How to get rid of cat litter box smell

Is it possible to get rid of the smell from a cat litter box without tucking it away in the basement? Cat litter box odor appears to be one of the most common reasons that people choose not to have a cat.

cat litter box odor

We have three cats ourselves, and their litter box rarely smells. How do we do it? Here’s how:

  1. We clean the litter boxes twice daily
  2. We feed our cats with high-quality cat food

Stop cat litter box smell by scooping frequently

Cleaning the litter box is not only a crucial step to prevent your cat from urinating outside the box, but it also helps to keep your apartment free of the unpleasant smell. Why? Because most scents usually have a source. In your situation, it’s the soiled litter.

If you remove it, the odor will stop spreading. If you don’t remove it, all your other efforts to get rid of the cat litter box smell will fail. You don’t spray deodorant over your body when you stink. You wash, right?

So, how often should you clean the litter box?

The next logical question is, how often should you clean the litterbox? Every household is different; you can learn how regularly to clean a litter box in our other article if you want a detailed answer. In short, general rules are:

Do you think that such frequent scooping is too hard? See here for tips to make this process easier.

Please note: The smell from the box will still fill the room at about the same time your cat steps out of it; however, it usually lasts for a few minutes only. This smell can become almost unnoticeable if you provide your cat with a better diet.

Change your cat’s diet to limit the litter box odor

A cat eating raw diet - the best way to avoid litter box odor
A raw food containing no grain is the best diet to avoid the cat litter box odor.

The better the food quality, the less it contains indigestible junk products. And by junk, we do not mean products that are generally bad. Even organically grown brown rice or any other grain is junk to your cat.

If you take a look at a cat’s natural diet, you will see absolutely no plant materials in it. Low end and middle tier commercial foods, however, are full of them. Okay, let’s assume you are not ready to switch your cat’s diet to homemade raw food. What can you do?

  1. Avoid dry cat food. It makes your cat’s urine extremely smelly. Dry cat food contains about 10% moisture, which can add to dehydration. In such a case, your cat’s body tries to preserve moisture, and in turn, makes the urine more concentrated. Unfortunately, it results in an additional litter box odor.
  2. Avoid grain and potato in your cat’s food. Even if you can’t, try to make sure it contains as little grain as possible. Grain gets added to commercial cat foods as a filler, and, in dry foods, it also helps to maintain the structure of the food. At the same time, the grain is indigestible to a cat. Most of it passes through without being absorbed by the body and creates large, smelly stools.

Find more information on how to choose a higher quality cat food here. Cat owners who have changed their cat’s diet to a higher quality one (more meat, fewer grains) always report that the stools are, first, smaller; second, produced less frequently; and third, stink less.

Still can’t stop the litter box odor? What else can you try?

Sometimes people report that they already scoop the box after almost every use, but it still smells. Are there other ways to get rid of cat litter box smell? Yes, there are few more things, but, indeed, if you clean the box properly, both scooping twice daily and dumping it weekly, you will almost certainly not need any of those. We promise.

If you do find the litter box still has some odor, here’s a list of few more things to try:

  • Air treatment in the room. Having an air purifier in the bathroom has become common. Use an air purifier near your litter box. They are either manually operated or automated with a timer. No matter which you choose, do not put it too close to the litter box, or you lose if your cat starts to avoid it.
  • Odor eliminator crystals. These very porous crystals come in a pack. Due to their large surface area (because of pores), they absorb odors quickly. The packet can be attached to the wall right on top of the litter box to neutralize some of the scents when your cat has just been to the toilet.
  • Switching the litter type may also change the scent of the litter box. Our tests showed that absorbent litter fights odor the worst of the types we tried. However, frequently dumping the box will help you to avoid this. Clumping and pine litters have higher odor-fighting capabilities. Be aware, though, due to the strong smell. Many cats avoid pine litter. You might want to read some additional info about the most popular cat litter types that we have tested.

Things NOT TO DO to get rid of cat litter box smell

Things not to do in order to stop cat litter box odor There are also few not-so-good things that cat owners often try to avoid litter box odor. We should add this caveat: “Don’t try this at home.”

  • Don’t choose scented litter. It’s the fastest way to cat litter box problems. First, cat’s do not like strong scents. We may prefer lavender, but cats want to run like hell from it. Second, cats rely heavily on scents. They gather a lot of information about their surroundings through them, and the location of the toilet is one of them. For cats, if a place smells like own wastes, then it’s an excellent place to deposit more. The task becomes harder if you overwhelm it with perfume.
  • Do not train your cat to use a toilet. The scent will remain. If the cat has a litter box, he will cover his waste. If he uses the toilet, he won’t. Besides, the lid will be open at all times, too. Using a toilet is uncomfortable for a cat, and the assumption that your cat using WC instead of the box will be more convenient for you is questionable. Find out why here.
  • Don’t switch to a covered cat litter box. They are commonly used for odor neutralizing; however, if this is your purpose for changing to a covered box, don’t switch to one. You see, when you avoid the smell from spreading in the room, you are not neutralizing it, but you are keeping and concentrating it inside the box. That is not something your cat would be thankful for, in addition to the other disadvantages covered litter boxes have. Read more about covered litter boxes here.
  • Do not move the litter box to get rid of the scent. While we usually want to keep the box out of sight—around the corner or in the bathroom, basement, or outdoors—this may backfire on you. There’s a general rule: the cat litter box must be easily accessible. If you put it away, it becomes less accessible, or your cat may stop using it. Therefore, litter box relocation should serve to improve the usability of it. If you are interested, you can learn more about good litter box locations here.

Above are things that can be done by cat owners to get rid of cat litter box smell. They have significant drawbacks, but the good news is that you won’t need them if you apply the first two advice. Clean the box frequently and improve your cat’s diet to make his stools and urine smell less. This article is a part of a series about cat litter, litter boxes, and house-soiling problems.

Scroll to Top