Best ways to reduce litter box smell and keep your home fresh and clean

If you are a proud parent of one or more cats, then you know the challenge associated with controlling the litter box odor from taking over your house. Nobody likes to be complimented about the home “smelling like cat”.

Thankfully, there are quite a few things that you can do to minimize the litter box odor, make your home feel more pleasant and keep you and your cat happy.

In this article, we will look at some of the most effective and efficient ways to reduce litter box smell. We will discuss the actionable steps that you can take, the things to keep in mind while employing these odor-control solutions and any limitations they might have.

We will also share some products that can help you to reduce the litter smell and achieving “Litter Box Nirvana”. Read On!

Best products to reduce litter box smell

Some of the best products to help minimize the stinky smell of litter box from spreading around the home are listed below:
DurAnimals DuraScoop Cat Litter ScoopAll-aluminum scoop with hand-polished surface and poly-vinyl rubber handle.
13.25" x 5.5" x 1.75".
8.6 oz.

Purrr-Fect Standing Litter ScoopPolymer ABS-plastic scoop and handle with a steel shaft.
35.0" x 5.0" x 6.0".
9.0 oz.
Purina Tidy Cats Breeze Litter Box KitUncovered/Covered Litter Box.
21.0”x 16.5” x 10.5”.

PetSafe ScoopFree Self Cleaning Litter BoxAutomatic Self-cleaning litter box.
27.5" x 19" x 7".

Dr. Elsey's Ultra-Premium Clumping Cat LitterStrong odor-control clumping litter.

NonScents Cat Litter DeodorizerZeolite-based granule deodorizer.
16 oz.

Arm & Hammer Multiple Cat Litter DeodorizerBaking soda-based deodorizer powder.
30 oz.

Litter Genie Plus Pail Cat Litter Disposal SystemLitter disposal system.
9.5” x 8.5” x 17.0”.
3.5-4 gal.; lasts up to 14 days.

Lucky Champ Litter Champ Cat Litter Disposal System9.45” x 9.45” x 18.8”
4 gal.; lasts up to 14 days.

Jonny Cat Heavy Duty Litter Box LinersLitter box liners.
36” x 18”, 2 mil. thick,
For pans up to 22" x 18".

Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air PurifierAir purifier.
3-speed, 22” filters.
For up to 167 sq. ft. area.
Litter Kwitter Cat Toilet Training SystemABS plastic toilet training kit.
15.8” x 15.8” x 3.2”.
White egg-shaped toilet disc and three colored removable insert discs.
Training manual and DVD.

Why do the cat litter boxes smell so much?

Dealing with the smell of kitty waste and soiled litter is not the most enjoyable thing for any cat parent. And the problem becomes more pronounced if you have more than one cats.

There are a variety of factors that make handling the cat litter waste so difficult. An indoor cat visits the litter box about four to six times a day to do its business – both liquid urine and solid feces.

The feline urine is more concentrated than many other domestic pets, including dogs. The urine contains pheromones and hormones which release mercaptans and ammonia odors to create an unpleasant smell.

Considering that cats have a stronger sense of smell than humans, they are equally averse to the unpleasant smells – studies have shown that about 10% of cats develop litter box aversion during their lifetime and the litter box odor is one of the primary reasons.

In addition to the stinking odor the litter box can produce, the feline feces contain bacteria and other infectious agents, such as Toxoplasma Gondi, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis.

Therefore, it is important to keep the litter box clean and dispose-off the cat waste responsibly. The odor control solution that would work best for you is governed by the following key factors:

  • The number of cats
  • Cat behavior and preferences
  • Human sensitivities
  • The size of the home/accommodation

Let us now look at the most effective and efficient ways to control litter box smell. While we will focus on the solutions that would work for most households, it is quite possible that some tips and tricks would work better than others.

Which are the best ways to reduce litter box smell?

Sift, scoop and clean the litter box regularly

Ways to reduce litter box smell - DuraScoop Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop

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The longer the urine and feces sit in the litter box, the more likely is the litter box going to smell. Sift and scoop regularly, preferably once or twice daily to remove the clumps of cat waste. If you have multiple cats sharing a litter box, you should increase the frequency of cleaning proportionally.

If you have delegated the duties of cleaning the litter box to one or more kids, or other family members, make sure they are fulfilling their duties regularly. It is easy to skip on cleaning the litter box a few times, but the more disciplined you are in cleaning the litter box, the more convenient and effective it would be in controlling litter box odors.

