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April 21, 2022 |0 min read

Is Scented Litter Bad for Cats? 6 Things to Consider

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

When it comes to customizing your cat’s litter box experience, options abound. From odor-absorbing crystals to scent-neutralizing additives, you can treat your cat to bathroom bliss in no time. 

When cultivating the perfect kitty potty, you may be wondering, is scented litter bad for cats? The short answer is “no.” However, this article will take you through a round-up of 6 key factors to consider when examining scented litter and help to dispel the myths around scented litter and pet health. Read on to get the inside scoop.

#1 What Causes The Scent?

Detractors of scented cat litter frequently point to the “chemicals” used to craft the scent. While all litters have their own naturally occurring fragrances, scented litter contains additional ingredients.

First things first, we need to make one thing clear—everything contains chemicals. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat. There’s nothing inherently bad about chemicals—they form the world around us.  A chemical is simply a substance with a defined composition—meaning we know what it is.

If you’re wondering what’s adding a pleasant scent to your litter, it’s likely one of the following compounds:

  • Moisture activated fragrance – Only when you need it. Moisture-activated scented litter releases a fragrance when used while remaining neutrally scented when fresh.
  • Scented microcapsules – Many scented litters contain microcapsules of scented oil. These microcapsules break when force is applied, so the moment your cat steps into the box, a pleasant aroma is released.
  • Various oils – Natural oils from vegetables and plants may be combined to craft a herbal, woody, or floral scent.

The smell of scented cat litter is likely to be highly familiar since it uses the same fragrances found in standard and human-safe household cleaners, drier sheets, and oil diffusers. Lavender, tropical breeze, mountain-fresh—whatever the scent is called, you’re likely to recognize and appreciate it.

#2 Do Cats Like Scented Litter?

Is scented litter safe for cats—of course, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll enjoy it. There are plenty of claims about what cats are like, and, unfortunately, cats can’t exactly speak for themselves in any direct capacity.

With that said, it isn’t all that hard to determine what your cat prefers, especially when it comes to litter. If you’re uncertain whether your cat has a problem with your litter of choice, look for the following cat behaviors:

  • Consistent usage – Accidents and litter box avoidance are a sure sign that something’s off. Bathroom problems could be a sign of several problems, but if your cat is in good physical health, the reason is likely behavioral. It may be your cat’s way of telling you it’s time to switch.
  • Awkward positioning – Does it look like your cat is avoiding even touching your litter? Often cats that are uncomfortable with a certain type of litter will perch on the edges of their litterbox or stand just outside it when doing their business.
  • Excess shaking or scraping – If your cat is constantly trying to shake or scrape litter off themselves, they’re most likely not enjoying their current litter. Kitties are known for their grooming, but the wrong litter could turn their habits into a serious obsession.

There’s no saying why some cats prefer some litter over others—different feline strokes for different feline folks. Some cats want nothing more than a freshly scented box to do their business, while others may turn up their noses at any unfamiliar scent. 

#3 Does Scented Litter Bring More Dust?

Worried about your precious kitty inhaling unhealthy dust? You don’t need to be. Scented litters are no dustier than their unscented counterparts.

It’s a common misconception that scented litter causes more dust and mess than unscented litter, partially due to a misunderstanding of the varieties of scented litter. 

It can be confusing when it comes to how to choose cat litter that works best for you and your feline. From nonclumping vs clumping cat litter, pine litter, wheat litter, and more, scented cat litter can come in several different forms, including:

  • Clay – Most often found in clumping cat litter, clay cat litter can be slightly dustier than other litters. A long-standing staple of both scented and unscented litter, clay may be the most widely available litter type because it clumps. Unfortunately, just because clay litter is popular doesn’t mean that every cat will enjoy using it.
  • Corn – Frequently marketed as “dust-free,” there still may be a small amount of dust in this type of scented litter. That said, it does offer a biodegradable option for pet owners. 
  • Wheat – This is another biodegradable litter with clumping litter capabilities, and it comes in scented varieties. Known for its minimal dust and litter box odor absorption capabilities, wheat-based litter could be a great option for some households. That said, be careful where you store this type of litter as it may attract unwanted pests when left open.
  • Silica – While not a natural cat litter, don’t let that scare you! These trackless and dust-free silica gel crystals are the ultimate way to avoid dust. Due to their hyper-absorbent properties, they also last longer than any other litter on the market and can keep your boxes clean and smelling great for weeks.

