FAQs about The Cat Litter Box text overlay with a cat walking past a litter box in a cozy living room setting

Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) About The Cat Litter Box

Table of contents:

Topic 1: Odor Control

Topic 2: Litter Box Setup

Topic 3: Litter Box Behavior Issues


As cat owners, we understand the importance of maintaining a clean and functional litter box for the kitties in our lives. However, navigating the world of litter boxes can sometimes be overwhelming, especially with so many options and questions about odor control, setup, and common issues. That's why we've compiled this list of frequently asked questions to provide you with the answers and guidance you need to keep your cat happy and your home smelling fresh. Whether you're a new cat owner or a seasoned pro, we hope this guide will help demystify the litter box experience and empower you to make informed decisions for your kitties.

Topic 1: Odor Control

Woman scooping stinky cat litter in a grey box with a curious cat watching

Why is my cat’s poop so smelly and what can I do about it?

Answer: Firstly, those highly processed kibble diets can be a major factor, filled with low-quality fillers and artificial additives that disrupt your cat's digestive system, resulting in foul-smelling stools. Opt for high-quality, balanced cat foods with natural ingredients. Look for options that prioritize real meat sources and avoid artificial additives. If you’re ready to start making species-appropriate, nutritionally-balanced meals for your kitties at home, here’s a great resource, from our friends at Perfectly Rawsome, to get you started.

Next up, gut health plays a pivotal role. Just like us, our cats' digestive systems need to be in tip-top shape for overall well-being. Poor gut health, caused by imbalanced gut bacteria, food sensitivities, or dehydration, can lead to smelly stools. Consider a gut microbiome test kit for cats, such as the one from Animal Biome, to get a comprehensive understanding of your cat's gut health. With this insight, you can tailor your approach, whether it's probiotics, supplements, or dietary changes. And remember, adequate hydration is crucial for optimal digestion.

Lastly, let's talk litter. Traditional litters may use artificial fragrances to mask odors temporarily, but they often fall short. Natural litters, like SoyKitty, use plant-based ingredients to naturally absorb and neutralize odors. With enzymes that break down odor-causing bacteria, these litters create a fresher environment for both you and your cat.

By addressing these factors – diet, gut health, and litter choice – you'll be well on your way to a home that smells fresh and clean, with a happy, healthy kitty in tow.

Why is cat pee so smelly and what can I do about it?

Answer: Cat pee can pack quite a punch, and understanding why can help you tackle those unpleasant odors head-on. You see, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require high-protein diets. While this protein is essential for building strong muscles and healthy bones, it also leads to the creation of urea during metabolism, a relatively odorless compound. However, urea is exposed to air, it converts into ammonia, contributing to the strong smell. Additionally, male cats, especially those that are not neutered, may have particularly pungent urine due to hormones like testosterone. For older cats, another factor contributing to smelly urine is the natural aging process. As cats age, their kidneys may lose some efficiency, leading to changes in urine concentration and odor. This can result in stronger-smelling urine, as the kidneys may not effectively filter out waste products as they once did.

Here are some steps to help reduce cat urine smell:

  • Keep them hydrated: Ensure your cat has access to fresh, clean water at all times. Proper hydration can help dilute urine and reduce its concentration, potentially minimizing odor.
  • Adjust the diet: Consider adjusting your cat's diet to include moisture-rich foods, such as wet or raw food, which can help increase water intake and promote hydration. Additionally, high-quality diets formulated with balanced nutrients can support overall urinary health and reduce the likelihood of strong-smelling urine.
  • Regular vet checkups: Schedule regular veterinary check-ups for your cat to monitor their kidney function and overall health. Early detection and management of urinary tract issues or other medical conditions can help prevent the development of strong-smelling urine.
  • Use a high-quality, natural cat litter: To combat these odors, consider investing in high-quality, natural litters that effectively absorb and neutralize ammonia. Regular cleaning of the litter box can also help prevent the buildup of odors and maintain a fresh environment for both you and your cat.

Why do male cats have extra-smelly pee?

