Cedar Chips & Cats

By Jane Meggitt

Products containing cedar shavings are touted as "natural" cat litter. Are these products, or cedar chips, safe and effective for Kitty? The answer is, "perhaps."

Cat Litter and Cedar

In the late 20th century, clumping cat litter made its appearance on store shelves and changed the way people changed litter boxes. The box smelled better overall and individual "clumps" of urine and feces could be removed daily, rather than dumping the whole thing.

But clumping or scoopable litter, containing silica, may cause respiratory issues in certain cats. New, environmentally friendly litters came onto the market, some of them containing cedar chips mixed with hardwoods. The cedar chips make the litter smell better, while also absorbing liquids.

Unlike other types of cat litter, the cedar chip/hardwood mix can be thrown into your compost bin -- minus the cat feces.

Cedar chips are also included in some clay litters -- not biodegradable -- to help keep odor down.

Feral Cat Bedding

If you're caring for feral cats, whether to use cedar chips as bedding is a matter of dispute. Some feral cat advocates feel that cedar chips in bedding help repel fleas and are fine for general use in feral cat shelters. However, the national feral cat advocacy organization Alley Cat Allies doesn't advise using cedar -- or pine -- shavings as bedding. Pine is another wood that can emit fumes, so that may form the basis of ACA's opposition to the use of these shavings in feral cat shelters.

Cedar and Fumes

The Humane Society of the United States warns that cedar shavings can emit fumes dangerous to small animals -- but mentions pocket pets like hamsters or gerbils, not felines. Of course, felines are also dangerous to these little rodents.

If the fumes of cedar aren't toxic to cats, it's possible the smell itself is a deterrent. Using cedar chips or compost in the garden is touted as a way to keep trespassing cats out of the yard without harming them. Supposedly, cats don't like the odor of cedar, but other safe, feline smell repellents include:

  • cinnamon
  • citrus
  • or fresh, unbrewed coffee grounds.

If your cat avoids any of these odors in your house, perhaps he won't care for cedar. Perhaps.