Cat litter is probably one of our least favorite things to purchase. It’s heavy, and brings no joy to our cats. At least with food we can get excited picking out their meals. With cat litter, it’s just a hope that they accept it as cat litter, and that it works as expected.
In general, there’s a lot to say about choosing cat litter and what the best types of litter are, but what happens when you run out? We know that without regular cleaning your litter box will get dirty, but if there’s no new litter to replace the old, what will your cats do?
Getting Cats Used To Litter Substitutes
This guide is intended for short term solutions to lack of litter, not switching cats over from box litter to natural substitutes. While some of the items here will work long term, there are other options that may be better suited.
Regardless of your goal, the first step is to get your cat used to your new litter substitute. The best way to do this is to use a bit of the existing dirty litter. So whenever possible, don’t completely discard that used litter, you can at least sprinkle it on one of the homemade substitutes in the list to help cats understand where they are supposed to go.
If you haven’t had a cat in your home before and have no dirty litter, catnip is a great way to get them to at least explore a litter box. And if there’s no catnip because you are a first time cat owner, you can always place them in the litter box and try to simulate them raking the litter with their paws to push them to explore your alternative.
By default cats are clean creatures and are not looking to pee on furniture. They will quickly take to any litter alternative you give them, you just may need to coax them a little bit.
Newspaper is generally recommended by vets for cats post surgery as it’s softer on their paws and less likely to cause an infection when near open wounds. It’s a cheap and safe alternative to traditional cat litter.
To create your own homemade cat litter with newspaper or some junk mail, simply start shredding it. It’s best to use a shredder since you’re going to need quite a bit to create a proper substitute for cat litter, but this can also be done by hand or with scissors.
Newspaper is a great alternative to traditional cat litter as a long term solution as well, it just takes some time for your cats to get used to and can be very difficult to clean up. But the benefits are that it’s extremely healthy for your cats and you can repurpose your newspaper or junk mail into something useful.
If you are just starting out with newspaper it will be difficult to train your cats to use it over traditional cat litter. What you can do is start with a mix so that your cat can begin to associate the newspaper with litter.
When placing newspaper in a litter box, we recommend using a few solid pieces to line the bottom before placing the shredded pieces on top. This allows a more solid base which will help you when it’s time to clean up after them.
Chicken Feed & Baking Soda
You probably don’t keep a stock of chicken feed in your house, so this one will require a bit of planning, but chicken feed is quickly becoming an extremely healthy alternative to traditional cat litter. If you mix it with baking soda you can sort of mimic how traditional litter feels for your cats, as chicken feed is quite different for them.
This may not be a quick fix for when you run out, but chicken feed is cheap and you can pick it up at the pet store that you get your litter from. The baking soda will not only help with consistency and cleanup, but it’s a great natural way to keep litter from smelling too awful.
A note about baking soda. It’s considered a smell deterrent for cats, so if your cats are more sensitive this one may not work as well. You can always try mixing the baking soda with something else, such as the other options on this list, to create your own combination that’s less dense in smell for your cats.
Again, we don’t expect you to keep sand in your closet for a rainy day, but if you have a sandbox for your children outside, it’s a great alternative to use in a pinch. Sand is also something that can be used as a more long term solution, but sparingly. Similar to traditional cat litter, sand might not be the best for their paws. It’s also going to track sand all over your house, unlike the newspaper alternative.
Like the rest, if you’re using sand, you will probably want to start with a mix of sand and cat litter before moving just to sand, so your cat can fully create a relationship with sand and litter.
This one is not going to be effective long term, but it can help in a pinch. You can collect your potting soil and mix it with whatever cat litter you have remaining to stretch the litter as best you can. Since cats love dirt, the potting soil is a great substitute on the fly, especially if you don’t have newspapers.
All the items listed above can work as quick substitutes for cat litter if you run out. If you are pressed to find enough supplies, a great option is to combine them all. For example, if you can spare some potting soil and baking soda, these can create a nice base for a litter box and you can sprinkle newspapers on top to fill it out. Creating combinations such as this will allow you to maximize the supplies you have available and create a higher quality substitute than any of the single ingredients.
If you’ve found yourself in a tough situation with no litter available, there’s some quick alternatives you probably have in your house. Be sure to have patience in these trying times, as your cat probably doesn’t enjoy the break in their routine either. Have patience and introduce your new alternatives slowly. Do your best to pick up more litter as soon as possible, and good luck!