Skip to content
Home » 10 Best Emergency Cat Litter Substitutes You Never Knew Existed

10 Best Emergency Cat Litter Substitutes You Never Knew Existed

Posted on November 5, 2023 @

Last Updated on May 4, 2024 by Ian Dossary

In unexpected situations where you find yourself without traditional cat litter, it’s important to have alternatives on hand to keep your feline friend comfortable. In this article, we will explore the top 10 emergency cat litter substitutes that you may not have considered before.

These cat litter alternatives can come in handy when you run out unexpectedly or when traditional options are not available.

Key Takeaways:

  • Explore 10 alternative options to traditional cat litter
  • Save money by using newspapers and junk mail as cat litter
  • Consider wood shavings, sawdust, or wood pellets as eco-friendly options
  • Explore sand, small animal bedding, poultry feed, and potting soil as alternatives
  • Find out how to train your cat to use a human toilet

Using Newspapers and Junk Mail as Cat Litter

In situations where you need an alternative to store-bought cat litter, consider using newspapers and junk mail. This DIY approach is not just cost-effective; it’s also simple and utilizes common household items.

newspaper as cat litter

How to Make Homemade Cat Litter from Newspapers and Junk Mail:

  • Shred the Paper: Begin by shredding newspapers and junk mail into small, uniform pieces.
  • Soak and Soap: Combine the shredded paper with water and a small squirt of dish soap. The dish soap helps with odor control.
  • Dry the Mixture: Spread the soaked paper on a flat surface under the sun to dry thoroughly.
  • Crumble into Granules: Once dry, crumble the paper into fine granules to mimic the texture of traditional cat litter.

Points to Consider:

  • Odor Control: Homemade paper litter may not control odors as effectively as commercial litters.
  • Non-Clumping: This paper litter does not clump like clay or clumping litters.
  • Cat Preference: Cats may be hesitant or refuse to use paper litter. It’s important to introduce it slowly or have it as a backup option.
  • Temporary Solution: Best used as an emergency solution or while seeking more permanent alternatives.

The Benefits of Homemade Cat Litter

Opting for a homemade cat litter solution using newspapers and junk mail can be advantageous for several reasons.

  • Environmentally Friendly: Repurposes waste paper, reducing landfill contribution.
  • Cost-Effective: Utilizes materials that are typically free and readily available.
  • Chemical-Free: By making your own, you avoid any chemicals or fragrances found in some commercial litters.

Considerations: It’s important to keep in mind that homemade cat litter may not be suitable for all cats. Some cats may be picky about the texture or scent of the litter, while others may simply prefer the familiarity of traditional cat litter. It’s always a good idea to monitor your cat’s reaction and provide alternatives if needed.

Wood Shavings as Emergency Cat Litter

When you’re out of traditional cat litter, wood shavings can be a practical emergency substitute. They’re easily obtainable and can work well in a pinch.

wood shavings as emergency cat litter

How to Use Wood Shavings as Cat Litter:

  • Acquire Wood Shavings: Purchase them at pet stores or collect them from woodworking shops. Opt for shavings from softwoods like pine or cedar.
  • Select the Right Type: Choose larger, coarser shavings to minimize dust and respiratory risks.
  • Prepare the Litter Box: Place an ample layer of wood shavings in the box, treating them as you would regular cat litter.
  • Maintenance: Regularly remove soiled shavings to keep the area clean.
  • Odor Control: Consider sprinkling baking soda among the shavings to help neutralize odors.

Comparison of Wood Shavings and Sawdust as Cat Litter Substitutes

CriteriaWood ShavingsSawdust
AvailabilityReadily available at pet stores and woodworking shopsReadily available at hardware stores and woodworking shops
Odor ControlHelps mask odorsMay not control odors as effectively
AbsorbencyGood absorbencyLess absorbent
DustinessLow dustHigher dust
SafetySafe for cats and humansPotential respiratory risks

Important Considerations:

  • Temporary Substitute: Wood shavings are a stopgap measure until you can acquire regular cat litter.
  • Monitor Respiratory Health: Pay close attention to your cat’s reaction to ensure no respiratory issues arise.
  • Cat Preference: Some cats may be more accepting of wood shavings than others. Watch for any reluctance or discomfort.