Answer: Male cats may have extra-smelly urine due to several factors, primarily related to their hormonal makeup and urinary physiology. Testosterone, a hormone present in intact (non-neutered) male cats, can contribute to the production of stronger-smelling urine. Additionally, male cats have a more concentrated urine, which is a result of their natural instinct to mark territory. This concentrated urine, combined with the presence of testosterone, can result in urine that has a particularly pungent odor.

It's important to note that while strong-smelling urine in male cats is common, it can also be a sign of underlying health issues, such as urinary tract infections or urinary blockages. If you notice a significant change in the smell of your male cat's urine or if he displays any other symptoms, such as straining to urinate or blood in the urine, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

When should I worry about my cat’s litter odor?

Answer: If you're noticing some funky odors coming from your cat's litter box, it's time to tune in and pay attention.

Symptoms or changes to look out for:

  • Unusually strong or foul odor emanating from the litter box
  • Changes in the frequency or volume of your cat's urination or defecation
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Straining or difficulty urinating or defecating
  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Changes in appetite or water consumption
  • Lethargy or decreased activity levels

These could be signs of underlying health issues, such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Kidney or bladder problems
  • Infections
  • Inflammation
  • Cysts
  • Tumors
  • Hormonal disorders
  • Parasites
  • Digestive disorders
  • Food allergies

If you notice any of these symptoms or changes, reach out to your veterinarian for further guidance and assistance.

Topic 2: Litter Box Setup

Cute grey and white kitten stepping out of a grey litter box. Showing a proper litter box set up.

How to choose the best litter type for my cat?

Answer: Choosing the right litter for your cat is super important for their comfort and your sanity. Here's a quick list to help you pick the perfect litter:

  • Keep it safe and healthy: Harmful chemicals or toxins in the litter can become airborne, potentially affecting the air quality in your home. If you or any family members have allergies, asthma, or sensitivities, these chemicals can exacerbate these issues. So try to opt for litters free of toxins, chemicals, clumping agents, and fillers.
  • Odor control: Opt for litters with natural odor-absorbing properties or those specifically formulated to control odors. Unscented or lightly scented options are often preferred to avoid overwhelming your cat's sensitive nose.
  • Clumping ability: Clumping litter makes scooping the box way easier. Choose a litter that forms solid medium-hard clumps for easy removal of waste. Watch out for litters like clay and wheat which tend to cement to the bottom or sides of the litter box…ew.
  • Consider particle size: Cats generally prefer litter with smaller particles resembling sand, as it's easier on their paws and reminds them of digging in the dirt. Look for options with soft granules for maximum comfort. Steer clear of litters with sharp granules like clay or silica.
  • Dust level: Low-dust litters are better for both you and your cat's respiratory health. Look for options that minimize dust clouds during pouring and scooping. Good examples of low dust cat litters include those made of soybeans, corn, paper, or coconut husks.
  • Tracking: Reduce litter tracking around your home by choosing litters with minimal tracking properties.

    For more personalized advice, consult with your veterinarian or a feline behaviorist. They can offer recommendations based on your cat's specific needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a more in-depth guide about choosing an all-natural cat litter, check out this blog post.

    What's the proper (eco-friendly) litter box setup?

    Answer: Creating an eco-friendly litter box setup for your cat is easier than you think! Here's how you can do it:

    • DIY litter box: Consider making your litter box from large, repurposed storage containers to reduce waste and save money.
    • Opt for open litter box: Choose an open litter box design over covered ones to make your cat feel safe and comfortable while using their toilet. Avoid gimmicky litter trays like self-cleaning ones, as they may not be cat-friendly.
    • Durable and easy-to-clean: Invest in a durable litter box, such as stainless steel, which is rust-free and doesn't absorb stains or odors. Unlike plastic alternatives, stainless steel litter boxes can withstand high volumes of cat traffic, scratches, and other wear and tear without cracking or becoming gross. With proper care, they can last a lifetime, making them a sustainable and cost-effective choice for eco-conscious cat parents.
    • Size matters: Ensure the litter box is at least 1.5 times longer than your cat (measuring from the tip of their nose to the base of their tail), providing them with plenty of space to move and dig around comfortably.
    • Multiple litter boxes: Provide at least one litter box per cat in your household, plus an extra one. This ensures your cat always has a clean and available option.
    • Choose eco-friendly litter: Switch to an eco-friendly cat litter like SoyKitty, made from renewable ingredients. It's biodegradable, compostable, and flushable, reducing environmental impact.
    • Choose the perfect location: Find a quiet, private spot with good air circulation, away from heavy foot traffic, and easily accessible for cleaning.

