Better Goods Pet

Is Pretty Litter Safe? The Surprising Answer is No

Better Goods

Sep 15, 2022

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.

 
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