Wood Pellets: A Natural Alternative to Traditional Litter

Wood pellets are an excellent choice for cat owners seeking an alternative to conventional cat litter. They’re not just easily accessible but also boast impressive absorbency and natural odor control capabilities.

wood pellets for cat litter

Benefits of Using Wood Pellets as Cat Litter:

  • High Absorbency: Compressed sawdust pellets can absorb a lot of liquid, ensuring the litter box remains dry.
  • Natural Odor Control: The natural wood scent of the pellets helps to mask odors without artificial fragrances.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Wood pellets are often more sustainable than traditional cat litter.
Advantages of Wood PelletsDisadvantages of Wood Pellets
  • Excellent absorbency
  • Natural scent
  • Long-lasting
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Can be dusty
  • Not suitable for kittens
  • May require additional odor control

How to Use Wood Pellets for Your Cat’s Needs:

  • Select the Right Product: Ensure the pellets are free from chemicals or additives. Look for those labeled as safe for pets.
  • Litter Box Setup: Use them in the litter box just as you would with standard litter. Some pellets disintegrate into sawdust when wet, which can be easier to scoop or change.
  • Dust Management: Place a mat or tray under the litter box to collect any dust or debris.

Choosing Safe Wood Pellets:

  • Safety First: Opt for pellets marked as suitable for use in animal bedding or specifically designed as cat litter.
  • Avoid Additives: Stay clear of wood pellets intended for stoves or industrial use, as they may contain harmful chemicals.

Tips for Transitioning to Wood Pellets:

  • Gradual Change: Mix wood pellets with your cat’s current litter and gradually increase the proportion to allow your cat to adjust.
  • Observe Your Cat: Monitor your cat’s reaction to the new litter type and be prepared to try different brands if necessary.

Using Sand as Cat Litter

Sand isn’t just for building castles; it can also serve as a cat litter alternative. If you’re in a bind, sand can be acquired from hardware or landscaping stores and might just be the temporary solution you need.

sand cat litter
  • Fill with Sand: Replace your usual cat litter with sandbox sand in the litter box.
  • Odor Management: Sprinkle baking soda over the sand to help neutralize odors.
  • Cleanliness: A rubber mat under the litter box can catch stray sand particles.

Things to Consider When Using Sand:

  • Potential Mess: Sand can be kicked up easily by cats while covering their waste, leading to more litter scattered around the litter box which may increase the area that needs cleaning.
  • Maintenance: More frequent cleaning may be necessary to maintain a clean and odor-free litter box environment.
  • Regular Replacement: Sand might need to be replaced more often than commercial cat litter to prevent odor buildup.

Tips for a Smoother Transition to Sand:

  • Introduce Gradually: If possible, mix sand with your cat’s current litter to help them adjust.
  • Observe Your Cat’s Behavior: Ensure your cat is comfortable with the new litter material.
  • Maintain Hygiene: Scoop out waste daily and perform a full litter change regularly.


“While sand can be a handy and natural cat litter substitute, it’s crucial to stay on top of cleaning to ensure a hygienic and pleasant home environment.”

Pros and Cons of Using Sand as Cat Litter

Readily availableMessy and can be tracked around the house
Natural texture preferred by some catsRequires regular cleaning and maintenance
Can be combined with baking soda for odor controlMay not be as effective at controlling odors as traditional litter

Small Animal Bedding

Aspen shavings, commonly used for small animal bedding, can serve as an excellent cat litter alternative due to their absorbency and natural odor-eliminating properties. which helps to eliminate unpleasant odors caused by cat urine and feces. Additionally, small animal bedding is widely available in pet stores, making it a convenient choice for emergency situations or as an alternative to traditional cat litter.

Related  Can You Use Cat Litter for Rabbits? Find Out the Best Options!
small animal bedding litter

Why Choose Aspen Shavings?

  • Natural Absorbency: Highly effective at soaking up urine and neutralizing odors.
  • Chemical-Free: Aspen is free from harmful chemicals and dyes, promoting a safe litter environment.
  • Odor Control: The natural scent of aspen can help keep your home smelling fresh.
  • Availability: Easily found in most pet stores, aspen shavings are great for urgent litter needs.

