Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
Help! We’ve moved in with my step-son and his family. They have two kittens, approximately 9 months old. They have the worst ammonia and stool odor I’ve smelled in cats in a long time. They both appear to be healthy and both are fixed (a male and a female, brother and sister), no UTI-type behavior but man, even cleaning the litter box every single day it’s awful! We have a cat, too. Her littler box doesn’t smell. It never has. We’ve switched the litter for the kittens to what we use because it’s been awesome in controlling the odor for our cats now and in the past. The litter change hasn’t made any difference. I’ve even tried sprinkling activated charcoal (fish filter stuff) on top. It’s worked for other cats but not these two. The ammonia smell is so strong it makes one’s eyes water and burns the sinuses. What could be going on and do you have any tips for us to try to change this odor problem?
Siouxsie: Boy, Barbara, I feel bad for you. Not just you you, but all of you — it’s no fun to live with that kind of stench, and especially not for the cats, whose noses are much more sensitive than humans’. But fear not; we do have a couple of ideas that might help.
Thomas: First of all, the smell of what comes out is directly related to what goes in.
Bella: What we mean is that there are some foods that almost always cause foul-smelling poop in cats, and chief among these is milk.
Siouxsie: Actually, any dairy products at all. Despite all the pictures of cats lapping up milk or cream from a bowl, the vast majority of us are lactose-intolerant because we don’t have the necessary enzymes and bacteria in our gut to break it down into a form that doesn’t reek.
Thomas: You don’t mention whether the kittens also have diarrhea, but if they do, that can be a sign of either parasites or an intolerance to something in the food they’re eating.
Bella: We’d recommend trying different foods to see if it helps the stink situation. Mama says our poop hardly smells at all because we’re eating grain-free, low-carb canned food and raw food.
Siouxsie: Of course, not everybody’s into feeding raw, and the food we’re eating is on the expensive side. But there are plenty of foods you could try that are more affordable and might help the smell problem.
Thomas: If you’re feeding kibble, go with the highest quality you can afford and avoid products with artificial colors. With canned food, stick to the classic pâté formulas rather than chunks in gravy styles. Those gravies tend to be made with corn starch and other stuff cats may find hard to digest.
Bella: To deal with the urine odors, the best thing you could do is get those kittens drinking more water. The more water they drink, the more dilute (and therefore the less smelly) their pee will be. A lot of cats seem to like drinking from pet fountains because the moving water is more appealing than stagnant water sitting in a bowl for days.
Siouxsie: We’d recommend staying away from the plastic fountains, though, because plastic gets gross pretty easily. Steel and ceramic models work best in that regard.
Thomas: As far as litter goes, we’d recommend a clumping formula. It’s easier to clean the urine out of the box, and therefore the pee won’t sit in there and stink. Our two favorite clumping litters are World’s Best Cat Litter and Blue Naturally Fresh, although clumping clay formulas are less expensive.
Bella: For after-the-fact odor control, our friends at The Happy Litterbox (which, by the way, is a great resource for all things litter-related) strongly recommend a product called Nose Offense — a completely fragrance-free and nontoxic air deodorizer.
Siouxsie: And finally, Barbara, we’d recommend a talk with the vet. Cats’ urine and feces are not supposed to smell so awful they make you gag. You might consider bringing a fecal sample to have it tested for parasites — just in case — because worms and other nasties can cause very foul-smelling poop.
Thomas: Good luck, Barbara. We hope this helps you and your family to resolve your stinky situation.
Not all chunks and gravy style food is full of junky fillers, Weruva, the new Wellness Signature line, Earthborn – all chunky foods with top quality (in Weruva’s case, human grade) ingredients with no corn starch. The grocery store quality foods may have more fillers in the chunky foods, but if your cat likes the texture of food that looks like food and not goop there are plenty of quality products out there.
It is interesting that these poor humans and their feline friends are dealing with bad smelling pee. I have never had any problems with that.
The solid stuff, though? Well, let’s just say that Jacey and I try to warn our human that we have gone to the bathroom and left the solid stuff in the box. He sometimes wonders why we are talking to him, and then he gets a whiff of the smell.
He is well trained now. When he hears us scratching in the litter box, he will wait until we come out and see if we talk to him. If we talk to him, he knows he needs to go and clean up, otherwise, he will be punished with a very bad smell.
We are bengal cats, after all, and smelly poop is something we are known for!
I wish I could train mine to warn me. The male kitten has really foul poopies at times. Enough that we’re blaming Granddaddy. ;-)
Lots of great advice that the human would not have thought of. We don’t have this problem here but mommy’s filing it away for the future. A talk with the vet is a good idea. They see a lot of cats, after all, and have heard it all. Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.
Reposted from FB. This is Barbara: Thank you! All our cats eat grain free dry kibble. I’ve thought of the water situation and I know our cat drinks a lot more water if her bowl is away from her food and litter box. We’re talking about getting a water fountain for them as they *all* love to play in the water. Silly kitties, but try and give one a bath. I’ve thought of the parasite issue because the female has always looked a little pudgy in the belly and she’s the one that has diarrhea from time to time. So worming is not a bad idea either. We’re getting ready to add a 3 month old rescue kitten to the household as well. I did take the litter box outside and give it a good scrub. I didn’t realise it but it’s one of those with a built in “strainer” and two separate tubs to switch out which all stack together. It seems that all the parts weren’t cleaned out as they should have been and that may have been adding to the ammonia smell. Right now, it’s been 24 hours and no odor so far. Oh, and as much as I love to give our babies treats they never get dairy products. I really appreciate the thought and wisdom from the team that went into this reply and the ideas it’s given me.
When we got a kitten and already had an adult cat, our kitten would switch back and forth between the kitten food and the adult food, and that made his poop smell terrible. If you’re using two different formulas of food, try isolating the cats when they eat to stop them from eating the other’s food. That might help!
I have a male cat that I just got. He smells like an alley cat. The smell that comes out of his bms and urine! It makes the entire house smell and I clean the litterbox 2x a day. I have other cats they hardly smell. I don’t know what to do.