How To Get Rid of Cat Litter Smell
In this article I am going to offer you a number of great tips on how to get rid of a cat litter smell around the home. If you follow these tips, you can then rest assured that, there will be no smells around your home, and especially none that come from your cat litter.
The quickest and easiest way on getting rid of a cat litter smell is prevention. The pungent smell that comes from a cat litter box is mainly caused by cat urine being left untreated, and that urine will create a very strong and horrible smelling ammonia gas. If you can prevent that from happening by regular cleaning, or even better by self cleaning, then you will have solved the problem of cat litter smells in the home.
Many home owners with cats believe that the real smell comes from cat poop. That is not the biggest problem as the main smell does actually come from cat urine.
Why Cat Litter Smells Like Ammonia
Let’s be honest the smell of a cat litter is not the most pleasant of aromas around your home, but it is the ammonia gas from aged urine, that is particularly smelly. It is therefore that which you should focus on, and absolutely need to get under control. Ammonia is a colorless gas with an extremely pungent smell.
When a cat pees there should not be any scent of ammonia. If you do get this smell then your cat could be dehydrated or it could have some form of urinary infection. That means that you should take your cat to the vet.
However if any cat urine is left for a couple of days, ammonia gas from the urine interacting with the actual cat litter will start to quickly build up. That is the typical smell that you get from cat litters that are not regularly cleaned. For most cat owners that is the smell that can start to permeate the home.
It is always worth noting that this is a smell that you can get used to. This happens over time and the scent starts to become normal. It does not however smell normal to visitors coming into your home.
Preventing Cat Litter Smells In Your Home
Prevention is almost always a better solution than trying to cure or fix the smell and odors. Here are a few quick tips that will help you prevent the smells that come from cat litters:
- Remove cat poop and clumps once or twice a day
- Use an enclosed cat litter box rather than an open tray as the box helps contain the smells
- Add a little baking powder (bicarbonate of soda) to your cat litter as that is excellent at absorbing smells especially cat urine
- Clumping litter dries out urine and makes it clump, and these clumps should also be removed once or twice a day
- Locate the cat litter box somewhere quiet and avoid any area where there is a lot of people or foot fall
Just by following those 5 tips, you will go a long way in getting rid of any potential cat litter smells around your home.
How to Get Rid of Cat Litter Smells
As stated above prevention is always better than cure. However if you already have the problem of a cat litter smell, then I am going to explain how to deal with that quickly.
It is worth pointing out at this stage that you should be aware of a common problem. If your nose gets used to a smell, and that means any type of smell, then you no longer really properly smell it. A good example of this is that a close friend of mine works really close to an abattoir.
Now if you know what that smells like it is one of the most horrible smells in the world. Yet the people who have to live with that or work close to it barely give it a second consideration. It becomes a normal smell that they associate with work. The same thing can happen with a cat litter smell in your home.
This happens to many cat owners and they become blissfully unaware of the odor in their home. Anyone visiting the home may also be too polite to tell the owner and so yet again they become unaware of any cat litter smells and odors.
The Cat Litter Smell
When cat litter is in the box or bag there is little or no smell associated with it. You can buy scented litters which do have a slightly perfumed scent, though do be aware, that some cats don’t like scents. Pine is a very popular scent. While these can be useful, all they really do, is mask the underlying cat litter smell.
In most cases the mixture of the cat litter scent, and the perfumed litter, can often be a really bad smell as well. It is a different smell but not a pleasant one. Using a scented litter may help a little but only if the cat litter box is regularly cleaned.
Cat litter smells can really only come from two sources and those are obvious. They are cat poop and cat urine. The only way to fully control cat poop smells is to get rid of the poop as soon as it arrives there. There are a few ways of doing this which I have listed below:
- By checking the litter box 1-2 times a day and removing any poop or clumps with a scoop
- Changing out the litter completely once a month
- By using an automatic self-cleaning litter box
- By using a manual self-cleaning litter box.