How to Use Aspen Shavings for Cat Litter:

  • Fill the Box: Pour a 2-3 inch layer of aspen shavings into the litter box.
  • Maintenance: Scoop out solids and clumps regularly to maintain cleanliness.
  • Replace as Needed: Be prepared to change the bedding more often than clay litter as it may get saturated quicker.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Odor Management: Mix in some baking soda if additional odor control is needed.
  • Monitoring: Watch for any changes in your cat’s litter habits or signs of rejection.
  • Disposal: Check if aspen shavings are compostable in your area for an eco-friendly disposal option.


  • Regular Changes: Aspen may require more frequent changes to stay fresh and dry.
  • Environmental Impact: Being biodegradable, aspen is a more eco-conscious choice than some traditional litters.
• Affordable and readily available• May require more frequent replacement
• Absorbent with natural odor control• May not be suitable for cats with allergies or sensitivities
• Safe and non-toxic for cats• May track more easily compared to traditional cat litter
• Provides a comfortable and clean environment for cats 

Poultry Feed

n an unexpected situation without cat litter, poultry feed, particularly in pellet form, can act as an emergency alternative due to its absorbent properties.

poultry feed as cat litter

How to Use Poultry Feed as Cat Litter:

  • Fill the Litter Box: Use poultry feed pellets to fill the litter box, similar to how you would with traditional litter.
  • Odor Control: To combat odors, you can sprinkle baking soda over the poultry feed.
  • Stay Vigilant: Be aware that poultry feed might attract pests like insects and mice.

Important Tips When Using Poultry Feed:

  • Regular Monitoring: Keep an eye on the litter box and clean it promptly to prevent pest infestation.
  • Temporary Measure: This solution is intended for short-term use, not as a permanent litter substitute.
  • Supply Management: Aim to replenish your regular cat litter supply to revert to the usual litter as soon as possible.

Points to Consider:

  • Odor Management: Poultry feed may not control odors as effectively as standard cat litter.
  • Pest Awareness: Be prepared to address any pest attraction due to the feed.
  • Comfort and Hygiene: Ensure your cat is comfortable with the texture and maintain hygiene by frequent cleaning.

Using Potting Soil as Cat Litter

Potting soil can serve as a natural and eco-friendly cat litter substitute, especially for indoor cats who enjoy a more naturalistic setting.

potting soil as cat litter

Choosing the Right Potting Soil:

  • Go Organic: Opt for high-quality, organic potting soil without harmful chemicals or fertilizers.
  • Avoid Additives: Select soil that’s free from artificial fragrances and additives to protect your cat’s health.
  • Drainage is Key: Ensure the potting soil provides good drainage to prevent moisture buildup and control odors.

How to Use Potting Soil as Cat Litter:

  • Fill the Box: Add a layer of potting soil to the litter box as you would with conventional cat litter.
  • Maintenance: Scoop out solid waste regularly and stir the soil to evenly distribute any odors.
  • Disposal and Replacement: Dispose of soiled soil in yard waste or compost and clean the box thoroughly before adding fresh soil.

Considerations for Maintaining Cleanliness:

  • Tracking: Soil may be tracked outside the litter box; use a mat to contain it.
  • Housekeeping: You might need to vacuum or sweep more frequently to manage any soil particles on your floors.
– Natural and comfortable for cats– Can be messier compared to traditional cat litter
– Environmentally-friendly and biodegradable– More frequent cleaning and replacement required
– Free of harmful chemicals and additives– May track soil particles around the house
– Easy to dispose of and compost– Requires regular vacuuming or sweeping

Disposable Puppy Pads as Cat Litter

Disposable puppy pads can be repurposed as a convenient substitute for traditional cat litter, providing a clean and highly absorbent solution for your cat’s needs.

Related  Can You Compost Cat Litter?

Benefits of Using Puppy Pads for Cats:

  • Quick Absorption: Designed to absorb liquids fast, keeping the litter area dry.
  • Leak-Proof Design: The plastic backing prevents any leakage onto floors.
  • Ease of Disposal: After use, the pads can be simply thrown away, offering hassle-free maintenance.

