It takes a lot more to prevent litter box smells than regular cleaning. Of course cleaning a litter box frequently is important, not just for keeping smells at bay, but to help your cat maintain top hygiene and health. That being said, if keeping a cat’s litter box clean was the only thing necessary to keep terrible smells away, hardly any cat owners would have issues with litter box smells, and this sadly doesn’t happen to be case. There is absolutely more to stinky litter boxes than mere cleanliness, the specifics of which I’ll be getting into today.
I remember the days when I had issues with litter box smells. Truth be told, my issues with smelly litter were nowhere near bad even then, but I still had a long way to go before I got to this point, where living in a studio flat with my cat’s litter box in the same room I work, sleep, and hang out in, I still barely notice it at all.
Now that the days of smelly litter are long gone, the only time I’m reminded of them is when I someone posts a comment to this blog about cat smells, a rare phenomenon indeed because I think most cat owners figure out some sort of system for reducing litter smells on their own over time, meaning it’s those who have newly adopted or are thinking about adopting that typically bring up cat smells.
Regardless of whether you’ve got a little odour or an ungodly stench radiating from your cat’s litter box, know that your situation can be dramatically helped. There are plenty of things you can try out – so it’s easy to pick and choose which options suit you best (based on cost, ease, and what’s ideal for your cat’s well being). It may take a little trial and error at first, but once you’ve found your ideal system, a good combination of cat food + litter + litter box as we’ll get into, you’re set for life and those terrible litter smells won’t just be temporarily reduced, they’ll be forever kept at bay.
How To Reduce Litter Odours & Keep Cat Litter Box Smells Away
Part I: The Cat Food
“Smelly cat, smelly cat; what are they feeding you?” Words of wisdom to take to heart from none other than Friends‘ Phoebe Buffay.
You wouldn’t believe how much certain types of cat food make a cat’s bathroom use seriously stink. Changing from one cat food to another can dramatically reduce stench from a litter box, and I’d argue is strongly correlated with how terrible or tolerable any smell wafting out of a litter box may be.
In my experience, most kibble makes a lot less of a stink than wet food. And most fish-based foods give off a more tolerable odour than chicken/poultry based cat foods. But I could be wrong, your mileage may vary, and of course, each and every single cat food has a different formula, so there may be a number of exceptions even if these do happen to be true overarching rules. I am certain there are many wet foods that don’t leave you with terribly smelly restroom uses, I just haven’t tried all that many myself, and so would not be able to recommend any.
As far as kibble goes, I used to feed Avery Blue Buffalo back when we were living in Canada. I started with Chicken & Brown Rice, since that’s what the cat I was house-sitting when Avery (as a stray) wandered into our lives. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the smell, though it wasn’t so bad. Instead of switching to something completely different, I tried Blue’s Salmon & Brown Rice formula, and loved it.
When we initially moved to the UK, I had to switch Avery onto a new cat food (couldn’t get a hold of Blue products affordably here in the UK). In terms of smells, it was fine, but after a few months on that cat food, Avery developed a problem where he threw up bile on an empty stomach. I switched over to Royal Canin Sensible, which luckily completely resolved the issue, and I’m still using this cat food for him today. I have zero complaints about how this cat food makes Avery’s restroom stops smell either.
I mention all this not to say that you should switch cat foods, but merely to point out that what your cat eats makes a difference.
Would I advise changing your cat’s diet as a litter smell reduction method? Not particularly, and not at all if your cat has any sort of health problem or has developed health issues resulting from cat food in the past. The why is obvious: health first, before all else, reducing smells should never be the priority.
Health not an issue? Genuinely considering switching? If the cat food you currently use is is something both you and your kitty are happy with, and his or her health is great on it, but you have an issue with the smells that come out of the litter box, you might consider doing one of the following:
- Switching to a different formula by the same brand. Like one made of fish instead of poultry, for instance.
- Switching to a similar formula by another brand. Like from a chicken diet from one brand to a chicken diet on another brand.
I think it’s best to switch to something as similar as possible (in terms of brand or in terms of formula), in case you’ve got a cat food that’s working well for your cat and you, but litter smells are the only issue.
Would definitely recommend only trying this after you’ve tried other options first, as those options don’t have as much (if any) potentially impact on your cat’s health. Also, the other options have a very good chance of doing the trick in reducing or eliminating litter smells by themselves, without you needing to alter your cat’s diet at all.
Part II: The Litter
While cat food has an enormous impact on litter smells, the cat litter you use makes even more of an impact based on my experience.
There are some god awful cat litters out there, and yes, they’re usually the cheap ones. Sadly, it’s not the best clumping, best odour reducing litters that are at the bottom of the price comparison charts, and if you have a lot of cats, it can certainly be a little on the pricey side trying to reduce litter smells this way. But if proper cat litter box smell reduction is important to you, I firmly believe it’s worth the investment to try changing cat litters.
The Importance of Clumping in Smell Reduction
I could be wrong, but in my experience, clumping is very important when it comes to reducing urine smells from litter boxes.
