Using pine pellets as cat litter seems to be all the rage nowadays. They are an all-natural cat litter made from 100% wood. They’re super effective at absorbing that foul ammonia smell that is associated with cat pee while giving off a wonderful woody scent. That’s not to mention they’re affordable, help keep mess to a minimum, and are an eco-friendly option.
However, one important question remains: Are pine pellets safe for cats? Many of you may know that pine contains a compound that is toxic for cats and can make them pretty sick! However, kiln-dried pellets made from untreated wood with no additives are safe to use. What’s more, they are a great option for cats with allergies too!
To help you work out which pine pellets are safe to use as cat litter, keep reading. I share all there is to know in this article, alongside other pine cat litter pros and cons. For those of you that do decide to use this litter, I also offer some tips on transitioning to this new litter type without any issues.
What is Pine Pellet Cat Litter?
Using wood pellets as cat litter is becoming increasingly popular among pet owners. In particular, pine pellets have risen to fame. As the name suggests, these are made from pine wood fibers that are compressed into a cylindrical pellet shape. Other woods hardwoods and softwoods can also be used.
When pine pellets are used as cat litter, the pellets disintegrate into sawdust upon urination rather than coming together to form a clump. When doing so, they effectively absorb all the urine and completely eliminate any foul odors. This makes it a great option for cat litters compared to less absorbent options that simply mask smells.
Are Pine Pellets Safe for Cats?
One of the first questions owners have regarding pine cat litter is this: Are pine pellets safe for cats? And, this question has some sense behind it. Pine and many other kinds of wood have a natural aromatic compound called phenol which gives it that distinctive woody scent. However, phenol is extremely toxic to cats!
If cats accidentally ingest phenol, their bodies cannot break it down. Therefore, it cannot be eliminated from the body and causes vomiting and diarrhea as your cat tries to remove the compound via other means. The compound then accumulates and can cause liver failure and, in worse cases, death.
However, pine pellets can be made safe for cats if they have this toxic phenol substance removed. This is usually done via a process called kiln drying. The pellets will be heated at high temperatures, causing any phenol in the wood to evaporate. When the pellets cool back down, they are now safe for cats and can be used as litter.
Therefore, whether or not pine pellets are safe to be used as cat litter depends on whether they have been kiln-dried or not. The addition of certain chemicals can also make them not appropriate for use as litter. Moreover, for wood pellets to be safe for cats the wood fibers need to come from 100% natural and untreated wood.
What Are The Best Pine Pellets for Cats?
With all of the safety aspects in mind, it is clear that some pine pellets are better and safer for cats than others. Below is a look at some of your options and how safe each is for use with cats:
- Branded Cat Pellets: Branded pine pellet cat litter is your safest option. As these pellets are made specifically for cats, you can know with certainty that they will have been kiln-dried as to not contain these toxic phenol compounds. Besides, the litter won’t contain any other additives that could be dangerous for your kitty.
- Equine Pine Pellets: These are pine pellets that are made specifically for horses rather than cats. Many cat owners do choose to use equine pellets on the basis that if they’re safe for horses, they’re safe for cats as well. However, this isn’t always the case! Always check with the manufacturer. If it has been kiln-dried, 100% natural, and has no additives, you shouldn’t have an issue.
- Woodstove Pellets: Your third option is woodstove pellets that can be picked up from most hardware or DIY stores. However, these are typically made from a range of different woods, some of which are treated. Additionally, they often contain additives that make them burn better on the stove. For this reason, you should assume they are not safe for cats to use unless checking with the manufacturer.
To summarize, pine pellets are safe for cats as long as they have been kiln-dried, are made from 100% natural fibers, and do not contain any additives. If you are not using a specific brand that is intended to be used as cat litter, contact the manufacturer to check these points before filling up your cat’s litter tray with it.
You need to ask them all the following questions:
- Are your pine pellets kiln dried so that enough phenol is evaporated from the wood?
- Are the pellets made from 100% natural and untreated wood?
- Do the pellets contain no additives and no other chemical compounds?
If the answer to all of the above questions is “Yes” then you can safely use the product as a cat litter without any need to worry.
Is Pine Pellet Litter Better for Your Cat’s Health?
Not only is using 100% untreated kiln-dried pine litter with no additives a safe option, but it might also have other health benefits for your cat. Just a few of these benefits include:
- Cat Litter Allergies: Many cats and humans are allergic to the high dust levels, chemicals, and artificial fragrances of more traditional cat litters. In particular, clay cat litters are known to have extremely high dust levels that can cause respiratory issues and trigger allergies. Pine pellet cat litter is low-dust and so will not exacerbate these. Moreover, as pine is so good at absorbing and removing odors there is no need for additional artificial fragrances or irritating chemical compounds. This means it is less likely to trigger an allergic reaction.
