General Question

suzyq2463's avatar

How do you deal with litter box smell?

Asked by suzyq2463 (2222 points ) July 19th, 2009

My mother-in-law lives with us, and we got a cat that she takes care of. She keeps the litter box in her room. Unfortunately, the smell is almost intolerable to me (not to her). Recently she bought one of those $300 automated cat litter boxes saying that she wouldn’t have to use as much litter and that she’d only have to change the litter out once a month. The smell is now so bad I’m nauseated. I think she should use more litter and change out the waste every day. How do you cat owners deal with your litter boxes? Any suggestions on how I can convince her to be more aggressive in dealing with the waste?

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40 Answers

PupnTaco's avatar

One of many reasons I’ve never had a cat for a pet.

sandystrachan's avatar

You get odorless cat litter , its name passes me at present .
There are sprays you can get from a vet or pet store .
Snowflake cat litter works well, also cleaning the tray out before adding new litter .

MindStudy's avatar

My girlfriend came with 2 cats… I can’t take the smell of the kitty litter!!! Amazing how she seems to be immune to it.

I’ve found that cleaning it out daily along with a healthy dose of arm & hammer deoderizer keeps it in check. Also the quality if the kitty litter is important. The Tidy Cat clumping with odor controlling crystals has been the best for us.

suzyq2463's avatar

@sandystrachan looks like Catsan is UK/Australia only. Can’t seem to find it in the US. I’ll keep looking though.

ubersiren's avatar

Definitely use a generous amount of litter, and scoop at least 3 times a week. If that’s not enough, increase it. We have one cat and scoop the litter only twice a week which seems to be enough- occasionally we need to do it more often, or help our cat cover her mess because sometimes she forgets. She’s special. :)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I used to have a cat & I changed the litter every other day. There was no smell. I hope that you can take the bull (or the MIL) by the horns & get her to change her ways. This is unhealthy, besides being an odor problem. This is YOUR home. You have the right to demand that she keep the box clean & odor free. There are many products on the market to help her do so.

ubersiren's avatar

@jbfletcherfan : Absolutely.

Take charge of your own home. Tell her if this continues to be a problem, the cat can’t stay. Or offer to help scoop a few times a week if she’s not able. Owning a cat doesn’t have to mean stink, as many people believe.

wildpotato's avatar

I have 3 cats and live in a small apartment. A good rule of thumb is that for each cat you have, that is how many times you should be scooping a single box per day. For one cat you need to change the whole box every three to five days, depending on how much water the cat drinks. This not only keeps the smell down, it keeps their feet from being dirty.

Get the cat a water fountain – they’re about $30—$40, are great for the cat, and will keep their pee from smelling. Cat pee shouldn’t smell as bad as most people think it does – they think so because cats who do not have access to flowing water are dehydrated, and their pee is concentrated and smells strongly of ammonia.

Get an ionic breeze – it cuts down the base-smell completely. And Ozium is by far the best spray I have found to combat sudden, intense odors. You can find Ozium online or in head shops.

Lovey_Howell's avatar

OMG you poor thing. Cleaning the cat litter once a month is abuse in my book. I’m surprised the cat isn’t peeing on her bed in protest.

Unfortunately the only solution I see would be for you to clean it for her (if you won’t give her the ultimatum to do it right or leave). I recommend daily. heheh… of course I have one more idea, but it’s really not suitable for posting… :P

wildpotato's avatar

@Lovey_Howell Good point – cats will start going on your pillow if their box is not clean enough for them.

The only way to stay ahead of the frustration is to stay ahead of the smell. Don’t feel like you are making too much of this: it is animal neglect to ask the cat to live in such conditions, and in my book any cat smell is too much cat smell. Even with the automated boxes, you have to take out the waste-catch tray that fits underneath the box and empty it every day.

tyrantxseries's avatar

start using the cat box too, until she gets the hint

wildpotato's avatar

Oh, and I forgot to add – part of the problem with the smell may be the kind of litter she’s using. The ones that include a strongly perfumed overlay are not ideal, because they try to cover up the smell instead of soaking it up, and you end up with this horrible scent of flowery cat waste. I use Arm and Hammer Clumping cat litter, even though the non-clumping kinds are supposed to be better for little cat lungs (apparently the clumping kinds contain silica dust) because it keeps the smell down so much better.

sandystrachan's avatar

Chances are the smell will be embedded into the carpet , and will have to use a fabric freshener spray. When washing the tray don’t use lemon if i remember correctly cats hate this smell .

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@ubersiren thank you, & you’re right, too. It all depends on how you take care of the box.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Clean it regularly is the best bet. Keeping the litterbox in the bedroom seems like a peculiar idea.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Ebay the cats.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I don’t understand the once a month thing at all. I scoop everytime I notice that there is poop in the box. It is poop sitting in your home, openly. I love my cats, but I don’t want their petrified poop to hang out in my house for a while.

It is your house. Take control, and if you don’t want to talk with her, make your husband do it, It’s his mother.

gailcalled's avatar

I scoop every day (and dump the clumps on my poison ivy, in hopes that one good deed deserves another). I empty (also in poison ivy patches) and clean the box once a month – soap, water, bleach, sunshine.

When I smell a particularly fragrant poop, I spray some lysol in the room, but not in the box.

The World’s Best Cat Litter.

