The Pros and Cons of Crystal Cat Litter

p> Silica gel, or crystal cat litter, is becoming popular with cat owners. Its growing popularity rests largely in its ability to absorb large amounts of liquid and control odors. However, along with its benefits come a few drawbacks. Let’s look at the pros and cons of crystal cat litter.

What Is Silica Gel?

Silica gel is composed of silica dioxide sand, oxygen and water. The gel is made up of tiny pores that absorb 40 times their weight in liquid. Most of us recognize silica gel as those little “dessicant—do not eat” packets that come with medications, cameras, shoes and other items that could be damaged by moisture buildup. Now silica gel is being used in cat litter boxes, thanks to the efforts of brothers Dan and Russell Schlueter, who began marketing silica gel cat litter in 1999.

The Pros of Crystal Cat Litter

Because they absorb so much liquid, crystal litters result in less-frequent litter box changes. The owner of a single adult cat may only need to change the litter once a month (with daily scooping of fecal material, of course), which also helps reduce the amount of litter box waste cat owners throw away.

In addition to the obvious absorptive and odor control properties, crystal litters also offer the benefit of being virtually dust-free. They also promote a cleaner litter box because mold and bacteria are less likely to grow in the crystal litter than in other types of litter.

Another benefit of crystal litter is the fact that owners will use less crystal litter than traditional clay litters. Crystal litter is also sold in smaller bags than traditional clay litters, which may be a deciding factor for cat owners who are limited in the amount of weight they can lift. Some silica gel litters are flushable and biodegradable.

The Cons of Crystal Cat Litter

Along with the benefits provided by crystal cat litter come some drawbacks. One of the most potentially serious is the chance that your cat may eat some of the crystals. Kittens can be prone to eating things they shouldn’t as they explore their surroundings, but some older cats may try to eat the crystals, too. If your cat eats litter crystals, he could face some life-threatening medical situations.

Another drawback of crystal litter is the tendency for urine to pool in the litter box when the crystals become saturated. Manufacturers recommend daily stirring of the crystals when you scoop feces from the litter box to reduce the chance of urine pools forming.

A third drawback is that some cats my find the rough shape of the crystals painful on their paws when they scratch in the litter box. This may make a cat less likely to use the box with the crystal litter in it.

Finally, crystal litter is more expensive than traditional clay litters. However, some owners justify the higher cost of the crystal litters because they change the litter box less often, thanks to the high absorbency and odor control offered by crystal litters.