Is Pretty Litter Safe? The Surprising Answer is No
We investigated Pretty Litter to uncover the answer to the question we’ve had several readers reach out about: is Pretty Litter safe?
Pretty Litter is a popular direct-to-consumer subscription delivery litter brand founded in 2015. Made from silica, it’s highly absorbent and has an interesting gimmick that lead to its quick success.
Dubbed a “smart” cat litter, the product changes color when urinated on by your cat. These colors are supposed to indicate potential health issues your cat may be facing, however we found several reports of false positives with Pretty Litter which we uncovered in our investigation.
There is another alarming issue we found with Pretty Litter: it’s made from silica, and the dust it gives off could cause negative health impacts.
Let’s dig deep into Pretty Litter and learn why we concluded: Pretty Litter could be dangerous to you and your cat.
Problem #1: It’s Made From a Potentially Toxic Material
We reached out to Pretty Litter to ask what their product is made of. We quickly received a template response which we will include in part below:
Questions about safety and use are super important to us. That’s why our proprietary formula of silica gel and other health monitoring indicators was designed specifically with your cat’s health in mind.
Silica, in its gel form, contains millions of tiny pores that are purr-fect at retaining moisture! Silica gel is commonly regarded as safe and has been widely used in many topical and oral medicines, food products, and cosmetics for decades.
To learn more about the myths and benefits of using silica gel litter, click here.
The video is embedded below:
The video states that Pretty Litter is made from silicon dioxide (silica)—a naturally-occurring element that’s found in sand and quartz. It’s strip-mined from the earth when it’s then processed and turned into Pretty Litter.
The silicon dioxide is used to be turned into gel—an amorphous form of silica that differs from crystalline silica.
There are numerous warnings online about the inhalation of crystalline silica. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—an official government entity and part of the Department of Labor—has a page on the dangers of inhaling silica dust. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have a similar page discussing how the inhalation of silica dust can lead to a disease called silicosis.
However, Pretty Litter is made from amorphous silica, which doesn’t carry these effects. Pretty Litter can’t cause silicosis; however, we found a study published in 2002 that claimed the following:
Animal inhalation studies with intentionally manufactured synthetic amorphous silica showed at least partially reversible inflammation, granuloma formation and emphysema, but no progressive fibrosis of the lungs. One study disclosed four cases with silicosis among subjects exposed to apparently non-contaminated amorphous silica. Further work is necessary in order to define the effects of amorphous silica on morbidity and mortality of workers with exposure to these substances.Health hazards due to the inhalation of amorphous silica
For this reason, we believe that the silicon dioxide used in Pretty Litter could potentially cause severe disease and permanent lung issues if inhaled.
A Study on Silica Gel Particles and Their Possible Effect on Cats
We found a study online that concluded silica gel particles could be dangerous to your cat.
Results: Dust particles obtained from seven commercial cat litters have an identifiable appearance and elemental ratio (primarily aluminum and silica). The same pattern is observed in particles obtained from lung wash wash fluid of cats, and significantly more silica particles were obtained from cats with respiratory disease than cats without respiratory disease.Respiratory Disease: Study on Silica Dust in Cats
The study also claims that it’s unclear whether silica particles contribute to the development of respiratory disease in cats or if they result from reduced lung function due to the disease.
Nevertheless, this is further evidence that silica gel kitty litter like Pretty Litter may harm your cat’s health.
Another Study Links Cat Litter To Lung Disease
A 2002 study published in the European Respiratory Journal links silica cat litter as a possible trigger for sarcoidosis—an inflammatory lung disease.
The patient…was extensively exposed to silica-containing cat litter. Initially, the patient improved after starting immunosuppressive drugs and terminating contact with litter. However, she deteriorated twice after autoprovocation (re-exposure) to cat litter. After changing the silica-containing cat litter for litter without silica, her clinical condition improved substantially. Obviously, she appeared to be “hypersensitive” not to the cats but to the cat litter.Cat litter is a possible trigger for sarcoidosis
This shows that silica gel cat litter like Pretty Litter has been linked to negative health effects in humans and cats.