Make sure you pick a scoop that is efficient, convenient and lasts for a long time. If you are looking for a scoop that can reduce the strain on your back and knees, then you will have to think beyond the traditional cat litter scoop and look at getting a long-handle litter scoop. You can check our article on the best cat litter scoops for some recommendations.

In addition to regular sifting and scooping the litter box, you need to wash the litter box frequently (ideally once a week or every ten days) and replace the used litter with clean, fresh litter. You can use a pet-safe unscented dish detergent or a mild bleach spray (20 parts water to one part bleach) and water to clean it thoroughly.

Pick a litter with odor-control

Dr. Elsey's Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter, 40 pound bag ( Pack May Vary )

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By now, you would know that there are different types of cat litters in the market – clumping, non-clumping, pellets, crystals, and so on.

Generally, the best cat litter is the one that is not too costly, easy to sift and scoop, and preferred by the feline. However, if the current setup is not sufficiently controlling the odor, then maybe it is time to switch the litter.

Just remember that you might have to switch between a couple of litters to find the best one which your cat prefers, and which controls the odor. You can even consider trying different litters in different litter boxes to get to the most suitable one.

While there is no one perfect cat litter, clumping litter is generally considered the best for controlling litter odors, primarily because of the ease in scooping the clumps and keeping the rest of the litter clean. For a litter box that is mainly used for urination, you might look at crystal or pellet litter as your primary choice.

Moreover, cat litters that use all kinds of fragrances to mask the litter odor may not be the best options. As discussed above, your cat has a stronger sense of smell than you and any strong artificial smell may actually irritate the feline and lead to litter box aversion. Pick a scented litter only if your kitty is comfortable with it.

Some of the best cat litters with proven odor-control performance are listed below:

Pick a different litter box

PetSafe ScoopFree Original Self-Cleaning Cat Litter Box - Automatic with Disposable Tray and Non-Clumping Crystal Litter - Purple

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Nowadays, there are quite a few different types of cat litter boxes available in the market for everyday use, all focused on addressing the three primary problems with these litter solutions – minimize cleanup effort, minimize litter odors and minimize litter tracking. You have standard litter pans, high-sided cat litter boxes, covered cat litter boxes, sifting cat litter boxes and even self-cleaning automatic cat litter boxes.

You might consider switching the type of litter box if the current one is not helping in controlling the litter box smell.

Covered litter boxes and self-cleaning litter boxes can help in reducing the spread of litter odor around the house. If your kitty is comfortable with such a litter box and you have the budget, invest in one. Most of them have special provisions such as charcoal filters to absorb the foul smell. And these litter boxes also help in reducing litter tracking.

If you want to stick to the standard, uncovered cat litter box, consider picking the biggest one you can fit in the space you have and choose one with higher sidewalls to avoid accidental spilling of liquid waste. Also, invest in a cat litter mat to reduce litter tracking.

It is important to understand that irrespective of the type of litter box you pick, you still need to ensure regular sifting and scooping and periodic cleanup (except for automatic self-cleaning litter boxes as they do it automatically). Odors build up pretty quickly, especially in enclosed litter boxes and unless you clean them up regularly, these odors are difficult to get rid of.

Another important thing to do is to change the litter box after 1 – 1.5 years. Most litter boxes are made of plastic which can invariably get scratched, leading to the build-up of odor-causing bacteria in the nooks, crannies, and crevices.

Pick the right number and place for the litter box(es)

The Refined Feline Refined Litter Box, X-Large, Mahogany

Picking the right number of cat litter boxes is also one way to control litter box odor.

The more the number of cats sharing a litter box, the more frequent the cleanup is necessary and the higher the chances of odor build-up. Some cats have a tendency of using one litter box for urine and one for feces.

The general rule of thumb on the number of cat litter boxes is (except in the case of self-cleaning litter boxes which multiple cats can share):

Number of Litter Boxes = Number of Cats + 1

So, if you have one cat you need at least two litter boxes, placed in separate locations and if you have two kitties, you need three litter boxes and so-on.

Make sure that you have enough cat litter boxes around the house.  If you have a multi-floor house, distribute the litter boxes across all the cat-accessible floors to minimize the chances of accidents.

Closely related to the number of litter boxes is their placement. It is always a good idea to place the litter boxes in well-ventilated areas to prevent the odor from being trapped and concentrated in a small space.

