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April 2, 2009 8:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I manage litter box odour in my apartment?

I've had my kitteh Wernher von Braun for six months, and only now am I admitting to myself that I have no idea how to maintain a litter box. The epiphany came when I was looking at litter at the grocery store and my girlfriend said, 'Can I make a suggestion? Choose scented.'

The litter box is enclosed and looks like a pet carrier. Even though the kitteh has normal bathroom habits, my apartment's kitchen reeks of cat poo and old urine. I do what I can to scoop the poo, even though the kitteh's a crap factory and I worry he may be a little diarrhetic. His fresh poo reeks. The pee-soaked litter I haven't been able to control either because it's hard to isolate. Thus, the blackened litter sits and sits and sits until I purge the whole damn litter box.

Teach me from the ground up your kitteh odour control skills!
posted by spamguy to Pets & Animals (64 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
I find using clumping litter tends to cut down on the urine smell.
posted by LittleKnitting at 8:58 AM on April 2, 2009


I use pine litter and have had zero urine smell. It doesn't help much with poop, though. Maybe try mixing some baking soda into the litter box?
posted by phatkitten at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


The key is constantly removing the smelly stuff.

What's your budget? You could always go with a high-end, automatic litter box. The Cadillac of Litter Boxes is the Litter Robot, and I'll definitely be buying one when I have the room. LitterMaid's are unreliable in my experience, but they're cheaper and do a better job than a lazy person who never wants to scoop (like me!)
posted by nitsuj at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


I use pine-sawdust based littler - "feline pine" which does a much better job suppressing the urine smell. It also smells like sawdust, which is much preferable to the chemical smell of most litter.

It does a slightly worse job of supressing poo smell initially, but after a few minutes the smell passes.

No matter what kind of littler you are using, you should scoop the box every day.

When you change the box, make sure you are cleaning the box itself or bacteria that make the pee smell terrible will stick around and then immediately reinfect the clean litter box. I use 7th generation cleaner, which is mostly hydrogen peroxide. I make sure to let the box dry fully before refilling it with fresh litter.

Also make sure the floor around the box is not getting dirty and holding on to smells.

As for your kitty's diet - consult your vet. It might be time to switch from kitten food (which is richer) to cat food?
posted by mai at 9:03 AM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


How often do you replace the litter? I have four cats, use unscented, non-clumping litter, and in my experience controlling the smell is just a matter of swapping out the litter frequently enough. A couple other factors: has the cat been neutered yet? Urine from an unfixed male cat can be, um, rather fragrant. If your cat eats mostly wet food, adding more dry food can make the poo less smelly.
posted by metaquarry at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2009


1. Clumping
2. Odor control
3. Scoop daily or every other day.
4. Replace whole box every week or two
5. Get a plug in air freshener for the room where the litterbox is. Some brands even say "pet odor control", etc.
6. Tell kitteh to stop pooping. This has not worked for us.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Canned cat food makes their poop smellier than if you just feed dry food.

Perhaps use less litter and dump the whole box every single day. Then once a week you can give it a scrub with baking soda. Then dry it completely, put a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom and cover it with regular litter.

My cat is currently on a diuretic and you don't know ammoniac used litter until you've experienced this, the single best part of cat husbandry (NOT).
posted by scratch at 9:09 AM on April 2, 2009


1. Kittens seem to be stinkier than adult cats. Or at least my 8 month old kitten seems way stinkier than my 10 year old cat. I think kittens eat a lot, so they poop a lot, which is at least part of the problem. Also the kitten is not as good at covering up her business.
2. I like Feline Pine or other pine pellet style litters. If you are having trouble keeping clumping litter clean, you may want to consider non-clumping. This will require more frequent whole-box purges. Don't use that newspaper-based stuff by Purina, it's freaking useless.
3. Really the only answer is to clean the box more often. Scoop poop twice a day, and if urine odor is an issue you may have to purge more often. With my older cat I purge once a week - with the kitten it's twice. Both cats have their own rooms which helps keep the stink out of main living areas if I've been remiss in cleaning.
4. Consider the food. I've learned over the years with the adult cat that some foods just make her poop really stinky.
posted by misskaz at 9:09 AM on April 2, 2009


