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Alternative litters are catching on in popularity as people are seeking out more environmentally and budget-friendly options. Since I tried this with my cats, I want to discuss the pros and cons of pine pellet cat litter. It might seem like a great solution, but the reality is it may not work for everyone.
At a Glance: Pine Pellet Cat Litter, Pro vs. Cons
(Check current prices here)
|Cats won’t be drawn to it (naturally)|
|Environmentally Friendly||Not all cats will use it|
|Hides cat pee smell||Does not hide poo smell|
|Less dusty||Much more work to clean/manage|
As you can see, for every advantage to using wood pellets as cat litter, there is also a disadvantage. You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if it’s right for you and your cat.
How does pine pellet cat litter work?
Pine pellets work by turning back into their original state – sawdust – when exposed to moisture. So when your cat urinates on the pellets, they’ll simply turn to sawdust and won’t stay wet.
The wood naturally absorbs the odor as it turns to dust, so you won’t get that foul cat pee smell left in the box.
However, you still need to keep the box cleaned regularly and either sift out the sawdust or dump the contents altogether because it will eventually get oversaturated and stinky.
Cleaning wood pellet litter boxes
There are different methods people use to clean out litter boxes with wood (pine) pelleted litter. It’s important to know, however, that cleaning this litter is a bit more work than a traditional clay clumping litter.
Cats won’t bury their poop in pine pellets, and they also don’t absorb the smell. So you need to keep the poop picked out daily from the box.
To clean out the sawdust, you can either use one of these methods:
Method #1: Sifting box
The easiest way to clean them is to use a sifting litter box (or make one yourself). This way, you can pick up the top box and shake, and the sawdust will fall into the bottom and you can easily dispose of it.
In the video below, this guy shows you how he made his own sifting litter box system using plastic tubs.
You can also just buy a sifting litter box though, like this Arm and Hammer one.
See also: Litter Boxes for Pine Pellets: 5 Picks
Method #2: Reverse scoop
If you don’t want to buy new litter boxes or make your own, you can do it with your regular ones too. This girl shows you how she “reverse scoops” her pine pellet litter…
Method #3: Dump out contents with each cleaning
The third option would be to simply dump out the entire box each time you clean it, just like you would with any other non-clumping litter. However, if you throw it outside make sure you properly dispose of the poop first.
You’ll go through the pellets a lot faster this way, but it also makes cleaning the box a lot easier.
How to transition cats to wood pellet litter
One of the important things to realize if you’re thinking of trying this litter out is that cats aren’t naturally going to want to use it. The smell may not be appealing to them, and the texture is unlike what they’re used to.
In order to transition, put 2 litter boxes next to each other — one with regular litter, and the other mostly with regular litter and pine on top. Each day, gradually add more pine pellets while reducing their normal litter.
You could also just fill one box full of pine, and the other their normal litter to give them the option.
You can read about my attempted transition here. My cats are old and stubborn, so it didn’t work for them. If you’re doing this with a kitten, it will most likely be an easier transition. The older the cat, the more they may resist. It may have a lot to do with the personality of the cat as well.
Is pine litter safe for cats?
Some say pine pellet litter is dangerous for cats due to the pine oils contained in the wood which may cause respiratory and liver problems. However, the pine oils are destroyed in the manufacturing process, leaving the pellets safe. It also may be better for cats with allergies, as the pellets aren’t dusty like clay.
But note that people are using a variety of different products for wood pellet litters, which may or may not be produced the same.
Pine Pelleted Litter vs Horse Bedding vs Wood Stove Pellets
There are different wood pellets available that work as cat litter. Some people use cat-specific brands of pine pellets such as Feline Pine, others use horse bedding, and yet others say they simply use wood stove pellets.
Feline Pine and other brands of pine pelleted cat litter – This is specifically manufactured and marketed to be used as cat litter and you’ll find it in the pet section at your local box stores or pet stores (and online, too). The dangerous oils are eliminated in the manufacturing process through kiln drying.
The advantage to just purchasing actual pine pelleted cat litter is that it’s made specifically for cats, so you know it’s absolutely safe. Another plus is that it’s really easy to find, unlike other options such as horse bedding, which can only be purchased in very large quantities at stores like Tractor Supply.
So if you don’t have that option or can’t go out and get it, you can find lots of options for pine pellets available here at Chewy for the best price.
