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Do you want to transition your cat to pine pellet litter? I’m going to share my (failed) experiment in trying to make the switch with my cats.
When I first saw the YouTube video “You’re Doing Your Cat Litter Wrong” I was intrigued, to say the least.
The girl talks about how she uses litter made of wood pellets, that you can buy in a huge bag for only $6 that lasts MONTHS for multiple cats! The math worked out to be around $24 per year total, even if you had multiple cats.
But she also makes it seem like if you’re using regular litter, you’re a complete idiot and that there’s “no reason” not to use pine pellets (well, my experience taught me otherwise).
I mean… this pine pellet litter stuff had to be too good to be true, right?
But then I started watching other videos of people using this stuff, and they showed the entire process of them scooping the litter on video. It didn’t look so bad, and it even supposedly completely hides all cat pee smells (along with being super cheap).
I mean… I just had to try it. You’ll see things did not quite go as smoothly as I thought…
Also check out: Pine Pellet Litter Pros vs. Cons
Introduction: What is wood pellet cat litter, and why use it?
Wood pellets are basically sawdust that’s been pressed and bound together through the manufacturing process. For cat litter, you probably want to use pellets made from pine. They have pine pelleted litters like Feline Pine and other brands that are specially formulated to use for cat litter, but you could alternatively purchase pine pellets made for horse bedding.
(Opting to use horse pellets will save money, but the downside is I’ve only seen those in 40 lb sacks and you must purchase at specialty stores like Tractor Supply)
When the wood pellets get wet, they turn back to their original state – sawdust. This makes a unique situation when used as cat litter because you aren’t dealing with wet litter or scooping clumps – you just need to sift out the sawdust. You can do that either by using a sifting litter box system or “reverse scooping”.
The pine pellets also do a pretty good job of covering up urine smells as long as you keep it cleaned regularly. It is a bit of extra work to clean the box out, but it could be worth it to save money and the environment.
Finding the wood pellets – look for PINE pellets
In the videos I watched, people were saying you can find these pellets at home improvement stores like Home Depot. I immediately ran out to find some and ended up with a giant bag of hardwood pellets meant for wood stoves. I purchased them from Lowes.
I didn’t think much about it until after I got home and examined the bag, where it didn’t list the specific type of wood that was used to make them.
I did a bit of further research and realized that people were actually using pine pellets, not hardwood (or wood stove) pellets, like the horse bedding kind sold at places like Tractor Supply.
Wood pellets for burning in stoves vs pine pellets for horse bedding
I wasn’t sure if the wood pellets for burning in stoves would be safe to use as a cat litter or not because they didn’t list the type of wood used or any ingredients at all.
My main concern was if they had added chemicals like accelerants – I didn’t really want my cats to be using it if it did. To be safe, I just went ahead and got the horse bedding pellets. At least that way, I know it’s safe to use around my cats.
I also was worried it wouldn’t react the same way when wet – would the hardwood pellets still turn to sawdust?
I ended up testing both the horse bedding pellets and the ones for wood stoves (using water) and it proved they would actually work the same (at least from my experiment).
So I’d say the pellets for stoves could be used for cat litter if they did not contain any added chemicals.
You can find wood pellet cat litters available in the pet section, too
If you don’t have a Tractor Supply or you don’t want to buy a giant 40 lb bag of wood pellets, you can buy pine pellets sold AS cat litter too, from brands like Feline Pine. I’ve seen this sold in 7 and 20 lb bags so if you can’t handle 40 lbs, it may be a better alternative.
It seems like they are pretty much identical to horse bedding pellets, except the Feline Pine pellets are about twice the cost. The advantage is they’re much more accessible to most people, as you can find these in the pet section at pretty much any pet store, or pet departments of larger stores like Target and Walmart. Also, you could argue since these are marketed specifically for cats you can have peace of mind they’re safe for your cats too.
Find the best deals on pine pelleted litters here at Chewy
The smell of pine pelleted litter was weird…
I was looking forward to smelling fresh wood instead of cat litter, but something about the smell of the pine pellets was a bit odd to me. It almost smelled musty or something, – definitely not like a fresh cut wood! And it made my entire house smell too!