Empty constantly.
posted by box at 9:09 AM on April 2, 2009


Feline Pine will take care of the pee smell. That stuff was life-changing when I was in a tiny studio apartment with two cats.
posted by paleography at 9:09 AM on April 2, 2009


Forgot to mention: my grownup cats absolutely refused to the switch from clay litter to pine pellets. Kittens might be more adaptable though. If you try a new litter, make sure you do the switcheroo gradually, by mixing the old with the new over a period of time before switching entirely.
posted by scratch at 9:10 AM on April 2, 2009


The World's Best Cat Litter is. It clumps. It deodorizes. It's flushable. It lasts forever. And it's made out of corn.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:11 AM on April 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


I also recommend clumping litter - if it doesn't cut down on the odor, it'll at least be easier for you to scoop and clean. Look into his diet. The food you're giving him may be too rich, or you may want to switch to a higher-quality food (more of it gets digested, so there is less poop and odor). Also, make sure he's not accidentally dribbling on the floor around the box or anything. I put rubber-backed mats (like doormats) on the floor by the litterboxes, which I can just wash periodically - this also helps with tracking litter around.

I have three cats and use clumping litter (sometimes scented, sometimes not). We have one open and one enclosed box, and I rarely notice a smell unless I've been lazy with the scooping. Usually I only scoop a couple times a week. (Bad cat mommy!)
posted by LolaGeek at 9:11 AM on April 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I use Swheat Scoop litter in a pan double lined with plastic litter box liners. That way, if kitty scratches through one layer, the other layer still keeps the pee-litter from touching the box, meaning I don't have to disinfect that as often. This litter is flushable, so I keep the box next to the toilet and scoop it every day. (There are some environmental problems with flushing litter, especially with any poo that makes it to the ocean, but I live very far away from the ocean). Actually, I scoop the poo as soon as I see or smell it. People have been in my apartment for hours without knowing I even have a cat. Until they see the litter box or her food bowl, they don't know, so I know there's no smell.
posted by BlooPen at 9:13 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Absolutely Feline Pine for reducing the smell. However, be aware that after you switch to pine you must step up your cleaning schedule. It's actually much easier to clean a pine litter box than it is a clumping litter box provided you do it daily. It takes only a few minutes and you're only removing solids. The ammonia smell will be completely gone.
posted by odinsdream at 9:14 AM on April 2, 2009


I agree with misskaz.
My cats are better now that they are older. Get Nature's Miracle Spray and every time you clean out the litter box, spray it below and around the box (that will clean up excess smelly stuff).
It is a trial and error on what will work and not. drsfostersmith.com is great website. Petsmart and PetCo have user comments that will help you.

Good Luck!
posted by redandblue at 9:14 AM on April 2, 2009


What kind of litter are you using now?

Like LittleKnitting says, buy a 'clumping' scented litter. Scoop it every other day or so, using one of the litter scoops (down the aisle from the cat food/litter). Put it in a bag and throw it away in a trash receptacle that is outside.

Cats instinctively cover up their waste, and if you're using the right litter (scented, clumping) it should cut down on that fresh poo smell. The only time I ever notice it is when one of my little darlings misses the litter box altogether. It's truly amazing that I can feed them this simple little kibble every day and they poop out this horrendous, inconsistent crap, but that's living I guess. If the Fresh Scented litter doesn't help, check to see if Wernher is covering up after he's done. He may not feel the need since he's pooping alone and under the cover of an enclosed litter box. If that's the case, getting him a new, convertible litter box might make him feel more exposed when he's going and help him change his nasty habits.

On a note about something mentioned upthread, even if you have 'flushable' cat litter (which I've personally never, ever seen at the store), don't flush it if you're near a coast. Apparently cat poop kills porpoises.
posted by carsonb at 9:18 AM on April 2, 2009


Definitely clean the kitty box every time you change the litter. Baking soda sprinkled liberally in the litter helps. Scoop daily.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 9:21 AM on April 2, 2009


1. Clumping, unscented litter for *multi-cat households*. I know you only have one cat, but this stuff makes stronger clumps and controls odor better.
2. Larger pan than you think one cat needs.
3. Metal scooping tool that looks a bit like a big slotted spoon.
4. Lifetime supply of plastic grocery bags or equivalent.
5. Plenty of fresh litter nearby to refresh the box after each scoop.
6. Once daily attention. Scoop clumpage into bag, tie knot, put in trash, add clean litter. Two minutes, tops.
7. Profit!!!
posted by acorncup at 9:23 AM on April 2, 2009


Are you near a Trader Joe's? If so, try their Space cat litter . It's this amazing silica litter stuff. The crystals absorb urine and desiccate the poop, making the litter box environment largely odor free as long as you scoop the poop out every so often and throw the whole batch out every two to three weeks. And it's incredibly cheap, to boot!