If you are using a cat litter box enclosure, make sure that you clean it regularly and put an activated-carbon/charcoal filter near it to trap the odors.

Use a cat litter deodorizer

NonScents Odor Control Cat Litter Deodorizer - Professional Strength Odor Neutralizer, 16oz

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One of the most effective ways to reduce litter box smell is to use a cat litter deodorizer.

Cat litter deodorizers are specially-formulated products that when used along with high-quality litter and frequent scooping, help in minimizing the litter odor.

Cat litter deodorizers are available in a variety of forms – powder, granules, sprays, beads, and even concentrated pods. Irrespective of the type of deodorizers, most of them contain one or more of the most popular deodorizing products – baking soda, calcium carbonate, zeolite, borax or enzymatic probiotics. All these products are safe to use around pets and humans. Some cat litter deodorizers are also enriched with special perfumes and scents to mask the odor while others are totally unscented.

You can check our article on the best cat litter deodorizers for some of the best options in the market.

Use a cat litter disposal system

Ways to reduce litter box smell - Litter Genie Plus Pail Silver

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The litter in the litter box is not the only source of unpleasant odor. The soiled litter is also something that can cause stinky smell around the house.

The standard method of disposing-off the cat litter is to pack it in plastic bags and dump it with the daily garbage – a somewhat cumbersome, gross, accident-prone and environment-unfriendly solution.

Alternatively, some people even get the so-called “flushable” litter and simply flush it down the toilet or disposer, risking clogging of the complete septic system.

An efficient cat litter disposal system can overcome both of these limitations. Cat litter disposal systems are specially designed litter waste receptacles that provide an odor-free, safe and convenient solution for disposing-off the soiled kitty litter.

In terms of their design, cat litter disposal systems are not much different from the diaper disposal systems. They essentially consist of a container with an odor-blocking, air-tight lid and/or trap.

Most cat litter disposal systems rely on special refill cartridges with rolls of waste bags and can last from 6 to 10 weeks for a single cat. The waste bags in these cartridges are much stronger than standard pet poop bags and fully biodegradable within 5-10 months.

You can check our article on the best cat litter disposal systems to pick the most suitable disposal system for your needs.

Use cat litter box liners or an equivalent alternative

JONNY CAT Cat Litter Box Liners 5 / Box (Pack of 6)

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As we saw earlier, one of the major reasons why the litter box smells can build up is because of less than optimum sifting and scooping. There can be any reason for this – allergy to the litter smells, physical limitations, or plain simple aversion, etc.

One of the ways you can simplify the litter waste disposal process is to use litter box liners in the litter box.

Litter box liners are specially-designed plastic bags that can be used to make the task of disposing-off soiled litter a lot more convenient. These liners can be placed securely inside the litter box before adding the litter and when the time comes to change the litter, the liners with the collected soiled litter can simply be removed to start afresh.

The best litter box liners are made of recycled plastic and are thicker (2-ply or more, 1 mil thick or more) than the standard garbage bags. They can also withstand some clawing by the kitty while burying its waste.

Cat litter box liners are available in both traditional and sifting designs (with holes) with scented/unscented surfaces and can work with most litters and litter boxes.

If you do not want to use cat litter box liners and are looking for alternatives, then you can consider the following options:

  • Cat litter pads: Cat litter pads are multi-layer, pee-absorbing pads that can absorb the cat’s urine, convert it into a solid gel-like material. If you are using pellet type litter, you can add these litter pads to the bottom of a standard cat litter box to act as an odor neutralizer and prevent clumping of soiled litter at the bottom of the box.
  • Disposable cat litter boxes: Disposable cat litter boxes make excellent litter box liners and provide additional protection and odor control inside a standard litter box. Using disposable litter boxes as liners helps in keeping the litter dry and extend its life. And they can withstand some serious clawing by your cat. This is especially useful if you have a young kitten or an elderly cat.
  • Standard Trash Compactor Bags: Standard drawstring trash compactor bags (especially the white ones) can also be used as litter box liners. These bags work especially well with top-entry litter boxes.

Change your cat’s food

Royal Canin Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food, 15 lb.

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What your cat eats is also something that affects the smell of the urine and hence the level of stench in the litter box. The ammonia content in your kitty’s urine is a waste product of the assimilated protein the food, so switching diets can also help in reducing the litter box odors.

