What cat litter doesn't stink up the place even when it's clean?
July 20, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

We need a new litter brand! We have 3 cats and a relatively small space in which they live. The recent heat wave has not helped matters. Ideally the new litter will not stink up the house with odor-covering chemicals. Help?

Usually we don't have a problem with litter odor in our ground floor apartment, but the recent heat wave has, ah, enhanced the smell coming from our mudroom. The problem isn't so much the smell of actual litter (we scoop twice a day and change out the litter every 4-5 days) as the poisonous smelling odor-covering chemicals. It's especially bad right after we've scooped because the particles float in the air, but in general July has not been kind to our noses.

Right now we've got Arm & Hammer Multi Cat in their boxes, but you'd think we had straight-up bleach crystals in there.

We've tried World's Best Multi Cat, Fresh Step Multi Cat, and regular Fresh Step. So what else works?
posted by slightly sissy tea hound to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I like Feline Pine, myself. I can't abide chemical odors, and pine sawdust smells just like you'd expect. I used Sweat Scoop for a long time, but the combination of discovering I have a wheat intolerance and a particularly vile infestation of tiny bugs in one bag turned me off of it.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:17 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Shameful confession time: I am horrifically bad at changing the litter box on any kind of regular basis. If I used conventional cat litter, our basement (where the box is located) would be condemned in no time. Luckily for me, there is pure silica gel cat little (it looks like little white/clear crystals; there are many brands). It's 10,000x better than any other little at keeping the stank contained. It's WAY more expensive, naturally, but it's amazing, amazing stuff.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:18 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I LOVE (and my cats are fine with) Nature's Miracle cat litter. It can run a little pricey, but it clumps well, and it's also got a pine base that both neutralizes odors and smells fresh.
posted by stennieville at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2011

This stuff is one example of crystal litter.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:20 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Feline Pine...I've used it for years. Every once in awhile I get a whiff of #2 (right after the event) but that's about it.

It can leave a trail of dust throughout the house, so a regular sweep around the area is definitely required. It's a trade-off I can live with.

Along those lines, I've read that you can get the exact same thing that Feline Pine is, only it's called horse bedding and is way, way cheaper. I've yet to venture out to a feed store myself to verify this.
posted by Zoyashka at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

We had all kinds of problems with crystal, namely our cats hated it with a passion that was ultimately stinky and sad for us all. We use Dr Elsey's - and we love it, and the cats love it, and it's not chemical-y and everything smells fine as long as you keep up with it (as you've said you do).
posted by Medieval Maven at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2011

I'll start with the fact I've only had one cat in my life and we've only had him for a year. However, this has worked really really well for us.

We bought an 18 gallon storage tote w/lid. Laid an old bath rug in the bottom, then a small litter box on one side. Cut a hole on the other end, put the lid back and voila! Kitty has a very well-contained place to potty and the dog doesn't eat the contents of the litter box.

We're pretty negligent about cleaning it and have never smelled the litter or its contents. We also use the super cheap, basic clay Fresh Step at the advice of our vet. She said cats prefer it to the other stuff. So far, so good.
posted by ACN09 at 12:28 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Have you tried using the Arm and Hammer unscented litter? I have the same issue with litter smells (can't stand the chemical perfumes) and the unscented variety is pretty unoffensive. Plus, the texture will be virtually identical to what you have now, so you won't have to worry about the cats adjusting to a new type.
posted by Jemstar at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2011

We also have 3 cats who are champions of toxic intestinal output. After trying dozens of types of litter including the natural grain based, clays of various sorts, sand, paper, many name brands, etc. we settled on woodstove pellets. They're the same thing as Feline Pine, except instead of $15 for 40 lbs, we pay $6. For the exact same thing. It's bigger particles than normal litter and I was doubtful that the cats would go for it. But they took to it with no problems. And it smells better than anything else we've ever tried. Bonus: in small amounts it's flushable so you can still scoop out the occasional Death Bomb of Stinkitude. The urine dissolves the pellets into sawdust. We empty the entire box once or twice a week. It's been the easiest litter we've ever used.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 12:33 PM on July 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