If you aren't near TJs, similar products seem to be available elsewhere.
posted by Wavelet at 9:23 AM on April 2, 2009


I've found the slightly more expensive silica cat litter to be the only thing that keeps the kitteh pee stink at bay in my one-room, 300-square-foot apartment.

The scented stuff smells awful, and really only accomplishes making the kitteh pee stink smell like a mix of kitteh pee and cheap perfume.
posted by chez shoes at 9:27 AM on April 2, 2009


Consider teaching your kitty to use the toilet using the Charles Mingus method.
posted by hortense at 9:31 AM on April 2, 2009


Also recommending the feline pine. My cat box has been in my *bedroom* for the last year or so (yay, now moving to a new studio where litter box won't be so close to my bed) and as long as I scooped out the poop regularly (daily) and changed it fully once a week (or sometimes more -- other cats in the house insisted on using my cat's box sometimes) it kept the smell down. That is, I only noticed smells when I was being lazy. Also, note, that at least in my city (San Francisco), the feline pine litter without solids can be put in the green waste / compost pickup bin.
posted by R343L at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2009


There are some foods that make Pointycat poo smell AWFUL. In his case, a certain brand of treats made him super stinky. I think the suggestions about changing litter frequently as well as the types suggested are good.
I have had good odor luck with SweatScoop, FelinePine, and Catattract. Also, if Wernher sprays a bitwhen he pees you may have cat pee on the side of the box which isn't going away when you scoop.
posted by pointystick at 9:36 AM on April 2, 2009


I'm using the cheapest litter available at the store. Because I don't know better.

To the people recommending the one-two punch of classy litter + weekly purging, is it safe to say you spend $500 a year on litter? That's what I came up with after a quick calculation of one 7 lb bag per week. Maybe I'm using too much, because when I get a small sack of litter, I dump it all in.
posted by spamguy at 9:40 AM on April 2, 2009


Our cat has problems covering her poo. She'll put her paws on the outside of the box and try and scoop the tile floor into her litter box (leaving towels on the floor in the bathroom means they are going in the litter box!). If things start to smell we reach down with the poo shovel and cover it up, that immediately gets rid of the smell. After a few days we scoop out the clumps and throw that away. When the litter gets low then we add more cat litter.

Sometimes we have to light a match in the bathroom not just ourselves but the cat as well. Whew!
posted by collocation at 9:45 AM on April 2, 2009


There is no other way - other than frequent removal of the soiled litter, sanitizing the box and keeping a well ventilated home. It's a job.
posted by watercarrier at 9:48 AM on April 2, 2009


Spamguy - you're supposed to put 1 inch of litter in. You can also put a dab of baking soda in with that to help neutralize the odors. But you must change the entire contents and wash the box with some water and bleach then rinse well, at least every other day if not every day - especially in a multi-cat household.
posted by watercarrier at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2009


The back of the Feline Pine and Swheat Scoop boxes say a depth of 3". I admit that sometimes I am lazy and dump the whole box of new litter into the empty litterbox, but (a) I have oversized litterboxes with three high sides, and (b) my boys are big cats and don't mind climbing pine-sawdust hills for a few days until scooping and use packs it down a bit. I will have to change my ways when the new little kitty comes out of the isolation room and starts to use the communal boxes. A box of Feline Pine lasts my two boys two or three weeks, which is when I clean the boxes.

Feline Pine tracks less than the Swheat Scoop, and what tracks out is just little flakes, not the tiny sharp granules of the Swheat which always end up in my shoes, ow. The new little kitty is using Yesterday's News (extruded "logs" of recycled newspaper) which is awesome at controlling urine odor but is a giant pain to scoop, and doesn't do much for excremental odor even when the cat does a diligent covering job.
posted by catlet at 9:52 AM on April 2, 2009


I had two cats in a small apartment for a long time, and I completely eliminated litter box odor by using Tidy Cat Crystals, scooping solids and stirring litter daily, and replacing weekly. You could probably replace every other week for one cat. You may need to scoop stinky poo as soon as it happens to avoid fresh poo odor, but generally you won't have a problem. The litter is expensive - buy in bulk when you find it on sale. FWIW, I think scented cat litter is disgusting, it just makes your apartment smell like perfumed cat poo. Go with a high quality unscented and stay on top of cleaning the box.
posted by robinpME at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's what I came up with after a quick calculation of one 7 lb bag per week.