Transitioning my cats to wood (pine) pellet litter
Ok, so here’s what I failed to fully realize before I started this ordeal. Cats don’t instinctually go potty in wood pellets. It doesn’t feel as nice on their feet as clay litter, and the smell is pretty strong. It may smell nice to you, but cats aren’t too crazy about it.
What’s worse is my cats are no spring chickens, they’re somewhere around 9 (I think). They’re old boys set in their ways! They didn’t want anything to do with these pellets.
I put 2 litter boxes side by side – one with regular litter, and the other with mostly their normal litter but a few wood pellets on top. Another option is to just fill one of the boxes with pure pine pellets and the other pure litter, but I thought my cats would need more warming up than that.
The cats were exclusively going in the box that was pure clay scooping litter and refused to use the one mixed with wood pellets. I just figured they needed some time, so I was patient.
After 3 days, they still refused to use it. I even tried picking up my cat Louie and gently placing him in the box with pellets, but the normally docile cat almost freaked out! He definitely did NOT want to step in the box. Maybe it was the smell? Whatever the reason, he was not comfortable with it.
Despite this, I remained determined to encourage them to use wood litter, not force.
I was worried if I went all pellets 100% in both litter pans, they’d do their business elsewhere (like my carpet…).
At the end of day 3, I tried something a little different. I took out some of the wood pellets and mixed in the remaining ones with the litter (initially they were just sitting on top). I also sprayed some cat-nip spray around the box.
Success! Within a few hours, one of the cats peed in the pellet box!
The excitement wore off. After 5 days, they peed in it a total of 2 times but only as a last resort, after their regular litter box was full. The litter box was still mostly clay litter at this point, with only some pine pellets on top.
I continued to clean out the litter boxes daily while adding more pine pellets and reducing the clay litter in the test box. They still were hesitant to use it.
When it got to the point where all you could see was pine pellets in the box (still with clay underneath) my cat Charlie went crazy. In what I’m assuming was an attempt to get rid of the pellets, he stepped into the box and dug and dug until all the pine pellets were mixed into the clay and you could barely see them anymore.
The cats definitely only wanted to use their regular box. The only times they ever used the box with pine pellets was if I had forgotten to scoop the night before and the other box got too full for their liking.
Fast Forward… Day 25
At the very end of the ordeal, I finally switched to 100% pine pellets in one of the boxes. Even after using the pellets and clay mixture for weeks on end, this time the cats didn’t want to use it at all, not even after their regular box was full.
I was patient. I really gave this a shot. I mean, if I really could save a lot of money on cat litter and use a product that was biodegradable, this process would be well worth it.
But after 25 days of slowly (very slowly) trying to transition these stubborn felines to wood pellet litter, I decided to give up.
I mean, I know I could have put the pine pellets in BOTH boxes and sort of “forced” them to use it. I could have tried harder for this to work.
But here’s the deal – I’ve already had issues with these guys peeing in the basement and one of the bedrooms, so I’m not about to do anything that’ll give them a reason not to use their litter boxes.
In only using the pellets as a LAST resort, (even with the regular litter still in the box) AND with Charlie trying to hide all the pellets in the litter (after nearly a month) I decided that was their way of telling me “F** you, mom. We like CLAY!”
Here’s what I realized about pine pellet cat litter in my attempt to transition my cats’…
- Mixing clumping cat litter and pine pellets is not ideal – the pine pellets turn to sawdust and mix in with the regular litter and are impossible to clean. You can’t reverse scoop or sift like as if you were using pure pine pellets either, so you just have to dump it all out after a while.
- The pellets don’t turn to sawdust all at once. The ones that don’t get completely saturated with urine stay half-formed but kind of mush-like and it’s actually pretty gross looking.
- It requires more work to clean pine pellet litter vs. regular clumping clay
- People say it smells like a lumberyard or fresh wood, but to me, the smell is strange and off-putting (especially after it mixes with cat pee!) It doesn’t exactly smell like cat pee but it has a musty scent.
Final thoughts on my (totally failed) attempt of transitioning cats to wood pellet litter
While it didn’t work out for me, my cats are old and stubborn. I’m definitely not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t try this for your cats, but rather it might be more difficult than you think. And sometimes, cats just refuse to use it altogether.
