Emergency Cat Litter

Emergency Cat Litter

If you find yourself unable to go to the store to get cat litter, you can make homemade cat litter to get you through the night. You can use potting soil, sawdust, rice, wheat, paper towels, shredded paper, or even chicken feed!

If you are in need of emergency cat litter, then keep on reading to find out if you have these cat litter alternatives on hand.

What can I use as emergency cat litter?

Before anything else, it should be reiterated that you should only use homemade cat litter if there is no way at all for you to go to the store (i.e. it is late and all the stores are probably closed). This is because it is not advised to make drastic changes to your cat’s litter box because the cat may resist using whatever method you provide. But if you need a one-time emergency cat litter alternative, there are options.

1. Refresh your old cat litter

If you have run out of fresh cat litter but have yet to dispose of the old litter, you can bag the old litter after sifting out the excrement. Then clean the litter box with a mild detergent and water. Make sure you completely dry the litter box. Then, pour baking soda on the old cat litter and toss it all together. The baking soda will act as a deodorizer.

If you follow this process, the old odors should be lessened and the cat will make do until you get fresh cat litter.

2. Potting soil

Use fresh potting soil and not just any dirt from outside (it might carry germs). Outdoor cats use the backyard as their bathroom, but indoor cats might have a hard time with this method. Potting soil does not clump well, it smells of excrement and urine almost immediately, and it can become messy easily. Place a mat under the litter box to catch the soil that your cat kicks out of the box.

3. Sand

If your kids have a sandpit, you can use the sand as a great cat litter alternative. Sand clumps up when it gets wet and it holds odors in quite well. Unfortunately, like soil, it tracks easily out of the litter box. Be sure to put down a mat around the litter box.

4. Sawdust

If you or a neighbor is into woodworking, sweep up the sawdust from the floor and use it as emergency cat litter. The wood’s natural scent will mask the odors and it will clump when wet. As much as possible, do not use sawdust from chemically treated wood because it may make your cat ill.

Depending on how fine the sawdust is, be careful using it around people with allergies.

5. Rice

Rice absorbs moisture quite well but is not great at disguising the smell of urine. Do not overfill the litter box because rice expands when it gets wet.

6. Wheat

You can use either finely ground wheat or wheat berries in an emergency. But the finer consistency of ground wheat clumps better when wet. Your cat may have less of an aversion to it as well.

7. Paper towel

Just take a couple sheets of paper towels and stack them in the litter box. This method will not last long, it is not good at masking odors, and it will not clump. But it will work if there are no other options available.

8. Shredded newspaper

Shredded newspaper is a great option as emergency cat litter. It is readily available around the house. To make cat litter from shredded paper, shred a generous amount into small strips to fill the cat litter box.

Soak the shredded paper in warm water with dish soap until the water becomes gray and the paper is the consistency of oatmeal. Drain the water and add clean water to soak the paper again. Drain it again. Sprinkle baking soda liberally onto the mixture and knead the wet paper while squeezing out the moisture. Spread the paper out over a screen to dry. Once it is dry, it is ready to use.

9.  Chicken feed

If you live on a farm or ranch, chicken feed makes for great cat litter. It masks odor well and is affordable. Make sure you are using new chicken feed, because your cat might eat the old moldy feed and get sick.

10. Alfalfa pellets

If you have pet rabbits and feed them alfalfa pellets, you can use those as emergency cat litter. They are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Just be careful to not put in too many pellets as they may cause increased dust in the area or get stuck in your cat’s paw.

The Cheapest Option: Encourage your cat to relieve itself outside

This might not be an option if you have a full-time indoor cat. But if your cat likes to explore and sleep under the sun, encourage it to go to the bathroom outside. It is an eco-friendly and inexpensive way to cater to their bathroom needs.

Going outside to use the bathroom is the natural way for all animals. Also, kitty litter is expensive and often made of materials that are harmful to the environment.

If you do not feel comfortable letting your cat free in the open yard, try building them a semi-outdoor enclosure so they can go in and out of your house to use the bathroom whenever they need to.

Reasons to avoid using commercial cat litter if you can

  1. It is expensive and you have to buy it constantly if you have multiple cats.
  2. Some commercial kitty litter is not biodegradable. It will stay in landfills for a long time and is not eco-friendly.
  3. Clay litter contains silica, which is a known carcinogen. If it is kicked up into the air by your cat, it may be inhaled by the people living in the house. 
  4. Homemade litter is inexpensive, and letting your cat go to the bathroom outside is free.


If you run out of clean cat litter but cannot buy a new bag until morning, you can use items around your house as temporary emergency cat litter. You can use potting soil, sand, sawdust, rice, wheat, paper towels, shredded newspaper, or alfalfa pellets. Make sure to only use these methods during emergencies because it is not advisable to constantly switch your cat’s litter material.

If possible, encourage your cat to go to the bathroom in your yard. Do this by building them a semi-outdoor enclosure that gives them the ability to go in and out of the house as needed. This option saves you money and is eco-friendly.

Image: istockphoto.com / Veni vidi…shoot