I usually just use Fresh Step, but I was chiming in to say that Arm&Hammer is the WORST! The smell that emits from that brand is horrific, and I'm one of those crazy people who scoop out the litter 2x a day.
posted by katypickle at 12:35 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I love Swheat Scoop. Clumps, smells fine on its own and not bad in use.
posted by freshwater at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

We have two cats, and use Tidy Cat Multiple Cat (non-clumping). One trick to help control odor is to layer the bottom of the tray with baking soda when changing the litter (I'm not sure if that would work with clumping litter).
posted by malocchio at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

We use the horrifically-named Shweat litter. The flushability is a nice bonus that beats out whatever the softer feline pine stuff is (our girl preferred the bath mat to the bigger pellets. :/ ) No particular smell from either.
posted by tchemgrrl at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2011

Nthing Feline Pine for a lack of chemical smell. I love Swheat Scoop, but it is too easily trackable, even with a pad in front of the box. I also used a hooded cat litter box, with a charcoal filter (no idea how effective that actually was), and regularly sprinkled the litter with baking soda. I almost never had odors in a studio apartment, unless there was a...digestive issue.
posted by swingbraid at 1:43 PM on July 20, 2011

I recommend silica gel litter. It is more expensive. We like the Just the Crystals brand from Amazon. I don't recommend the round litter pearls as they bounce and roll and can end up everywhere. I find that the litter with more uniform crystals work better. You do need to stir the crystals so that the ones on the bottom get replaced often. so you don't get puddles. It absorbs pee well and dries the cat turds out so they are less stinky. Some cats do not like crystals though.

We did not like the smell of Feline Pine or the sawdust that got tracked everywhere. One thing was that they toss some pellets out of the box and the pellet would get wet adn become a tiny pile of sawdust.

I don't know if you could have a second box? When we had that space the cats would use one for pee and one for poo which kinda helped keep those two smells from combining into a even more toxic smell.
posted by oneear at 1:44 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

we also use the petco smart litter corn based option and its very good at odor masking and clumps really well. its dusty though...
posted by supermedusa at 1:49 PM on July 20, 2011

I would just like to state that Feline Pine, I've been told, is the exact same thing as Equine Pine (used as horse bedding). I've never used Feline Pine, but I use Equine Pine. It is 100% pine pellets, no additives or chemicals. I've been told the cat on the face of Feline Pine box makes it ridiculously more expensive.

I buy it at Tractor Supply Company. A 40 lb. bag just cost me 6 bucks. It lasts for months and months. FWIW, my cat had no problem switching from clay clumping litter to the pellets. I didn't even change gradually - one day there was clay litter, the next there were pine pellets. But my cat is pretty easygoing.

There are no chemical smells and I have no problem with urine odors. I scoop out the poo, and the rest eventually whittles down into sawdust. I know it's time to change out the box when most of the pellets have turned to sawdust.
posted by Falwless at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

I have an ultra-sensitive nose. The feline pine smell made me gag, and the various crystal litters did an awful job of keeping urine odor down. Standard litters (Arm & Hammer, Tidy Cat, etc.) all had the same issue for me: OMG PERFUME and little odor control.

We've finally settled on Dr. Elseys Precious Cat Ultra, mentioned above. If you keep it scooped regularly, being careful not to break up the urine balls, it will smell like... nothing. For up to a month, with two cats. Yes, really.
posted by moira at 2:11 PM on July 20, 2011

For years I've been swearing by Scoop Away Unscented. Why the hell it's so much harder to find than "scented" Scoop Away, I have no idea, but it is.