Horse bedding – pelleted bedding for horses, also called equine bedding, can also work for cat litter even though it is not specifically marketed as such. However, it is made of 100% pine, just like the cat litter brands and it’s much less expensive. You can find this stuff sold at places like Tractor Supply. These are either kiln or rotary dried.
Woodstove pellets – these may be more widely available than horse bedding as you can find them at most hardware type stores, like Lowes or Home Depot (and even Walmart).
However, they’re not pine pellets – they’re actually a mix of different wood types which could vary depending on the region in which it’s produced. In general, woodstove pellets are made from hardwoods (pine is a softwood). Some brands also may contain chemical additives like accelerants, since they’re meant to burn in wood stoves and not specifically be used around animals. While they work pretty much the same as pine pellets, you should check to make sure they don’t have additives.
Equine and woodstove pellets work but aren’t specifically marketed as “safe” for cats
All 3 of these work the same, but if it makes you feel safer to be using a product that’s actually made for cats specifically, you can go with a specific litter type (like Feline Pine, or any other brand).
However, the horse bedding is 100% pine and made to be safe around horses, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t be safe for your felines as well. The manufacturing process also greatly eliminates the pine oils.
The woodstove pellets, on the other hand, aren’t typically made of pine wood at all. They’re probably OK to use, too, but just make sure they’re not coated in chemical accelerants.
Cost of using pine pellet cat litter
The cost of pine pellets varies a lot depending on what you’re buying.
The plus side of going with the horse bedding option is it’s much cheaper than branded cat litter pellets. Feline Pine and other pine litters cost over 3x as much as alternatives like horse bedding. A 20 lb bag of Feline Pine costs around $10, depending on where you purchase it. A 40 lb sack of horse bedding only costs $6.
However, I’ve only seen horse pellets and woodstove fuel sold in 40 lb sacks, while the Feline Pine comes in 7 and 20 lb options. If you don’t need to keep so much on hand, or can’t physically handle 40 lbs, it may be better to opt for the branded cat litter.
Bottom Line: All in all, considering how long pine pelleted litter can last, it’s overall a cheaper option than most clumping clay types even if you buy the branded pine pelleted litter.
Pros vs cons of using pine litter
While there are plenty of reasons why you should use this type of litter for your cats, there are also equally as many reasons why you may opt not to.
- Cheap – one of the major advantages of using this type of litter is cost. You can buy a 40 lb bag that some owners say lasts between 3-4 months, for only about $6 if you purchase the equine, or horse bedding pellets from Tractor Supply. Even if you use cat litter specific brands, it’s still a cheaper alternative.
- Environmentally friendly – wood pellets are biodegradable and you can dump the dust into your garden
- Eliminates cat pee smell – the pine actually neutralizes and holds on to that strong ammonia odor of cat pee as it turns into sawdust, and it mostly just smells like wood
- Less dusty
- Cats aren’t naturally drawn to it, they may not like the smell or the way it feels on their paws -you need to train them
- Not all cats will adapt to using it, even with training – you can read here about my cats (failed) transition
- More work to clean – if you want to make the pellets last as long as possible, it takes a little more effort to keep the sawdust cleaned out
Different types of wood litter – are they all pellets?
Wood pellets are a very popular option, especially considering you can get them for so cheap. Wood pelleted litter comes in many brands like Feline Pine, Frisco, and Simply Pine (among others).
But the pellets aren’t the only options for wood litter. They also sell grounded (non-pelleted) wood litter that’s meant to clump. The clumps aren’t as strong as traditional clay clumps, but they still can make the box easier to clean.
Some of the grounded litter is 100% pine, but other types have mixtures of wood and corn (like Tidy Cats Pure Nature).
Pine Pellet Litter Recommendations
If you don’t want to use horse pellets, or you can’t easily track them down… we recommend a few different brands that are specifically produced to be used as cat litter. These are all made of 100% pine with no additives or chemicals.
The Bottom Line
Some people find that pine pellets work great for their cats and don’t mind dealing with them. They can be a great alternative to clay litters and will cost you less too. Just keep in mind that not ALL cats will take to this type of litter.
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Rob Delgado says
If you have a minute I have some questions about pine pellets as cat litter. Reach me anytime!
Hello Rob, what are your questions about pine pellets? I’d be happy to answer them the best I can.
Perfect for diabetic cats. Diabetic cats (“sugar kitties”) have more sugar in their urine, which makes it sticky. Also, they often have neuropathy which makes their back paws more prone to touching the wet litter.