    How to choose the right litter box?

    Answer: Here are some practical tips to help you select the perfect litter box:

    1. Size Matters: Ensure that the litter box is at least 1.5 times longer than your cat, from their nose to the base of their tail. This provides ample space for your cat to move around and dig comfortably without stepping on clumps from previous visits. An average-sized litter box is typically about 12”x16”.
    2. Material Considerations: Opt for stainless steel litter boxes for durability and odor resistance. Stainless steel is rust-free and doesn't absorb stains or odors, making it easy to clean and maintain. These litter boxes can withstand high volumes of cat traffic without cracking or becoming gross.
    3. Odor Control:
      • Stainless steel litter boxes do not trap odors like plastic alternatives. Their non-porous surface prevents the absorption of smells, ensuring a fresher environment for both you and your cat.
      • Additionally, stainless steel litter boxes eliminate the risk of your cat coming into contact with toxins from plastic, providing a safe and healthy environment.
    4. Eco-Friendly Choice: Stainless steel litter boxes are more eco-friendly than plastic alternatives. They have a longer lifespan and are recyclable, reducing waste and environmental impact. The production process of stainless steel is also less harmful to both people and the environment compared to plastics.
    5. Open Tray Design: Opt for an open tray design instead of covered litter boxes. Open trays allow your cat to keep an eye out for any potential dangers while using the litter box, making them feel safe and comfortable. Avoid gimmicky litter trays, such as self-cleaning options, as they may scare your cat and deter them from using the litter box.
    6. Special Needs Considerations:
      • For seniors or cats with mobility issues, consider litter boxes with lower entry points to facilitate easy access. You may also opt for shallower litter boxes to minimize the need for climbing in and out.
      • Kittens may benefit from smaller litter boxes placed in easily accessible locations. Choose litter boxes with lower sides to accommodate their small size and encourage litter box use from an early age.
    7. Design Considerations for Cats with Disabilities: Cats with disabilities, such as mobility impairments or vision problems, may require specialized litter boxes. Look for litter boxes with ramps or low-entry points to facilitate easy access. Additionally, consider placing litter boxes in quiet, easily accessible locations to minimize stress and encourage regular use.

    Remember, cats have specific preferences when it comes to litter boxes, so observe your cat's behavior and provide a litter box setup that meets their needs and preferences.

    Should I use a hooded or automatic litter box?

    Answer: When it comes to choosing a litter box for your cat, it's essential to consider their comfort and well-being above all else. Here are some considerations before making your decision:

    Hooded Litter Boxes:

    • Multiple Exit Routes: Cats feel safer with multiple exit routes, which is why hooded litter boxes might not be the best choice. If you feel compelled to opt for a covered box, ensure it has additional space for comfortable entry and exit.
    • Potential Discomfort: Covered litter boxes can trap odors, making them uncomfortable for your cat. Remember, a cat's sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours, and unpleasant odors may discourage litter box use.

    Automatic Litter Boxes:

    • Expense and Maintenance: While the convenience of never having to scoop a litter box may seem appealing, automatic litter boxes come with their own set of challenges. They can be expensive to purchase and maintain, prone to malfunction, and often harder to clean than traditional litter boxes.
    • Cat Preferences: Some cats may feel intimidated by the noise or movement of automatic litter boxes, leading to litter box aversion or anxiety.
    • Health Monitoring: Regular scooping of litter boxes provides an opportunity to monitor your cat's urine and stool for signs of health issues. Automatic litter boxes may not allow for this crucial observation, potentially putting your cat's health at risk.

    While hooded or automatic litter boxes may seem like convenient solutions, it's essential to consider your cat's preferences and health needs first. Opting for a traditional, uncovered litter box provides a comfortable and odor-free environment for your cat, encouraging regular litter box use and promoting overall well-being.

