The last thing you want is your guests smelling the litter box as soon as they walk through your door. There are simple ways to keep the litter box and your home from smelling like cat waste.
I’ll share 14 tips in this article to reduce odors, as well as 3 things to avoid.
How do you keep a litter box from smelling?
There are several ways to keep your litter box from smelling. Many of which don’t require you to spend more money. However, there are some tools you can invest in that will help keep your home odor-free.
1 – Scoop daily
The more you scoop the litter box, the less your home will smell. Although litter will absorb some of the smells, you’ll reduce odors even more if you can scoop the waste out of the box and into a receptacle with a tight-fitting lid (more on that in the next point).
Each litter box you have in your home should be scooped at least once a day. If you have multiple cats, or a cat that uses the litter box more frequently (e.g. diabetic cats tend to urinate more), try scooping twice a day, or more.
2 – Trap or remove odors
If your budget allows, purchase a disposal unit designed for cat litter and waste (like this one). Most have a 2-component closure system that keeps the waste bag sealed, even when you lift the lid. These types of waste disposal systems keep litter box odors trapped inside the container, so you don’t have to make multiple trips to the outdoor trash can.
Alternatively, you can scoop waste into a small bag and remove it from your home immediately. This requires you to make one or more trips a day to an outdoor trash can, so you’ll save money but not time with this method.
3 – Change litter frequently
Litter needs to be dumped out and replaced regularly. How frequently that is will depend on the type of litter you use. Clumping clay litters will typically last about a month, while non-clumping litters need to be changed at least once a week.
>> Check out: How Often Do you Need to Change Cat Litter?
Although you may scoop each day, you’ll never remove every particle of dirty litter, waste, or bacteria. Changing the litter is the only way to remove all odors from it.
4 – Properly clean the litter box
Each time you change the litter, you should clean the litter box. Odors can be left on the surface of the litter box or even absorbed into the plastic.
Be sure you’re not only cleaning the litter box to prevent it from smelling, but also disinfecting to kill bacteria and parasites.
Vinegar is a good natural solution to remove odors, as is baking soda.
If the litter box still smells after a deep clean, it may be time for a new one.
5 – Try a Non-absorbent Litter Box
Plastic litter boxes are most common, but they can absorb odors. Their surfaces can also easily be scratched, and those scratches give odors a place to hide.
Consider switching to a stainless-steel litter pan, which won’t absorb odors and can’t be scratched.
6 – Use the right size of litter box
If the litter box is too small (and most are too small for an average-sized cat), your cat may end up eliminating near the edges or in corners. When their waste hits the litter box, odors aren’t absorbed by the litter.
Although you may be scooping the litter each day and changing it frequently, the litter box may be the source of odors. Try a larger box to give your cat more room and a better chance of their waste hitting the litter first.
7 – Use the right amount of litter
If you don’t have enough litter in the box, your cat may be digging right to the bottom. Their urine and feces will then sit on the surface of the litter box, instead of being absorbed by the litter.
On the other hand, if a litter box is filled with too much litter, your cat may not like walking on it or digging in it. They may stand half in and half out and eliminate close to the edges, where waste can hit the litter box instead of the litter.
Both scenarios can lead to excess litter box odors.
2 – 4 inches of litter is ideal (here’s a quick guide).
8 – Experiment with different litters
Clay litter is typically the most available and the cheapest option for cat owners. But clay is dusty and can contribute to the unpleasant smells in your home. Each time your cat digs around, or you scoop the litter, it kicks up dust. That dust is then going to settle on surfaces around the litter box.
Although litter dust doesn’t smell as bad as cat pee or feces, it’s not exactly a pleasant smell you want to fill your home with.
No litter is going to be 100% dust-free, but switching to a low-dust formula can help with smells.
Consider trying a more environmentally friendly and healthier cat litter as well. Such as Sustainably Yours, which is made from corn and cassava.
9 – Check for cat urine outside the litter box
If you’re smelling cat urine and feces even after cleaning the litter box, it may just be your cat has found another area to use. Try to follow your nose to see if it will lead you to the source. Your cat may be peeing in another room or on different objects.
If you don’t notice these areas and don’t properly clean them, the smell of cat urine will linger.
