Get the Sweet Smell of Success Choosing a New Cat Litter: Here’s How

For those of us who live with cats, and especially multi-cat households, choosing new cat litter is a very big deal. My Seren-Kitty (age 20!) and Karma-Kat have very different potty behavior, with the expected stink-icity. Cat litter odor offends us all, so it’s important to choose a new cat litter wisely. Read about kinds of litter and the history of litter here.

NOTE: This is an update of an older post. Even though Seren-Kitty has transitioned to her next life, much of the information remains helpful.

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Seren (left) and Karma rule my life–and that’s the way it should be, right?

AN ODOR-FREE HOME IS A HAPPY HOME

Cat litter odor means the world to cats. I’ve been “auditioning” several different cat litters over the past nine months or so. My old lady cat, Seren, is in early kidney disease and urinates a LOT. She also has decided to leave her “solids” uncovered. That may be to give an odiferous and visual message to the young interloper, Karma, or perhaps her paw-arthritis makes it painful to dig. Read this post for tips dealing with old cats.

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Karma’s facilities are in the master bath to contain his digging antics. We use a jumbo-size storage bin…and yes, he’s got a nice view of the stained glass to inspire him. Note: We recently relocated his box from the tub, into the laundry room. Read about that here.

Karma is more than twice her size, with understandably jumbo-size deposits. We were maintaining odor control pretty well (I’m a fanatic about keeping boxes clean) until Karma decided he should claim both his own big litter box in our master bathroom and Seren’s smaller one in the living room. He can barely turn around in that little thing…but he’s determined.

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I have another very large, low-sided litter box in my office upstairs…but when Seren decided this corner next to the piano was preferable, I listened. It gives her a clear view to avoid Karma-Monster.

CAT LITTER ODOR MATTERS TO YOU & CATS

Yeah, cat litter odor next to the piano. Oy. I was spending a LOT of time cleaning, swapping out box contents, changing from one litter to another, and keeping paws crossed that wouldn’t upset the kitties. After all, if the smell bothered me, the cats also could get hissed off. Humans typically have five to 20 million scent analyzing cells, compared to the cat’s 67 million. The king of scenting animals, the Blood Hound, has 300 million olfactory cells.

And German Shepherds, like Magical-Dawg, actually LIKE the pee-poo cat smell. So we not only had an odor issue but a nasty-dog-treat issue.

The bigger issue is–when the litter box odor bothers YOU, it bothers CATS and they’ll find another place to get creative. Complicating matters, litter with heavy perfumes also STINK to the cat, and they’ll also snub the litter box. That can mean some cats lose their homes or even their lives.

IT’S UP TO THE CAT

Cat litter box problems are the top complaint I get as a certified animal behavior consultant. I take it very seriously in my own home, and bottom line, it’s up to the cat to decide. It doesn’t matter nearly so much if I love the litter or hate it. My Seren-Kitty and Karma-Kat have veto power.

Because we have an off-white carpet, I’m not a fan of dark color litter. Pretty much all litter tracks, and it looks worse when the color contrasts. I’m also not a fan of very heavy clay products–my shoulders protest lugging the containers. And I’m really not a fan of strongly perfumed litter products. Yes, I’ve had all sorts of substrates in the box, and for the most part, my cats have been very flexible (I’m very lucky!). But with a variety of products from which to choose, the chances are good that one will fit even the most persnickety human’s (or cat’s) preference.

When you find a product your cats use religiously, don’t mess with success. Stick with the one your cats vote to use with their (ahem) liquid and solid approval.

CHOOSING A NEW LITTER

When choosing a new cat litter product, it’s best to keep one box the same. You don’t want to bet on the cat liking something new and have the cat veto you in no uncertain terms.

At the beginning of October, I changed Seren’s small litter box next to the piano. I left Karma’s box status quo for a couple of weeks. It’s never a good idea to abruptly change all options at once, so I wanted to make sure that both cats still had a choice (so my off white carpet wouldn’t turn another shade of crappiocca).

Seren immediately accepted the new product, yay! And within only a couple of days, my husband no longer asked me, “Did you scoop the box yet?” The cat litter odor did, indeed, disappear even though Karma decided he liked the smaller living room potty even better!

So now both the downstairs litter boxes contain the new litter, both cats are using their facilities, and Magical-Dawg has stopped “snacking.”


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