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How To Minimize Litterbox Odor

Feb 22, 2014 · Updated Aug 25, 2018 · ·
  1. Anne
    "Good God, my cat just used his litter box while I was happily destroying things on my video game. All of a sudden, our room smelled like a manure field!"

    Sounds familiar? It's a quote from a forum thread by TCS member Dagger311.

    We get many questions about litterbox odor and how to minimize it. In fact, ideally, your cat's litter box should not smell at all. You should have no problem keeping the box in your living room or bedroom without any consequences.

    If you can smell the litterbox don't try to make the problem go away by putting the box away, covering it or switching to scented litter. You may be solving the problem for yourself, but you could potentially be causing a bigger problem for Kitty. You need to address the source of the odor and make sure the box simply smells better, or in this case, does not smell at all.

    Here are a few insights about preventing litterbox odor, collected over the years from our community members.

    Keeping the Litterbox Clean

    Your number one priority is keeping the box fresh and clean. This means scooping twice a day and changing the entire content of the box in a timely fashion.

    Consult our article about When to Clean the Litterbox for information about how often to scoop and clean the litterbox. Keeping a clean box is your first line of defense in the fight against litterbox odor.

    A Change of Diet

    There's no denying that what goes into the cat comes out eventually. There are several types of commercial dry and canned food professing to minimize the amount of feces and their pungent odor. Members who switched to feeding a diet of raw food often mention that this change practically eliminated litterbox odors.
    Quote by LovesMeKitties:
    If you're interested in this option, please get more advice about feeding raw at our Raw and Homemade Feeding forum.

    If your cat's "waste products" have become exceptionally smelly with no change in his or her diet, you should consult your vet. Changes in stools can be the result of various medical conditions including a parasitic infection. Once you get the all clear, ask your vet about adding probiotics to your cat's diet.

    Switching to a Different Type of Litter

    Many types of cat litter claim to neutralize odor in various ways. Baking soda or other additives, or use of porous crystals, are common methods. You can read members' reviews in the Cat Litter Reviews Section or browse around the Cat Care Forum for specific recommendations.

    If you're considering changing the brand of litter, please take a minute to read about Choosing the Right Cat Litter and When and How to Switch to a New Type of Litter

    What if my cat doesn't cover up after herself?

    This can be a stinking problem indeed. Some cats simply don't bother to cover their feces after using the box and that can definitely add to an odor problem. Over the years, a few of our members have mentioned that they managed to "teach" their cats, usually kittens or young cats, to cover up.

    This does not always work though. Some cats simply don't bother and trying to "teach" them new tricks could prove to be stressful especially if they are older and established in their ways. If your cat doesn't cover up, you can still try and reduce odors significantly by looking into dietary changes and by keeping the box squeaky clean, preferably cleaning every time your cat uses it.

    Comments? Leave them using the form below. Questions? Please use the cat forums for those!

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  1. Maria Bayote
    I have 2 rescues. The female one knows how to cover hers. I wouldn't notice that she used the litter box until I hear her covering her poop.

