litter? After they go into it to do their business, you can start to remove the layer of clay litter slowly.
Thank you for your article! We have been having so much trouble with clumping litter lately, quite the mess! I just placed an order for the items you recommended and am excited to get them tomorrow. Funny side note on the messes – my 2 cats, a Ragdoll and Maine Coon had taken up dumping the water bowl to watch the water run, so I’ve had to put their water bowl in the bathtub. They have learned that it a great place to clean up after using clumping litter, leaving me with a muddy mess. At least in the tub! I worry about how much of the clumping litter they actually ingest and it was beyond time to switch. Thank you again!
This article is really helpful but I have a question. My kitten is still young and might try to eat the pine litter. Is it dangerous to be consumed by kitten if they accidentally eat it? How can I avoid such thing from happening?
Hi! Thanks for comment! It’s actually quite common for cats to try out and take a nip or two of litter then quickly stop after figuring out it tastes terrible. However, out of all the litter types, pine litter will cause the least problems if cats or kittens accidentally ingests it because it dissolves rather then clumps when wet. So it passes through their digestive system quite easily.
Hi! I don’t have a cat yet, but I plan on adopting one in the future. (16=studying, want to have one when I’m working (22?)), my family only have fishes (they think others will make the house dirty). So I’m just researching for now.
Anyway, I’m here to ask whether aspen wood litter is better than pine wood litter. I found a discussion (https://ebrandon.ca/messagethread.aspx?message_id=1026412&cat_id=26), and one mentioned that pine dust is a class 1 carcinogen (but so are other stuff like alcoholic beverages, but we don’t drink them all the time right?, while cats could lick them all the time). And I found this (https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/wood_dust.html), in the table there, only aspen have no health effects reported. While I still hold this possibility, I read the discussion again. And they use (Arm & Hammer lightweight 100% dust free) in the end. I searched the ingredients used, found this (https://churchdwight.com/ingredient-disclosure/pet-care/clump-and-seal/40500846-clump-seal-lw-hhs-powerseal.aspx). And searched the last ingredient, and found this (https://www.skinhealthinfo.org.uk/pet-products-a-hidden-health-risk-for-owners-and-their-animals/). So I came to the conclusion that I think I’m going to use the option I held off (aspen wood), for the litter. What do you think?
Wait… for this (class 1 carcinogen), when I say (cats could lick them all the time), I’m assuming that it’s also harmful for cats. But it’s true that we will be exposed to it all the time (when cleaning it), wear a mask?
So why not aspen, since here (https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/wood_dust.html), there’s no health effects reported. But then again, I think the link above is only for humans, so idk if it’s harmful for cats.
Ugh, why can I find fault in every cat litter??? (Except silica (I haven’t searched much about it), and grass (I haven’t searched much about it either).
In the end, I’m still unsure if pine wood pellets cat litter is safe of not… Can you please send a link of a trusted website saying that it’s safe when cats ingest it? And that the dust is not that harmful to humans if you wear a mask (even if you get exposed to it daily)?
I had rabbits for years, and used aspen shavings for their litterboxes. Cedar shavings gives them kidney disease, which I learned too late with my first bunny, so I switched to aspen, which was safe for them. I also used paper litter (eg: Yesterday’s News brand), and that worked well also. Rabbits are much like cats, so I don’t see where aspen would be harmful. I never found it particularly dusty, and was never worried about breathing it in. I had rabbits for almost 20 years, and I never felt any deleterious effects, nor did the rabbits.
I think you’re over-thinking and over-rationalizing. If you want to use aspen, then go ahead. There are other types of litter as well — corn cob, wheat hulls, walnut shells, among others. Use whatever makes the most sense for you. Good Luck!
We all have likes and dislikes, and so do our cats. I disagree with your estimation of clay litters. I’m relatively new to cat ownership — I adopted my cat 2 years ago. I tried several different brands of litter when I first got her, and finally settled on the one that I’ve been using for probably the last year and a half or so. I don’t have any problems with odor, though it is a bit dusty, but not horribly so, doesn’t track too badly — she makes the mess, she’s an enthusiastic “coverer” of her deposits, which is not any fault of the litter. Her box has high sides, but even so some litter gets kicked out in her zealous efforts to cover up her leavings, but the box is otherwise uncovered. I don’t think she would care for a covered box, she doesn’t seem to be big on enclosed spaces (like bags or boxes) the way other cats are. I adopted her when she was 5, so she came with a couple of quirks! lol
I do have a litter mat in front of the box, and it helps a lot to trap the litter and remove it from her paws when she gets out of the box. Like your cats, she tends to hang onto the edge and do her business rather than completely getting into the box. Then she turns around and does the covering.
I scoop the clumps out (pee and poops both) at a minimum once a day, usually several times, whenever she uses the box. There isn’t ever a pile of dust at the bottom of the pan, and because I scoop so often, I only have to completely change the box about once a month. I do that when the litter gets low from scooping. I use a Litter Genie to contain the waste so I’m not constantly dumping it in the trash. Since I just have the one cat, it takes about a week to fill that up before I have to empty it.
I really do prefer the clumping litter — I think it makes for easier scooping and cleaning. So far, we’re both happy with the system, and I’ll probably continue with it, unless something else makes me change.
I definitely agree with you! If it doesn’t bother you and your cat is just fine using it – then more power to you! I think for me, since having multiple cats requires a lot of frequent dumping, Pine Litter makes the most sense. In the end, as you said, depends on the cats and their butlers hahaha and a bit of trial and error to see where the “compromise” is.
Thank you for all of the great information!!!!
I am super ready to reduce tracking of litter!!! Ready to try pine pellets but have 2 questions, concerns –
1. would like to ask if you can use pine pellet litter if the litter box is located in a bathroom. Would steam from the shower cause the pellets to break down?
2. does the dust cause tracking if kitty gets in there before shaking the box