No one likes the smell of a dirty litter box. But can you imagine if you were the one that had to use that box? No wonder studies have found that at least 10% of cats stop using their litter boxes reliably at some point. Of course there can be medical or behavioral reasons for the problems. But not using the litter box often is traced to nothing more than a dirty litter box.
Here’s how to avoid litter box odor and keep your house smelling fresh, which should make you and kitty happier.
Keep It Clean
The No. 1 rule, and the only thing that will keep litter box odor at bay, is constant cleaning. That means scooping the box out at least twice a day, removing the solids and liquid clumps if you use clumping litter.
For those who don’t use clumping litter, use a large, solid metal spoon (such as a large kitchen spoon) to lift out the most urine-soaked areas each time you clean. Add litter as needed to replace what is removed.
Also wash the box weekly, or every other week if you are using clumping litter. Use a mild, unscented dish detergent or a mild bleach spray (20 parts water to one part bleach) and rinse well. Clean your scooper also.
When dry, add 2 to 3 inches of litter. Cats don’t like a deep tray of litter and this allows you to add litter as you scoop.
Does the Type of Litter Matter?
Some litters have perfumes or other additives that claim to help cover litter smell. But to a cat these can smell overwhelming and make the box unwelcoming. Most veterinarians advise against using these products.
Many believe that clumping litters, which allow for the easy removal of solids and liquids, keep boxes smelling fresher. But cats can be very particular about which litters they will use. So experiment to find the litter your cat likes best, then stick with it.
Does the Type of Box Matter?
Almost any easily cleaned plastic container can be used as a litter box, but buy the largest box your home can accommodate. A rule of thumb is to get a box that is at least twice as long as your adult cat and as wide as the cat is long.
Cats are fastidious, and don’t want to step or dig in already soiled areas. Many people cut down one side of a large, plastic storage tub to get a larger box.
And avoid covered boxes. Most cats don’t like them, and they can trap odors inside, making it unpleasant for your pet to enter.
Many cats also don’t like plastic liners, which can snare cat’s claws when they dig. This also allows urine to seep under the liner, where it won’t be absorbed by the litter and can cause odors.
As for self-cleaning litter boxes, it depends. Some cats, especially skittish and large cats, may dislike them. But if your cat doesn’t mind, it’s an option for people who are gone for long periods.
Location, Location, Location, and Numbers
The rule is one litter box per cat, plus one. So if you have one cat, you need two boxes. If you have four cats, you need five boxes.
Keep the boxes in different locations in your home. If a cat is on the third floor, and the box is in the basement, they may decide not to make the long trek.
Also, choose the right spots for your litter boxes. Don’t put a box in a small, enclosed area, like a tiny bathroom or closet, which will concentrate litter box odors. A larger, well-ventilated area is best. But it needs to be in a quiet, low-traffic area, away from your cat’s food, other pets, and anything that can startle or scare your cat while they are using the box.
Yes, it takes a daily effort on your part to keep litter box odors at bay. But the result will be a happier cat and a better-smelling home.