Buying the little bags is a good way to waste money. Buy in bulk - the thirty-five pound canister or the 25 pound bag or something. Pay attention to the price per ounce on the shelf tags. It's not like you're going to stop needing it. Same principle as toilet paper.

Also, my recommendation, like several others, is clumping litter, scooped once a day, and immediately taken to a trash receptacle outside the house/apartment.
posted by frobozz at 10:01 AM on April 2, 2009


1. Accept that kittens are way, way, way smellier than adult cats.
2. Use nicer litter. I dislike the scented stuff, which I feel ends up smelling like a mix of perfume and cat pee. I prefer clumping baking soda litters, though I use the mix created by the local pet store. In any case, try them until you find one that smells okay. Not all cats are picky about litter.
3. You said you have a covered litter box. Do you have a good filter for the litter box? They need to be replaced regularly.
4. Use better cat food. Cheaper cat food = stinkier litter box.
posted by jeather at 10:05 AM on April 2, 2009


May I suggest the breeze system?. Seriously the pads are brilliant at absorbing and masking the smell.

I also keep a hook and a plastic bag next to the litter box. I put a bit of the Pet Strength Arm and Hammer Rug Cleaner in the bag, scoop daily, and take out the bag every 4-7 days.
posted by politikitty at 10:06 AM on April 2, 2009


Nthing Pine pellets. I use Feline Fresh. Look there is even a rebate coupon online!
As for costs, I'm pretty sure it's very reasonable compared to other brands. One small bag lasts a month use half a bag. (one cat - full change of litter every two weeks)
posted by Gor-ella at 10:09 AM on April 2, 2009


Scented clumping litter. Fill the box deep, like 5 inches. The idea is for the pee to all be absorbed by the litter it touches before it hits the floor of the box. Not that there's something terrible about hitting the bottom, but it just means a big spready clump of stinky pee-litter that's stuck to the bottom & therefore harder to scoop & wash. You want the clump to be "floating" in the litter, not stuck to the bottom of the box, so fill it deep.

Scoop poop & clumps every couple days. Poop you can flush (as long as it's not too gravel-covered). Clumps into a bag & into the city compost or trash.

Make a little curtain for the front of the box (tape on some fabric) to keep the smell & litter grains inside the box. You may also wanna put a little bathmat type carpet outside the box, because when you fill it that deep the cat's probably gonna kick some grains out the door and the carpet will keep it more contained.

Light a match after the cat poops to burn off the smell, and fling some litter over the poop if your cat doesn't do that himself & you have not time to scoop.

You can experiment with throwing baking soda in with the litter, too, or on the bottom of the litterbox before filling with litter. That might help with the smell; I've never tried it. Make sure whatever you use to deodorize is safe to eat, as your cats will get it on their paws & lick it off. So don't use baby powder or cleaning chemicals.

If you use clumping litter, you won't have to dump & wash the whole box as often, as you're removing the pee-clumps all the time, there's no sodden soaking stinky area. Just top up the box now and then to make sure it's always deep enough that the litter catches the pee before it hits the floor of the box. I have two cats and i think I spend like $10-$20/month on litter, maybe? I buy it in the big buckets, and a bucket lasts me a couple months.

Also, if you're feeding them cheap food, then note that changing their diet might give them better food might change the smell of their poo. My cats' pee kind of stinks but their poo isn't that bad. I feed them grocery-store food (any brand of wet food that's on sale and doesn't contain rice or gluten), plus regular grocery store crunchies, and a can of water-packed tuna or sardines every couple days. I switch their food brands & flavours a fair bit, though and they don't mind or get sick, so maybe experiment a bit to see if different food for a few days = less stank.