Zaku's avatar

A layer of Feline Pine under plain cat litter seems to work really well. The pine chips absorb the urine and I don’t think it really smells. Then put the box in a remote room if possible, and/or let the cats go outside, which they tend to prefer anyway.

Oh and yeah, if/when it starts to look or smell unpleasant, change it.

SirBailey's avatar

I scoop every day. I have three cats.

casheroo's avatar

We had a small two bedroom apartment with two cats. We kept the box in a walk in closet (dthey better appreciate us giving up that space for them! lol) It only smelled if they pooped in the morning and we didn’t get to it until night time. It needed to be scooped once a day or every other day. We used baking soda to help with the odor.

tinyfaery's avatar

I second the World’s Best Cat Litter

There is absolutely no way a litter box in a small, confined room will not smell. And it can’t be healthy to be breathing in all the ammonia and what not. Is there a more ventilated, neutral room that the litter box can be kept in—a utility room, a large, guest bathroom, or maybe an extra room? Try to come sort of compromise. Please don’t make the cat suffer because of it. It’s not the cat’s fault.

gailcalled's avatar

I think we are avoiding the real issue, that of dealing lovingly but firmly with your m-i-l. If you have children and other animals in the house, they will certainly not benefit from the odor, as tinyfaery so wisely states. ^^

suzyq2463's avatar

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I’m going to try for a combination of different litter, insisting that the pan be changed at least once a day, and insisting that she change out the litter entirely at least weekly. The kids can probably help with the pan chore if she’s not willing to do it daily. The real issue isn’t the cat, of course, and I don’t blame him. He’s a very sweet kitty and we all enjoy his presence. It’s just that my mil seems to have a much higher tolerance for bad smells and the level of unsanitary conditions when it comes to her room. Funny. When it comes to my dogs, however, she’s extremely critical. Gotta love in-laws.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

We found that using a domed kitty litter box really controlled the odor, along with clumping litter, and daily scooping.

Macgeek's avatar

I personaly purchase the tidy cat crystals because I think they work the best. You could try putting some balding soda in with the litter. I really like getting a wisp scented from wallmart and placeing it next to the box

syz's avatar

The only fix (as almost everyone has alluded) is more frequent and thorough scooping and cleaning.

ShanEnri's avatar

I don’t have a cat, but I wish someone would share this answer with my brother!

Achilles's avatar

They make alot of cat boxes with lids that also have air filters, that helps eliminate the smell. I have also found that putting a Febreeze plug-in right next to it helps out alot. I have a cat with 4 kittens and the smell used to be awful. But make sure your litter is clumping so you can scoop out pee as well. Sometimes that can be worse than the poop!

cak's avatar

Are you referring to one of the cat boxes that scoop it a compartment and then you empty that with a new replacement after so long? They need cleaning more than once a month. That’s disgusting. Your MIL needs to do a bit more than what she is doing.

Those “containers” that the poo and the clumped pee go into, fill up and stink. In fact, if it is a bit too full, the lid stays open and the smell comes out. How do I know? My husband bought one when I was dealing with smell sensitivity while going through chemo.

We clean ours very regularly and keep the litter at the right level – that’s important, too.

gailcalled's avatar

@cak: I’ve wondered about the level. How many inches deep would you suggest?

cak's avatar

@gailcalled – I think it’s around 2 inches. I don’t know what model number we have, it could vary from model to model.

YARNLADY's avatar

Along with frequent cleaning of the cat box regularly, my grandson keeps his door closed, and has a window fan running most of the time. I am probably not a very good judge of it, because I don’t notice the smell.

gailcalled's avatar

@cak: What do you mean by model number? I have a plastic box -rather the size of a large roasting pan (one that would hold a 25lb turkey.)

cak's avatar

@gailcalled – Sorry, I was referring to the automatic type that the MIL in question, has, not a regular litter box. Milo has plenty of room!

I do believe that most bags of litter will suggest the proper amount to fill the litter box, at least I think they do.

gailcalled's avatar

@cak: Ah, read the side of the bag? That’s a good idea. Thanks.

suzyq2463's avatar

Update: Well, I was able to discuss the issue in a round-a-bout way with the MIL. I discovered that what she’s been doing is dumping the pan with the cat waste into a large garbage can that she keeps in her room. She apparently was waiting until the trash can (which is a large, kitchen-sized can with a dome lid) was full before she would empty it. “Well, I double-bagged it!” she said. Ugh. That is just so disgusting I can hardly stand it.

Anyway, I took her to PetSmart where I convinced her to buy the World’s Best Cat Litter and pointed out that it’s flush-able. Plus I told her the kids and I can help empty the pan, but I think now that she can flush the waste, she won’t dump it in the trash can (and, hopefully she’ll do it at least once a day). At least, I hope. I’m going to give it a few days to see how she likes the new litter and then suggest that she get rid of the trash can altogether.

elijah's avatar

If you have a large enough bathroom you could keep the littler box in there and scoop it/ flush it daily. We did this when I had an apartment.
Once we moved into a house I had a kitty door installed from the house to the garage. I have an igloo looking litter box that has a filter on the top. We scoop often and use a good litter.

gottamakeart's avatar

i do 3 things: climping “odor-control” cat litter, the hood to the litter box gets a spray of air freshener every few days, and another pug-in air freshener is nearby.

ALSO, the box itself needs to be thouroughly changed and washed once a week to keep the amonia from building up.

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