• Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Can I Use Sand for My Cat’s Litter? Advantages & Disadvantages Explained


May 16, 2023
Cat Diarrhea using litter box_RJ22_Shutterstock


Cat Diarrhea using litter box_RJ22_Shutterstock

Owning a cat means ensuring you have a safe home for your cat. Your cat needs quality food, toys, preferably a cat condo and scratching post, and of course, a litter box. It’s wise to have plenty of litter on hand for when you need to change out the litter, but what if you run out and need something quick?

Luckily, sand can be used for your cat’s litter box in a pinch. However, not just any sand will do. Let’s find out the scoop on using sand in your cat’s litter box.


Advantages of Using Sand in Your Cat’s Litter Box

It’s Natural

Using sand definitely has its advantages. Sand is a natural litter box for your cat. Have you ever seen a cat attracted to a sandbox? Cats love sand because it’s a naturally occurring granular mixture. Not only is it a natural substance, but it also naturally clumps when wet, and it does an okay job of controlling urine odor.

It’s Safe

Sand is also safer than commercial cat litter because of its natural mixture of mineral particles and finely ground rock. Most commercial cat litter contains chemicals for odor control, and if your cat accidentally ingests some of the litter, it can cause problems in the digestive tract, especially with clay litter. Dust from clay litter can get in your cat’s fur, and if a good amount is licked off while grooming, your cat could get sick.

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

It’s Better for the Environment

Given sand is 100% natural, it’s better for the environment than commercial cat litter. It doesn’t release harmful chemicals into the environment, and it also contains no potentially harmful ingredients that are dangerous to humans.


Not only do cats often prefer sand, but also it’s inexpensive. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t just go outside of your home and grab any sand to put into your cat’s litter box, as bringing outside sand of this nature could contain harmful parasites—it’s best to buy sand from a retail store, especially sand made for children’s sandboxes.


Disadvantages of Using Sand in Your Cat’s Litter Box

It’s Messy

One drawback to using sand is that it’s rather messy. Cats will easily track the tiny grains in the sand throughout the home because the tiny grains can get embedded or trapped in your cat’s paw pads and fur, causing you to clean and sweep it up often. To aid with this problem, try placing a litter mat underneath the litter box. That way, most of the sand particles will come off on the mat rather than throughout your home.

It Doesn’t Absorb Odors or Liquid

There is much debate on whether sand does a good job of absorbing odors, especially cat urine. We’ve seen claims where the ammonia in cat urine is absorbed by the sand, and we’ve seen claims of it not absorbing the odor. Unfortunately, you’ll have to try this one on your own to determine if it works well for odor absorption. Other claims state that it doesn’t absorb liquid, which will leave a puddle at the bottom of the litter box.

man cleaning cat litter
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock


What Types of Sand Should I Use?

You should refrain from collecting sand from outside your home or somewhere where it is free due to possibly containing harmful parasites. Store-bought sand is the safest to use for your cat’s litter box, as it will be free from harmful contaminants.

The sand should be made up of loose granular material. Sand made for children’s sandboxes is safe to use, and you can also look for white straddie sand (usually made for children’s sandboxes), fine river sand, and coarse river sand.

What Are Other Alternatives to Commercial Cat Litter?

If sand isn’t sounding like a good option, you can choose other methods instead of settling for commercial cat litter. Let’s take a look.

  • Paper Litter. Paper litter is made from recycled material in the form of pellets. It produces no dust, and it’s perfect for kitties with allergies. A drawback is that paper litter does not clump, and you need to change it often to avoid unpleasant odors.
  • Corn Litter. Corn litter is biodegradable, sustainable, fragrance-free, and flushable. A con is it’s pricey, and your cat will track it over the home.
  • Newspaper. Before recycling your old newspaper or junk mail, shred it to use as cat litter! You need to take certain measures to prepare it before you use it. First, shred it. Next, mix it in the litter box with water and gentle dish soap. Let it sit for a few minutes, then drain to rinse off the dish soap. Then, sprinkle with a liberal amount of baking soda for odor control. Let it sit in the sun until it dries and becomes crumbly. Then, it’s ready to use. Hint: use a paper shredder for faster preparation.
  • Wood Pellets. Wood pellets are often used for fuel but can also serve as a terrific cat litter. The natural smell of the wood helps with odor control, and it’s lightweight, soft, and extremely absorbent—albeit expensive.

Tips for Keeping Your Cat Safe & Healthy

Whatever product you choose to use for cat litter, ensure it’s safe for your kitty and everyone in the home. Always purchase sand from a store rather than collecting sand around your home or anywhere else.

Suppose sand doesn’t sound like something you want to try. In that case, you can try out the safe alternatives mentioned above, but most importantly, ensure any litter you use is safe, biodegradable, sustainable, and easy on the environment.

cat pooping in litter box
Image Credit: Stefano Garau, Shutterstock



Sand can be a good choice as a safe alternative to commercial cat litter. Remember to buy sand from a trusted store, and never collect sand from an unknown source. Using sand has its pros and cons, and you’ll need to use it first to decide if it will work for you and your cat.

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