    The other one, a male, is the problem. He does not know how to. Instead of the litter, he scratches the sides of the box, or the wall near where the litter box is placed. We tried teaching him how to, but to no avail. Also, he and my other cat eat the same wet and dry food, in varying brands and flavors, but I notice that his poop is a lot more smelly than the female cat. It is an unbearable smell that I have to run to the litter box just to cover it. Is this "smell" a gender thing or he has internal problems?
  2. wookie79
    1. Furballsmom
      Hi! To mention as an update, this link is working as intended :)
  3. pet outhouse
    Bathroom mess and odor are a major problem when litter boxes are kept in the home. Get' em outta there!
  4. segelkatt
    Unfortunately in most boarding facilities we don't know what's going on either. Enter "The Purring Parrot", a boarding facility for cats and birds only in San Diego. My friend who adopted one of my cats because he could not get along with the resident cats had to board him for a few days and took him there (She lives 100 miles away or she would have brought him to me). That facility has a "kitty cam" so you can watch your pet any time. It is set up where each cat has its own room with a two-way mirror to the bird room so they can watch the parrots, macaws etc and the birds can't see the cats and freak out. My friend gave me the code to watch the cat and it was really neat to see him look at the birds and wander around the room which is really big (ca. 4 ft  by 6 ft) with shelves and hidey holes and beds. More boarding facilities like this are needed for our furry babies. When my friend goes on vacation for Christmas she will bring him to me where he can have the spare bedroom for two weeks, he won't be lonesome as I do watercolors in that room and am in and out of it all day and there is a big window that he used to like to sit in. Being separated from the other cats will keep the hassle down although they will still sit outside the door asking to come in. Since this big boy used to be mine my friend knows I will take good care of him. 
  5. jadeleaf
    This is just it, if you don't respect a cat's needs, how can you expect the cat to respect your home or the food and items around you?  Cats are like babies for goodness' sake, they need to be cared for in much the same way.  Feeding them bacteria laiden water that's been lying there for days, not feeding them right and leaving them to wade in a filthy toilet of COURSE is going to cause behavioural problems not to mention likely to make the cats ill.  Self filling bowls are great if you're going to be out all day but they're not a permanent solution to changing water a few times a day - new water is just filling up with old water and still full of nastiness.
    I've said before, people think of cats too much as wild independent animals, which YES, they can be, never forget that, but people also forget that domesticated house cats are living beings susceptible to infections, tummy bugs, starvation, unhappiness and behavioural issues like children are. A cat isn't just a 'pet', it's an extension of the family and it's supposed to be treated like one of your family (in my opinion, I guess, people will probably disagree).
      Responsible care of the cat means that the cat will stay healthy, behavioural problems and bad smells shouldn't be too horrific. 
  6. vancats27
    This hits close to home mine and my husbands friend were watching our cats for a few days and when we went to pick them up they talked about how their place smelled now from them and that they peed on some of their things. Now all three of my cats are very litter box trained they don't go anywhere else, so much so that my littlest one will not go if the box is too dirty for him. My husband and I always clean the boxes and have a litter box spray that may be new for arm & hammer since I haven't seen before and that stuff is pretty awesome. I asked my friends if they kept the box clean of course the answer was yes, but I kinda doubt it. When we would go visit them of course the litter box was spotless when we got there but then again we did call before to let them know we were headed over. I kind of think they did a cleaning after we called so it wouldn't be dirty when we got there, because our cats haven't gone anywhere but the box with us. Another thing that makes me think that was going on is when we picked them up their food bag had bees broken into, only time our cats have done that is they had no food in their bowl and were hungry, but of course the bowl was full when we would swing by after calling. The last dead give away of them slacking on care was yes their water dish was full but it was filthy and had floatys. Now I understand it's not their cats and what not but please don't offer to care for them if your don't want to or can't, I would have taken them elsewhere or have them boarded. At least now I know I suppose and maybe I'm just being picky about things cuz my cats are like my kids and I wouldn't want my kids in someone's care and are only fed or anything when the sitters know I'm coming haha that would be horrible. Sorry for my little rant there!
  7. jadeleaf
    I get really annoyed when people who own cats complain about their cats smelling up the house with the litter boxes and how the cat will just start peeing elsewhere in the house.  My friend got a cat and complained about it pooing and peeing elsewhere in the house even though he had a litter tray for her.  He said it seemed "unfair that I have a cat litter box in my bedroom and there has NEVER been a smell of cat anywhere in my room or house" and yet his house smells like a fish factory now.
