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- Price Per Pound – 4/5
- Multi-Cat Formulas – 3.5/5
- Long-Lasting Odor Control – 4.5/5
- Natural/Alternative Options – 5/5
Overall Score: 4.25/5
Marketed as the “world’s smartest cat litter,” PrettyLitter has taken the pet product industry by storm.
It’s been featured by Forbes and Business Insider and reviewed by big players like The Spruce Pets and Trupanion. There are over 20,000 customer reviews on PrettyLitter.com and another 6,000+ on Target.com.
It’s no secret that PrettyLitter has a strong following. Neither is it a surprise.
PrettyLitter is a health-monitoring cat litter that helps cat owners gain insight into their pet’s health based on what’s going on in their cat’s litter box. Color-changing crystals indicate fluctuations in your cat’s urine that could be associated with certain health problems. It’s not a diagnostic tool, but it could give you a jump start on identifying and treating potentially serious health issues.
In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the product itself to determine what it’s made of and how it actually works.
Introduction To PrettyLitter
PrettyLitter was founded in 2015. Created by Daniel Rotman, a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley.
Before creating PrettyLitter, Rotman was a Gleitsman Fellow for the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University and spent time working for the U.S. Congressional Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. From there, he founded a funding organization for nonprofits.
Rotman’s career took a turn after the passing of his cat, Gingi. When it became clear that there were few at-home tools to help pet parents detect potential health problems, Rotman set out to create one himself.
PrettyLitter hit the world stage in 2015 as part of a reality television series called Startup U which premiered on ABC Family. Rotman was a finalist on the show which propelled him toward joining American startup accelerator, Gener8tor, in 2016. Within two months, PrettyLitter saw astronomical sales growth totaling 1300 percent.
In May of 2021, Mars, Inc. acquired PrettyLitter at a sales price reported between $500 million and $1 billion. Though PrettyLitter’s prime distribution strategy is their branded subscription, the product is also now available in Target stores and on Target.com.
What Is PrettyLitter Made Of?
PrettyLitter is a crystal cat litter primarily composed of lightweight silica gel.
Silica gel cat litter is highly absorbent and often purported as being dust-free. PrettyLitter is very fine-grained which gives it a soft, sandy texture. This makes it gentle on your cat’s paws.
What sets PrettyLitter apart from other crystal cat litters is the use of color-changing crystals. These crystals are indistinguishable from the silica gel crystals themselves and are thoroughly mixed in. They change color based on the pH of your cat’s urine with different colors indicating potential health problems like urinary tract infection (UTI) or metabolic acidosis.
To get a better idea of what these color-changing crystals are actually made up of, I did a deep dive into the patent for PrettyLitter.
The introduction of the patent describes the color-changing crystals in PrettyLitter as follows:
“The chemical agent aids in detection and diagnosis through interaction of materials that change colors to indicate reactions with specific chemicals, cells, molecules, DNA and/or materials.”
The language of the patent itself is tricky to wade through, but I was able to glean a few details about the formulation of the crystals.
PrettyLitter Consists Of A Base Material Of Porous Silica.
The crystals are described as having large pore diameters with additives (those chemical agents mentioned above) being substantially or completely held within the pores. Particle size ranges from 0.5mm to 6.0mm.
The Chemical Additives Are Disclosed In Another U.S. Patent.
The secondary patent referenced is U.S. patent 8,062,902. According to Google Patents, it was invented by Francois Mestrallet and is currently assigned to Nullodor USA LLC. The patent is for a “mammalian disease detection system” described as follows:
“A mammalian disease detecting system used to provide a visual indication of a possible disease state includes particles made of a material that is substantially clear or transparent to permit the easy visual detection of blood in urine of a mammal.”
Some of the chemical additives named in the original patent include: bromothymol blue to detect protein, glucose oxidase to detect glucose, relaxin, and colloidal gold nanoparticles and latex microspheres.
PrettyLitter Can Test For Over A Dozen Different Constituents.
The size and porousness of PrettyLitter’s silica gel crystals is specifically designed to optimize the action of the chemical constituents. I’m led to believe that the silica base material comes in different sizes within that 0.5mm to 6.0mm range depending on which chemical agent it’s designed to react with.
According to the patent, “the pore size of the base material can be selected such that the urine can at least partially evaporate from the particle through the pores over time, yet still reside within the pore for sufficient time so as to facilitate chemical interactions between the constituents in the urine.”
The chemical agents in PrettyLitter can test for the following:
- Urine specific gravity, used to indicate loss of renal function or endocrine disorders
- Glucose levels, used to indicate diabetes mellitus
- Bilirubin, an orange-yellow pigment that indicates the breakdown of red blood cells
- Red blood cells which may indicate kidney problems, bladder infection, or inflammation
- White blood cells which may indicate kidney problems, bladder infection, or inflammation
- Crystals in the urine
- Protein in the urine which may indicate renal disease, hypertension, or amyloidosis
- Ketones which may indicate ketoacidosis
- Anomalies in urinary pH levels
- Elements of feces that may relate to parasitism, e.g., toxoplasmosis, round worms, hookworms, tapeworms, giardia, or cryptosporidium
The main colors you’ll see when the chemical agents in PrettyLitter are activated include yellow, olive green, blue, orange, or red.