How to Use Puppy Pads for Your Cat:

  • Placement: Lay a puppy pad down in the area you want your cat to use.
  • Training: Encourage your cat to use the pad, using positive reinforcement as they adapt to the new setup.
  • Regular Change: Swap out the pads regularly to maintain cleanliness and control odors.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Cat Preferences: Some cats may not take to the puppy pads right away and might prefer traditional litter.
  • Material Sensitivity: Watch for any signs of discomfort or allergies to the pad materials.
  • Training Period: Be patient as your cat may require some time to adjust to this new arrangement.

Using a Human Toilet for Cat Litter

Believe it or not, you can actually train your cat to use a human toilet as a substitute for cat litter. This may sound surprising, but it’s a real possibility! Cat toilet training kits are available that provide a step-by-step process to teach your cat this impressive skill.

Steps to Toilet Train Your Cat:

  • Acquire a Training Kit: Purchase a cat toilet training kit with a seat that fits your toilet and training discs.
  • Set Up the Kit: Install the special seat on your toilet and introduce your cat to it using the training discs.
  • Be Patient: Follow the kit’s instructions closely, rewarding your cat for successful attempts.
  • Maintain Cleanliness: Ensure the toilet remains clean to encourage your cat to use it.

Advantages of Cat Toilet Training:

  • Cost-Effective: Save money on cat litter and reduce environmental waste.
  • Hygienic: No more litter tracking or scattered debris around your home.
  • Odor Control: Toilets can manage odors more effectively than many types of cat litter.
  • Impressive Skill: Amaze guests with your cat’s unique and tidy toilet habits.

Important Tips:

  • Consistency is Key: Regular training sessions will help your cat learn faster.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Use treats and praise to encourage your cat throughout the training process.
  • Hygiene First: A clean toilet is crucial for training your cat successfully.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Use Sawdust for Cat Litter

Sawdust can be used as an alternative to traditional cat litter. It is inexpensive and has a natural scent that can help mask the smell of ammonia.

However, it’s important to note that not all types of wood shavings are safe for cats. For instance, pine shavings can be toxic. Additionally, wood dust is considered a carcinogen to humans, so it should be handled with care.

Can You Use Wood Shavings for Cat Litter?

Wood shavings are another alternative to conventional cat litter and can be obtained from woodworking shops.

They are eco-friendly and can be a cost-effective option. However, some types of wood shavings, like those from pine, can be harmful to cats.

It’s also less effective at odor control compared to other types of litter and may need to be replaced more frequently.

Can You Use Horse Pellets for Cat Litter?

Horse bedding pellets, which are made from sawdust, can be used as cat litter. They are affordable and highly absorbent.

However, they can swell when wet and may disintegrate, potentially overflowing the litter box when saturated. It’s a less common choice but has characteristics that make it a viable alternative.

Can I use sand as cat litter?

  • Absorbency and Clumping: Sand is highly absorbent and forms clumps around waste, which makes it easy to scoop and clean.
  • Cat Attraction: Cats naturally enjoy the texture of sand, increasing the likelihood they will use the litter box.
  • Drawbacks: Fine grains of sand can be messy, spreading outside the box and requiring a mat to minimize tracking.

Can I Use Rice as Cat Litter?

  • Absorbency: Rice is a good absorbent material for urine, but it does not clump.
  • Odor Control: Rice does not mask ammonia odors well, which could be a concern.
  • Texture: Some cats may not like the texture of rice granules, and it may require mixing with another litter type.

Can I Use Flour as Cat Litter

  • Biodegradability: Cassava flour is eco-friendly and biodegradable.
  • Absorbency: It reacts with moisture to form clumps, aiding in absorption.
  • Potential Issues: Flour can attract cats to eat it, and it may not be the best at controlling odors.

Can You Use Pine Shavings for Cat Litter?

Using pine shavings for cat litter is a topic of interest for cat owners seeking eco-friendly and potentially cost-effective alternatives to traditional clay-based litters. Here’s a concise exploration of the subject, based on the information gathered:

Safety and Suitability of Pine Shavings Pine shavings can be used as cat litter if they are from a safe wood type like Aspen and have been heat-treated to remove toxins. Woods like cedar and untreated pine, which can be toxic, should be avoided. It’s also important to ensure that the shavings are free from sawdust, which can be harmful to a cat’s respiratory system and skin.