Litter Types Compared
By Chandra Moira Beal
I recently conducted a survey of types and brands of litter, personal preferences and experiences in a quest for the ultimate litter. The result? Litter is a very subjective matter, and there is no clear winner. The best choice for you depends on your individual rabbit's preferences, your own likes and dislikes, your budget, your litter box arrangements, and how you intend to dispose of soiled litter. Needs also vary with the number of rabbits in your house. A lone dwarf rabbit may go through a small bag of litter once per month, while a household of foster rabbits may use 20 pounds of corncob every day.
Common concerns about litter include absorption, odor control, affordability, availability, ease of use, and ultimately, what your bunny will tolerate. Safety factors in with litters that are edible, dusty, or contain fragrant oils: some people are allergic to certain types of wood. Many people use soiled litter in their compost and as mulch (wood chips with bunny droppings provide nitrogen to the soil, but wood chips alone will leach nitrogen out), so safety for the environment is also a concern. Others like a litter they can flush down the toilet, and some simply dispose of it in the trash.
Many people use a combination of different litter materials, such as a thick layer of newspaper, topped with a thin layer of litter and a handful of straw. Others scoop droppings out of the box daily, layer dry litter on the top, and only clean the box once a week. Still others use baking soda underneath the litter or in the cage tray to help absorb odors. Some use wire grates, and there is a wide variety of litter box covers, corner guards, and shapes and sizes to meet your needs (look in the cat section).
With all of these choices, it is easy to get overwhelmed. But we've come a long way from the days when the only litter available for rabbits was dangerous pine shavings.
We encourage you to experiment and find the litter that is right for you and your rabbit.
Following is a list of most types of litter with some pros and cons we gathered from our survey responses:
Safe Litter Alternatives
Aspen Supreme Pellet Litter: This pellet litter has a "woodsy" smell but it is not strong or offensive. The pellets are compostable and can be flushed in small quantities. Although heavy, we found this pellet litter to be very good at odor control and very absorbent, as well. The pellets are dark in color, which took a little getting used to, but this litter fared very well.
Aspen Wood Particles: This shaved-wood product looks similar to pine shavings, but it is made from Aspen wood. Although relatively absorbent, the wood particles stick to most bunny butts so, in turn, the litter tracks all over the house. Not a great option - there's enough hay to clean up as it is! This litter is also recommended bedding for rats and guinea pigs.
EcoFRESH: Made by Absorption Corporation, makers of CareFRESH, this litter looks and feels like clay, but it isn't. This litter is made from recycled paper. It is absorbent and virtually dust-free. One nice feature of this litter is that some rabbit droppings can be sifted out as you might do with cat litter, so if you want to use droppings for gardening, they’re accessible.
CareFRESH: Still one of the best paper-product litters available. Made from paper pulp and dust-free, this litter is non-toxic, very absorbent, and flushable in small quantities. Along with hay and rabbit droppings, it makes great compost.
Corn Cob: Relatively absorbent, but very light and tends to get tracked and kicked out of the litterbox easily.
Cat Country: Made primarily from plant fibers, this pelleted litter is absorbent as well as compostable.
Yesterday's News: This pelleted litter, made from recycled newspaper, is absorbent and can be flushed in small quantities.
Feline Pine: Kiln-dried pine shavings, with no aromatic hydrocarbons. Liquid waste is absorbed by these pellets, which swell and become wet sawdust.
Shredded paper: Layers of newspaper and shredded paper topped with hay can be used in the litterbox, but we've found it may tempt rabbits to ingest large amounts of paper. Rabbits also love to get a grip on the paper and make a big mess. Economical and a good way to get second use out of the news, shredded paper may or may not work well, depending on your rabbit's habits.
Thanks to the San Diego House Rabbit Society for help in updating the list of rabbit-friendly litters available on the market today.
© Copyright Chandra Moira Beal. All rights reserved.
San Diego, California