Think about it this way: if you’ve got a litter that doesn’t clump at all, or doesn’t clump particularly well, you’re almost guaranteeing you’ll be leaving pieces, sometimes very large pieces, of cat urine in the litter box after every cleaning. Over time, this would compound to give you a really stinky litter box.
So if you have the choice between a better clumping and poorly or even non-clumping cat litter, in my opinion, it’s best to choose the litter that clumps best if reducing urine smells is important to you.
Types of Cat Litters
The worst offending cat litters in terms of odour reduction in my experience are wood chip cat litters. I tried them just once and cannot handle them from a smell perspective at all. If you know of a way to reduce smells with these, let me know, but in my experience they’re impossible.
Clay clumping cat litters are somewhere in the middle of the pack for smell reduction. They’re cheap, quite good at clumping (especially when you consider price), and though they can be annoying insofar as tracking goes, this is easy to reduce with a quality litter mat, or with a top entry litter box. As far as budget options go, I can’t say you’re likely to find much better.
Walnut clumping litters are high up on the best smell reduction litter list, and quite honestly come in at #1 for reducing the the smell of cat poos, based on my experience. I used Blue Buffalo Naturally Fresh Multi-Cat Litter for years in Canada and was always really happy with it, but since moving to the UK meant I could no longer have cheap access to this litter, I decided to test out World’s Best, which brings me to my next category…
The #1 type of litter for smell reduction in my experience has been corn kernel clumping cat litters. These are not as good as walnut clumping litters at reducing poo smells, but at reducing urine smells – well I don’t even remember what cat urine smells like, and that’s saying something because if I recall correctly, I often used to say cat pee smelled infinitely worse than cat poo.
Now, this may in part be down to Avery’s diet change. As mentioned before, I did change his food since I couldn’t get the same food I had Avery on in Canada. But I’ve changed Avery’s kibble, and before and after the change, the smell when he peed was the same – completely unnoticeable. Take a whiff in his box and unless there’s a #2 somewhere in there, all you’ll smell is corn kernel.
Scented Cat Litters
I’ve tried a few different litter scents, and while they’re good at masking smells sometimes, no extra smell really beats a proper litter. That being said, grabbing a scented litter can be pretty helpful, so long as you’re a fan of the scent being added (otherwise, you’ll just end up with two scents you hate coming out of the litter box). Definitely an option to try since scented litters are usually the same price as non-scented formulas by the same brands.
I’ve developed the habit of buying multi-cat formulas over “original” or regular formula litters, even though I only have one cat and the multi-cat formulas are more expensive. I’m not sure if it’s a placebo or not, but I do feel multi-cat formulas are better at clumping, and reducing litter smells in general. Again, I feel like these are better for clumping and reducing smells, but I’m not sure if this is just me or if it’s actually the case. If you have experience with testing any multi-cat formulas versus regular formula litters, let me know in the comments if you found there’s any difference.
Part III: The Box
Some cat litter boxes really do help you reduce smells. Some features of litter boxes, however, are more or less useless for smell reduction in my experience. Let me know in the comments if your experiences with litter boxes and smell reduction match up to mine, or if you’ve experienced something different. Also, if you would recommend any litter boxes for reducing smells, would love to know!
Types of Litter Boxes
It makes sense that the more there is standing between you and what’s inside your cat’s litter box, the less stench you’re likely going to experience.
Obviously, if you’ve got yourself an open litter pan, you’re really not getting any smell-reducing action from your litter box at all. Grab a side entry without a flap, and you’re half way to smell reduction. Grab a covered/hooded litter box with a flap, and you’re wholly there. Put that inside some furniture meant to hide litter boxes, and it seems to me you’ve got double the smell reduction.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t find carbon filters to be all that useful when it comes to reducing smells. I’m sure they’re somewhat useful, but even in cases where a litter box is nearly completely closed off, I find terrible smells manage to come out of other holes, like little ones under the flap, rendering carbon filters little more than useless.
If you’re desperate to reduce smells, and you have quite a lot of “stench” to dial down from, I don’t think a new carbon filter is really going to help. You’ll need to change something else about your cat’s bathroom experience, from the cat food to the litter itself, down to using a more covered litter box, or there just isn’t going to be enough smell reduction happening.
Let me know if you think carbon filters do work, and if so, what conditions they work well in.
Is It Worth Changing Litter Boxes?
Would I ever buy a litter box specifically to reduce smells? Probably not if I’m honest with you. I’d rather invest in quality cat litter for that purpose and buy an automatic cat litter robot to make clean up almost nonexistent, or a top-entry litter box to make tracking a lot less likely and make a litter mat completely unnecessary.
But it is always an option, and options are great to have, since not everyone has the same circumstances.
Have You Ever Had Issues With Cat Litter Smells?
Ever had issues with cat litter boxes with regards to the smells that come out of them? Did you find a way to fix this problem? How did you do it?
Can you think of any methods of reducing litter smells that I haven’t mentioned here? What methods in your opinion work best?
Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments down below!