Additionally, a vet once told me that you ought to own at least one more litter box than you have cats (whether this is for the cats' likelihood of being less angry at you for a shared nasty litterbox, or because it spreads out the stuff so it's less concentrated, I dunno). Naturally if you own one of those Litter Robots type of litter is probably not as much of a problem, but while my friend swears by it, it is still kinda pricey.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:35 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tidy Cats conventional, non-clumping litter is great. I have detected no difference between "long-lasting odor control" and "immediate odor control" except the color of the tiny little granules in there. It has no chemicals. It's so heavy that it simply suppresses poop odors. Urine odors do not fare so well because the litter does not clump. I simply stir the urine-soaked areas around so they can air out better. Nasty but it works. The box has to be entirely changed about every week or two (I have one cat) but non-clumping litter is so much cheaper than clumping litter that this is not a problem from a cost standpoint.
posted by massysett at 2:40 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

OMG - are you me? After my favourite brand of litter was discontinued, I was heartbroken; I never thought I'd find another brand a worthy competitor for my 3 cats and my tiny apartment. To my surprise, Purina Maxx Scoop actually is. I never thought I'm promote a supermarket brand, but here it is. Both the 'Small Spaces' variety and 'Multi-Cat' work great. Do not accidentally get the non-clumping stuff though. That was a disaster.

I tried to find you a link on Amazon, but it looks like it might only be available in Canada. I have no idea why.
posted by cgg at 2:42 PM on July 20, 2011

I use the cheapest clumping cat litter you can buy, but I also have a Litter Robot so there's absolutely no smell. Other than my iPhone, I have never been so pleased with a $300 gadget.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:43 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't remember where I read this tip (not here, apparently), but rabbit feed supposedly makes good cat litter. It comes in pellets, so it's similar to other pellet litters in texture, but it also is green (I guess form chlorophyll), and has a pleasant plant-y smell. I bought a giant bag at a Farm & Fleet for the same price as a normal bag of litter. Bonus is it's flushable. I have not actually tried it yet - still trying to use up some other stuff - but I opened the bag and the smell was not overpowering.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 2:46 PM on July 20, 2011

We tried everything. Dr. Elsey's was the only thing that did everything. We loved this stuff.

At the most chaotic period, it was filling two litter boxes for 7 felines (we accidentally ended up fostering a litter and their mama in addition to our own) and it was such a pleasure to know that at least litter wasn't an issue.
posted by batmonkey at 2:47 PM on July 20, 2011

on non-preview: don't flush cat feces!
posted by batmonkey at 2:48 PM on July 20, 2011

I use the Fresh Step Fragrance Free or Scoop Away Unscented, whichever is in stock...often I clear out the only 4 boxes left at Target--why do they only stock a couple boxes??? I can't STAND the smell of litter fragrance. For my two cats, this works just fine with daily scooping--if I start to be able to smell ANYTHING after it's been scooped, it's time to change the box. Usually every couple weeks or so.

Also: my cats too share a single box, they have never seemed to mind. It is scooped every single day though...
posted by lemonade at 2:49 PM on July 20, 2011

We love Feline Pine in our house but make sure you get the pellets. They make another version that's already like sawdust (no pellets) and it smells too much like fresh wood...like you're living in a sawmill. I find the weird clay smell and/or the artificial floral smell of regular litter really unpleasant now. Feline Pine actually just smells like fresh cut wood and my cat had no problem with the transition at all.
posted by victoriab at 2:57 PM on July 20, 2011

Fresh Step, for sure.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:10 PM on July 20, 2011

Scoop Away is probably my favorite after World's Best. But it's perfume-y as all get out.

You probably know this, but scooping litters work best if there's like 4 inches of litter in the box. When I scoop, I like to tilt the whole box to each side and sprinkle a layer of baking soda under the litter.

