I had always been faithful to the typical clumping clay litters for my cat, but recently I decided to branch out. I was looking for something a little bit less dusty and lower maintenance. In my search, I came across silica crystal cat litters and decided I wanted to give them a try.
I wasn’t expecting to be a total convert and never go back to clay litter again, but I was shocked at how well I like this type. Best of all, my cat is totally cool with it and he can be a bit picky about his litter.
Since I’ve tried several crystal litters over the past few months, I thought I’d provide a rundown on my experience with the different kinds and how I’d rank them from most to least favorite.
Also check out: Silica Cat Litter Pros and Cons
Silica crystal cat litter is so lightweight!
What attracted me the most to silica litters was the fact they were so lightweight. There’s nothing I hate more than having to purchase 30 or 40 pound containers of cat litter during a shopping trip. Not only do I have to lug it from the shelf into the cart, but then from my cart into the car, then again into my house. And once it’s in my house, I need to lift the bag up again to pour into the litter box. It’s just so much work!
With silica litters, they typically come in 6-8 pound bags – just a fraction of typical clay litters. And it’s not because you need to purchase several bags to make up the difference! They really are just so much lighter in nature, and you don’t have to use as much actual litter either.
Silica gel litter can also be better for cats with asthma
Because silica litters are generally less dusty than clay, they can be better for cats and owners who suffer from asthma or other respiratory conditions. They’re also easier to find in scent-free versions, which is also a plus.
Although one thing to be careful with is certain types of silica litters are dustier than others, and any silica litter can get dusty after it starts breaking down. You need to make sure to change them frequently.
Small vs large silica granules
Silica litters are made with different granule sizes. Some litters, like Fresh Step Crystals and Scoopfree are larger pieces, almost like the salt chunks you’d put into a salt grinder. Other types (and the most common I’ve seen) are made up of crystals much small in diameter. Some are even the size of sand grains.
The larger crystals tend to track less and are easier to tidy up than the smaller sized versions. However, if you step on the larger grain type it can really hurt!
Which one is better for your cat depends on their preference, you can experiment to see which they prefer.
How to scoop a litter box with silica litter
- Remove solid waste
- Stir through litter on a daily basis, making sure to scrape along the bottom as well
- Change out and scrub down box after litter starts breaking down
- Start fresh with a new batch of crystal litter
The key to silica litters performing their best is to keep the litter box cleaned out on a daily basis. When this isn’t done regularly, the litter will oversaturate quickly in one spot, and can make the litter get sludge-like at the bottom of the box.
Even if I just go a couple days in between cleaning the box, the soaked urine areas tend to get sludgy and gross. It takes extra stirring and more scraping to get the litter looking clean again. The more often you stir the litter, the way easier it is to do and the longer your litter will last.
How to know when it’s time to change your crystal litter
- Litter changes color
- Litter starts to smell
- Breaks down and gets really dusty
- Stops absorbing urine
Don’t wait until you notice all these things before you change out your silica litter. You want to make sure you switch it out at the earliest warning sign to avoid dealing with a nasty litter box.
Here’s a list of the best silica cat litter I’ve tried, ranked in order from most to least favorite
#1. Fresh Step Crystals
Best for: longest lasting crystal litter
Probably the best silica cat litter I’ve tried has been Fresh Step Crystals. It lasted the longest without getting oversaturated and dusty like other versions.
But to be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first. The pieces of litter are very large and when you step on them, it can really hurt! I noticed many of them ended up on the floor around the litter box area.
(The granules must have not bothered my cat at all though because he took to it almost immediately and continued his usual 5 minute litter digging routine)
However, I started to like it more and more as I got used to it. The granules didn’t make it very far away from the litter box (unlike the clumping clay stuff that ends up all down the hall and around the house) plus, it just worked so well. As long as I kept the poop scooped out, the box didn’t smell at all.
Also with a good quality litter mat, any tracking around the box could be contained fairly well.
This silica litter also held up the longest out of all the silica crystal versions I’ve tried. It was a little less than a month before it started showing the signs of needing to be dumped out.