With the clay clumping litters, the wet litter sticks in their paw pads and tracks everywhere – until it’s dry. Then it is painful for the cat, like cement in between the toes on their delicate paw pads. They’ll either limp or try to lick it off, which is very dangerous and toxic for them. As it will reclump in their intestines.
If your cat suddenly shows up a clumping litter sticking to paw pads, please get them checked immediately for diabetes. I wish I’d known that, as I waited almost 3 weeks…thinking he was just peeing more due to his CKD. And I thought the clumping around paw pads was just because he was older and stepping in it. (Which was partly true due to neuropathy. )
Anyway – for diabetic kitties, pine pellets or other non clumping litter is a must. My kittie took to it immediately without any transition needed…but he’s a very easy going guy. And I think he immediately appreciated not having cement paw pads!
Oh thanks for sharing that tip, I did not know that! It’s good your cat transitioned well!
Another litter box technique when using pine pellets, is to drop your clean litter pan into a tall kitchen trash bag, cinch the bag closed (in effect, wrapping the litter box with a trash bag), and fill the wrapped litter box with pine pellets. When the litter is ready to go, you pull the trash bag back, thus bagging the dirty litter in a trash bag, and toss it. The litter box is generally ready for a new trash bag and litter. Results vary depending on how enthusiastic your cat is with their claws while burying their results. The trash bags can get shredded quickly, nullifying the benefit of bagging the dirty litter. We use this method at the local humane society, and it’s fairly efficient.
Oh neat, I wouldn’t have thought of that! Thanks for sharing!
Karen Sue Mckinney says
You don’t scoop? How long due you use the liter before you dump? I have two cats , l hate the liter everywhere. Do I discarde after the pellets are gone n it stinks ? Seems like a waste. It’s harder to get the pee n poop out. 🆘
Well, you need to scoop out the poop, but since the wood pellets turn into sawdust you are able to sift that out and reuse the pellets that remain intact. So after each thorough sifting, you can just add new pine pellets on top, while keeping the clean ones in the box. This means that pellets can last a pretty long time. I imagine eventually you would want to dump them all out entirely, clean the box, and start fresh..some of the pellets even if they are still solid get half mushy after awhile. but how often you need to do that depends on the cat traffic the box gets.
Frank Hartigan says
Our kitties won’t use anything else. They clearly prefer Dry Den Animal Bedding, and so do we: the zeolites totally absorb the cat-pee smell The result is compostable, and we just throw it out and replace rather than trying to scoop.
Unfortunately, between the pandemic and the crazy winter, the stuff is just NOT available.
Is the Dry Den Animal Bedding basically just pellets or horse bedding with zeolites added to them? I hadn’t heard of it before!
In an attempt to be more environmental, we originally went with chicken crumble as litter, but the pellets are so absorbent, they work a lot better. Putting the crumble over the pellets made it comfortable for the tender cat paws.
I scoop and flush the poop (which you cannot do if covered in clay) and dump the sawdust daily. We have 2 cats and it works out fine.
Cindy Swanson says
Cat poop is one of those things that should never be flushed down the toilet. Cat feces can contain Toxoplasma gondii — a parasite that can cause all sorts of health problems.
It is especially dangerous for pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems — as well as for aquatic life.
Wastewater treatment does not remove the parasite, so it can get into the water supply. It is also getting into rivers, streams, lakes and the ocean from land runoff, where it is killing aquatic creatures, especially otters.
The biggest danger is from cats that spend at least a part of their time outdoors. Indoor-only cats are less likely to carry the parasite, but it’s best to err on the side of caution.
Cat poop should be bagged and thrown in the trash.
I adopted 2 6 month old siamese kittens. They came from a hime with various kinds of bitter including pine pellets. I bought a big bag of them for $6 at our local feed store (yay for the price and the enviro!). The girls don’t seem to mind using the pellets at all but they don’t bury their poop and it smells awful.! After they go they scratch the sides of the litter box ‘as if’ they’re burying it.Im wondering if they don’t like the feel on their little paws? I really want to make the pellets work. Is there anything I can do to encourage them to bury?
Yeah I think it’s common for cats not to bury their poop in pine pellets. Also the pellets don’t cover up poop odor like regular cat litter does, so even if they buried it, it would still stink for awhile. You’ll need to remove the poop regularly. It’s just a trade off you make when it comes to using these, it is quite different from regular cat litter for sure.
Hello. Can you please tell me what percentage of moisture ( oil ) that remains after the drying, is allowed in order for the pellets to be safe for cats?
