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7 tips to make a stinky litter box smell fresh & clean.

Photo: The Wirecutter

Stinky litter box trouble?

A foul-smelling litter box isn't fun for you or your cat.

That's why your cat's litter box needs the same attentive consideration you give your home’s other bathrooms. After all, your kitty’s olfactory senses is 14 times stronger than yours, meaning a litter box that smells fine to you might cause your cat to turn up his nose and walk away. 

If you need to eliminate cat odor from your home, try these seven tips to keep your litter box from stinking.

1. Choose the right brand of litter. Cat litter comes in a variety of styles, from corn and wheat to wood and clay. With so many choices, it can be challenge to determine which cat litter is right for your feline family. To find the best litter for odor control, you may need to set up a test. Purchase the smallest bags of several litter brands. Place a cup of each litter type in a different container. Add ¼ cup of ammonia (keep it far away from the cats!) to each container, and let it sit. After several hours, sniff the various types of ammonia-soaked litter. Your nose will tell you the best cat litter for odor. 

Remember not to select scented options. Cats hate the artificial smell, and scented litter does little to manage odors. Also, keep in mind that it's easiest on your cat when you introduce a new litter slowly by mixing it in with the old brand.

2. Add baking soda to the litter. It makes a great all-natural deodorizer for your litter box. Some people ask if baking soda is safe for cats, and the answer is an unqualified yes! Baking soda is non-toxic, and by mixing a little of it with the litter, you can help absorb pet urine odors. Note that scooping the litter, refreshing it, and washing the box are still necessary even if you sprinkle in baking soda. Here again, you'll want to avoid any scented soda options.  

3. Use charcoal filters to manage a stinky litter box. Charcoal filters help remove stubborn cat odors, and they're good for the environment, too. Modkat sells an odor control kit that includes two bamboo charcoal filters, which last longer, are more effective than other charcoal, and are made from a renewable resource. You can use our bamboo filters for up to three months before refreshing them with some time in the sun. Like baking soda, charcoal is an inexpensive, natural, and non-toxic odor removal system.

4. Don't mask the odors with sprays, plug-ins, or potpourri. Many scented air fresheners smell heavenly to humans but are gag-inducing to cats. Moreover, some fragrant household products can be dangerous to cats. Potpourri oil, for instance, can burn a cat's skin. Try a DIY alternative to toxic air fresheners if you want your house to have a spicy, tangy smell.

5. Practice good litter box hygiene. Scoop your cat's litter box daily. Clumping litter can make this task easier. Once a week, refresh the litter entirely by dumping out the old litter and adding 3-4 inches of new. While the cat box is empty, wash it out with warm water and unscented soap. If your box tends to hold smells over time, you may also want to spray the box's interior with an antibacterial solution that's safe for cats. Keeping your litter box clean could be the most important step you take toward making your kitty litter smell better.

6. Make sure your litter box is situated in a well-ventilated area. It can be tempting to hide the litter box in a dark, out-of-the-way place like a garage or basement. Don't do it, though. Many shy cats hate going into dank, dark, or lonely spots to eliminate, and a bully cat can take advantage of the isolation to start a fight. If the box is out of sight and smell, you might even forget to clean it regularly. Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy says to keep your litter boxes in "socially appropriate areas," like living rooms. That's why you need a sleek litter box that won't attract attention when it's out in the open.

7. Ask your vet or feline nutritionist about your cat's diet. If your cat's droppings smell particularly foul, ask a professional to recommend a safe and healthy dietary change that may be a solution to litter box smells.

Keeping your home and your litter box clean and fresh is important both for your cat's health and your own peace of mind. About 10% of cats will suddenly refuse to patronize their litter boxes, and cat box smells are one reason why.

By maintaining a stink-free litter box, you can make it easy for your cat to eliminate in the appropriate place, helping him or her stay healthy and happy.