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April 19, 2022 |0 min read

Scented vs Unscented Litter

Written by

Sharilyn Vera

It’s inevitable that your cat’s litter box will emit bad smells from time to time, but that doesn’t mean you should have to deal with daily odor problems. Keeping things as tidy, neat, and pleasant as possible is vital to your and your cat’s health and happiness. 

That being said, if you encounter a deluge of unpleasant odors from your cat’s litter box, it may be time for you to try a new litter.

While there are many litter varieties to choose from, they typically fall under two categories: scented vs unscented litter. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about these two types of cat litter to ensure your kitty has the best pick of the litter.

Types of Scents

A cat’s sense of smell is about 14-times stronger than the average human. (Yes, these cute little buttons are for more than booping.) 

Their hypersensitive noses are trained to detect friends, enemies, territory, and perceive the world around them. In fact, their noses contain millions of scent receptors. So, if their litter box smells a little gross to you, imagine what it smells like to them.

As such, consider the following information regarding the scent options for litter.

Scented Litter

“Scented” can mean a lot of things. Scented candles, perfumes, scratch and sniff stickers—no two products smell the same. 

The olfactory possibilities are nearly endless when the word scented gets brought into the picture, but the following are some of the most common choices for scented cat litter:

  • Lavender – Long associated with stress relief and general relaxation, the lavender scent is common for many litters. This delicate floral scent is generally inoffensive and subtle. While the de-stressing potential of lavender may be disputed, this scent is a favorite in households for its sweet, soothing odor.
  • Fresh/clean – This is not exactly a singular scent but a combination of several. Litters described as “clean” or “fresh” scented may range in actual smell, from fresh laundry to cool ocean breeze. Fortunately, they can do a great job of blocking the unclean smell of a freshly used litterbox.
  • Cedar or pine – Looking for a woodsy smell for your cat’s bathroom? Several litters offer an outdoorsy scent that your cat might appreciate. Perhaps it’s the smell of the wild, but many cats enjoy a litter scent that brings them back to their primal roots. Plus, most humans appreciate an aromatic wood scent as well.

Unscented Litter

In the unscented vs scented cat litter debate, it would seem that there’d be little to say about the way unscented litter smells. It doesn’t have a smell right?

In actuality, unscented litter does have a smell, but it doesn’t use scented ingredients. Instead, unscented litter typically smells like the material it’s made from.

That means common scents include:

  • Clay – Dry, earthy, and perhaps the old-school standard for cat litter, clay litter has a natural scent. It’s clumping and absorbent, but clay is also very subtle, meaning it will do little to change the overall litter box odor.
  • Wood – Unlike scented litters with an added cedar or pine smell, litters made of wood will have their own outdoorsy scent. That said, they often have a more damp or pungent odor than the more subtly scented litters. Still, if you want to bring the great outdoors into your kitty's bathroom, wood litter could be a great option.
  • Shredded paper – Very mild in odor, you still may get a whiff of the pulpy, even vanilla-scented odor of the paper. That said, this eco-friendly litter choice will almost certainly begin to smell like pet waste faster than other litters. The real scent of paper litter will be masked by whatever else is in the box.
  • Silica – Unscented silica may have an almost indetectable odor. That’s because the highly absorbent crystals neutralize smell and moisture on contact. So long as you clean your box regularly, silica crystal litter may offer a mostly unscented experience for you and your cat.

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Odor Neutralization Qualities 

We’re all hoping to weaken the scent of our kitty's business. Even if you’re scooping on a daily basis, the residual ammonia and waste smells can build up rather quickly. 

But, it would be impractical to switch out litter every day. That’s why modern litters are equipped to neutralize odors, keeping boxes smelling fresh for longer.

Scented Litter

Looking into the scented litter but unsure of its odor absorption properties? Scented litter can neutralize odors in the following ways:

  • Absorption – All litter is designed to suck up waste and the smells associated with it. Different litters may have different results depending on their composition, but the first step to fighting against litter box odor is through absorption.
  • Additional scent – To compete with one scent, introduce another. Like a chemical process, some scented litters can knock out unwanted odors with a complementary pungent smell.
  • Clumping – Clumping cat litters may trap odors and help make removing waste easier. While clumping vs non-clumping cat litter is about personal preference, some pet owners may find scooping to be a great way to minimize urine odor.