Also, essential oil burner. Smells nicer than air freshener. A little water + a few drops of real essential oils from a health food store (lavender, peppermint, or palmarosa are the nicest, in my opinion, and smell waaay better than the weird synthetic Body Shop-type oils). A $20 investment ( $3 dollar store ceramic burner + $5 ikea bag of tiny candles + a couple $7 bottles of essential oils from a health food store) = constant good smells for about 3 years.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:15 AM on April 2, 2009


Buy in bulk - the thirty-five pound canister or the 25 pound bag or something
Yes. I have a small apartment where storage is at a premium and I know big cartons of litter look fugly so I bought a cheap covered plastic garbage can at Target and I store the new litter in it.
posted by pointystick at 10:27 AM on April 2, 2009


Another vote for pine litter--in my experience, traditional clay litter always reeks of urine, no matter how often you scoop/change it. With pine, there's no ammonia smell at all. No baking soda, scented candles, or fanatical scooping regimens required.

The pellet style pine litter is pretty cheap at most stores, too. I use Feline Fresh Scoopable, which isn't as widely available, but is another option if you don't like the pellets.
posted by tomatofruit at 10:27 AM on April 2, 2009


I just switched to the TidyCats Breeze litter system. It's pretty different from other litterboxes, but it's cut down on pee smell quite a bit. You need to scoop the poop out every night, but it doesn't clump or turn into a solid mass, so it's very easy to scoop. And then all you do is change the pad every week.

I recommend it! It makes keeping the litterbox clean so much easier than normal scooping.
posted by tastybrains at 10:42 AM on April 2, 2009


My sweetie hates pine litter, but she (and I) love The World's Best Cat Litter (linked above). Great odor control, no chemical or perfume smell, and clumps. It also lasts forever. I scoop daily, and put in a little replacement litter at the same time, but I only do a complete change out once every couple of weeks. I don't know how much I spend a year, but I buy the 17 pound bag and have a plastic bucket that I store it in. I would hazard a guess that the bag lasts a couple of months. I live in a studio, so odor control is important.

I found that using a covered litter box created an out-of-sight-out-of-mind problem for me and actually made the smell worse (b/c I wasn't scooping enough). Having the box open where I see the poops and clumps as I walk by has helped me be a better scooper.

Think of buying more expensive litter as an investment in your happiness. It really does make a difference.
posted by Mavri at 10:45 AM on April 2, 2009


We use the World's Best Cat litter. We have three cats.

I scoop the boxes every day - each morning, and sometimes in the evening if there's a particularly smelly poop in there. The clumping litter really helps cut back on how much still-good litter ends up in the trash instead of staying in the box.

I've used the scented stuff in the past; the cats hated it, and instead of cat-pee smell in the apartment, I had perfumed-cat-pee smell. Ick.

World's Best isn't cheap, but a huge bag lasts us ages, so it's less expensive than dropping cash on cheap litter every week.
posted by rtha at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2009


Regarding cost, the house I'm in now has four cats upstairs and two litter boxes. We go through a twenty pound bag of litter in around three to four weeks I think (I'm not the one buying right now though). They run around $20 at the PetCo. Even if you go through a 20 pound bag a month with your single cat, that's only $240 a year or, if we use my system of judging costs, a 3-4 fewer drinks at the bar a month. Or if you're a coffee person, 8-10 fewer coffee shop coffees. :)
posted by R343L at 10:54 AM on April 2, 2009


I tried every litter available in regular stores (like the grocery store or WalMart), refusing to pay extra for the ones that are only at the pet stores. I thought that bad smell + scent was just part of having a cat.

But. About a month ago, I spied a new kind at the store (not pet store). It is Arm & Hammer Essentials. I love it. The litter has a light fresh (not coyingly sweet) scent. It clumps very well. And best of all -- no cat pee smell! Like some that others have mentioned, it's made with corn, which means it doesn't weigh a ton (a bonus). And, it's just as cheap as the other mainstream brands.
posted by Houstonian at 10:54 AM on April 2, 2009


get a clumping litter. scoop daily. daily!!!

if he has a particularly smelly poo, scoop it immediately.

if you get a clay litter, the urine soaked clay litter will clump, but you'll get some sticking to the bottom/sides of the box. YOU MUST SCRAPE THIS UP.

and for ceiling cat's sake, get the litter box out of the kitchen. ew.