Pretty Litter Claims That It’s 99% Dust Free—But It’s Not
Taken directly from the front page of PrettyLitter.com, the brand claims that their product is 99% dust-free:
If the product were truly dust-free, it would be a different story. It would mean that any potential risk from the inhalation of litter dust would be minimal. However, this is not the case.
Video Proof That Pretty Litter Gives Off Significant Dust
A Reddit user posted a video demonstrating Pretty Litter projecting massive amounts of dust into the air when scooping it.
While Pretty Litter advertises its brand as 99% dust-free, this video shows shocking evidence that this is not the case. While scooping or disturbing the Pretty Litter, it creates a massive cloud of dust—way more than you would expect from a product that is supposed to be dust-free.
This review from AllAboutCats.com agrees:
The first test of Pretty Litter came when I poured it into my litter box. I found the litter a little less dusty than other crystal cat litters I’ve tried, but it still produced a noticeable cloud of dust. I also found it to be a little dusty later on when I was scooping the cat litter, so it definitely isn’t a dust-free litter.AllAboutCats.com
We found countless other online complaints about Pretty Litter showing the air with tons of silica dust, along with complaints about it affecting their cats and their homes:
I’ve been using for three months and have noticed my cat has had more eye discharge than ever before and seem to have a issue in her upper respiratory tract, like a kind of new sneeze/wheeze sound. I’m cancelling. I started suspecting the litter as it’s the only thing I’ve changed.reddit user @prancingpony666
I just got pretty litter this last week and my cat hates it. I hate it too. I’m pretty bummed because I thought it would make things better and easier. But every time I scoop I am coughing a ton from the dust coming up and my cat is sneezing. No thank you!reddit user @tacovillage
It doesn’t track, but BOY is it dusty. Every time I cleaned her box I was shocked at how much dust was kicked up. I worry about what that does to tiny kitty lungs.reddit user @Kc1319310
This is ample evidence that Pretty Litter is, at the very least, actively causing adverse health effects to cats, as the above reports indicate. It’s also evident that the litter gives off significant amounts of dust.
We don’t believe that Pretty Litter is safe to use for these two reasons.
Problem #2: Pretty Litter’s Health Monitoring Is a Dangerous Gimmick
To make a long story short, Pretty Litter’s gimmick is that it is “smart” cat litter.
It’s unclear exactly how the litter works, but it appears that it reacts to the cat urine’s pH level (acidity and alkalinity) and changes colors to indicate potential health issues. It can also detect the physical presence of blood.
The litter changes colors to indicate things like:
- Dark Yellow / Olive Green – urine within typical range
- Dark Green or Blue – indicates high PH, which could be struvite stone formation in the bladder, or a bacterial infection
- Red – Indicates blood in the urine
The problem with this feature is that it just isn’t accurate and sometimes just doesn’t work.
Take, for example, these three customer experiences we found on Reddit:
Toward the end of the month, I started finding blue litter, which is supposed to indicate a UTI or kidney issues. A vet visit and $200 later, I was told my cat was fine. I did some reading and found that once the litter has been used for a few weeks, lots of people encountered the same problem and were getting blue litter false alarms.reddit user @Kc1319310
I had false blue readings and the litter was THE WORST smelling litter I’ve ever had.reddit user @fu7272
I’m also a victim of the blue litter scare. I have two more bags but given the price and the blue litter issue and the fact that it’s not easily accessible like so many other brands are, I’m looking into alternatives.reddit user @Foreign-Substance-66
We even found a user of Pretty Litter who reported that Pretty Litter didn’t even work when it should have indicated a problem:
I use Pretty Litter and I like it fairly well as a cat litter, but my cat did recently have a urinalysis that showed protein in his litter, and the color never changed. I wouldn’t put this in the “false negatives” category because he didn’t appear to have a UTI, but it was something abnormal that the litter didn’t provide any warning about.reddit user @Closed_System
Here we have several online reports of worried cat owners taking their cats to the vet only to be on the receiving end of a pointless and expensive vet visit. And if it can even fail to detect health issues that it should have detected, Pretty Litter isn’t just useless—it’s actively dangerous.