My friend swears by having 2 boxes and switching them out each week, scrubbing down the one that's not being used.
posted by MeiraV at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2011

Seconding Fresh Step unscented.
posted by Majorita at 3:43 PM on July 20, 2011

Another Dr Elsey's fan. Fresh Step was a mess - it created a dust storm every time I scooped, and the dust went everywhere. I got really tired of wiping down the window sill. Dr Elsey's makes no dust.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:44 PM on July 20, 2011

There are only two brands of litter that I will buy. The ingredient they share is activated charcoal. I remove the clumps every other day, and dump and wash the box about once a year. If this litter didn't exist, I don't think I would be able to have cats at all. I've tried every brand, every type, every price, and these are the only kinds I can put up with:

Fresh Step Perfume + Dye Free

EverClean Ever Fresh Unscented with Activated Charcoal
posted by Corvid at 7:38 PM on July 20, 2011

We use crystals at our house. Zero smell.
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:25 PM on July 20, 2011

I know you said you have a small living space, but with three cats you should definitely have more than one litterbox. I've got four cats and currently they're sharing three boxes -- and this makes for EASIER maintenance, hands down, than a single box would for this number of kitties. Since they have the opportunity to, er, distribute their deposits, that means I never end up with a nasty ball of pee-concrete stuck to the bottom of the box, though admittedly I am an obsessive scooper (all boxes, 2-3x daily).

The only litter I presently use is Swheat Scoop Multi-Cat. I don't know what they do to the multi-cat stuff to make it better than the "regular" stuff, but it definitely clumps better and stays fresh-smelling longer. The non-multicat stuff developed a distinct whiff of Eau De Gas Station Restroom within a few days when I tried it, despite the aforementioned rigorous scooping schedule.

If I had to change litters for whatever reason (e.g., if I found my wheat litter crawling with larvae of ANY kind, you can bet I would not be buying it again!) I would likely go to an unscented clumping clay, e.g., Dr. Elsey's, as I've heard many cats are very happy with the texture. In the wild cats prefer to bury waste in soft, sandy substrates so litters that more closely approximate that are more likely to be well tolerated and thus used.

Oh, and the Arm & Hammer Essentials stuff smells NASTY. I tried mixing some of that in with the Swheat Scoop once (because, well, it was on sale) and it was just vile. Like industrial-strength bathroom cleaner. Phew. Turned out I couldn't have continued to use it anyway because it's made from corn and one of my kitties is allergic, but still. That stuff stinks worse than what it's designed to cover up, IMO.

Finally, while I'm already being long-winded, I have to strongly disagree with those recommending covered/filtered boxes. The last thing you want to do is trap the cats in there with their own stench plus whatever stench the litter is producing. The ONLY way to truly get rid of waste-smell is to remove the waste, and the more you attempt to cover it / keep it in the box with the cats, the more you risk creating a box environment that the cat will take one sniff of, think "oh HELL no", and proceed to poop in your shoe.
posted by aecorwin at 9:37 PM on July 20, 2011

We use Smart Kitty litter (an orange bag from PetFood Express) and it's great. We've left it for a week without cleaning it and it still doesn't smell (don't judge me!). Our cats will forego the litter box if they have to touch any of their own waste in the litter and use the carpet instead: Smart Kitty litter stopped that almost entirely.

Oh, and 3 cats = 3 boxes = happier kitties for us. YMMV
posted by guster4lovers at 9:51 PM on July 20, 2011

Another Dr Elsey's fan.

Ditto. Seconding that a big uncovered litterbox with 4" of Dr Elsey's, scooped twice a day, is odorless. A 40 lb bag lasts us about 3 weeks before it starts to get too low and funky.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:00 AM on July 21, 2011

Nthing Dr. Elsey's!
posted by joshuaconner at 3:38 AM on July 21, 2011

Ah, the eternal question. I love Swheat Scoop, but I stopped using it last year due to the tracking. I switched to crystals. They are good but 1) they still track and it HURTS to step on crystals in the night and 2) with two cats, I needed a new jug every week to keep on top of the ammonia smell. Really and truly awful.

Instead, I went back to Swheat Scoop and got myself a Clevercat. I was highly skeptical of it, but it is the closest I've ever come to a miracle. No tracking, contains smells, and the cats seem to enjoy their added "privacy." I recommend it.

Also? Keep a bowl of vinegar by the litterbox (unless your cat is prone to drinking vinegar...)
posted by oohisay at 4:41 AM on July 21, 2011

Ever Clean.
posted by the foreground at 3:13 PM on July 28, 2011

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