Can Cats Smell Their Litter Box?

can cats smell their litter box

Domestic animals, like cats, don’t typically need to use their sense of smell to evade predators or find food. However, it’s still the primary way of identifying the world around them.

Their sense of smell has other vital roles. Sometimes, they can even smell their way home if they get lost. They can smell their favorite place to sleep. But what about their bathroom? Can cats smell their litter box? Read on to find out the answer.

Lost Cats and Litter Box Smells

When people ask if cats smell their litter box, it’s usually because they’ve heard one of the more popular myths in the pet world. Allegedly, cats can smell their litter box from a mile away. If a cat gets lost, place their litter box outside, and they’ll be able to detect it and find their way back home.

However, experts have debunked this theory. According to the information from the MARN’s reports (Missing Animal Response Network), this isn’t something you should do if you want your cat back. There are several reasons why.

First of all, your cat won’t be able to smell it if they’ve ventured too far away. It’s true that cats have a fantastic sense of smell and that they can recognize specific smells. But it’s not true to suggest that they can smell things from that far away, even if it’s their litter box. There’s simply no scientific evidence to back that claim.

But all the neighborhood cats will smell the dirty litter box, and they may become aggressive. This isn’t only dangerous for you, but also for your cat – in case they haven’t run away, but are hiding somewhere close by.

According to MARN, these moves are risky. Not only can you attract other cats, but if you live in such a neighborhood, you might even attract coyotes or similar predators. Placing cat food outside of your home might be a better idea, although it will also attract neighborhood cats. At least they won’t get as aggressive.

MARN’s primary recommendation is to conduct a search and look for your cat. To actually do something to find your feline friend, instead of passively waiting for it to be lured by the scent of their litter box, which probably won’t happen.

Some people might tell you that it worked for them. However, it’s more likely that the cat didn’t run away in the first place but simply went for a walk.

Cats and Litter Box Training

You might be inclined to think that your cat will easily find their litter box if they smell it, but it doesn’t quite work like that. Your cat will soon remember where the bathroom is, but you should keep it as clean as possible. Can cats smell their litter box? Yes, but the smell won’t make the cat more likely to use it.

Can Humans Smell the Litter Box?

Yes. But unlike cats, we’re likely to deal with any unpleasant odors. Sometimes, you may even get used to the smell and stop noticing it. But if you have friends over, they’ll probably be able to tell that you have a cat right away.

If you’ve noticed unpleasant odors coming from your cat’s litter box, here are a few things you can do to minimize them.

  1. Buying scented litter may seem like a logical solution. Nevertheless, if your cat is already used to standard litter without a smell, they might not like your idea of experimenting. Unfamiliar smells typically make them feel uncomfortable and alert, which you may notice when you have guests. Even if your cat is adult, and you litter-trained them as a kitten, they may start acting up if they smell different litter. Have you noticed your cat’s been urinating on the carpet or anywhere but in the litter box? You probably don’t need to retrain your feline friend, just go back to using the same old litter as usual.
  2. Don’t hide the litter box in the back of your closet. If it’s in a dark and poor-ventilated place, it’s bound to become smelly over time, no matter how often you clean it.
  3. Choose a litter box with a cover. It can be a convenient solution for those who only have one cat. If a pan doesn’t work for you anymore because of the odor, a covered litter box may stop it from spreading around.
  4. Try replacing the litter and scooping more often. Time permitting, scoop out after your cat every time it excretes. Also, replacing the entire litter can help as it’s the only way to be sure you haven’t missed anything. When you scoop, even if you leave just a little behind, it may produce unpleasant odors. Make sure you wash the box or the pan with soap before replacing the litter.
  5. Even if your cat doesn’t grow anymore, you should replace the litter box from time to time. Once a year is optimal.

Litter Boxes Shouldn’t Be Smelly

Whether your cat is lost or you want to teach them how to use the litter box, there aren’t any good reasons to keep the box smelly. It should be cleaned up as often as possible and kept dry.

Putting the litter outside of your home can be risky in many ways and won’t get your lost cat back home. Can cats smell their litter box? Yes, they can, but not from far away, contrary to popular belief. If you’re litter-training them, unpleasant odors won’t help in this situation either. Cats like using a clean bathroom, just like humans.

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