So, Is Pretty Litter Safe? The Answer is No
We identified two major issues with Pretty Litter that make us say: no, Pretty Litter is not safe.
Potential Silica Gel Inhalation
Pretty Litter is made from amorphous silicon dioxide gel. While amorphous silica doesn’t carry the same risks as crystalline silica, we found a study showing a link between its inhalation to inflammation, granuloma formation, and emphysema. We found another study linking silica cat litter to sarcoidosis—an inflammatory lung disease.
Furthermore, we found video evidence that Pretty Litter gives off a significant amount of dust, which some users report has negative health impacts on their cats.
Pretty Litter’s Health Indicator Function is Misleading
Pretty Litter measures the pH level of your cat’s urine and changes colors to indicate potential health issues your cat may be suffering from.
We found several reports online from users claiming false positive reports of health issues resulting in unnecessary vet bills. We also found one report of a user saying that Pretty Litter failed to detect abnormal pH levels in her ill cat.
We Don’t Recommend Pretty Litter
To summarize our report in three points:
- Silica gel dust inhalation has been linked to lung disease.
- Pretty Litter gives off significant dust when handled.
- The health monitoring feature can be inaccurate and misleading.
For these reasons, we do not recommend using Pretty Litter in your home. Shockingly, there isn’t more discussion online about the potential hazard of using this cat litter.
Safe Alternatives To Pretty Litter
Our Recommendation: Healthy Cat Litter Alternatives
Now that we know that Pretty Litter is potentially unsafe to use and should be avoided, there are good eco-friendly alternatives, too.
We did a full analysis and guide to safe alternatives to Pretty Litter. There are several great alternatives that are not only more healthy, but more eco-friendly, too.
Read the guide: Click here to see our full guide on eco-friendly and safe kitty litter.
Silica gel is also not environmentally friendly—it is made from mined quartz, a non-renewal mineral. Silica is also not biodegradable; we are mining quartz to throw directly into the garbage dump.
If you are looking for a more sustainable option, there are plenty of biodegradable cat litter made from materials like wood, corn, and wheat that work just as well (if not better) than Pretty Litter.
So, while Pretty Litter may make your home smell fresher, it may not be the best choice for you and your kitty’s health. We recommend avoiding it and choosing a more natural, sustainable option instead.
Ever since I started using pretty litter or should I say about one month in my cat has started to throw up. He’s not a cat that throws up a lot, and it’s the only thing that has changed, so I’m sure it’s the litter.
I noticed after several months that there was a fine powder over my furnature. I had my ducts cleaned but that didn’t help. Finally after investigation a Youtube video of the dust coming off the litter box with Pretty Litter, a light bulb went off. I removed the litter and no more powder over everything. I have switched to pine litter, no problems.
Thank you. I wish to share a link to your page. This information needs to be shared; especially with Pretty Litter bombarding Facebook with ads right now. I’ve been commenting on pretty litters product being not biodegradable and bad for the environment. Their response was it’s better for the environment the regular litter because less is actually going into the actual landfill. I don’t see how that makes any sense at all. They’re proving to be kind of a crooked company.
Hello Jay, I think the claim of “using less litter” may be the ONLY truth that comes from the makers of Pretty Litter. When I receive a box I throw out everything that’s in the litter box give it a wipe out and then put in the new litter so it lasts the whole month. Where is with Clay litter very often after a week enough urine has soaked into the clay that it’s a stinky mess and you have to change all of it especially if you have three cats like we did. They each had their own litter box but all three of them were equally stinky and needed to be changed more than the “once a month” that Pretty Litter advertises.
Having said that it doesn’t change my opinion that pretty litter is anything but pretty. I would never trust the color changing aspect but, I trust my vet. I have to vacuum our 1200 ft house every couple of days otherwise it seems like I’m walking on glass. That’s because we don’t have carpets if we did they would be full of this silica and it’s dust. There’s definitely dust. When I woke up this morning my lungs sounded like they did when I smoked 30 years ago. I have no way of measuring it but I can tell by the sound that my voice is in a much lower register than it usually is. That usually only happens when I get sick because if I have a cold I’m congested & wheezing.
