Cat litter has a shelf life and will eventually go bad. However, how long cat litter lasts depends on the type of litter you purchase. In general, clumping litters have a shorter shelf life compared to non-clumping options. Additionally, proper storage can help extend the life of cat litter. Below we discuss how long different types of cat litter can be stored.
How Long Does Unscented Clumping Clay Cat Litter Last?
Unscented clumping clay cat litter generally lasts between 3-6 months past the printed expiration date if stored properly. Clay litters are made from bentonite, a type of absorbent clay. The clumping ability comes from the way bentonite swells when wet.
When fresh, clumping clay litters like Tidy Cats and Clump n’ Seal form tight clumps when exposed to moisture. However, over time, the clay loses its clumping ability. Clumps will become weaker and smaller. Ammonia odors will also become more noticeable with older litter.
While clumping clay litter expires quickly compared to other options, proper storage can help extend its shelf life. Make sure to store bags of litter in a cool, dry place. Heat and humidity will accelerate degradation. An unopened bag stored in ideal conditions may last 9-12 months past its expiration date before clumping performance noticeably deteriorates.
What Is the Shelf Life of Scented Clumping Clay Litter?
Scented clumping clay litters have an even shorter shelf life compared to unscented varieties. Expect scented clumping clay litter to last around 2-3 months past its expiration date.
The fragrances used in scented litters cause the clay to break down more rapidly. Exposure to air also causes the scents to fade over time. For this reason, a bag of scented clumping litter may lose its odor control properties before the clumping completely fails.
Make sure to tightly seal bags of scented clay cat litter in between uses. Frequent air exposure will cause the scented litter to expire much more quickly. Storing in cool, dry conditions can help prolong freshness as well. But even with proper storage, scented clumping clay litters have a shelf life of less than a year after production.
How Long Does Crystals Cat Litter Last Unopened?
Crystal cat litters made from silica gel beads, like Pretty Litter and Fresh Step Crystals, can last 2-3 years when stored properly in unopened bags. The moisture-absorbing crystals are not as prone to degradation compared to clay.
However, crystal litters have a shorter lifespan once the bag is opened. The crystals slowly absorb ambient moisture in the air, causing them to lose absorbency over time. Replace opened bags of crystals after 4-6 months for optimal performance.
Make sure to tightly seal crystal litter between uses. To help extend the life of already opened bags, you can store them in airtight plastic bins or large zipper storage bags. This helps protect the crystals from excess air exposure.
Does Non-Clumping Clay Cat Litter Expire?
Non-clumping clay litters do not have an expiration date. Since they do not contain clumping additives, non-clumping options like standard Special Kitty litter maintain their absorbency indefinitely.
Non-clumping clay litter will never technically expire. However, it may eventually become dusty with prolonged use or storage. To help maintain freshness, make sure to store bags of non-clumping litter properly by keeping them sealed in a cool, dry place.
While non-clumping clay does not have an expiration date, it’s still ideal to replace litter every month or so for sanitary reasons. Routine litter changes help remove bacteria buildup and foul odors. But unused bags can be stored for years while maintaining absorbency.
Does Pine Cat Litter Expire?
Pine cat litters, made from compressed pine sawdust or pellets, also do not expire. The wood-based pine maintains its absorbent properties indefinitely.
However, pine litter that gets wet can develop mold if left for extremely prolonged periods. Make sure to store bags of pine cat litter in a dry location away from moisture. An unopened bag that remains dry can technically be stored forever.
After opening, use pine litter within 4-5 months for best results. The pellets or sawdust can break down into dust over time after exposed to air. Replacing opened bags every few months keeps the pine fresh and easy to scoop.
How Long Does Wheat Litter Last After Opening?
Wheat-based cat litters, such as Swheat Scoop, tend to last around 4-6 months after opening. The wheat absorbs odors effectively when fresh. However, the wheat grains eventually break down into powder, losing clumping ability and odor control.
Make sure to store opened bags of wheat litter in airtight containers. Air exposure causes the wheat to degrade more rapidly. Properly stored, opened wheat litter lasts up to 6 months before needing replacement. Unopened bags have a shelf life of 1-2 years when kept in a cool environment.
