Can You Use Sand as Cat Litter? Uncovering the Truth

can you use sand as cat litter

We did some tests to see how can you use sand as cat litter in case you’ve run out of traditional cat litter.

You can use sand as cat litter as cats are descendants of desert-dwelling animals, which makes them naturally gravitate towards sand. It’s very economical and available on the market. It can also mimic the natural conditions that cats prefer in their environment.

cat in sand
Cats love digging in sand to cover their waste

However, while sand cat be a very good cat litter alternative, it comes with it’s own set of pros and cons which we will dive into later.

Why Consider Sand as Cat Litter Alternative?

When you want to choose the perfect cat litter for your feline friend, you need to consider a range of factors. Sand is a good alternative due to a variety of reasons listed below

The Natural Instinct of Cats to Use Sand

All the cats have the natural instinct to dig and bury their waste, a common behavior that can be linked to their wild ancestors.

With sand being loose and east-to-dig, it closely mimics the natural environment where these instincts were developed for cats. This can make it very appealing for our furry friends, especially for those who are very picky about the texture of their litter

The Economical Aspect of Sand as Cat Litter

We considered using sand as a cat litter alternative due to one very compelling reasons: It’s cost effectiveness. Commercial litters are very expensive, especially if you have multiple cats in your house or if your cat requires frequent litter changes.

Sand is very often significantly cheaper and more ready available when needed. We were even able to get some for free, but we made sure the sand was clean and it wasn’t contaminated in any way.

The Environmental Impact of Using Sand

The environmental impact of cat litter is a growing concern for many cat owners as traditional clay-based litters are often sourced through strip mining, which can cause harm to our planet. They can also contribute to landfill waste, and they are not biodegradable which is not convenient.

Sand is an abundant resource, and has a smaller environmental footprint than clay-based cat litter. It’s biodegradable, meaning it won’t contribute to landfill waste in the same way that store bought clay litters do.

The only thing we need to be careful about is to source sand responsibly to avoid us from contributing to issues like beach erosion.

Using Sand as Cat Litter Pros and Cons

We have made a list of pros and cons that we thought are relevant to sand being used as a cat litter alternative:

  • Economical: Sand is often much cheaper and can be sourced for free in some cases
  • Easily Available: It can be found at most home improvement stores.
  • Mimics Natural Conditions for Cats: Sand can mimic the conditions they would encounter in the wild
  • Can Be Used for Transitioning to Other Litter Types: If you are planning to switch your cat’s litter type, you can use sand as a transitional material
  • Lack of Odor Control: Sand does not naturally possess the odor-controlling properties that commercial litters may have
  • Messy Tracks: Sand can easily be tracked around the house and it cat stick to your cat’s paws and fur
  • Absorbs Urine but Doesn’t Clump: This will result replacing the entire box of sand more frequently
  • Potential Presence of Parasites: If you are sourcing sand from outdoors, there is a risk it can be contaminated

How to Use Sand as Cat Litter Effectively

While sand is a very good alternative, it’s very important to use it properly in order to maximize the benefits and reduce any drawbacks. Here is a step-by-step guide we prepared for you:

cat sand waste
It’s always a good idea to source clean sand to use as litter
  1. Source Clean Sand: If you are sourcing sand from outdoors, you need to make sure it’s not contaminated. The best sand can be bought from a home improvement or garden store
  2. Prepare the Litter Box: Fill in the litter box with a layer of sand, and keep the same depth you would have with traditional litter. Your cat will need enough sand to dig and bury their waste
  3. Maintain Regular Cleaning: Due to no odor control present, it’s very important to clean the litter box on a regular basis. Remove the solid waste daily and try to change the sand entirely every few days.
  4. Consider Mixing with Commercial Litter: If odor becomes a very big issue, you should try to mix it with some commercial litter. This will help with your odor control and clumping, making cleaning easier.

Alternatives to Sand as Cat Litter

If you see that sand is not the best alternative for your household, don’t worry. There are plenty of other cat litter alternatives that you can consider:

  1. Newspaper: Shredded newspaper can be used as a temporary solution as it’s absorbent and readily available. Same like sand though, it won’t offer much in terms of odor control.
  2. Wood Pellets: Wood pellets or Wood shavings are a great eco-friendly alternative. They have high absorbency and odor control, but some cats seem to hate the texture
  3. Grain-Based Litter: Some companies produce cat litter made from corn, wheat, or other grains like rice. These are usually biodegradable and cat be flushed down the toilet.
  4. Recycled Paper Pellets: They are made from recycled paper and are usually dust-free, making them a very good choice for cats with respiratory issues.
  5. Coconut Hust: A newer entrant on the market, husk cat litter is absorbent, controls odor well and is biodegradable.

Expert Opinions and User Experiences

While we have covered the basics of using sand as cat litter, it’s always helpful to hear from those with firsthand experience. Many cat owners have found great success with sand, praising it’s cost-effectiveness.

Veterinarians and cat behaviorists often recommend using sand as a transitionallitter when introducing kittens to the litter box, as it’s very similar to the natural environments where the cat’s instincts to bury their waste was developed.


In conclusion, sand can indeed be used as cat litter. It’s natural appeal to cats, cost-effectiveness and lower environmental impact make it a worthwhile option to consider.

However, it’s very important to have a look at the drawbacks such as odor control, messiness, and the need of frequent cleaning.

If you decide to try sand, remember to transition slowly and observe your cat’s reaction.

The best litter is the one that your cat is comfortable using.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a cat use a litter box without litter?

While a cat might technically use a litter box without litter, it’s typically not ideal. Without litter the box might not be as appealing to a cat, and it could choose to do it’s business somewhere else

Does sand control odor as well as traditional cat litter?

Sand does not naturally control odors as well as many types of commercial cat litter. However, if you clean the litter box regularly you can reduce the odor in the house

Can I flush sand down the toilet?

It’s generally not recommended to flush san down the toilet, as it can cause plumbing issues. Instead, dispose of soiled sand in your regular trash.

Can I mix sand with commercial cat litter?

Yes, some cat owners find that mixing sand with a small amount of commercial cat litter can help to control odors and make it easier to clean

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams (DVM) graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a genuine passion for animals to their writing. With years of experience working closely with pets and their owners, she has developed a deep understanding of their needs and behaviour.

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