- By using a very expensive self-flushing litter box
Best Cat Litter Box for Odor Control
Many people have asked me what is the best type of litter box for odor control. Just below I have shown what types of litter box do the best job of controlling odors in the home. There are a few different types of boxes available and below I will cover off each type, and how effective they are at controlling the smell.
Buying a Self Cleaning Litter Box
The automatic self-cleaning box is the most practical and affordable of these solutions. They are a bit more expensive though when compared to the standard enclosed litter box or cat litter tray. They also get mixed buyer reviews in that some cat owners love them, whereas some other cat owners find they do not work that well.
These self cleaning boxes cost anything between $50-100 depending on the brand and the type of box. In my opinion these are a good choice for any cat owner who is out of the house for longer periods of time. These boxes will help keep your litter box clean, even if they don’t do a perfect job.
Simply by keeping the litter clean and getting rid of the poop as soon as the business has been done, makes a huge difference to the odors in your home.
Buying a Self Flushing Litter Box
The self-flushing boxes also work but they are mighty expensive at around $200-300. They also need a little bit of time to install. However once that is done, then you have a good method of controlling the cat litter smell.
These can be programmed to self flush, and that does help a great deal in controlling odors in your home. Aside from the price, the other major drawback with these, is that they siphon the urine and poop into your toilet. It will stay there until the actual toilet is flushed.
All that said, they confine the litter smell to the bathroom, and if the toilet is regularly flushed, then you have a good system for controlling odors. The price though is a major stumbling block for many cat owners.
Regular and Consistent Cleaning
Checking and cleaning the box regularly is a free option of course but that is time consuming, hard to remember to do, and you have to physically do the scooping. There is however a manual self cleaning litter box which makes that task a little bit easier. Those are certainly worth your consideration.
They work using a sifting pan and you rock the litter box from side to side to sift out the clumps and then remove them. There is still some manual intervention but you do avoid having to do the scooping. These are very popular with many cat owners.
If none of the above options of litter box appeal to you, then regular cleaning is the best option. That does mean removing the cat poop with a scoop 1-2 times a day. If you are using a clumping litter, then it also means removing the clumps 1-2 times a day.
When the poop and clumps have been removed, they should be placed into a plastic bag, and taken out to the garbage. Don’t store these in an indoor bin as that will also make the house quite smelly.
Enclosed Litter Box vs Cat Litter Tray/Pan
It is also true that an enclosed, hooded or covered litter box will help control smells better than an open tray style of litter. Litter trays or pans are inexpensive and you will pay slightly more for an enclosed box. In my opinion it is worth doing that as it will help control the odors.
With a pan or tray litter the poop and urine can quickly and easily escape into the air. The enclosed box helps control that and if that box also has some type of carbon filter, then that filter helps absorb any odors. That in turn reduces and helps control the odors from the litter.
Irrespective of which type of litter box used, regular daily cleaning is the absolute key to controlling cat litter smell in your home. I have done a full article here on how to properly clean a litter box
Best Odor Eliminating Cat Litter
Does the type of cat litter you use really help control odors? There is a lot of debate over this and in all honesty the evidence for one type of litter over another type id not that clear and obvious.
There are 4 main types of cat litter
- Clumping Clay Litters
- Non clumping clay litters
- Silica Gel or Crystal Type Litters
- Natural/Biodegradable Cat Litters
Clumping Cat Litters
The most popular by a very long way is the clumping clay litter. That is because the litter clay absorbs moisture (cat pee) and makes it form into hard lumps. Those lumps along with any cat poop can then be quickly and easily removed with a scoop.
That makes this type of litter very popular. The clumping in effect dries out poop and urine, and if this is removed each day, then odors will never be a problem in any home. This is certainly the best type of litter for odor control.
The disadvantages of this is that it is not environmentally friendly as it is made by mining the clay from the ground, and the “bentonite” agent that makes the clumps does have potential health risks for cats and humans. The evidence for this is not conclusive, but it is enough for some cat owners to make them change from this type of litter.
Non Clumping Clay Cat Litter
The non-clumping clay litter is another choice for cat owners. As the name would suggest this one has none of the potentially harmful bentonite agent, and as such it does not clump. The cat urine simply soaks into the cat litter and gets absorbed.
