When I was a kid, cat litter was cat litter. The only natural cat litter was the dirt outside! There just weren't that many choices.
But now, during a time when many folks are "going green", eating organic, and even making homemade cat food, this new healthy era has many benefits for our pets as well.
This page discusses the reasons to consider natural cat litter, and reviews the popular brands being used today.
In the old days, there was no official "cat litter" on the market. Cats were barn cats and outdoor cats. They did their "business" outdoors.
When people started letting their cat indoors more, they would use sand, dirt or ashes for litter.
Then, in the late 1940's, a man by the name of Edward Fuller was asked by his neighbor for a bag of sand. She had been using ashes, and they were being tracked through the house.
He offered an industrial absorbent made of clay instead. It was a hit, and Fuller founded the Tidy Cat brand.
Then, in the 1980's, along came clumping cat litter. It was a huge hit.
Clumping litter contains an ingredient called sodium bentonite. Sodium bentonite, when liquid is added, has the ability to expand to many times its original size.
The concern is that when a cat washes himself, particles could build up in the system. As for kittens, this is a very real problem. Never, ever use clumping litter for a young kitten!
When kittens make a mess in the box they will try to clean their feet after. They are known to ingest it, causing intestinal blockage. This is fatal and tragic.
The other concern is regarding the use of clay clumping litter with a covered box. When breathing in the dust containing sodium bentonite, the concern is that it could build up in the lungs.
With these concerns came the modern choice, natural cat litter!
There are a few natural clumping kitty litters on the market. They are made out of paper, pine, wheat or corn.
They can be slightly more expensive, but longer-lasting. Some of the popular ones are Yesterdays News, Feline Pine, Swheat Scoop, and Worlds Best Cat Litter.
Yesterdays News is made from recycled newspapers, which are turned into pellets. The pellets absorb liquid from the bottom of the pan, expanding in size. So, it's not clumping, but instead needs to be changed regularly.
SWheat Scoop Cat Litter is made from wheat, and Worlds Best Cat Litter is made from corn. Both have similar pros and cons. With these litters, people tend to either love them or hate them. Partly this depends on whether the cat is willing to make a change. And also, odor control can depend on the size of the home.
To learn more about Worlds Best Cat litter, read our full page review here: Worlds Best Cat Litter Review.
Feline Pine Cat Litter
Last, but definitely not least, is Feline Pine cat litter. This is the one we are currently testing at our house. I'm pleased that the cats took right to it, and over-all I'm quite impressed. Check out our full Feline Pine cat litter review.
Flushable kitty litter sounds just about perfect, right? If you research it, though, you will find people who advise against ever flushing any type of natural cat litter.
Is flushing cat litter really that bad? Well, it's not about the type of flushalbe cat litter. It's about what's in the cats feces.
It would seem that flushing cat litter, or dumping it in the woods, is the eco-friendly thing to do. But cat feces contains something sinister.
A harmful parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, leaves its eggs in the cat poo. It can actually live in soil for months to years! It then works its way into the water system, eventually entering the bodies of marine animals.
So, flushable cat litter, though natural in terms of how it was created, is not natural enough to be re-introduced to the land it came from.
Some of the animals whose deaths have been attributed to this parasite are Hawaiian monk seals and California sea otters. It has also been found in dolphins and a humpback whale.
Experts advise that cat owners double-bag their cat litter and dispose of it with their household trash, sending it to a landfill. For now, that's the the only way to keep our marine wildlife safe. 
Regardless of brand, making the switch to natural cat litter may require a bit of trial and error. Your cat may need a gradual change, for example.
And if your vet recommends natural cat litter following surgery, try to make the switch before the procedure.
When it comes to the ingredients in so many household items, less is definitely more. Hopefully you will find a new and healthy cat litter everyone in your house will be happy with!