How to keep your house from smelling like the litter box: 13 essential tips


If there’s one thing cat owners don’t like about taking care of a cat, it’s the much dreaded litter box. 

Cats are very independent pets. They don’t require walks outside to take care of their business. A litter box in a corner of your house will do just fine for them. Which is great, until your house starts smelling like cat pee.

To keep your house from smelling like a litter box, the only solution is to keep the box clean and fresh at all times. These 13 tips will help you control litter odor efficiently. 

1- Scoop Daily:

Scooping the feces and pee out of the litter at least once a day, twice if possible, before the smell has a chance to spread will make a huge difference. 

Pro tip: if you’re a procrastinator, it can be tempting to leave the scooping until later, or the day after. (After all, what can one day’s difference make?)

To avoid that problem, set up a specific time to scoop the litter. Make it part of your nightly routine, for example, or part of the morning chores. Also, keep everything you need to scoop close to the litter box (scoop, plastic bag, bin, etc.) this will make it easier to stay on top of the daily scooping.

2- Weekly cleaning:

A full cleaning is recommended once a week. This includes getting rid of the old litter, cleaning the box thoroughly before filling it with fresh litter again. 

  • Place the used litter in a plastic bag to get out with the trash. Using box liners can make this operation easier. However, most cats will scratch the liners when they use the litter box, which can tear them apart.
  • Clean the litter box with Soap and water. Don’t use harsh smelling chemicals (like bleach) as cats are quite sensitive to scents. 

Pro tip: Avoid cleaning the litter box in the shower, even if there are no lumps of dirty litter in it as it can cause problems in the plumbing system.

If you live in an apartment or don’t have an outdoor space with a water source, consider using a self-service car washBring gloves, rags or paper towels to dry the box. Set the box against the wall, stand as far away as you can and pressure hose it. Use foam or soap water if the service provides it or your own soap. Avoid harsh smelling cleansers. Rinse the box and dry it.

A once a week or a once every two weeks trip to the car wash service so you don't have to clean the box in your shower is worth it.

If you use clumping litter, cleaning the box and replacing the litter entirely can be done once in two weeks. Otherwise, getting rid of the soiled litter once a week will keep the nasty odor manageable. 

3- Use litter deodorizer:

There are many litter deodorizers that will help you control litter odor. If you don't want to buy a new product, regular baking soda will do just fine. 

Baking soda acts as a great odor absorber. Baking soda is safe for cats, just make sure to use the normal, unscented one. It will act as a deodorizer.

Keep your deodorizer of choice next to the litter box, everytime you scoop out the waste sprinkle some of it on. This will help tremendously for better odor control.

cat litter deodorizer

Cat Litter Deodorizer

4- Upgrade your scooper:

Use a non stick metal scoop with thin slits.

Metallic scoopers will generally last longer than plastic ones, the latter tend to break when used to lift big or heavy chunks of soiled litter. 

Thin slits are necessary to make sure you get all the lumps of dirty litter and that no urine soaked bits sift through with the clean litter.

Getting a non stik scoop will make cleaning it easier. It will also lessen the odor emanating from any leftover dirty litter that would stick to a regular scooper.

Metal, Non-Stick Cat Litter Scoop

5- Best location for the box:

If possible, placing the litter box in a well ventilated area is better to control the odor. A balcony, for example, is a good location.

Also, make sure the litter box is not in a place that you will forget about. To forget the daily and weekly cleaning of the litter box will cause soiled litter to accumulate and the scent to grow stronger. Cats are very clean animals, if the litter box is not kept as fresh as possible, they might start doing their business elsewhere. if you really want to place the litter box somewhere out of the way, (like a garage), make sure to set a reminder on your phone so that you never miss cleaning it.

Keep your box somewhere cool and dry, and avoid placing them in areas with heat sources nearby (next to the washing machine, for example.). High temperature and humidity will make the odor stronger, and help it spread farther.

6- Self-cleaning litter box

If you don’t know about self cleaning litter boxes, now you do. They’re litter boxes with an automated system that scoops up the clumps of soiled litter. All it requires you to do is to empty the tray or the compartment where the dirty litter is stored, and to top off the litter in the box as needed. 

There are mixed views about them. Like everything, it’s important to choose a good quality product. 

These boxes are not a perfect solution, though. You still have to maintain the box, clean it every few weeks and buy the specific litter, replace filters, etc.

Also, your cat can be reluctant to use it, which will be frustrating after making the investment. Some cats don't want to use it either because of the different litter (these automated boxes often use a specific type of litter), or simply because they don’t want to (because who knows why cats do things.)

Self cleaning cat litter box

7- Litter type:

The type of litter your cat uses also plays a major role. You want to choose a high quality litter, one that absorbs moisture quickly and efficiently to keep odors from developing. 

Most cat owners prefer clumping cat litter, with good cause, since it makes scooping and cleaning easier even for urine deposits. If your cat has no problem using clumping litter, it’s the best option. 

Be careful of scented litter. Most cats are very sensitive to scents and may not use scented litter. 

The best way to find the perfect litter for you and your cat is to experiment with several types and see the one your cat likes the most, and at the same time, the one that gives you the best odor control. 

8- Replace the litter box once a year

Cats use their claws to dig and cover their waste, which will definitely leave scratch marks on the bottom of the box. These scratches can hold tiny bits of dirty litter even after cleaning and thus cause the odor to get worse over time. That is why it’s recommended to replace the box, preferably once a year.

Cat Litter Box

9- One litter box per cat

In a multiple cat household, it’s recommended to have one litter box per cat plus one. This will keep the litter boxes from stinking faster. If several cats use the same box, the litter will soil faster thus developing odor quicker, and there will be more risk of accidents outside the litter box.

10- Enough litter in the box

Two inches of litter is the recommended depth you want to go for. Having enough litter in the box ensures that the cat’s waste is properly coated, If they’re not, it will be hard for the litter to absorb the foul smells. Deep litter also ensures that no lumps of dirty litter stick to the bottom of the box. 

Don’t go overboard, though. Some cats (especially breeds with long fur) usually prefer less litter in their boxes. Start with two inches and see how your cat likes it. 

11- Ventilation

If you live in an apartment, making sure your home is properly ventilated is a good idea. Open the windows for the fresh air to circulate in the house at least once a day (if possible).

If you are able, invest in a good air purifier to clean the air inside your space. Make sure the air purifier is high quality and that it is properly maintained over time to avoid any health issues.

12- Diaper pails for used litter

After scooping your cat’s waste, it’s a good idea to get rid of it immediately. However, you may prefer to take the trash outside at a specific time, or maybe you have no choice but to keep the soiled litter in your own trash can. That means that the scent can linger in your house until you take out the garbage.

If plastic bags don’t keep the smell confined, you may consider investing in a diaper pail: a special garbage bin specifically designed to hold diapers and lock in the nasty smell. It will work wonders in containing the soiled litter scent. 

Diaper pail

13- The key is consistency

If there is one thing you need to take from this article, it's this: the only secret to keeping your house from smelling like cat litter is consistent cleaning.

Build a system for cleaning up the litter box. Having a specific time set for the daily scooping and the weekly cleaning is important to acquire the habit. Also, having everything you need for the cleaning close by the litter box (scooper, pail, baking soda, etc.) will make you less lazy about it.

The key is to establish a cleaning schedule and to stay on top of it. 

If you have any tips to help control cat litter odor, share them with other cat owners down below!

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