This type of litter will work pretty well but it does need to be fully changed out at least once a week, if you want to keep the cat litter smell under control. Many people will use a cat litter liner along with this type of clay litter to make that changing out process a great deal easier.
Silica Gel Litters
These are growing in popularity for some cat owners. These are in effect small crystals that form the litter and are very good at absorbing urine. When the crystals have reached their absorption level they change color. At that stage they can be removed and replaced with new crystals.
That goes a long way to reducing a cat litter smell in your home. They are a first choice for some cat owners, but like any cat litter they also have their problems. As they are crystal in nature, if they get spilled they can be a bit of a mess. Many of them also stick to the cat’s paws and that of course can cause tracking issues.
Finally there are a range of natural and biodegradable litters. These are made from materials such as corn husks, coconut husks, walnut shells, recycled paper, wood shaving etc. Just like the clay and crystal litters some of these are clumping and some are non-clumping.
These are the slightly more expensive litters but they can be used for composting when they reach their end of life. As they are made from natural products they are safe to use with both cats and kittens. Again these are not mined from the earth and that of course is a good thing for the environment.
Cat Litter Liners
I mentioned the use of cat liners earlier when it came to changing out a non-clumping style of cat litter. The question I want to address here is, “will cat liners in a cat litter help reduce or control smells in a home?”
So just for the purpose of clarification a cat litter liner is usually some form of plastic bag, that is placed inside the litter box, before the actual litter is added. That means when it comes to changing out the litter completely, all you have to do is lift out the liner bag, tie a knot in that, and place the old litter into the garbage.
Liners don’t on their own help control odors, but they do help odors from seeping into the litter box. They do also make the changing of litter a great deal easier.
Cat Litter Box Deodorizers
You can buy commercial cat litter deodorizers. The majority of those contain baking soda. They are designed to help keep the litter box odor free and to keep the litter fresher for longer. They are meant to work by absorbing the unpleasant smells at the source.
The scent is moisture-activated, which means that each time your cat uses the litter, the scent gets refreshed. As a side note this type of deodorizer also prevents urine clumps from sticking to the litter box. These are gaining in popularity and they are not too expensive to buy.
Check out the top 5 list of cat litter deodorizers here
Cat Litter Mats for Odor Control
Cat litter mats are made by manufacturers, and their main purpose is to reduce the amount of tracking throughout the home. They do however also help control cat urine smells as well. Most of the litter mats available on the market are designed to place under and around the standard litter box.
If you have a cat that pees high, or sometimes pees out the door, then the litter mat is a great way of capturing this. The mat can then be lifted and washed, and it helps keep the urine off the floor.
What to do if your House smells like cat litter but you don’t own a cat?
The cat litter smell in a home is a problem that many people have even if they don’t even own a cat. It can also be a real pain to find out where the smell is coming from, and an even bigger problem to get rid of. Most likely the previous occupants of the home will have had a cat.
There are a few things that you will need to do to locate the smell, and then deal with that problem. I have completed a detailed article on how to get rid of a cat urine smell in a house, which you can read by clicking here.
Summary of Getting Rid of Cat Litter Smells in the Home
The best way to get rid of cat litter smells in the home is to prevent them in the first place. Personally I would recommend an enclosed sifting litter box, and to use a good quality clumping litter. Remove any poop and clumps by sifting the box a couple of times a day.
A manual self-cleaning box is in my opinion a very good option. You don’t have to scoop, the cleaning is pretty fast and with an enclosed box the smells do get contained. It really doesn’t take that long to shake a box a couple of times a day, and get rid of the poop and clumps.
Try to get into the habit where you change the litter out every 2-3 weeks, and make sure to wash and dry the litter box, before replacing it with new litter.
A deodorizer used along with the cat litter will help, and if you don’t want to buy a deodorizer, then shake a little baking soda into the litter as that will help absorb and neutralize any smells.
The bottom line though is the best way to prevent cat litter smell is developing the habit of regular cleaning on a daily basis. Change the litter fully every 2-3 weeks and that will help keep odors in check.