Grey cat sitting at a table looking at a plate of raw food. How a cat’s diet effects litter box odor.

1 Surprising Way to Reduce Your Cat’s Litter Box Odor: Transitioning to a Raw Diet

Are you fed up with battling your cat's smelly litter box day in and day out? The constant battle against unpleasant odors can be exhausting, concerning, and sometimes infuriating for you as a caring cat owner. In this blog post, we’ll unveil a solution that goes beyond mere masking of odors with scented litters or air fresheners.

“What’s this miraculous solution?”, you may be wondering…Believe it or not, transitioning your cat to a raw diet isn’t just fantastic for their overall health but also for significantly reduces litter box odors. Ask pretty much any cat parent that feeds their cat a raw diet and they’ll tell you the exact same thing (unless their kitty has an underlying health issue…).

This holistic approach emphasizes a nutritionally balanced diet tailored to support your cat's natural digestive processes, leading to less smelly waste and a happier, healthier cat. And for you, it means enjoying a fresher-smelling home without the constant battle against litter box odors.

In the following paragraphs, we’ll delve into the nitty-gritty details of understanding litter box odor, explore the role of diet in managing odor levels, and equip you with practical tips and insights for successfully transitioning your cat to a raw diet. We’ll also provide a wealth of additional resources to support you on this journey, ensuring you feel informed and empowered every step of the way. Let’s get started!

Understanding Litter Box Odor

Young man cleaning a smelly cat litter tray at home, understanding litter box odor.

Litter box odor can be a real headache for cat parents, but you don’t have to suffer any longer. Understanding the root causes can help us tackle it head-on. However, before we explore solutions, it's essential to understand the factors contributing to litter box odor.

Common Causes of Odor

Several factors can contribute to a stinky poops or urine landing in your cat’s litter box, including diet, hydration, and underlying health issues.

  • Food: When cats consume commercial, dry cat foods containing low-quality fillers and additives, their digestive systems struggle to process these ingredients efficiently. As a result, horridly stinky poops.
  • Hydration: In addition to their diet, if your cat's not getting enough water, their urine might be more concentrated, leading to a stronger ammonia smell when they pee.
  • Health concerns: Lastly, certain health conditions, such as urinary tract infections, parasites, or gastrointestinal disorders, can also intensify the smell of your cat's waste.

For this particular blog post, we’re going to focus on how your cat’s diet affects the odor in the litter box and what you can do about it.

The Role of Diet

Cat trying to eat raw meat versus dry, commercially processed kibble, highlighting the role of diet in litter box odor.

The quality and composition of your cat's food play a significant role in how smelly your cat’s waste is. Cats are obligate carnivores or natural meat-eaters, so their bodies are built to process protein from animal sources. When they consume a diet that closely resembles what they'd find in the wild—think high-quality meats—there are fewer leftovers in their waste. Think about it this way—their body is actual using the nutrients in the foods they eat instead of simply passing them.

Less leftovers leads to less smelly poop in the litter box. Additionally, where your cat's protein comes from matters too. Cats love and digest animal-based proteins, like rabbit, chicken, and turkey, best. These proteins are easy for their bodies to use, resulting in less waste left over (smaller poops!).

Conversely, diets with fillers, like corn or plant proteins, can make digestion harder, resulting in stronger, nastier smells left emanating from their litter box. Unfortunately, many commercial cat food kibble brands are made with these low-quality fillers and additives that are high in carbohydrates and low in protein. This leaves both you and your cat in a tough situation. Your cat is forced to eat food that’s difficult to digest and you’re left with large, stinky turds in the litter box. 

Chart showing various cat food diet options from least processed (homemade, raw) to most processed (canned, dry), highlighting the impact of diet on litter box odor.

Image credit: Planet Paws Media & The Forever Dog Life

Impact of Raw Diet

Transitioning your cat to a raw diet can address the root cause of odor by providing biologically appropriate nutrition that supports digestive health and reduces waste odor. Raw (or gently cooked) diets, consisting of fresh meat, bones, organs, and herbs and supplements (optional) provide cats with the essential nutrients they need for optimal health and are more biologically appropriate for cats which makes it easier for the body to use and digest the food. Additionally, cat bodies are designed to get most of the moisture they need from the food they eat and not from gulping large quantities of water like dogs do. Ensuring your cat has access to fresh, clean water and offering a raw, partially cooked, freeze dried, or wet food diet can keep them hydrated and lessen the intensity of urine odor. The results: less smelly waste and a fresher smelling house for you.

