Cleanliness is next to catliness, and sometimes a natural cat litter is best!  So how do you make a homemade tray smell and feel like shop bought?

A cat won’t go where a cat has gone before

As you will already know, cat litter can be a major household expense, and rather than try to save by cleaning the tray less, you may like to try some of these natural litter tray substrate options.

The good news is that only half of cats care about the type of litter.  So you have a 50/50 chance of success if you start trialing a natural cat litter experiment.  But, if your Fluffy falls into the fussy category, you will have no choice but to get their preferred variety of commercial kitty litter. It’s either that or clean the disapproving messages they leave!

If you are serious about conducting a natural cat litter trial, an excellent rule of thumb to ensure success, is to make sure the smell is eliminated and the used parts of natural material is removed consistently.

The major deterrent to using natural cat litter that you will need to overcome is previous use – most cats do NOT want to go where a cat has gone before.

Nearly free, natural cat litter alternatives…

Shredded Newspaper

This is usually placed on top of a pad of absorbent paper towelling or more newspaper.  In the veterinary clinic it is used post-op for declawed cats or any who have foot problems where litter might stick and, this option is also useful at home.

You will often have seen it in pet shops and at cat shows where people are around to clean it up quickly, as there is no smell containment!

If you have an easy source of non-glossy newspapers, it is a functional homemade alternative litter.

If you have a long-haired cat it may be a perfect solution because many do not like to have any litter in their tray when they go to the toilet (especially to poo).  They don’t like litter sticking to their fur.  The shredded newspaper or even just the pad of paper in the tray is often the solution for them.

Terry Towelling

Another natural cat litter especially for long haired cats is terry towelling nappies or cloth!

It’s also useful for those very highbrow cats who think the duvet or bath towels are the best litter trays!  There is no splashback, they are soft on the feet, foldable (coverable) and instantly cleaned!  Who wouldn’t like it!

Parents? It just means another nappy bucket for a few more years!

Potting Mix

Potting Mix (or garden soil) is actually a very natural product for cats to use instead of a litter tray!  Many cats choose to do a complex contortionist act in order to poo and pee into pot plants!  The smell of freshly turned soil is a strong stimulant for a cat to eliminate their wastes – so maybe just make it easier for them to do that and give them a nice natural litter tray to work with!

If you do fill the litter box tray with potting mix or soil, be aware that it does ‘track’ through the house, so placing washable ‘furry’ mats or rubber mats around the tray at the exit point should keep the litter in its proper place.

Disclaimer: May not be advisable in a house with white carpet!


Sand, and particularly builders sand or sand for children’s’ sandpits is a magnet for the local cats to use as their preferred toilet!  It is the “all natural cat litter”.

Diatomaceous earth used to be a commonly used litter tray product, but there are issues with the silicon dust because it is basically a component of sand on the beach, but in a concentrated form.

Chicken and lucerne pellets

Chicken food pellets and lucerne pellets are excellent in the litter tray.  They naturally smell nice and they do hold onto the urine and faeces smell.

And are useful as compost (though you will need to add lime to counteract the urine acid).  It is a bit of an odd ‘foot feel’ for the cat, but very acceptable especially if you start with kittens, keep it clean and put the tray where the cat wants to use it.

It’s always the same old rules even for unusual litter choices!


Like any other harder litter material, wood chips are excellent and best with an absorbent pad underneath.

Issues to watch out for and and an easy solution

The downside of potting mix or sand is that the urine smell is not very well concealed or contained, and VERY REGULAR cleaning is required.  Removing cat urine odor can be no fun!

Whatever base you choose to use, one of the best cat urine odor removal products is the stain and odor eliminator, from Urine Off. The Bio-Enzymatic formula is guaranteed to completely and permanently remove stains and the smell of urine.

Among many other things, it will remove urine odours and act as a litter deodorizer.  It contains natural additives for deodorising cat litter, the natural way.

This and a number of other cat urine smell eliminating products have urine-eating micro-organisms in them.

No, they are not harmful, and yes they can help keep sand, potting mix, chicken feed or lucerne pellets and other substrates smelling a bit better.  Usually, the product will nominate that they have a bacterial action

Create a homemade sewerage farm for natural cat litter!

You can ‘feed’ the micro-organisms as well as disperse/absorb the odiferous components of cat urine, using wheat bran, rice pollard and lucerne chaff mixed in.

All the components are available at farmers produce outlets but may be a bit harder to come by in the city.  In Australia, Smell Gone provides a ‘starter culture’ if you want to make your own micro-organism farm!  These bugs just LOVE cat urine and faeces and delight in digesting it to turn into water and CO2!