- Antimicrobial Properties: Pinewood has natural antimicrobial properties and naturally suppresses bacteria. This is thanks to pine containing the compound shikimic acid. By fighting off bacteria, your cat’s litter box will remain more sanitary between cleanings and there is less chance that your cat will pick up any illness caused by bad bacteria from its litter tray.
What are the Pros and Cons of Pine Pellet Litter?
Pine pellet cat litter is safe for cats – perhaps even beneficial – and therefore a great option for owners to use. However, this is far from its only advantage! Here is a look at all the pros of this type of litter and why you might consider switching to it:
- Cost-Effective: One of the major perks of pine pellet cat litter is its cost. When purchasing pine pellet litter specifically intended for cats, you will pay a little more. However, If you purchase equine pellets for cat litter the price drops substantially. You can get your hands on around 40lbs of the stuff for as little as $6… that’s enough to last you up to four months!
- Environmental Benefits: Pine pellet letter is made from wood, an all-natural and renewable resource. For this reason, it is one of the most eco-friendly options for cat litter, especially when compared to common clay litters. Most pellet litter is made from reclaimed wood, plus the pellets are biodegradable and compostable once you’ve finished with them!
- Effective Urine Odor Control: Using pine pellets as cat litter is one of the most effective in terms of ammonia control. Rather than masking the nasty ammonia smell with artificial fragrances, pine pellets break down into sawdust when they get wet. During the process, they eliminate the nasty odors. Moreover, pine pellets have antimicrobial properties, further helping remove odor-causing bacteria.
- Less Dust: Using pine pellets as cat litter is a great option for anyone concerned about mess. It is virtually dust-free and the larger pellets mean it is much less likely to be tracked around your home. Low dust litter is also great for anyone with allergies. Plus, dusty cat litter can exacerbate allergies in cats as well, another reason to opt for dust-free options.
With all the being said, pine pellet cat litter isn’t perfect. There are a few disadvantages to using this type of cat litter. Here is a closer look at some of these cons:
- Not Cats’ Favorite Options: Many cats don’t take well to pine pellet cat litter at first. The larger pellets can feel foreign on their paw pads, thus making them more reluctant to use their litter box. Additionally, the faint pine scent may deter some cats further. You can try gradually introducing the pine litter to encourage them to accept it, but some cats simply don’t like it.
- Harder to Clean: Pine cat litters do not clump as more traditional cat litters do. This can make it more difficult to clean your cat’s litter tray and you will need to buy a specific litter box for pine pellets. These have a sifting layer at the bottom to help remove all the sawdust and keep the remaining pellets so that they can be used again.
How to Transition to Pine Pellet Cat Litter?
One of the biggest issues owners have with using pelletized bedding for cats as litter is getting the cat to accept it. As mentioned, pine pellets are much larger and feel strange on your cat’s paws. That’s not to mention the woody scent that can be off-putting to felines.
If you’re struggling with the transition, here are four easy steps that will help:
- Pour approximately one inch deep of pine pellets into your cat’s litter tray and top with a couple of inches of the old cat litter you’re using – don’t mix!
- After around two weeks of using this mixture, empty the tray and repeat step 1 but with two inches of pine pellets topped by one inch of the old litter.
- When you empty and clean the tray approximately two weeks after this, refill it with 100% pine pellets and none of the old litter.
- If your cat uses the pine litter without any issues, then great! However, if they show hesitation then go back a step and add more pine pellets little by little.
Introducing this new type of litter slowly is your best chance. However, even then some cats will be resistant. This is a particular problem if you have a senior cat that has only used one type of cat litter its whole life. They are unlikely to accept the change at all.
If this is the case then don’t force it. You might just have to stick to their old cat litter after all. If you’ve gotten this far with it, I’m sure it’s not too much of an issue!
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
As you now know, pine pellets are safe for cats… sometimes! For them to be cat-friendly, the pine pellets need to be made from 100% natural untreated wood and cannot contain any additives. Moreover, the pellets have to have been kiln-dried to remove all traces of the toxic phenol compound.
All branded pine cat litter will have these three boxes ticked. However, before using woodstove pellets or equine pellets for cat litter check with the manufacturer. How the pellets are made and treated will vary depending on who you purchase from, so always double-check to be safe!
Once you have found a safe pine pellet option, I could not recommend using pine pellets as cat litter more. They are great for cats and people with allergies, are one of the most eco-friendly options, and do a great job at controlling odors. You might need to take a little time to allow your cat to adjust, but once they’re used to pine pellets you’ll reap all the benefits!