In the following sections, we'll explore the benefits of transitioning your cat to a raw diet and provide practical tips for a successful transition process.

Benefits of a Raw Diet for Cats

Improved Digestive Health

Transitioning your cat to a raw diet can lead to significant improvements in digestive health, ultimately reducing litter box odor. According to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), raw diets consisting of high-quality meats and minimal fillers are easier for cats to digest, resulting in less waste production and fewer digestive disturbances. Studies published by the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) have shown that cats fed raw diets experience fewer incidences of gastrointestinal issues, including diarrhea and constipation, leading to a fresher-smelling litter box environment.

Reduced Filler Ingredients

The presence of filler ingredients in commercial cat food is a primary contributor to foul litter box odors. According to research conducted by International Cat Care (ICC), these fillers, such as corn, wheat, and soy, offer little nutritional value to cats and can lead to digestive upset and smelly waste. By transitioning your cat to a raw diet, you eliminate these unnecessary fillers, resulting in smaller, less odorous stools and a cleaner litter box environment.

Balanced Nutrient Profile

A raw diet provides cats with a balanced nutrient profile that meets their biological needs more effectively than processed commercial foods. According to Dr. Judy Morgan, a renowned holistic veterinarian, feeding cats a diet rich in high-quality animal proteins, essential vitamins, and minerals supports their overall health and well-being. Research published by the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH) suggests that optimal nutrition leads to less waste production and milder litter box odors in cats fed a raw diet.

Now that we understand how feeding a cat a raw diet can be beneficial not only for your nose (and the litter box stench) but also for your cat's overall health, let's now jump into how to start the transition process to a raw diet for your kitty.

Transitioning Your Cat to a Raw Diet

Transitioning your cat to a raw diet can be a rewarding journey, but it requires patience and careful planning. Here's how you can do it smoothly while ensuring your cat’s comfort and health, and your sanity!

Manage Grazing Habits: Cats are natural grazers, but constant access to food can disrupt their eating patterns and appetite. Instead of allowing unlimited grazing, establish set feeding times throughout the day. Start by offering food for a specific period, such as 30 minutes, and then remove it. Gradually increase the intervals between meals to encourage structured feeding habits. Aim to present food for shorter periods, like 10 minutes, to maintain their interest and hunger levels.

Transition from Dry Food to Wet Food, First: If your cat has only eaten kibble, it could be a huge leap to then transition them to raw food. We all know cats aren’t huge fans of change…So, to make the transition easier, start by mixing a small portion of canned wet food with your cat's dry food. Gradually increase the amount of wet food over time until your cat is eating 100% wet food. This step is crucial for cats currently on a dry food diet.

Gradual Introduction: If your cat is already on a 100% wet food diet, start by mixing a small amount of raw food with your cat's current food, gradually increasing the proportion of raw food over several weeks. This helps your cat adjust to the new diet and reduces the risk of digestive upset. Begin with 75% of their old food and 25% raw, and slowly increase the raw portion every few days. This method is especially helpful for older cats and those accustomed to dry kibble, as they might be more hesitant to try new foods.

Mixing with Current Food: Blend the raw food well with the existing diet to ensure your cat gets used to the new texture and taste and help prevent digestive upset. Introducing new proteins gradually and observing how your cat reacts can help in making the transition seamless. If your cat is hesitant to try raw meat due to its lack of strong aroma compared to canned or dry food, consider gently cooking the meat. The aroma of cooked meat can awaken your cat's natural curiosity and hunger, much like the scents they would encounter in the wild. Cooking the meat slightly can also help activate the same impulses that wild animals have for the hunt, making the food more enticing for your cat.

Monitoring Progress: Keep an eye on your cat’s health, energy levels, and litter box habits during the transition. Trying 2-3 different food choices can help identify your cat's favorite flavors and establish a diverse diet. The more proteins your cat eats, the wider the spectrum of nutrients they receive, which is beneficial for them. Adjust the diet if necessary and consult a veterinarian if you notice any issues or need additional guidance. Make sure to monitor for signs of improved coat condition, increased energy, and reduced litter box odor as positive indicators.