    Eventually I got it out of him that he wasn't taking the poo out of the box when the cat dropped a load off - he just left it there until the day the box gets emptied.  His cat is like my black cat Sabbath who is finicky about a mess in his box (mine actually drags his poop scoop out and lays it out in front of the box to indicate it needs to be cleaned up - he'll even drag rubbish out of the bin and lay it out in front of the box to get my attention to do it - cleverclogs, lol).  Basically his cat was unhappy about the mess in her box and was going elsewhere because she was uncomfortable with the mess of her toilet (and so she should be).
    I told my friend to remove the poo immediately at EVERY fouling (yes, it stinks, but it takes a minute, there's no excuse for leaving it there if you're able bodied enough to get it out of there) and to scrub the box out every time the litter is changed.  Since then, there's been no accidents and no smells anywhere in the house (plus, it actually gives the cat litter a little longer lasting time as it isn't full of poo).
    I think some humans expect animals to be quite happy with dirty surroundings and smells, to be used to it, but cats are very clean and finicky about toilet situations.  You wouldn't want to go to a dirty poo covered toilet, why expect the cat to do so?  You wouldn't want to go to the bathroom in a toilet that stinks like an old fish factory, why think the cat deserves to? 
    A lot of people I've known have gotten rid of cats because they can't stand the smell in the house, but they're usually the ones at fault, cat smells and litter box smells are going to be there if you aren't vigilant in actually taking the time to get rid of a poo or two per day (seriously, ONE minute out of your day, learn to hold your breath) and then scrubbing it out on the changing day (mine takes about five to ten minutes to do thanks to the garden hose, washing up liquid and a scrubbing brush). 
    People look at cats and think "aw cute", and then the cat loses their novelty as soon as the smells start to become noticeable and the person starts to realise you have to do some work to keep things fresh. 
    Whenever someone I know is thinking about getting a cat now, the first thing I say is "are you willing to scoop poo out of a cats litter box once to twice a day and scrub it out properly on changing day,". (and Bonus, if they're thinking about getting a long-haired cat "are you willing to cut and clean poo out of...
  8. segelkatt
    I use World's Best Cat Litter and find that really to be the best, hardly any dust, good for the environment, I use less than the other stuff, it's made from corn (the industrial stuff, not what people eat), really absorbent and just eating up the stink. With 4 cats in the house right now, 3 regular boxes and a Litter Robot (which I clean out once a week) I scoop morning and evening every day, add more twice a week and dump it every two weeks. I have not had any problem with the boxes stinking up the place, only smelling when my one stinky cat does his business before covering. Same as with people - sometimes you just have to air out the bathroom afterwards, so don't blame the cat for having the same problem.
  9. catladylou
    All three off mine smell really bad after going the litter box. There wee dont just the other. I have tried everythiing. Now i just think its part of being a pet owner aslong i clean the poo and wee out everyday twice aday and change the litter everyother day.
  10. segelkatt
    I have seen this behavior at shelters where the cats either lived in "gang cages" or also in single cages. Maybe it was the only place where the floor was not cold or hard or the bedding was not to their liking. In any case they did not lie on dirty litter and if that gave them comfort what's the problem?   
  11. peaches123
    out of curiosity, I switched to clumping litter when it came out and I've pretty much used Tidy Cat.  But my Darling Daisy Mae used to lie down on one of them,(I had 3 litter boxes for her, and Beasley whom are both departed RIP).  She's the only cat I've ever had do this and otherwise she groomed regularly and didn't stink.  Anyone else have a cat who did this and more importantly WHY?  Daisy joined the family as a 16 week old kitten where as Beasley was already 2 years old.  However Daisy didn't start this behavior until she was an adult.
  12. caltritwiamb4
    I find no oder when using pine pellets. Unless of course it was just used for a solid. But when I am dumping the saw dust from the bottom tray there is no oder.
  13. catsknowme
    I'd like to add that 2 boxes per cat works better than one. Many cats use one box for urine and the other for poop, which minimizes the odor created by the ammonia from the urine contacting the excrement.  You won't be scooping any more than you already do and the kitties will be much happier.
  14. segelkatt
    I have one cat who really stinks. She does cover though. But that short time between when it comes out of her and when she finally has it covered, she digs forever --- oh my! For some reason though the stink dissipates really fast so that's good. She is 15 and I've had her for 3 years during which time she has always brought the house down with her evil smells. 
  15. helsic
    my two kittens don't cover their stools but well they're still less than 2 months, I hope they learn by theirselves eventually!
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