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DIY Cat Litter: 6 Options to Save Money

DIY Cat Litter: 6 Options to Save Money

Homemade cat litter can be an intimidating DIY project. After all, cat litter performs a critical function in a pet owner’s life!

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One of our readers reached out to us and asked if we knew of any quality homemade cat litter solutions. As all pet owners know, cat litter is expensive and adds up quickly… so of course, we delved into the homemade cat litter recipes we found online to see what we could find.

Where to Find Free Cat Litter

Before creating emergency litter options, let’s explore ways to access free cat litter to support you and your feline friend.

  • Pet Food Banks: Many of the pet food banks and veterinary care programs listed in our free veterinary care series can provide free cat litter to low income pet owners.
  • Local Shelters and Rescues: Many offer litter to pet owners in need.
  • Community Pet Programs: Search online for programs in your area using terms like “pet supply assistance [your location]”
  • Freecycle and Similar Networks: People often give away unused litter.
  • Veterinary Clinics: Some clinics may offer small amounts of litter in emergency situations.
  • Social Media Groups: Local Facebook groups might have listings for free pet supplies.

That being said, I understand that sometimes emergency situations happen. Whether it’s a product shortage or a financial shortfall, there are situations where you may need to know how to make DIY cat litter in a pinch.

What You Need to Know

Cat litter is basically an indoor feces and urine collector for indoor cats. In order to be effective, cat litter must be absorbent. Cats naturally want to bury their excrement, so it’s important to use something that they can sweep around with their paws.

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Our modern kitty litter was actually an accidental discovery. Although humans have had feline companions for nearly 10,000 years, it wasn’t until the 1940s that clay-based kitty litter was commercially available. The granulated absorbent mixture we know as ‘kitty litter’ today came into existence when Edward Lowe suggested his neighbor use an industrial absorbent in his litter box. Shortly thereafter, he began packaging and selling the stuff to pet owners.

Basically, any absorbent material that the cats can dig in can be used as kitty litter. However, their human counterparts generally prefer material that is also odor-neutralizing and easy to clean up.

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DIY Cat Litter Alternatives

If you’ve exhausted those options, or find yourself in an urgent need, here are some emergency cat litter alternatives you can make at home.

DIY Cat Litter from Newspapers

Newspapers are generally cheap and easy to get, especially if you’re just using them for litter. You can ask your friends, ask recycling centers or even contact your local newspaper office to ask about misprints.

Once you have the newspapers you need, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the newspapers. Remove the glossy advertisements and the staples from the papers. This will cause major problems in the litter if you leave them.
  2. Shred the newspapers. Use a shredder if you have one, or tear the newspapers into thin strips by hand.
  3. Clean the paper. Soak the newspaper in a solution of warm water and two tablespoons dish soap. You will need to let it sit until the ink fades and the water turns gray. Drain the paper by pressing it against a screen or colander. Remove as much water as you possibly can.
  4. Dry the paper. Drain the paper the best you can. Add some baking soda and knead it into the paper until you have a mushy pulp. Break it into small pieces and crumble over a fine screen. Allow it to dry. The mixture should fully dry if left in the sun for 24 hours.

Once it is completely dry, you can simply add the homemade cat litter crumbles into the litter box like ordinary, commercially-produced cat litter.

DIY Cat Litter from Wheat

Apparently, expensive wheat-based cat litter is just coarse ground wheat. I found a great homemade cat litter solution by Mellow DeTray at A Life Unprocessed. She wanted a sustainable, healthy cat litter option for her new kitten and tested an expensive wheat-based litter.

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In her words, “Imagine my surprise when I dumped it into his freshly washed litter pan to discover that this expensive wheat kitty litter is literally just a bag of coarsely ground wheat. No magic ingredients. It wasn’t even organic.”

Her solution?

She uses a grain grinder and wheat berries. That’s it! Just set the grinder to a coarse setting, grind up some berries and drop it in the pan. As she observed, “I have found that the finer I grind the wheat, the better it clumps, but you don’t want it to be as fine as flour because that would be a bit dusty to have around. I try for a coarse meal, but the exact grind doesn’t matter too much.”

You can find whole wheat berries at bulk foods stores and even online retailers like Amazon! An electric wheat grinder will set you back quite a bit, but the hand-turned wheat grinders are actually very affordable. Amazon has many varieties of wheat grinders, but it may be more affordable to check your local Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp or other local seller marketplaces for a used one.

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DIY Cat Litter from Wood Chips & Animal Bedding

Wood chips and pine animal bedding can be used for cat litter. You can mix it with baking soda for a deodorizing effect. The animal bedding is usually quite absorbent, but wood chips may be cheaper if you can make them yourself!

DIY Cat Litter from Sand

Sand is also a cheap homemade cat litter alternative. Just mix it with one cup of some baking soda for a clumpable, deodorizing solution for your litter box.

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The only downside? It can get very messy. As one of our readers advised us, “I read somewhere about play sand from the home improvement store plus half a cup of baking soda. I tried it. I hated it. They hated it.  It’s messy and stinky. It’s also very heavy and hard to deal with when it’s clumpy and poopy.   I’m still finding that stupid sand in the most awkward of places around the house. (Yes, it was in my bed but why was it [in] my purse?) I have developed a deep hatred for sand.”

If you decide to try this solution, be sure you’re prepared to find sand in some unexpected places!

DIY Cat Litter from Chicken Scratch

Chicken scratch is very affordable and can make an effective cat litter. Unfortunately, it also poses additional hazards. Some users report that it can create pest problems by attracting mice and other unwanted visitors. If you choose to use chicken scratch for cat litter, be careful and clean your litter box often!

You can add baking soda to the chicken scratch to help deodorize the box. Add about 1/4 cup baking soda to each tray and you should be fine. Some users like to add wood chips to this mix as well.

Relief Recap

If you have a pet, then you know firsthand how expensive pet ownership can be. Fortunately, we’ve found some helpful ways to save money! We’ve looked into easy homemade cat food recipes, free veterinary care grants and so much more.

Jerry Stibral

Wednesday 22nd of November 2023

- I've tried sand. I didn't like it. It's messy and smelly. - I went to pea sized gravel. It had some advantages over sand; but I still didn't like it. - Next I tried ground peanut shells. 🥜 It seems to work great for me and my cat. - - - - I eat a lot of peanuts in the shell, so I have an abundance for Free. - I grind them in the blender. - The end product is a mixed size of 1/8 inch and all the way down to a powder. - It absorbs well. - It seems to naturally neutralize the urine smell. - It's light. - It's easy to scoop. - It's 100% decomposable in the garden or Compost bin. - I don't know if there's any difference between using shells from 'Salted' vs. 'Unsalted' peanuts. But I eat the Salted peanuts.

Shelley

Thursday 29th of December 2022

Nicole - Great article, especially when you were wondering how the sand got in your purse! That was a great LOL moment for me. Thanks so much for putting this article together and for having a sense of humor.

Chrimb

Sunday 17th of October 2021

Any senior citizens, or people in need.

I know someone who dose extra discounted work for anyone who needs it.