- Low dust
- No urine smell
- Tracking contained to around litter box area
- Cat had no issues using it
- Lasted the longest out of all other silica litters I’ve tried (about 3 – 4 weeks with one cat)
- Doesn’t hide poop smell
- Large granules get kicked around outside the litter box and can hurt if stepped on
- Can get expensive
#2. PetSafe ScoopFree Premium Crystal Cat Litter
Best for: Automatic litter boxes, like the PetSafe ScoopFree automatic cleaning box
A nearly comparable litter would be this PetSafe ScoopFree crystal litter. Crystal size and functionality is very similar, and an advantage is that this litter is designed to fit perfectly in the automatic PetSafe ScoopFree automatic cleaning litter box (but it can also be used in a regular box).
Another advantage of opting for the PetSafe brand is that you can choose a sensitive version which is free of any fragrances and dyes. Unfortunately Fresh Step doesn’t currently offer any fragrance/dye free crystal litter.
This stuff also tracks a little around the litter box but very similarly to the Fresh Step brand, it doesn’t make it far from the litter box. It lasted about 3 weeks for my cat.
- Good odor control
- Lower dust
- Tracking contained to around the litter box area
- Designed to fit perfectly with the ScoopFree automatic litter box trays
- Sensitive version available with no dyes or fragrances
- Larger granules can hurt if stepped on
- Not the best at initially hiding poop smell
- Can get expensive
#3. Pretty Litter
Best for: health detection
Pretty Litter is a health monitoring cat litter that detects if your cat has illnesses such as UTIs or kidney disease. It’s very hyped up and heavily advertised online, and may seem too good to be true. It’s also a silica crystal litter.
I will tell you from my experience, this stuff truly is amazing but it also has some major downfalls that knock it down the list.
Pretty Litter worked great for the first 2 weeks or so. It had virtually NO dust that I could notice – not when I poured it in the box nor when I stirred it around while cleaning. My cat also took to it fairly easily which was a plus.
For the first two weeks there was absolutely no smell. Unlike with the Fresh Step version, I didn’t even notice his poop smelling! I tried to keep it cleaned out and raked through every day, and I never had any issues with it getting gooey on the bottom at all.
There’s also the bonus that it can potentially detect health issues in your cat, such as urinary tract infections, kidney stones, kidney diseases, and even in some cases cancer. I can’t speak for how accurate it is, since it didn’t
However, after only 2 weeks the litter started wearing out. It developed a dustiness that was so overwhelming I couldn’t handle it, and a few days after that it started to stink.
While this stuff worked really well, it’s pretty expensive to have to change out every couple of weeks. However one tip is to only use it in one litter box and make it your “health detecting” box, and keep the other litters the same. This can help save money but still give you the benefits of health monitoring.
Read also: Are Pretty Litter Reviews Legit?
- No dust
- No smell
- Easy to maintain
- Health detection
- Doesn’t last as long as other crystal litters
#4. Frisco Summer Unscented Crystal Cat Litter
Best for: budget-friendly crystal litter
Last on the list is Chewy’s own brand Frisco crystal litter. This stuff was my least favorite of the bunch because it was so much dustier than the other brands. Unlike the others, Frisco’s crystal litter had a pretty bad dust cloud forming as I poured it into the box.
However, it still worked fairly decently. Like the other crystal litters, it had good odor control and with regular stirring it kept for a few weeks. The best part of this brand is the price – it is significantly cheaper than others. With a litter you’ll need to change out often, cheap may be necessary if you’re looking for a budget-friendly pick.
The tracking is a little worse than others as well, as I did notice this one making its way out into the hall. But overall, it was totally fine for the price point.
- Budget-friendly (as far as crystal litters go)
- Works decent
- Good odor control
- Unscented version
- Increased tracking
- Super dusty
All crystal litters come with a more expensive price tag, but they have a lot of attractive qualities that makes them better than clay litter in my opinion. They’re so much easier to deal with since they’re lightweight, and not having to scoop out giant pee clumps is a major plus.
Also check out: Wood Pellet Cat Litter Pros and Cons