Very limited studies one this subject; not even close to enough evidence to determine if the litter is safe or not!
Pretty Litter is hammering Facebook with advertising right now. But they aren’t really being transparent with regards to the safety, or even it’s efficacy. It is not environmentally friendly; in it’s production or after it’s been used. It is not biodegradable. It is not a non-toxic product. It isn’t a safe product. It doesn’t do would it claims it claims it can do. It is not and cannot be used as a tool to definitely indicate potential disease in your pet.
I bought this litter and felt nauseous from the dusty smell after my cat did his business. I finally put two and two together and realized I was inhaling silica dust. I am sickened this product is on the market. I use corn or grass litter now and feel so much better. Research silicosis and you won’t ever use litter with SAS again.
I loved this concept and as an owner of multiple cats it’s a great idea. However a few months after using it, our 4 year old healthy Persian had a mysterious liver blockage. She was very sick and went downhill very quickly. After trying absolutely everything at the vet where she stayed for 2 weeks with round the clock care, we lost her and it was devastating to say the least. The only thing in her life that changed was this litter. I was not able to find a lot of information about the potential health risks for cats who ingest this litter at the time that I wondered if she ingested it after possibly licking it off her paws. I’m happy to see more info about this product now but there really is not enough evidence or information to ensure that using this litter will not harm your pets.
Our daughter had been using it for months in the apartment. After she moved in I started buying Pretty Litter too. The first thing I noticed was it seemed like I were walking on broken glass. We don’t have any wall to wall carpet upstairs there’s hardwood, laminate, ceramic & vinyl tile. One day the sun was shining in the window & I suddenly realized there was a layer of fine dust EVERYWHERE! Then I made the connection with my everyday runny nose, coughing that hadn’t been present before. The number of times that the daughter & her boyfriend had been sick: feeling exhausted,
I sent this article to my daughter and I’m sure she will agree with it but on the off chance that she doesn’t we will have to put our foot down and insist that it not be used in our house. I’m a pretty healthy person but, my mother did smoke when she was pregnant with me so there’s that.
Years ago I did try wooden pellets, like the ones they use for horses. Except one of the cats had arthritis, was older, and a bit unsteady on her feet so she didn’t like sliding around in the litter box so I had to switch back to Clay litter. I never bought the cheapest nastiest kind I always bought the lightweight nicer kind.
Even when I opened the first box I thought what are they talking about I’m seeing dust not huge clouds of it like you would with Clay litter but I’m seeing dust!
I’ve only used it for 3 weeks now but haven’t noticed any dust but now I’ll be looking for it! What I don’t like is the company constantly bombarding me with texts & emails and all the posts on Facebook!! It’s crazy; and their cat food too. I said no about the food 3x but still keep getting bombarded! Don’t like that business tactic at all! Thanks for the article
I’ve had two cats taken to a vet in critical condition. Blockages in the urinary tract, kidney stones, and one had a severe kidney failure, damage to liver and bladder, took a lot of medical skill and more money than I could afford alone to pull the first through it. The other cat was taken to a vet today, and the doctor is baffled that a litter could poison cats. I couldn’t figure it out before, but now I’m sure it’s the Pretty Litter, it’s the only thing that changed before my cats started getting sick. They show the same symptoms of “poisoning” and damage to their urinary system, that’s not just coincidence to happen twice to two different cats. These cats live completely indoors with literally nothing else they could be exposed to. Pretty Litter is actual poison, and it’s nearly killed my cats, everyone should be warned about this.
I first got concerned because I couldn’t sign into my account and I was getting boxes delivered daily. I tried to contact them and no reply for weeks. When I did eventually get a response they said I had 2 accounts. I have more “ sand” than the Sahara desert. A few nights ago one of my cats was sleeping beside me and each breath was like a little wheeze. He had also been throwing up. That stuff is out of here. I have asked for a refund. They said they will just pause the deliveries.
This seems to be a theme…. a “movie star” advertising something that is CRAP & bad for both the cat & humans & they have no problem LYING to our faces… pretty gutsy being so deceptive…