Crystal litter is made of tiny silica gel beads that are highly absorbent but don’t clump. You scoop out feces and mix the urine in so the beads absorb the odor. Pretty Litter recommends scooping and mixing daily, and replacing the box about once a month per cat. Since you aren’t scooping away as much, you should be able to use less over time, which means less litter ends up in landfills. But it can get smelly if you aren’t diligent.
You might be thinking, as I did, Isn’t silica gel toxic? That’s a common misconception. The packs of silica gel you find in packages are labeled “Do Not Eat,” but Pretty Litter’s founder says that’s because it’s a choking hazard, not because it’s toxic. If a cat licks its paws after using Pretty Litter, the silica should safely pass through their body. It’s only a problem if ingested in large amounts, but that applies to clay litter, too.
Marci L. Koski, a feline behaviorist and training consultant, tells me she recommends Pretty Litter to her clients who have cats with a history of urinary issues. But, in general, she prefers fine-grained unscented clumping clay.
“My experience, and the problem I’ve run into with people, is they think it’s a very low-maintenance situation and they tend to forget about it,” Koski says. “It leads to a buildup of solids in the litter box. At a certain point, the crystals stop absorbing and get really smelly.”
Changing Your Cat’s Litter
If you want to change the type of litter you’re using, you should introduce it to your cat slowly. Vets recommend mixing old and new litter together first.
Some cats simply don’t like the way it feels to walk on crystal litter. If you find your cat’s bathroom habits are affected, don’t force them. Go back to the litter they were using before. If your cat doesn’t like Pretty Litter, or you don’t want to be held to a subscription (which starts at $22 per month), you can still be aware of your cat’s health at home.
“Usually by the time cats exhibit signs, it’s well past the time to get them to the vet,” Koski says. “You want to use a box you can scoop once or twice a day. Take note if the volume of urination has changed or if the frequency has changed. The only way you can note that is by scooping your cat’s box every day.”
Some other signs you can look out for, according to experts I spoke with, are:
- Increased frequency of urination
- Going in and out of the litter box frequently but producing little or no urine
- Straining to urinate
- Urinating outside of the litter box
- Blood in the urine
- Yowling when urinating
- Increased thirst
I stopped using Pretty Litter due to the dust, but I still think it’s worth trying, particularly if your cat has a history of urinary tract infections. (If you have a male cat, they’re more prone to urethral blockages.) I suggest mixing it with other litter, as one customer recommended, to try and cut down on dust.
At the end of the day, there is no miracle litter. Pretty Litter could potentially help, but nothing will replace regular checkups with a vet and your own meticulous parenting.