Basically, when the crystals are the same color as healthy urine it indicates normal urine. When the color of the crystals is different than healthy urine, it indicates the potential for health problems.
About Silica Gel Crystals
Now that you have a basic understanding of what gives PrettyLitter the ability to change color, let’s take a closer look at the base material – the silica gel crystals.
Silica gel, also known as synthetic amorphous silica (SAS), is a material that has long been used in food, cosmetics, and topical and oral medications. It has a unique atomical structure that enables it to bond with large amounts of liquid – more liquid than traditional litter.
The atom structure of silica crystals also contributes to odor control.
Silica cat litter often has a different texture than clay or other types of litter. The size and shape of the crystals determines how the litter feels under your cat’s feet. Large crystals may be uncomfortable for some cats but are less likely to track than smaller, finer crystals.
PrettyLitter is very fine-grained. It is lightweight and soft on your cat’s paws, but it does tend to track more significantly than heavier, large-grained litters.
How Does It Work?
While you can find clumping crystal litter, most silica gel cat litters are non-clumping. PrettyLitter is one of them. Though PrettyLitter doesn’t clump like regular litter made from clay and other materials, the highly absorbent silica gel provides other benefits.
The silica gel crystals absorb large volumes of liquid and dehydrate solid waste. The dried feces becomes easy to scoop and the saturated litter can be stirred to redistribute them. Without clumps, there’s less wasted litter and one bag of PrettyLitter can last a single cat household up to one month.
You can purchase PrettyLitter at Target or Target.com, but most customers seem to prefer the subscription option directly through the brand’s website.
To get started, you simply indicate the number of cats you have to determine how many bags you need each month. Then you set the desired frequency of your deliveries and complete payment. PrettyLitter suggests a single bag will last one small cat up to a month, but you may need to replace the litter more often for large cats or multi-cat households.
Does It Actually Work, Though?
When considering PrettyLitter as an option for your cat, there are two questions that must be answered:
- Is PrettyLitter safe?
- Does PrettyLitter work?
According to Dr. Elsey’s, amorphous silica gel is safe if inhaled or ingested. It’s safe for cats of all ages, including newborn kittens.
Though sometimes referred to as crystal cat litter, amorphous silica gel doesn’t actually contain crystalline silica, a material that can negatively affect your cat’s health if inhaled. It has been linked to silicosis in humans as well as kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
To answer questions regarding PrettyLitter’s efficacy, we must consider several factors.
The primary benefit of PrettyLitter over clay litter is the inclusion of those color-changing crystals.
Blue indicates alkalinity of the urine’s pH which could be associated with UTIs or the formation of crystals or stones in the bladder. Orange indicates urine acidity which could be associated with metabolic acidosis or kidney tubular acidosis. Red suggests blood in the urine which may indicate bladder inflammation, bladder stones, or UTI.
Overall, the color-changing effects of the litter seems to work.
Robert B. said, “The color indication works as described and is incredibly helpful. It was super convenient to get a three-month supply at once with instructions. Cat loves it and so do I!”
Julie and her cat Scout experienced the color-changing benefits of PrettyLitter and caught a developing problem early. Julie said, “Well, it happened… my PrettyLitter turned red… I rushed my baby (13 years old!) to the vet and no blockage, but high red blood cell count – he has an infection with inflammation. Tonight, he seems like himself after an injection… THANK YOU PRETTY LITTER!”
While customers seem largely pleased with PrettyLitter’s color-changing qualities, there are some reports of false-positive results.
A writer for Wired.com reports stories of customers whose litter turned blue but expensive vet visits yielded no abnormal results. Her friend’s sister has a cat with a history of frequent UTIs, but the litter never changed color.
Customer experience varies with the function of the silica gel crystals as well.
PrettyLitter is purported to be a low-dust formulation but dozens of customer reviews mention concerning levels of dust. These comments are consistent with our own experience in testing PrettyLitter.
Another concern some cat owners have is the lack of clumping ability. While PrettyLitter is a non-clumping litter, the patent suggests that the litter’s “lightweight formula enables minimizing the consumption of the cat litter.”
The litter absorbs high volumes of liquid and you stir it twice daily to redistribute the saturated crystals. It also dehydrated solid waste so it can be scooped out more easily.
Customer reviews confirm the validity of these claims, as did my own personal experience.
The problem with the absorbent nature of PrettyLitter is that all that urine-soaked litter stays in the box for weeks at a time. By drying out your cat’s poop, the litter helps control odor from feces, but the urine smell becomes noticeable fairly quickly – especially in a multi-cat household.
What sets PrettyLitter apart is its health-monitoring benefits. Again, PrettyLitter isn’t intended to diagnose health issues, but noticing a color change in your cat’s litter gives you a heads-up that it’s time to schedule a vet visit. Customer experience with the consistency of the color-changing feature varies, however, so it may be worth waiting for a repeated change before rushing your cat to the vet.
PrettyLitter is a unique and thoughtfully designed product that can help give you peace of mind that you’re monitoring your cat’s health closely. It’s pricier than many options on the market, but thousands of satisfied cat parents would agree that it may just be worth it.