i say this all as someone who absolutely would not scoop the litter box. ever. my partner did it. but she only did it like once a week. and it was gross. and now i'm home every day and i've started scooping the box daily (sometimes i miss a day) and while it was super gross to my delicate senses at first, now it's just a thing. you get used to it.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:07 AM on April 2, 2009


I spend about 10-12/month on the SwheatScoop. I have a box with high sides and fill it about 6" full, empty daily, and just keep scooping until there's less than 2" in it (or until the pee clumps start sticking to the plastic bag litter liner). This takes about 3 weeks with my one cat. Then I put more litter in and repeat the process. When it gets under 2" the second time, I take out the rest of the litter in the litter liner bag, put in a fresh liner, and repeat the process. All told, I use about one box/month. The extra $ is very much worth it to me.
posted by BlooPen at 11:20 AM on April 2, 2009


Type of litter: the good Doctor is old enough now to switch to a clumping litter. Personally, I find the perfumed scent of many cat litters to be as objectionable as cat waste itself so if you are at all sensitive to that do a sniff test of the seams of the box at the store. I really liked Swheat Scoop, which oddly turns cat pee into the mildly yeasty smell of rising bread dough. However, the key to Swheat Scoop happiness is to use an extra deep box and pour in the litter to at least 6" deep. If you don't and the cat pee hits the floor of the box, it turns into cement that I was hard pressed to remove with a pressure washer. On the plus side, I found that Swheat Scoop didn't seem to require as frequent whole-box purges as clumping clay litters do.

Maintenance: Scoop often. Daily. Twice daily if you can swing it. Waste balls go into plastic grocery bags which you knot at the top and toss into the garbage bin outside. Every other week dump all the litter* and hose the box out on all sides. If the plastic still smells, hit it with some household cleaner, soak for a while and rinse thoroughly. While the box is air-drying, wet mop the floor and wipe down any adjacent walls where the box was with diluted bleach. You can shorten a lot of the box scrubbing part if your cat will accept using pan liners (my cats never do and always try to dig for China right through multiple layers of plastic).
*unless you are using Swheat, which would last well over a month before getting a little ripe. I used to still scrub the box bi-weekly but would recycle the sifted SS back in

Tracking: as soon as you switch to clumping litter, you're going to have more litter tracking problems as the clumping litters are either finer grained and/or lighter in weight than the heavy clay chunks you've been using. Stepping out of a shower onto a floor covered in stray granules of clumping litter absolutely sucks as the litter will stick to you as well as melts onto the floor where you'll have to use a putty knife to remove after it dries (unless you are using a crystal litter, in which case you just slip on the little balls and crack your head on the side of the tub). Consider swapping your conventional litter box for one that opens at the top like this. These are super easy to DIY from any plastic storage bin; just cut a hole in the lid and call it done.

Food: Smelly cat smelly cat, what are you feeding him? Sadly, no matter what, cat shit always smells. However, there's a spectrum of stink that ranges from "yep, that appears to be a cat turd" to "Sweet Mary and Joseph I've been blinded," which can be controlled by your cat's diet. Most of my cats do well on a grain-free high protein kibble, however, the same food gives one of them horrendous farts and toxic craps so she gets something with a little less protein.

The tough thing about changing your cat's diet is his gut will immediately react by temporarily creating even stinkier poo than before making it difficult to know if there's going to be a positive outcome until a few days have gone by on the new diet. However, in addition to less-stinky poo, the higher quality cat foods will result in less overall solid waste and hey, better health for your cat.

Cost: do not buy kitty litter (or food) at the grocery store. Unless it's on sale and it's triple-coupon day, grocery stores have the highest price on pet products. Buy at a big box store (Costco, Target, Petsmart, etc.); check the unit pricing to buy the most for your money as the biggest container is not always the cheapest/pound.

Automated box: I have a Litter Robot, which was mentioned above. Awesome invention; with the recent addition of a fourth cat to our household I'll be ordering a second one—there's no way I'd have any cats if I was still hand-scooping litter. However, your cat must weigh at least 5# to safely use a LR so it might be something to wait on if your young cat is on the smallish side.
posted by jamaro at 11:30 AM on April 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


Kitty may have sprayed elsewhere in the apartment too. So once you get the litterbox issue under control, check for other places that kitty might have peed or pooped, like the side of the couch, or a corner behind the TV, or in a shoe that was left on the floor. And ask someone who doesn't live in your apartment (your girlfriend?) to come in for a good sniff before you declare victory in The Stink War.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:33 AM on April 2, 2009


and for ceiling cat's sake, get the litter box out of the kitchen. ew.