Litter dust is a pain to clean up and can even cause allergic reactions for some. Fortunately, there’s no increase in dust due to fragrance additions, and if you are sensitive to dust in general, you can explore a wide range of silica-based options to remove that factor entirely.

#4 Are Cats Repelled By Fragrance?

Cats can be very sensitive to smells. With up to 200 million olfactory receptors, cats have a completely different perception of smell than humans. 

Whatever your cat is smelling, it’s a completely different sensory experience than we can even imagine. That’s why reputable manufacturers always keep your cat’s nose in mind when developing scents.

That being said, there are several scents your cat can’t stand, including:

  • Vinegar
  • Citrus oils
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Rosemary

On the other hand, lavender, cedar, and fresh linen fragrances found in most scented litters do very little to repel cats. 

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#5 How To Switch to a Scented Litter

Looking to bring a little freshness to your cat’s box? Switching litters might seem like no big deal, but it can be a world-changing event for your cat.

While scented kitty litter might not cause any harm to your feline, switching to a new litter could become a major stressor. To make the switch as smooth as possible, try the following:

  • Go slow – This isn’t a one-day ordeal. Stretch the switch out over several days or even weeks by mixing the new and old litter together. As you transition, you can increase the amount of new litter until your cat is comfortable.
  • Use multiple boxes – If you’re using multiple litter boxes, consider switching one to the new litter without changing the other. This will allow your cat to try out the new litter without being forced to use it. Once they grow accustomed, you can make the full switch.
  • Know when to call it quits – You might have your heart set on a particular litter, but your cat may have other plans. It’s impossible to know whether or not your cat will like something. However, if they're turning up their nose at the litter, it’s best to try something else.

#6 General Litter Tips

Litter is important, but it’s not the only factor when determining your cat’s health and happiness in the bathroom. 

If you’re concerned about your furry friend's behavior around their box, take some time to investigate the following factors:

  • Number of boxes – Today, most veterinarians recommend having one more litter box than your total number of cats. Two cats—three boxes. Three cats—four boxes, and so on. Without plenty of clean space to do their business, your cat may end up feeling stressed, scared, or a little crazed. Keep them happy with the right amount of bathroom real estate.
  • Amount of litter – Are you dumping a whole bag in at once or just thinly coasting the top of the litter tray? Different cats prefer different levels of kitty litter in their boxes, so you might be in store for a little trial and error. 
  • Type of box – Open, covered, top-entry, shifting—the variety of litter boxes on the market can be a bit overwhelming to a first-time pet owner or even a veteran cat parent. If you notice something amiss about your cat’s bathroom routine, it could be the box itself.
  • Daily scoops – It might sound daunting to get out the scooper every day, but your cat will certainly appreciate it. By scooping your litter daily, you’ll avoid waste build-ups and excessive smells, all while keeping everything spick and span for your kitty.

Think of it this way—your cat is looking for a comfortable and relatively quiet place to do its business. Stay up on their preferences and behaviors, and you can ensure the best possible experience for your kitty.

PrettyLitter: Scented, Unscented, It’s Up To You (and Your Cat)

We all worry about our furry friends. From yearly checkups to litter choices, cat owners are always looking for ways to be proactive about their pet’s health. Looking for the best cat litter on the block? While standard scented litter won’t have much of a sway on your cat’s well-being, PrettyLitter is changing the game when it comes to protecting your pet.

Our innovative color-changing formula can help you discover urinary infections, kidney disease, and metabolic acidosis. Using PrettyLitter can help you respond to medical issues more quickly and lead to fewer trips to the vet. Plus, with monthly delivery and free shipping, it’s never been easier to enjoy PrettyLitter

Make the switch today.

Sources: 

USNRC. What is a Chemical? https://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/students/science-101/what-is-a-chemical.html 

Google Patents. Odor control additive for animal litterhttps://patents.google.com/patent/US8074605B2/en 

VCA Hospitals. Why Cats Sniff Rear Ends. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/why-cats-sniff-butts 

Pet Keen. 7 Smells That Cats Hate. https://petkeen.com/smells-cats-hate/ 

Dog Spies. Should the roses stay or go? A study about cats and their litter. http://dogspies.blogspot.com/2011/07/should-roses-stay-or-go-study-about_20.html 

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

Sharilyn is a proud cat owner, long time storyteller and researcher. Her work spans beloved podcasts, television shows, media outlets, and independent documentaries. She likes to strike a balance between education and comedy, which you can hopefully tell when you read her articles!

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