Recommended Cat Food Brands


Gently Cooked

Canned Wet Food

Tips for Maintaining a Raw Diet

Patience is Key: When transitioning your cat to a homemade raw diet, it's crucial to avoid drastic measures such as withholding other food for extended periods. Cats, especially those on the heavier side, can develop a serious condition called hepatic lipidosis if they go without eating for too long—even as little as 24 hours. Cats can be pretty stubborn, and if they don't like something, they simply won't eat it, no matter how hungry they get. Some kitties might dive right into their new diet, while others need a bit more coaxing. If your cat is in the latter group, be patient and make the transition gradually to keep them happy and healthy.

Pre-Feeding Playtime: Engage your cat in playful activities before meals to stimulate their appetite. This not only enhances their interest in food but also helps burn calories, making them more receptive to trying new foods.

Variety in Diet: Offer a variety of proteins and nutrients to meet your cat's nutritional needs. Rotate different meat sources to ensure a balanced diet and to keep your cat interested in their meals. Include muscle meat, organs, and bones or supplements to provide essential nutrients.

Temperature Sensitivity: Cats are very sensitive to the temperature of their food. Serving raw food too cold can deter them from eating it. We recommend sitting the food in some warm water for 10-20 minutes prior to feeding to bring it to room temperature. This simple step can make the raw food more appealing to your cat.

Supplementation: Consult with a holistic vet and/or a feline nutritionist to determine if your cat needs additional supplementation. Supplements like taurine, omega-3 fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and probiotics can be beneficial and may need to be added to ensure your kitty receives all essential nutrients for a balanced diet.

Toppers to the Rescue: Sometimes, adding something extra yummy can encourage picky eaters. Try mixing in nutritional yeast, sardines, tuna juice (make sure the sodium content isn’t too high), bone broth, goat milk, coconut oil, or kefir to make the raw food more enticing for your cat.

Managing Dry Food Smells: Cats have a keen sense of smell and may hold out for dry food if they can still smell it in the house. If possible, try to store dry food in the refrigerator to minimize its scent, encouraging your cat to focus on the raw or canned options provided.

Proper Serving Dishes and Storage: Always serve raw diets in stainless steel or ceramic dishes, as plastic can trap harmful bacteria. After serving, wash the bowls and utensils with hot, soapy water to maintain hygiene. Return all thawed food to the refrigerator after serving, and use it within three days of thawing to ensure freshness. During the transition period, you can leave the raw food out at room temperature for 20-40 minutes. If your cat hasn't finished their meal, cover the food with plastic wrap to maintain its moisture and return it to the refrigerator until the next meal time.

Important Considerations

Consult with a Veterinarian: Before making any significant dietary changes, consult with a holistic veterinarian or a feline nutritionist to ensure a raw diet is suitable for your cat. They can provide personalized advice based on your cat’s health status and nutritional needs. They may even be able to create a few recipes specifically for your cat!

Food Safety: Address any concerns about raw feeding, such as food safety and potential health risks. Proper handling and storage are crucial to prevent bacterial contamination and ensure your cat's safety.

Individual Needs: Recognize that a raw diet isn't for every cat. Some cats may have specific health conditions or dietary requirements that make raw feeding unsuitable. Always tailor the diet to your cat’s unique needs and monitor their response.

Wrapping it up

Transitioning your cat to a raw diet offers a holistic solution to reduce litter box odor while supporting their overall health and well-being. By understanding how diet impacts odor, recognizing the root causes of litter box odor, and understanding the impact of a raw diet, you can proactively address odor concerns and cultivate a more pleasant living environment for both you and your cat.

We wholeheartedly encourage you to explore the myriad benefits of a raw diet for your cat and consider making the transition gradually, following the tips provided in this blog post (as well as your own research). Your cat's digestive health and overall happiness are worth the effort, and a raw diet may be the simple solution you've been searching for to tackle litter box odor once and for all.

If you decide to start the journey towards a raw diet for your cat, remember that every step you take towards improving their diet is a step towards a healthier, happier life for your cat. So why not take the leap and witness firsthand the remarkable difference it can make in your cat's life? After all, a home that smells fresher and a cat that thrives awaits you on this nourishing path.

Additional Resources

Raw feeding guides & resources:

Online communities for raw feeding & nutrition support:

Recommended books, videos, and documentaries:


The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified holistic veterinarian or professional in feline nutrition. Every cat is unique, and individual circumstances may vary. We recommend consulting with a licensed veterinarian or certified feline nutritionist before making any changes to your cat's diet, lifestyle, or healthcare regimen. Additionally, we encourage readers to conduct their own research and consider multiple sources of information before making any decisions regarding their cat's health.

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