Crystal Cat Litters: Are They Worth the Premium Price?
Updated by Brandon F. on May 14, 2020
We’ve all seen those expensive cat litters that are advertised as being made of “crystals” and promise excellent odor-fighting abilities, good moisture control, all the while being lightweight and relatively dust-free.
But many can be quite costly, with the highest exceeding 3 dollars per pound! The big question is: should you open up your wallet and give one of these products a try or rather stick to the conventional clay/wood/corn/etc. cat litter that you have grown accustomed to?
A vast majority of crystal litters are made of silica gel, which is comprised of sodium silicate, a naturally-occurring mineral. This material is a natural desiccant, which means that it has a strong affinity to water molecules. In other words, it will soak up moisture like a sponge and keep it absorbed! The most common end-result of the silica gel process are beads or balls.
However, there are also more rough and pointy examples on the market as well. The beads are also typically much smaller than a conventional clay or wood-based litter. Also, due to a combination of their size and the relatively low density, the beads are much more lightweight than many of your traditional cat litter materials, particularly clay.
Crystal Cat Litter Beads Pros and Cons
These beads have multiple advantages over conventional litters:
- they are typically significantly lighter, which means that it is easier to handle
- they are softer on cat’s paws, which is helpful for cats that have sensitive paws which can be common in kittens and older cats
- the round beads can help combat tracking since there aren’t a lot of ridges to catch on cat hair
The being said, they also suffer from some difficulties as well:
- Being lighter, they are kicked around more easily
- They typically do not clump
- When sharp, they can hurt to step on when barefoot!
How Do Crystal Cat Litters Work?
While the beads themselves have some interesting properties, what happens when you put thousands if not millions of these beads together and fill a cat box with them? The result is a unique product that has powerful absorption capabilities, good odor control, is near scentless, and easy to carry.
While these are the major pros, it isn’t without some cons as well. As mentioned above, the beads typically do not clump, which means that you are expected to physically remove the cat waste as necessary until the box is more or less exhausted.
This exhaustion will usually come from being overloaded with urine, as it is much more difficult to remove and will rather simply be absorbed into the litter. Some cats that like to use the same spot over and over will allow you to scoop out that section (which you will easily be able to identify due to the color change) and help prolong the box.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Why on earth would I pay that kind of money for a product that doesn’t even clump?!” And the answer is that a package of this takes a very long time before it needs to be replaced in a typical one-cat box. So, in the long run, you might not end up paying as much as you think for a given period.
This is likely a big selling point for those who have their budget as their main reason for going with a particular cat litter product, and one that many of the companies don’t do a good job of advertising when trying to market one of their crystal-based products.
Various Crystal Cat Litter Brands
Many brands don’t deal with crystal litters while others deal with them almost exclusively. Probably the most prominent crystal-based cat litter brand is UltraPet. You can read all of our full reviews that we did on the various UltraPet products here. Other companies such as Scoop Away and Fresh Step offer some crystal-based litters but not nearly to the extent as UltraPet.
While the number of crystal options available on the market is significantly smaller than conventional clay, lately we have seen a surge of clay products that are then mixed with crystals. This is a sort of “best of both world’s approach in that you regain some of the clumping ability that is typically present in clay while also helping to minimize dust levels due to the crystals. The addition of clay also drives down the price as it is substantially cheaper than silicone gel.
Conclusion: So is it Worth it or Not?
In summary, we feel that there are a few crystal litters on the market that perform well enough to dictate their high price. If you head over to our Crystal Litter Review Section and stick with any of the examples that are rated 3 stars or above, we are confident you will be happy with the product. Below that we feel that the pros that exist are too much to overcome the high price tag. In summary, here are what we consider the overall pros and cons of crystal cat litters:
- Extremely absorbent
- Good at controlling odor
- Feels good on cat’s paws
- Little to no litter smell
- Typically will not stick to cat hair
- Very expensive
- Does not clump
- Can easily be kicked around
- Odor control levels are controlled by how well you monitor litter box (so a bit higher maintenance)