If your cats are younger (especially if they’re kittens) this might work out much better for you. I’m currently trying to get my sister to try it out with her cats, Bear and Chickadee. They’re much younger than my cats and might take to it better, but only time will tell. I’ll update after she gives it a shot.
I really wanted to save a bunch of money on litter each month, but I want my cats to continue to use their litter box even more. I’d rather spend a bit more on litter than deal with cats who pee outside their litter box! Everyone knows how awful and hard to get rid of cat urine smell can be.
Don’t let my failed experience hinder you from trying though if you are determined to make the switch. As I said, I didn’t go “all in” with the switch because I was too scared they’d rebel and pee elsewhere in the house (like they have before).
They’re inexpensive enough that I’d say it’s worth a shot if you really want to give it a try.
Remember if you can’t find horse bedding or you don’t want to deal with a 40 lb sack, you can find pretty good deals on pine pelleted cat litters here that can be delivered right to your door!
Meg Woolley says
My cat sitter swears by Naturally Fresh Walnut-Based Quick-Clumping Cat Litter, Unscented, 26-lb bag https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CJJQK8D/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_apa_i_2lpiEbMGGDJGB
In my house the cats didn’t really transition to it, but I can see how starting them young would be nice. The ground walnut smells a lot better than traditional litter.
I hadn’t heard of the walnut kind, thank you for the recommendation!
You gave your cats an option. That never works for cats. You should have just changed both boxes. If they have no choice they will go there, but all the time you give them an alternative they will take it.
It’s the same with food.
Be careful not to force your cat. Giving my cats “no option” resulted in the one little guy holding his pee in to the point that he developed idiopathic cystitis. He had a life threatening urinary blockage, for which he was hospitalized. It took months for him to fully recover and cost me $3000-4000 in vet bills. Important to note: I first tried the slow transition that the author described (adding more & more pine to their clay box slowly over time). But eventually I took the clay box away altogether and left out two pine boxes. This is when the trouble started & my cat became sick. Just a word of caution— don’t try to force them.
Liz Stroud says
Not true. One of my 3 cats refused and went into the closet 2 times in my new house. I went back to the regular litter. Not worth it and to not have her crying for her litter is worth it.
wow, I’m having such great success with the pine pellets, maybe because I have a kitten. I find it smells fine as well, the kitten even has a wood scent to him, which I love.
Using a sifting litterbox is also key!
Yeah I can imagine it’d definitely be much easier with kittens/younger cats. Mine are old and stubborn! Lol
Hi DeWolfe, if you don’t mind me asking.. what steps did you take to get your kitten to use the pellets? Cold turkey or?
I want to switch my little one over
What is a “sifting litter box”?
Raiza Rangl says
So I have five cats all between 2-15 years of age so I feel you on the stubborn kitty aspect. I I’m currently in the process of transitioning them from clay to pine.
With 5 cats I naturally have a lot of litter boxes…. and I’m also on a tight budget… so, that being said, What I’ve done is I’ve created a large sifting box to clean all the Pine litter once a week.
I started off turning one box into a pine only box… no luck
So I added a very thin layer of clay on top until you couldn’t see the pellets… 😜
And Success! They used it… a few times… till they mixed it up and saw mostly pellets. Then nothing….
(Sidenote: When cleaning the boxes I realized using clumping litter was a BAD plan because, just like you said, it’s almost impossible to clean! I had to Scoop out the pee deposits with a Solid scooper to remove both the soft pine and litter… BUT with non-clumping litter I can sift it right through! 🥳
I sat back and decided to create a tactical plan of action:
I have a total of 6 boxes… so…
Box 1: (The largest one) I kept 100% clay.
Box 2 & 3: 90% clay / 10% Pine.