The greatest worry of scented litter is that the smells don’t cancel each other out and instead create a single, equally unpleasant odor. No need to fear—reputable litter manufacturers are committed to crafting quality products with all the complications of kitty odors in mind. 

While you may occasionally find a scented litter that doesn’t match up to your expectations, we’re certain that there’s one on the market that will.

Unscented Litter

Standard, unscented cat litter can utilize all the same odor neutralization techniques as scented litter (minus the additional scent). Still, some litters may not hold up to daily use, and you might find stepping into the litter room to be a noxious experience.

Even if you’re doing your best to keep up with cleanliness concerns, you may want to consider some additional ways to lessen odors and keep rooms smelling as fresh as possible.

The following methods could help you on your quest toward freshness:

  • Ventilation – Crack open a window. Even if it’s a little chilly out, it’s worthwhile to air out your home regularly. Not only will it let some fresh air in, but it may help release some of the lingering odors of your pet’s litter.
  • Carpet cleaning – Occasionally, it takes more than a simple vacuum to get your rugs and carpets smelling fresh. Using a heavy-duty carpet cleaner or hiring a professional service can remove lingering smells and contribute to a cleaner household. 
  • Enclosed boxes – Where you put your litter is almost as important as what kind of litter you choose. Open boxes are a great choice for older cats or those with mobility issues but enclosed or top-entry litter boxes can do a better job of mitigating odors. See if your cat doesn’t mind doing their business in a slightly less open space.
  • Air filters – High energy particulate air filters (HEPA for short), can help reduce dust, pollen, bacteria, and airborne particles. Consider investing in a filtration system, particularly if you have several cats or suffer from allergies. Air filters can improve odors, boost your overall air quality, and leave you feeling ready for whatever your cat has in store.

Cat Comfort

As pet owners, we want what’s best for our cats. From their food to their favorite toys, most cat-lovers are willing to do nearly anything to keep their furry friends happy and healthy.

When it comes to kitty litter choices, discovering what’s best for your cat is one of the most important factors.

Scented Litter

What can scented litter offer your feline friend? Consider the following cat-friendly benefits:

  • Something new – A curious cat enjoys a new scent to take in, and a scented litter can be just that. Going to the bathroom might not seem like an adventure, but to your cat it might be one of the most exciting activities of their day.
  • Pleasant and refreshing – If you’re out of the house for 6 to 10 hours every day, there’s just no way to scoop after every kitty bathroom break. With a scented litter, your cat can enjoy a fresh smell even if they haven’t seen their favorite human in several hours.

Unscented Litter

Ready to start scooping? There’s no telling what your cat might prefer, but unscented cat litter typically means you’ll be spending a little more time cleaning the box.

Why would a cat prefer unscented litter? Consider the following:

  • Au naturale – Many cats love the natural smell of clay, corn, silica, or any other unscented litter. For cats with a passion for neutral, natural scents, unscented litter could be their preference.
  • Something familiar – Without an extra scent, the smell of the litter box may feel more familiar to your cat. Cats frequently find objects that are marked with their scent comforting and safe. While a scented litter doesn’t necessarily stop that, it could complicate the scent.

Pretty Litter: A Great Scent, A Great Service

Remember, cats can be very particular and can give you plenty litter box problems. When it comes to how to choose a cat litter, some prefer a lush, lavender-scented box to do their business, while others might enjoy a scent-free silica bathroom. Cat behavior and personalities can vary, which means finding the right litter solution can be difficult. 

That said, there is one litter that can offer you and your cat the ultimate convenience and protection—we’re talking about PrettyLitter. 

Our litter changes color upon contact with your cat’s urine, and can identify medical problems quickly, so you can seek treatment and ensure preventative care. Plus, PrettyLitter is shipped straight to your door, on time, every month, so you don’t need to worry about running low. 

Scented, unscented—no matter your preference, we have something for everyone. Try PrettyLitter today.

Sources: 

Paws Chicago. Cat Senses—How Felines Perceive the World. https://www.pawschicago.org/news-resources/all-about-cats/kitty-basics/cat-senses  

EPA. What is a HEPA filter?. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/what-hepa-filter-1 

Petco. Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Your Householdhttps://www.petco.com/content/petco/PetcoStore/en_US/pet-services/resource-center/new-pet/Choosing-the-Right-Cat-Litter.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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