Pros: cuts way back on odor, cats like it, easier to scoop and change
Cons: expensive, painful to step on
As some of you who have read my other cat litter reviews know, I'm in search of the Holy Grail of litter. With five cats, odor control is a big deal in my house. I've tried to balance effectiveness with price in the past, and so used Tidy Cat scoopable litter with much success. However, with only three litter boxes for five cats, the clumping litter didn't last long enough or control the cat odor long enough to suit my needs. While I was living alone this wasn't so bad, but now that I'm sharing an apartment with someone else, it's imperative that the cat boxes not smell.
In the past six months I've tried a couple different brands of crystal litter, and so I thought I'd compare Tidy Cat crystals with the other major brand I used, Fresh Step crystals. Despite the fact that they look very similar, the two are not at all equal.
The first difference that I noticed, due to the fact that I don't make much money, was the price. Fresh Step crystals are much cheaper than Tidy Cat, which was a large factor in me trying them. Tidy Cat crystals are about a dollar more for a slightly smaller package--about a four pound box as opposed to the five pound bag of Fresh Step, probably because they are double-packaged in a bag and box rather than just a plastic bag like Fresh Step. Fresh Step also sells different-sized packages as a better deal, including a bucket for $15.99, whereas Tidy Cat only sells boxes (as far as I've seen, at least) that run anywhere from $8-10.
However, as I said earlier, price isn't everything. Once home and in the cat boxes, the other differences between Tidy Cat and Fresh Step became apparent. Tidy Cat is lightly scented (which I happen to prefer) and feels heavier to the touch. There is less dust than with Fresh Step--almost none, actually--which is a huge change from using clumping litter.
I mixed litters at first as suggested and my cats took to both crystal litters with no problems. I do have one cat who won't use litter of any kind if it is remotely soiled, so he has a special empty box, but the rest were delighted. My kitten even spent hours in the box just scratching around for fun. The litter was much cleaner to have around in general, not looking and feeling like sand (or wet sand when it had been used), and easier to clean up when it spilled out of the boxes. It did hurt when I stepped on the litter that was dragged out of the boxes. Crystal litter is made from silica, which is basically sand in a different form, and is non-toxic. It dehydrates urine and solid waste and traps odor. Compared to clumping litter, this stuff is miraculous. Clumping litter lasted less than a week in my cat boxes and started to smell within a few days, while crystal litter has a longer box-life of about two weeks before becoming unpleasant.
Fresh Step didn't seem to dry out the urine as fast as Tidy Cat, and when the cats did something solid in the box, I could smell it more and for a longer period of time. Tidy Cat controlled odor better and dried out both urine and solid waste more efficiently so that when I scooped the box every other night or so, everything was nice and solid. The solid waste still smells unpleasant when being scooped with either litter, but Tidy Cat muted it more than Fresh Step. When I used Fresh Step the boxes began to emit an unpleasant odor about a week after I changed the litter, which was a week sooner than the instructions on the package claimed it needed to be changed.
Finally, although the packages on both litters claimed that the litter would be good for two weeks or so for every litter box (assuming two cats were using it), Fresh Step expired almost a week before it was supposed to, while Tidy Cat actually made it nearly a month with less odor. I did augment both litters with litter deodorizer, which seems to bone up their dehydrating abilities.
So, while Tidy Cat is more expensive and is more wasteful in its packaging, it beat out Fresh Step in its odor control, dehydrating ability and lifespan. I would much rather spend the extra few bucks on the better litter than save money and suffer again. I've even used it with my ferrets with a lot of success. Follow my example and don't sacrifice quality for affordability--crystal litter is worth the extra money, and Tidy Cat is the best I've tried.