Box 4: 60% clay / 40% pine,
Box 5: 90% Pine/10% Clay (with clay on top)
And last but not least,
Box 6: Had 60% Pine pellets and 40% soft shredded Pine
(you can buy a bag of this at the store or if you’re on a budget like me take a little bit of pine pour some water on it wait 30 minutes and then sift all the soft stuff out)
Also to note: I made sure to put the shredded pine and clay litter on top to hide the pellets the first few days
Over the past two weeks They were mainly using Box 1 box although I began noticing several of the cats including the older one (who is declawed and likes to pee on clothes left on the floor) actually liked the box #6 with the soft pine
So I began transitioning… (maybe a bit too quick)
Box 2 &3 I went to 100% pine and they were used a total of 3 times… then nothing… so they’ve been switched to 70% pellets / 20% soft pine / 10% clay
Box 4, 5 and 6 I have transitioned to 90% pine, 10% clay
I’ve been scooping box 1 (which is the only box with clumping litter) but I have not dumped the litter/wiped out or cleaned that actual box itself so they’ve began using the other, cleaner, boxes with the pine more and more.
At this point they’ve been mainly using box 2, 3 and box 6 (cause it’s closer to the bedroom.) Yay!! We’re getting there! Next step I’ll be transitioning box 1 to 10% pine, 90 % clay. I’m guessing I should have them fully transitioned in 3 to 4 weeks.
Conclusion: It’s Can be done!! Maybe not quick and easy but “slow and steady” said the tortoise to the hare! Lol
And I’d try reversing your method with the pine/litter… pine on bottom, litter on top. That’s what worked for me.
Ooh that’s a good idea to reverse, I didn’t think to do it that way. Thank you so much for sharing. I know it can definitely be done for most cats but I didn’t want to push it too much with my cats because one of them has some issues with the litter box already.
I’m so glad that someone else alerted you to this.
I successfully transitioned my cat to feline pine, and came across your article here when searching for tips on cheaper pine options.
While reading your article… and then seeing that you put the pellets on TOP of the old litter… 🤣🤣 no WONDER the transition was tough for you!! The directions tell us specifically to transition the cat by putting pellets at the bottom, leftover other litter on top. Definitely not the way you did it 🤣😆❤️
TIP: I found it advantageous to continue doing this (some regular litter on top), even as my cat is used to the pellets now.
Reason: if there is a thin layer of other regular litter on top, then when your cat poops in there, he/she will be able to scoop some litter on top of it or you can easily do that… and makes it much easier to still be able to “scoop” poop at the top.. or to at least find the poop that is covered in original litter and less likely to be attached to hard pellets… which wastes those little pellets while also not masking the poop odor.
I also found that it’s much easier for me to pick up the poop by throwing on a disposable glove, picking up poop like that, toss poop and glove in my littler genie until I’m ready to take that trash out too.
(However, buying disposable gloves isn’t helping the environment… but is saving me from getting ill and wasting pellets… ).
I use a regular closed litter box, but have the arm & hammer sifting litter box set next to it… and use it when doing the more thorough litter cleaning. (Contains 2 solid trays, and one sifting tray):
1) I pour all of the litter into first solid tray, allowing the main litter box to be empty and available for cleaning and refilling.
2) place the sifting tray into the second solid tray.
3) pour some of the mixed yucky litter from solid tray 1 into the sifting tray, sift it, toss the pellets directly into the main littler box. Repeat this process until all of the gross litter from tray 1 has been sifted out, and leftover sawdust is in tray 2.
3) IF it seems like there are still some good pellet shavings are at the top of the sawdust, I’ll use my gloved hand to scoop some of it and sprinkle it over the wood pellets in the main litter box. This thin layer of sawdust on top will act a little bit like regular litter… if cat goes in there to poop, have a better chance of the poop at least being covered in sawdust.
4) Pour gross leftover sawdust contents of tray 2 into the garbage.
The most noticeable PRO of feline pine for me: the sawdust is SO much easier to clean… there is never any lingering clumps of soiled litter attached to the bottom or sides of the litter box or the sifting trays anymore… it all stays clear with just a tap, wipe, or blow. Now I only clean the litter box and sifting tray system in hot soapy water… once every few months… night and day experience.
I’m trying to make the transition right now, and I dont think my cat will take to it 🙁 she used it the first week, then I noticed I haven’t seen any poop in there, and then I found poop in the basement. She’s not that old, we think she’s 3-4 years old but definitely stubborn lol
Same here, my two kittens used it for a bit and are now refusing to use it. They have peed and pooped in different pArts of the house and there is no way they want to even touch the pellets…the tradition was slow, I tried it all….I am giving up after two months.