Does Walnut Cat Litter Expire?
Walnut shell cat litter maintains its absorbency indefinitely. The crushed walnut shells provide excellent odor control without clumping additives.
Unused bags of walnut cat litter do not expire and can be stored for years if kept dry. The walnut shells resist mold growth and do not degrade easily over time. Avoid humidity and moisture to prevent any musty odors from developing.
After opening, walnut shell litter lasts around 4-6 months before needing replacement. The litter loses some of its odor fighting power over time after exposed to air. Replacing opened bags every few months keeps the walnut litter fresh.
How Long Can You Keep Used Cat Litter?
Used cat litter should never be stored for prolonged periods. Always discard clumps and wet litter promptly. Here are some guidelines for disposing used cat litter:
- Remove feces clumps daily – Cat feces contain harmful bacteria that multiply quickly. Scoop out urine clumps and feces clumps from the litter box daily.
- Change out wet litter every 2-3 days – Wet patches in the litter can grow bacteria. Scoop out soiled areas and add fresh litter frequently to maintain dryness.
- Replace entire litter 1-2 times per month – Over time, used litter accumulates bacteria, odors, and ammonia. Dump everything and disinfect litter box monthly.
Leaving soiled litter for longer than 3 days risks higher bacteria growth. Never attempt to store used clumps or wet litter to try and reuse. The bacteria pose health risks to both you and your cat. Always discard waste clumps promptly.
Can You Extend the Shelf Life of Cat Litter?
Proper storage is key for extending the shelf life of cat litter. Here are some tips to help cat litter last longer:
- Store in cool, dry place – Heat and humidity hasten degradation. Avoid storage in basements, garages or near appliances that give off heat.
- Seal bags tightly – Opening bags allows moisture in, shortening crystal and clay lifespan. Roll or fold bags tightly between uses.
- Use airtight bins for opened litter – Airtight containers prevent moisture absorption and contain smells, keeping opened litter fresh longer.
- Buy smaller volumes – Larger bags take longer to use up. Buying smaller volumes ensures freshness.
- Write date opened on bags – Track how long litter has been open. Reference to determine when to replace.
- Never store used litter – Promptly dispose clumps and wet litter to prevent bacteria growth.
With proper storage methods, unopened cat litter can last over a year past any expiration dates, maintaining its freshness and performance. Be sure to replace opened litter regularly and dispose of used litter daily to promote good hygiene. Monitoring litter for signs of aging and rotating stock helps ensure your cat always has a clean, effective litter box.
How Can You Tell if Cat Litter Has Gone Bad?
Here are some signs that your cat litter has expired and needs to be replaced:
- Weak clumps – Clumps crumble easily or litter doesn’t clump at all, leading to loose urine and stool.
- Ammonia smell – Pungent ammonia odors from urine are no longer contained.
- Pale color – Clay litters lose their bright white color, turning pale or grayish.
- Dryness – Crystals feel dry and powdery, no longer retaining clumpable texture.
- Moldy – Pine and wheat litters may develop dark mold if allowed to get wet.
- Excess dust – Litter generates heavy dust clouds when pouring or becomes powdery.
If you notice any of these signs, it is time to replace your cat litter. Allowing litter to be used past its prime can cause your cat to avoid the litter box due to poor odor control or uncomfortable texture under paw. Stick to the recommended lifespan guidelines and monitor for signs of deterioration.
The Bottom Line
Cat litter expires and should be replaced regularly to keep your cat happy and healthy. Different litters have varying shelf lives:
- Clumping clay – 3-6 months after opening.
- Crystal gel – 4-6 months after opening.
- Non-clumping clay – No expiration, replace every 1-2 months.
- Pine pellets – No expiration, replace opened bags every 4-5 months.
- Wheat litter – 4-6 months after opening.
- Walnut shells – No expiration, replace opened bags every 4-6 months.
Discard soiled litter daily and replace entire litter box contents monthly. With proper storage and rotation, cat litter can last over a year in unopened bags. But remember to always monitor for signs of deterioration and promptly replace litter once it has passed its prime. Fresh litter is vital for both cat health and home cleanliness.