Keeping a home with cats essentially odor-free is usually just a matter of vigilant litter box maintenance -- but it's not unusual for a problem area to exist, whether a litter box lapse or a phantom odor of an accident past. An entire industry exists to help contain cat odor.
Traditional clay litter isn't well-known for controlling cat odor. It is certainly absorbent, but the best it can do in managing the musky scent of cat urine is to drain the pungent liquids to the bottom of the litter box. The demand for better odor control inspired the creation of scented cat litters and scoopable clumping litters. Scented litters use additives and fragrances to cover up odors. Some fussy felines won't use a litter box that smells of fruit and flowers. Litters that clump are effective because it traps urine, which makes the litter coagulate and forms a neat package that's easily scooped out of the box and tossed away, leaving nothing behind to cause an odor.
Some cat odor products come in powder form for sprinkling into the litter box or dusting over your carpet prior to vacuuming. These are temporary solutions that can help cover up odor for a time, but often the relief is as short-lived as 24 hours or shorter. As is the case with scented cat litter, you might find your cat dislikes it. You'll know if you shake a perfumed powder into your cat's box and she begins to eliminate elsewhere.
Enzymes and Bacteria
Enzymatic and bacterial cleaners are popular cat odor eliminating products, and they're not just marketing efforts. The development of these products is based in science: Enzymes dissolve odor particles; bacteria produce similar enzymes that not only will break down the odor molecules but will digest resulting residue as well. You'll find cleaners that aim to take advantage of the benefits of both by combining bacteria and enzymes together.
Certain cat odor products are known as encapsulators. They affix themselves to odor particles, entirely surrounding them with a shell-like coating. Encapsulators work instantly, but, while they hold the smell inside the shell, they don't eliminate the odor. The covering will eventually break down, and the odor will recur.
- WebMD: Controlling Cat Litter Box Odor
- ASPCA: Cat Litter
- Veterinary Partner: Holiday Harmony: Cleaning for Company
- Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine: How to Clean-Up Cat Urine
- Cat Wrangling Made Easy; Dusty Rainbolt
- The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats; Editors of Prevention Health Books
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.