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Can You Use Sand as Cat Litter?

Pondering a switch from commercial cat litter to something more natural or cost-effective for your feline friend? In this post, I’ll dive deep into exploring the pros, cons, and precautions about using sand as cat litter. Stick around to find out if this natural, cat favoured alternative is the purrfect one for your kitty.

A cat on sand

Advantages of Using Sand as Cat Litter

Using sand as cat litter has several advantages, such as being cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Let’s take a look at some of them in more detail below.


Using sand for cat litter is extremely cost-effective. Unlike commercial litter, you can often collect sand for free or at a significantly lower price. A bag of clean, non-toxic play sand costs just a few dollars and lasts much longer than many other types of litter on the market.

If you live near a beach or in an area where collecting sand is allowed, your feline friend’s litter box can be filled without spending any money at all! However, it’s crucial to make sure the collected sand is properly cleaned before use to filter out harmful substances that could compromise your cat’s health.

No Additives or Chemicals

Sand as a cat litter substitute comes with the significant advantage of containing no additives or chemicals like those found in many cat litters, making it a safer choice for your pet.

And since there’s no artificial fragrance added to mask odors, sensitive cats won’t be put off by unfamiliar scents when using their litter box. With sand, you’re offering a more pure and eco-friendly option that aligns closely with your cat’s natural instincts.

Environmentally Friendly

Sand is biodegradable, which means it won’t linger in landfills like other types of litter. Choosing sand as a litter alternative can help reduce your ecological footprint while still providing your feline friend with a suitable place to do their business.

Disadvantages of Using Sand as Cat Litter

A black and white cat outside

Most cats love sand as litter, and we’ve already looked at some other pros. But there are some drawbacks to having your cat box filled with sea soil, which you should consider if you’re thinking about using it. It may be harboring parasites, and it could result in some bad smells coming from its fine particles. Let’s explore the downside of putting sand in your litter boxes.


Sand as cat litter can be quite messy. When cats use the litter box filled with sand, it tends to scatter outside the box easily, creating a mess that needs to be cleaned up frequently.

Additionally, when cats dig in the sand, tiny grains can get trapped in their fur and track throughout the house. This can be especially problematic if you have multiple cats or larger cats that tend to make bigger messes, or if they were simply attached to their old litter, they may not take to the switch so easily.

Inconsistent Texture

Sand as cat litter can be inconsistent. Unlike commercial cat litters which have uniform particles, sand clumps together and may vary in size and texture. This inconsistency can make it challenging to maintain a clean litter box and means that sand can be tracked throughout your home.

Additionally, the small grains of sand may stick to your cat’s paws and fur, causing discomfort and potential hygiene issues that could make your cat sick.

No Odor Control or Clumping

Unlike clumping cat litter that’s specifically designed to neutralize odors and form tight clumps for easy cleaning, sand lacks these features. So, using sand may land you with a very smelly litter box!

This means that you’ll need to be proactive in managing the smells by frequently replacing the sand and taking additional measures such as sprinkling baking soda to mask odors.

Additionally, without clumping abilities, it may be more challenging to scoop out waste efficiently, leading to a messier litter box and potentially contributing to bacteria growth. If you opt to use sand, you may need new litter mats altogether!

A cat on green carpet

Other Cat Litter Alternatives

If you’re dead set on a permanent switch from regular litter but aren’t sure if sand is right for your cat, there are other avenues to go down. Let’s check out three alternatives, which you can switch up depending on what your cat likes best and what’s easiest for you to get hold of.


This alternative cat litter option is readily available and cost-effective – simply rip up old newspapers into small strips and place them in the litter box. While newspaper may not have the same absorbency as commercial cat litters, it does provide a surface for your cat to dig into.

However, it’s important to note that newspaper alone may not control odor or clump like traditional litters. So, if you decide to use newspaper as cat litter, make sure to change it frequently and sprinkle baking soda on top to help mask odors.