    Topic 3: Litter Box Behavior Issues

    Orange and white cat sniffing a urine puddle on a beige carpet

    What are some common reasons for litter box avoidance/issues?

    Answer: Litter box avoidance or issues can stem from various factors, including cleanliness, accessibility, and litter preferences. Some common reasons for litter box problems include:

    • The litter box is not cleaned regularly. Scoop every day to keep kitty happy and returning to the box without having to walk over old poop.
    • The litter box is too small/too big. Make sure to provide a large enough box for your cat to feel comfortable in. Get a tray with lower sides if your cat has mobility issues.
    • The litter box is not accessible. Don’t hide the box where it’s difficult to get to. Your cat may simply not bother going to it.
    • There’s too much litter in the box. Cats don’t want to feel like they are sinking into the litter. Your cat may get scared if she gets the feeling of sinking in quicksand and may refuse to get into the box. Your kitty may just kick the excess litter out of the box to get the proper amount she likes.
    • There’s not enough litter in the box. On the other hand, your cat may not feel comfortable if there isn’t enough litter to cover up her business and decide to go somewhere else like your bedsheets. Typically a depth of 2”-3” of litter is a comfortable amount for your kitty to dig in and go.
    • There are too many cats for the amount of cat litter boxes. Remember the rule of 1 box per cat plus an extra. Cats can get territorial if sharing boxes and one cat may intimidate the others making them avoid the litter box out of fear.
    • The cat litter has a strong smell. Cats’ noses are extra sensitive and you should avoid strong perfumes and agents that mask smells. Opt for litters that are unscented or lightly, naturally scented.
    • Medical issues. Your cat may go outside of the box if she has a medical problem like a urinary tract infection, kidney stones, or feline interstitial cystitis. She may feel an urgency to urinate and can’t make it to the box. You need to see your vet if you observe your cat straining, peeing small amounts, or eliminating more frequently than usual.
    • Stress. Cats don’t like changes and something in their daily lives may provoke them to seek other places to do their business. Things like a house move, a new baby, even a new piece of furniture in the house may upset them. Observe your cat and put the litter box where she is going to eliminate if you can.


    What are some tips for dealing with litter box aversion behavior?

    Answer: Litter box aversion can be a challenging issue to address, but with patience and the right approach, it's possible to help your cat overcome this problem. Here are some practical tips and strategies for dealing with litter box issues:

    1. Maintain a clean litter box: Scoop the litter box daily and replace the litter regularly to keep it clean and odor-free.
    2. Provide multiple litter boxes: Ensure that each cat in your household has access to its own litter box, plus an additional box to prevent overcrowding and territorial disputes.
    3. Choose the right litter: Experiment with different litter types and textures to find the one that your cat prefers. Consider natural, unscented litters that mimic outdoor substrates like sand or soil.
    4. Address medical issues promptly: If your cat exhibits signs of discomfort or pain during elimination, such as straining or vocalizing, consult your veterinarian to rule out underlying medical conditions.
    5. Minimize stressors: Create a calm, low-stress environment for your cat by providing hiding spots, vertical space, and interactive toys. Avoid sudden changes or disruptions to your cat's routine.
    6. Use pheromone products: Consider using synthetic pheromone products, such as Feliway, to help reduce stress and anxiety in multi-cat households or during periods of change.
    7. Positive reinforcement: Encourage your cat to use the litter box by providing treats or praise after successful elimination. Avoid punishment or negative reinforcement, as this can worsen litter box aversion.
    8. Seek professional help: If litter box issues persist despite intervention, consult with a feline behaviorist or veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance.

    By addressing litter box aversion behavior with patience, understanding, and the right strategies, you can help your cat develop positive litter box habits and maintain a clean and healthy home.

    Wrapping it up

    Well, that's a wrap on our deep dive into all things cat litter boxes! I hope you found this guide as enlightening and helpful as I did putting it together for you. Remember, a clean and comfortable litter box is not only essential for your cat's well-being but also for your own sanity. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any lingering questions or need further assistance. We're here to support you on your journey as a cat parent every step of the way. Until next time, happy litter boxing!

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