Hi! So I’ve been trying to transition my 4 month old kitten to pine pallets as well and even she doesn’t like it. It’s been 2 weeks and she still refuses to use the pine litter. I have 2 boxes. One that is 80% clay 20% pine that she reluctantly uses and one box that is 100% pine. My problem now is that she thinks pine are toys. Every morning she gets up, heads to the litter, grabs a pine out and play with it until she loses it. Then she’ll go grab another one. I now find little pine pallets randomly all over my house
Hahahah that is totally something my cat would do. Silly kitties!
Ashley Penny says
Definitely need a sifting box!!!
I got a 2 year old cat from the shelter, and I used 100% pine pellets (horse bedding) from the hardware store. The cat used it from day 1 no problem. She’s a very smart cat, and I got very lucky. 40 lb bag of pellets for $7 and it lasted me about 4 months.
To clean, I bought a $1 sand shifter from eBay which shifts the sawdust while keeping the pellets. It takes me about 5-10 minutes to shift through 2 litter boxes, and I do this about once a week. There is no “cat” smell at all in my house, and the pee sawdust has no odor!
I’ve noticed that since the cat doesn’t have to dig to cover up pee/poo, she will scratch the sides of the litter box for about a minute after doing her business. Overall. I love using pine pellets since it’s cheap and good for the environment.
I wonder if I can use the used sawdust in my flower garden?
I think it would probably be ok to put the sawdust in your flower garden, I’d just remove the poop beforehand.
Debora Susan Waddell says
do you think the sawdust would repel rabbits from my flower garden?
Wouldn’t hurt to try!
Interesting point about the soft pine, maybe is a texture thing. I tried transitioning a Kitty to pine pellets, combining with regular litter, and she refused to use it. Like Wendy I was afraid that the urge would make her do her thing elsewhere in the house. So I went back to the regular cat litter clay. I might give it a try again using some of your tips. Thanks for sharing!
No problem! I wish you the best of luck at any future attempts!
My cat used it for a few months and then one day just refused to poop on the wood pellets, and did it on the carpet. Just like that, out of the blue. She would poop in the litter box again when I brought back the crystal sand.
Oh man! Cats can be so weird!
Well, wish me luck on my endeavors! I just got wood pellets today. This will be the third time I changed litter haha but the last litter I used (a clumping clay) has been getting EVERYWHERE and I think the dust from it is effecting them negatively, even tho it says dust free.
I have one box of just pellets and one of their old litter. So far, no one has used the pellets haha but they’re young so hopefully they adjust!
Good luck!!! Any update? How’d it go?
I love how this was written and completely understand your frustration… I am with you. Background info for my experience: I have 4 small dogs, a bunny, and never intended to get a cat unless it was hairless since I am allergic (I take allergy meds daily and vacuum daily and use dander wipes on the cats we now have)
2 years ago I began fostering my sister’s strictly indoor cat Potato. Fast forward to a year later we adopted a kitten we found outside and named her Tully. I ordered an automatic litterbox (yes one of those popular ones that require crystal litter and claim to be low-maintenance and cleaner ) since I couldn’t clean the regular one enough for the two… Potato would come meowing ( yelling at me) multiple times a daily that the litter box wasn’t clean (poor thing wasn’t the only queen anymore, and she didn’t like it). 5 months later ended up adopting a cat that was sitting outside our door meowing in the rain, getting wet, asking to come in, we named her Binx. So at this point, I was BEYOND irritated with the litterbox situation, and I’m thinking three cats is way too many, I had a 1 regular litterbox with clumping litter and an electric one (which after having and understanding them is completely gross.) After having the flu ( around April-ish of this year) I did not clean the litterboxes in the morning as I usually did, Binx decided to try my bunny’s litterbox which I was using the equine stall pellets mixed with paper based litter to try to switch him over. Not immediately noticing that happed my bunny stopped using his litterbox entirely. After understanding what happened and seeing Binx choose his litterbox over the others (even after fully switching him to wood-based litter) I grabbed the 2nd litterbox for the cats filled it with the wood pellets to see if she would use it, and she does. I have been doing the reverse sifting idea and recently bought a sifting litterbox and added some mesh wire on it to ensure the pellets wouldn’t fall through and it seems to be working. My only complaint is I cannot for the life of me figure out how to get Potato to use it, the other two seem to be fine with it. I sprinkle half a scoop of non- clumping cat litter on it to try to entice her to use it but she likes the automatic gross box… EVEN after I didn’t touch it for a week, hoping she would use one of the other litter boxes. I currently have three litter boxes ( though I know with three cats I should have four) that all sit next to each other… two with wood pellets and sprinkled litter and the automatic one. I am still struggling to get her to use it but honestly, I swear she has to, I just will not give up. I am intending to try switching back to a box (getting rid of the automatic one) and just slowly introducing her to the litter as you did, except I would just go with non-clumping litter because of the transition idea.