I would so love to do this. But sadly, it's actually the best option. There's a square foot of unused space there, and it's the most ventilated. My bedroom has no circulation.

Sigh. I wish my balcony had a cat door.

Another question: where do you apartment owners actually go to wash out your box? There's no hose I'm aware of nearby so I've tended to use the bathtub in the past. (Collective EEEEEEEEEEEEW goes here.)
posted by spamguy at 11:39 AM on April 2, 2009


Wait, wait. You're putting SEVEN POUNDS of cat litter in a box at once?
posted by crankylex at 11:51 AM on April 2, 2009


Before I had easy access to an outdoor hose, I would wash the cat litter box in the kitchen sink because it had the little hand-held sprayer. Clumping cat litter is this crazy stuff, the clay kinds melt almost instantly to any exposure to water and then dries concrete hard. Try to scrape all the clumping litter out of the box into a garbage bag before washing it in your sink or tub because chasing down all those stray bits of wet gelatinous granules before they set nearly permanently into your porcelain is a giant PITA and I can't imagine it would be good to have that stuff accumulating in the plumbing.

Sigh. I wish my balcony had a cat door.

You can add one relatively non-expensively and take it when you move.
posted by jamaro at 11:53 AM on April 2, 2009


I agree with SuperSquirrel, maybe the kitten hasn't always made it to the box. If you remove the box for a little while, let the room air out and sniff around, you may find some surprises on the floor that contribute to the odor.
posted by crankylex at 11:56 AM on April 2, 2009


I should clarify:
kitten
kitteh
My kitteh
posted by spamguy at 12:06 PM on April 2, 2009


I've found that a covered catbox helps keep the smell from spreading, but it's no excuse to cut back on catbox maintenance, that's for sure. We have a Booda Dome for the cat now and use scoopable litter. It looks like a little golden Tattooine house and Mr. The Cat sure enjoys crawling in his little poop fort and doing his thing. It requires constant scooping like any catbox and you need to place something down by the entrance because it doesn't prevent tracking, but it does help in keeping the smell down and the cat has fun besides.
posted by Spatch at 12:23 PM on April 2, 2009


100th'ing Feline Pine.

It completely eliminates the urine odor as well as the chemical odor of most clumping litter. It also keeps your cat from tracking used litter around the house (unless you don't change it periodically). Nothing is worse than petting your cat and getting that clumping chemical smell on your hands. I'm also happy that my cat is not constantly breathing the chemical litter smell and cleaning whatever that stuff is off his coat.

I'm surprised that chemical clumping litter still exists. It's an order of magnitude less useful or effective than the pine based litter.
posted by jsonic at 12:27 PM on April 2, 2009


is it safe to say you spend $500 a year on litter?

I am partial to Fresh Step clumping litter for multiple cats, which I buy in 21-28 lb. buckets. Between Target, the supermarket, PetSmart, etc. it's usually on sale somewhere when I need it, for around $13. I can usually get several weeks's use out of a bucket. Also, Fresh Step has a "paw points" program (there is a code in each package) which I save up and cash in periodically for a coupon for free litter.

PS: Your kitteh is adorable!
posted by LolaGeek at 12:28 PM on April 2, 2009


I don't think washing the litter box in the tub is that "eww". I mean, you wash your ass in that tub! Just rinse it out well when you're done (or even clean the tub after washing the litter box). Of course, I disagree with those saying you have to wash the litter box like every other day. I don't even wash it every time I completely change the litter .. the pine stuff just doesn't stick and the urine doesn't seem to stain / make smell the box I have.
posted by R343L at 1:21 PM on April 2, 2009


2nding Robinpme on the Tidy Cats litter. I've been using that stuff for years with my cat and it works great. I tried the crystals when they were on sale, but the performance didn't really match the increased cost.

Also n-thing the "scoop regularly" sentiment. Now that our litter box is in the basement, I don't scoop as often, maybe once every 3 days, but when it was in the kitchen in a small apartment, it was an every other day ritual.

One cat with the tidy cats didn't create too much smell, and the clumping litter is worth it's weight in gold when it comes to scooping out the urine. It just makes big clumps that come out with no trouble.