You may consider a pet urine detector light to help you find places your cat may have urinated outside the litter box:
If you find an area your cat is peeing or defecating, be sure to properly clean it. You must use an enzyme cleaner to remove all urine odors. If your cat can smell even a trace of their urine, they’ll continue peeing in the same spot.
10 – Move the litter box
The location of the litter box may also be contributing to litter box odors. Bacteria thrive in moist conditions, so if a litter box is in a damp location, the extra moisture may be compounding the problem.
Make sure the litter box is in a cool, dry, ventilated spot that your cat approves of (if they don’t approve, they’ll stop using the litter box).
Although it won’t prevent the litter box from smelling, placing it in a location you walk past several times per day will also help you keep on top of scooping and changing.
A litter box may be unsightly, but I’m sure you and your guests would rather smell clean air and see a clean litter box than not see one but be able to smell it throughout the home.
11 – Clean the air
It’s important not to use artificial scents that attempt to mask odors. Not only are they harmful for you and your cat to breathe in day after day, they may also bother your cat and deter them from using the litter box.
Instead, try a more natural way to remove odors from the air. A charcoal filter may be a good solution for your home.
You may also consider an air purifier, which can clean pet hair, dander, and odors from the air.
12 – Get multiple litter boxes
The general rule is to have one litter box for every cat, plus one extra. This article explains why, but basically, it gives your cat additional clean litter and will help prevent your home from smelling like a dirty litter box.
Adding another litter box can help ensure your cat can always find a clean spot and doesn’t have to step over, or in, their waste or dig in a corner where they may end up hitting the litter box, or floor, instead of the litter.
13 – Use baking soda
It’s safe to put a small amount of baking soda in the bottom of the litter box; where it won’t get on your cat’s paws. This thin layer of baking soda can help absorb odors and moisture.
You may also consider placing an opened box of baking soda next to the litter box to help draw odors out of the air.
14 – Eliminate health issues
Last, but definitely not least, have your veterinarian rule out any health issues. If you scoop, change, and clean the litter box regularly but still feel there’s a strong odor, take your cat in for a checkup.
Let the veterinarian know about the issue you’re dealing with so they can examine your cat for health issues such as a bladder infection, kidney disease, hormonal imbalance, etc.
An overly smelly litter box may also be due to a dietary issue. Talk to your vet about the type of food your cat is eating and how much water they’re consuming to see if that may be the source.
What to Avoid
The following are key points to remember when it comes to litter and litter boxes. Although you may think they’d keep the litter box from smelling, they may actually lead to bigger problems and worse smells.
If your cat has stopped using their litter box, or occasionally decides not to use it, you may find the following helpful:
Avoid scented litters
Cats have a keener sense of smell than humans and are more sensitive to strong scents. This is a good reason to not only keep their litter box clean, but also to avoid artificially scented litters.
The ingredients used for litter (clay, pine, paper, corn, cassava, wheat, etc.) don’t smell like flowers or “spring air”. When a litter is scented to smell different than its ingredients, it’s done so artificially.
Not only are artificial scents harmful to your health and your cat’s, they can also be irritating to your cat. If your cat finds their litter box irritating, they’ll stop using it.
And if your cat’s not using the litter box, they’re finding somewhere else in your home to go. The odors will be much worse in this scenario.
Avoid Covered Litter Boxes
There are some situations in which a covered litter box can be beneficial (outlined here), but generally, they should be avoided.
Many cat owners will purchase a covered or top entry litter box to hide the mess that’s inside and trap more odors within it. However, your cat must deal with that mess and those odors multiple times a day, which may leave them unhappy. If they’re unhappy with their litter box, they may find another place in your home to go.
The better solution is to allow your cat access to open air when they use the litter box and increase how often you scoop.
Avoid Litter Box Liners
Litter box liners are another product designed for human convenience. Although they may make changing the litter a bit quicker for you, your cat likely doesn’t appreciate them and they can actually worsen litter box odors. Here’s why I don’t recommend litter liners.
Plastic liners won’t fit the litter box perfectly; there will be folds and creases. If urine makes its way into those folds, the litter can’t absorb it and the box will smell worse.
The same thing happens if your cat punctures holes in the plastic when they’re digging. Urine can then make its way through and get trapped between the liner and the litter box.
I hope this article has helped you determine how to keep a litter box from smelling 🙂