While a vet nutritionist is the best person to advise on this, you can consider switching to a seafood-based diet from poultry diet, or a mix of dry and wet food instead of just wet food and see if these changes help in reducing the stench of your kitty’s waste.

Also ensure that your feline is getting ample hydration. Cats are very finicky about their water and tend to intake less water and produce a more stinking waste. Get a cat water fountain if you have to.

Use an air purifier

Germ Guardian True HEPA Filter Air Purifier for Home, Office, Bedrooms, Filters Allergies, Pollen, Smoke, Dust, Pet Dander, UV-C Sanitizer Eliminates Germs, Mold, Odors, Quiet 22 inch 3-in-1 AC4825

Air purifiers are a great way to reduce litter box smells. And they can also help in reducing other air pollutants such as pet hair, pollen, and dust. So, if you have an extra-sensitive, allergy-prone family member or someone with any type of respiratory disorder, then getting a mid-range air purifier can go a long way in minimizing the litter box odor.

Some of the best air purifier options that you can consider are:

Additional Homemade odor control hacks

Arm & Hammer Pure Baking Soda (15 lbs.)

In addition, the different cat litter box odor control products that you can use to reduce litter box smells, there are quite a few homemade odor-reducing solutions that you can try.

Three of our favorite odor control solutions are:

  • Add baking soda to the litter: Baking soda is an excellent odor neutralizer and the active ingredient of many odor-control cat litters and cat litter deodorizers. So, if you do not have the budget or inclination to use a cat litter deodorizer you can instead add baking soda to the litter to minimize odor. It is cheap, non-toxic and works reasonably well. Simply add a layer in the litter box and fill with clean litter.
  • Add dried green tea leaves to the litter: You can also use the brewed green tea leaves to reduce litter box odor. Green tea leaves have natural odor-neutralizing and anti-bacterial properties.

Simply dry and grind them and mix them into the litter in small amounts in the corners and trouble spots.

  • Wipe the litter box with white vinegar: White vinegar is also an excellent odor eliminator and deodorizer. After every litter box cleanup, you can wipe it with a soft cloth dipped in white vinegar and let it dry to get the smell-off.

Toilet Train your cat

Cat Toilet Training System By Litter Kwitter - Teach Your Cat to Use the Toilet - With Instructional DVD

Finally, a somewhat controversial and low-success way to reduce litter box smell is to toilet train your kitty, ala Mr. Jinx from Meet the Parents.

If your cat is toilet trained, you do not need to worry about sifting and scooping your litter daily. Toilet training your cat can also minimize the issues with litter tracking and litter odor around the house. Finally, you can save considerably on the cat litter and litter box accessories.

However, there are quite a few drawbacks and challenges associated with toilet training. You will need to ensure that at least one toilet is always accessible to the feline, the toilet seat is kept down and the lid open.

Moreover, the cats have a natural instinct to dig, eliminate and cover their excretions, so toilet training means that they would not be able to go through this process.

Therefore you should carefully evaluate the major pros and cons of toilet training before purchasing a cat toilet training kit. If you decide to try it out, check our article on the best cat toilet training kits.

Additional Resources

Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat--Not a Sour Puss

The ways to control litter box smell that we discussed are not the only solutions to control litter box odor. If you are looking for additional tips and tricks, you can check our article on the best cat training guides for some excellent resources for the proper upkeep of your kitty.

You would find Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett especially useful in understanding the behavioral traits of these furry animals and how you can use them to manage the litter box behavior of the cats.

If you feel that the odor levels have increased despite regular cleaning of the litter box, it would be a good idea to consult a vet. Your vet can help in ensuring that the stinking smell is not due to a health issue such as Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and also recommend some additional odor control solutions.

Final thoughts on the best ways to reduce litter box smell

If you are a proud parent of one or more kitties that chances are you would have researched for ways to minimize that catty smell in your home. Your feline’s litter box is a major source of these odors and if you can employ one or more solutions to reduce litter box smell, you can make things a lot more pleasant for yourself and your kitty.

In this article, we looked at some of the best ways to reduce litter box smell. We listed various solutions and products that can not only help you in minimizing the litter box odors but also help in keeping your cat(s) happy and your house clean.

We hope that you found this article useful and it would help you in employing the best ways to reduce litter box smell around your house. Do let us know your feedback and questions by commenting below. Until next time, have a playful spell with your darling kitty!

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