When you scoop the box (ours has about 3-4 inches of litter in a standard open-style litter pan) make sure you get all of the clumps out (poo and pee). I rarely do a complete dump and refill, opting instead for the "refresh" method of adding extra fresh litter when the box is getting a little low.

I probably buy about one 20 pound tub of litter every other month, and it usually runs about 15 bucks at Meijer or similar large grocery store.

Also definitely rethink the food you're feeding him. Our cat eats Purina Indoor Formula, which is a little pricier than your generic brand, but he almost never has hairballs and his poo doesn't really smell any worse than you'd expect. I let him graze (ie- his food dish is always full) and one 18lb bag lasts about 3 months.

Good luck! (ps- your cat is ADORABLE!)
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 1:41 PM on April 2, 2009


I use Fresh Step with carbon and scoop daily (takes what, 30 seconds?) and am always amazed at the lack of smell. No perfume, no poop, just no smell. I just top off the litter box every week or so and never have to completely replace the litter ever, or wash it. A large box probably goes for 15 dollars or so and I may buy 3-4 a year.
posted by vronsky at 3:17 PM on April 2, 2009


ing feline pine. It's cheap, too, and supermarkets are starting to carry generic brands (both Publix down here in the south and Stop & Shop up north by mom mom carry their own versions).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:20 PM on April 2, 2009


One giant litterbox with lots and lots of litter. Cats love to dig around and the more litter that's in there, the deeper he will bury his poop and the less it will smell.
posted by scarello at 4:00 PM on April 2, 2009


Another question: where do you apartment owners actually go to wash out your box? There's no hose I'm aware of nearby so I've tended to use the bathtub in the past. (Collective EEEEEEEEEEEEW goes here.)

Yeah, stick with the tub, and use it as an excuse to scrub your tub right after. I know it's annoying, but each task takes MAYBE 5 minutes. Clean box for kitty, clean tub for you!

If you go with clumping litter, try not to let any of it go down the drain, that'll clog it right on up like cement.

Someone mentioned Arm & Hammer litter. I've never used that, but I have used A&H Litter Deodorizer (just mixed some in when I put new litter in the box), and it made a BIG difference.
posted by AlisonM at 5:49 PM on April 2, 2009


Seconding Fresh Step with carbon (clumping). Scoop once in the morning and once in the evening. The moment you scoop and bag, the smell should pretty much disappear entirely. Wash the box once a week.

DO NOT PUT SEVEN POUNDS OF LITTER IN A LITTER BOX. OMG.
posted by tzikeh at 6:44 PM on April 2, 2009


Before I got a third cat who required a special diet, I had good luck using different cat food to control poo smells with my cats. Try different foods for different results (and I agree with the person upthread who said kitten-poo smells worse than adult feline poo).

I use clumping litter, and when I live in apartments, I always use flushable clumping litter. That means it takes two seconds to scoop and flush every day. No running out to the dumpster, no crap sitting in the garbage stinking up the place. If you absolutely cannot make yourself scoop and flush every day, use the crystalized litter, which works pretty well for single-cat households. I've found that the larger, more expensive, pure white crystals work better than cheaper ones that are mixed with blue dye.

Other solutions are a cheap air purifier, or a litterbox window hack.

For quick and easy, but not necessarily cheap, I've had limited success with powder-additives that you can buy at pet stores, just add to litter. Some people swear by baking soda. Tons of solutions; no need to suffer! I always hate places where I can smell cats right away. Unlike ferrets, cats should not smell. :)
posted by tejolote at 12:20 AM on April 3, 2009


Your question about washing the box: I don't "wash" it. When I empty the litter completely (once every few weeks or so, as opposed to the daily scooping), I spray with antibacterial cleaner of any sort, then let sit for five minutes. Then I wipe it all down with toilet paper and flush. Way easier and less nasty than trying to wash in the tub or something, and more sanitary.
posted by tejolote at 12:24 AM on April 3, 2009


I am surprised no one has mentioned sifting cat pan liners! I use clumping litter and sifting cat pan liners, and change the liner once a day. You never have to clean the litter box (yes, literally never!) and never have to scoop poop. I have not had any problems with odor.

To clarify, this is the product I'm talking about.
posted by srrh at 12:37 AM on April 4, 2009


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