Making your own litter could be a great idea, especially if you are trying to save money or if you have a finicky cat who objects to the texture or smell of commercial cat litter. While a little experimenting is OK, keep in mind that many cats resent changes in their litter material and might avoid using the litter box as a result.
Cat Litter Materials
You can replace commercial cat litter with various everyday items. Sand, soil or dirt and natural wood fiber -- which is available through farm supply stores as horse bedding -- are simple options that you can just pour into the litter box as you would regular cat litter. You can also use chicken scratch, also available through farm supply stores.
While DIY clumping litter is not easy to make with common materials, you can create a scoopable litter using shredded newspapers -- either tear newspaper into small strips or run it through a shredder. Soak the shredded newspaper in water to allow some of the ink to wash off, then rinse: Grab a handful of the wet shreddings and squish with your hands under running water. Put the rinsed and squeeze-dried newspaper in a dry tub, separate clumps, and knead baking soda into the paper until you end up with a crumbly mixture. Let it air-dry before you add it to the litter box.
Cons of DIY Litter
While making your own litter might sound like a good idea, homemade litter has some disadvantages. Materials like sand and soil might cause a mess around the house. Some options, like the shredded newspaper idea formula, may simply be too time-consuming to prepare. Commercial cat litter often contain deodorizers or odor absorbers such as baking soda. Without those additives, your homemade litter might not be strong enough to prevent odors from taking over the house.
Deodorizing Your Homemade Litter
If you have a multi-cat household, homemade litter might not be strong enough to fight odors. Adding baking soda, powdered carpet deodorizer or litter-specific odor-relieving powder can help. You can also try cedar wood chips. Commercial cedar-chip cat litter is available at retail, but it's expensive. Instead, try adding a handful of wood chips into your homemade litter to absorb odor.
Something to Keep in Mind
A bit of warning: Cats are finicky by nature. That means that finding the right formulation for your homemade litter requires patience. You might need to try several options before you find one that works for your feline friend. To speed up the process, provide multiple litter boxes with different formulations. Kitty will show you which one he prefers.