Wood Shavings and Sawdust

Wood shavings and sawdust are another alternative to consider for your cat’s litter box. These materials are commonly used in the bedding of small animals, so they can work well as a litter mat option too.

One advantage is that wood shavings and sawdust are usually very affordable, making them a cost-effective choice for budget-conscious cat parents. Additionally, some cats may prefer the texture of wood shavings or sawdust over other types of clumping litter.

It’s important to note that these materials do not clump like traditional cat litters, which means you’ll have to replace the entire contents of the litter box more frequently. However, if you’re looking for an environmentally friendly option, wood shavings and sawdust are biodegradable and can be composted or disposed of in an eco-friendly way.

Chicken Feed

Poultry feed can be considered as an alternative to traditional cat litter. It’s made from a blend of grains and seeds, providing a natural and environmentally friendly option for your feline friend.

Poultry feed is affordable and easily accessible, making it a convenient choice for many pet parents with cats. However, it’s important to note that this type of litter may not provide the same level of odor control or clumping as commercial cat litter.

A cat lying on gravel

How to Sterilize Sand Before Use

Sterilizing sand before using it as cat litter is crucial to eliminate any potential bacteria, parasites, or other contaminants that might be harmful to your cat. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly clean and sterilize sand for use in a cat litter box:

  1. Select the right sand. Choose a non-toxic play sand or collect clean sand from a reliable source, avoiding areas that may be contaminated with waste or chemicals.
  2. Rinse thoroughly. Place the sand in a large strainer or colander and rinse it well with cold water to remove any dirt, debris, or salt if collected from a beach.
  3. Boil the sand. To fully sterilize the sand, put it in a large pot and cover it with water. Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for at least 20 minutes. This process will kill any bacteria or parasites present in the sand.
  4. Bake to dry. After boiling, drain the sand well and spread it evenly on a baking sheet. Place it in a preheated oven at 200°F (93°C) and bake for about an hour or until completely dry. Baking will also help eliminate any remaining contaminants.
  5. Cool and sift. Allow the sand to cool down to room temperature, and then sift it to remove any clumps or unwanted particles. This step ensures a consistent texture, which your cat will likely appreciate.
  6. Store properly. If you’re not using the sterilized sand immediately, store it in an airtight container to keep it clean until needed.

When Should You See a Vet?

Using natural alternatives like sand for cat litter can provide some cost and environmental benefits, but it’s vital to be attentive to your cat’s health and behavior. If your cat starts urinating or defecating outside the litter box, it may signal discomfort or an underlying health issue.

Physical signs like limping, scratching, or excessive grooming could indicate irritation from the litter material. Skin irritations such as rashes or sores are also a cause for concern. If you notice any of these symptoms or anything unusual, it’s always better to consult with your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • Sand as cat litter can be a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to commercial cat litter, but it requires proper cleaning and care.
  • Some advantages of using sand include its natural composition, lack of additives or chemicals, biodegradability, and easy accessibility.
  • However, sand as litter may present challenges such as messiness, inconsistency in texture, and a lack of odor control or clumping abilities.
  • Other alternatives to consider include newspaper, shavings, and poultry feed, each with unique benefits and considerations.
  • Monitoring your cat’s behavior and physical condition, especially when making significant changes like switching to natural litter material, is essential.
  • Seeking professional veterinary care if any signs of discomfort or health issues arise ensures the wellbeing and happiness of your cat. Always prioritize your pet’s needs and preferences, and don’t hesitate to seek expert advice when needed.


In this post, we’ve seen that while sand may be a low-cost and environmentally friendly option, its complexity and lack of odor control should not be overlooked. Exploring other litter alternatives like wood shavings or poultry feed is also worth your time, to figure out what’s best for you and your purrfect pal. Whatever you decide, sand can be a great alternative to cat litter if you take the proper steps to keep your cat – and therefore your home – happy and healthy!