I as of today have 5 kittens about 6 weeks old, We rescued them from the backyard ( mother did not abandon them) and would have done so when they were a bit older but one has an eye infection and we are taking them to the vet. Since they are so little and I am trying to save whoever adopts them from this situation, The litter box they have has a non-clumping litter on one side, wood pellets on the other, and a mix in the middle…. These babies are 100% feral right now and I fully expected them to only use the non-clumping stuff but they don’t seem to have a preference, they have used all three sections of the litterbox. The younger you get them to try it the better for sure.
Ahh yes it is so frustrating, isn’t it? Cats are all so different so it can be difficult when you have several and are trying to get them all coordinated to like the same stuff. Sometimes they just don’t. I notice you wrote this awhile ago, did she ever start to use it? It’s nice that the kittens don’t take issue with it. It really just is one of those things they need to be used to at a younger age (in general). Older cats can be stubborn.
I think I’m going to try giving the wood pellets another try with my cat, since I am down to just one cat now maybe it’ll be easier.
I suggest the use of hardwood pellets, Its the pine scent the cats dislike. I have older cats and and kittens. No issues switching. As effective as pine in order control. Also this is best litter box I have found for pellets, Expressly designed for them. https://www.allpinelitterbox.com/products.
Watch this and you can switch any cat .. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGhQc-B3euM&t=758s
D. Lynn Tritch says
I DON’T KNOW IF IT WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE, BUT I WOULD NEVER USE HORSE PELLETS FOR MY PINE CAT LITTER. I HAVE “WHITE THINGS” AND THEY COME WITH THEIR OWN SET OF SPECIAL NEEDS – BECAUSE THEY’RE WHITE! THE PINE PELLETS SOLD FOR CATS ARE SPECIFICALLY DONE IN SUCH A WAY AS TO DISPERSE OUT ALL THE PINE OIL IN THE WOOD, WHICH CAN BE TOXIC TO CATS. MINE ARE CRRRRRAZY ABOUT THE PINE! HAVE USED IT FOR OVER A YEAR NOW, AND NO PROBLEMS; BUT I ONLY BUY THE FELINE PINE FOR CATS … NOT HORSES! (BTW, IT MAY BE THE OLDER PINE SMELL STILL LEFT IN HORSE PELLETS THAT YOU DIDN’T LIKE. FELINE PINE SMELLS LIKE FRESH-CUT PINE TREES … BUT NO DANGERS!)
Tara Nelson says
I recently adopted a kitten who was only on pine pellets. I was going to transition him to a corn clumping litter & the instructions provided to transition was to put the new litter at the bottom (unexposed) & original litter on top. Gradually put in less of the original litter. I googled how to clean the pine litter and thought I’d give it a try. I love it. The litter box stays completely clean. I clean the boxes daily by removing the solid waste, the. scooping the litter out, sifting it (dollar store sifter with big holes but not big enough for the clean pellets to fall out),, sift it in a bag, or mail flyers. Unlike clumping litter, there’s no gross residue left on the bottom of the box. After a month and a half I empty the litter and put fresh stuff in. I am currently using pine pellets for wood stoves that has not been treated and is safe to use as a cat litter.