Our supplier isn’t making pellets for cats, but heating, and they only could provide the info on the percentage of dryness / moisture.
I’m sorry, I don’t know the percentage. However if the pellets are kiln dried it means it’s generally safe for cats. If a supplier doesn’t make them specifically for cats they probably will avoid telling you they’re safe for cats (even if they are) because they don’t want to be held responsible for anything.
Hi, thanx, the kiln dried has the moisture remaining between 7-10%, and yes if it’s kiln dried it’s safe for cats, I called a manufacturer today, of pellets for cat litter.
The problem with those wooden pellets that are made for heating is their ”power plus patent” , which is adding some oils, and now I have to find out which oils are those to know whether it’s safe.
Oooh, yeah. I know people use the wood stove heating pellets for cat litter but I know they have additives and I can’t speak for their safety. Let me know what you find out.
Have you looked into the horse bedding pellets instead? Those don’t have the additives like the heating pellets do.
Yes , same manufacturer has horse bedding too, and I will write to them to ascertain that and when they respond I’ll get back to you.
I almost lost this page, then remembered I shared your link in comment on the video which first informed me of this system, so I could get back and in order for mew to not forget to tell you, the supplier said their pellets only have starch, according to their certificate, I should check it’s title.. and no other additives, chemicals etc. They are from Germany, Goldi d.o.o.
Oh well thank you for getting back! 🙂
Hi! I just want to say that pine pellets are NOT harder to clean! In fact they are by far my favorite most low-maintenance litter I’ve used in over 40 years of having cats. The main reason is the pine just pours out of the box when you are finished. There is no scraping and trying to pry out the cement that forms in the box from clay and clumping litters, and also can make little cement booties for your cats paws that they have to lick off or you have to clean off. If you scoop the feces under, the pine nicely masks the odor the same as any other litter. If you have a cat that is not that interested in burying his poop you probably have to do that anyway. I think the main tip is you cannot fill the litter box up in the way you would for normal litter, as it expands a LOT once it gets damp. So you use way less and save even MORE money.
Tessa Cullen says
Please answer! I got a 40lb bag of pine pellet bedding as you mentioned and it does not turn to dust. It’s just a wet pellet lol. Can you please recommend a specific brand of these really large bags that WILL turn to dust?
Did you stir the litter around and scrape off any bits stuck to the bottom/edges on a regular basis? It can need a little help airing out, especially if it’s getting oversaturated in any particular spot. Do you have many cats using the box, or one cat that pees more than normal? Does your cat use the same spot in the litter box over and over again? I would think that’s more likely to be the culprit rather than the pellets themselves. I was using the 40 lb bag from Tractor Supply and it did turn to dust, but it never got used heavily since my cats didn’t like it.
I transitioned 2 3 mos. old kittens about 2 weeks ago, they took right to the pine pellets, I was so happy, no more tracking of litter!!I i bought a sifting system by Tidy cat, Breeze without the hood, and how it works is they pee and it falls into a compartment you empty, They come with liners, but I do not use that part of the system, I have the top part of the box that they actually do their “thing” over a regular size kitty litter box ( you can look at the dimensions to determine the size needed ).I use doggie bag, or Ziploc bags that I turn inside out scoop the poop with my hand, but a scooper would work fine too, flip it over and zip. I have a small trash can that I toss the throw the bags in. no smell coming from the bags.
I have 2 cats and they pop often, they do bury their poop, nine out of then times it stinks when they do pop, but once the poop is removed there is no urine smell. The poop is the close to the same color as the pellets but when you bend down to pick up the poop you will find it. It took me about 3 days to become an expert.
The box is in the bathroom, so when I go in if there is poop I throw it in the bag, sift the box with the sifter ( takes about 3o seconds if that). and off we go, The pine pellets you can just keep adding too, I fill it about 2 to 3 inches and throw a big bowl in to replenish the top. I use puppy pads on thebottom litter box that catches the saw dust, ( which is not dusty at all) and I just tie corner to corner on each side and dispose of it in a bag, and then into the outdoor trash receptacle.
If you purchase the Tractor Supply bedding it comes in a 4o pound bag and actually shows a picture of a horse , rabbit, cat. It costs about 6 dollars and change, the puppy pads I buy in bulk, about $15.oo. It is processed to remove the pine oil. All and all I am happy with this system, rather than removing clumps daily, after removing the poop you just sift with sifter and go.
I’ll be happy to answer any questions.