Are you embarrassed to have company at your house because of "that cat smell?" Surely, it bothers you, too, but has it gotten out of control?
Because animal odors come from several sources, controlling them cannot be handled with just one remedy. It's necessary to take a multi-level approach. The two basic areas to deal with are germs and hygiene. As one friend puts it, there's no need to use potentially toxic deodorizers, because a lot can be accomplished with cleaning and fresh air. Amen to that. Clean the litter pan often and change the sand when it has become exhausted and you will have it well handled.
Here are the primary sources of odor when dealing with cats and what you can do about each one:
1. The litter box. Since cats tend to be clean freaks, it's essential to keep their boxes as clean as possible. If it becomes distasteful to use, they may decide not to use it. Remember, they have a much better sense of smell than we do, so if you can smell it, they've been smelling it for much longer. It's amazing how long some cats will actually put up with this. It's NOT amazing, then, when they don't. If your cat is avoiding the litter box, take stock of the situation to see if it's because the litter has become too well used. If you don't want to touch it, why would your cat want to stand in it?
A good rule of thumb is to have at least one litter box per cat, plus an extra one for times when kitty can't get to the main box, or when you're changing one and he can't wait.
Another good "rule" is to scoop out the solids at least once a day, and to completely change the sand once or twice a week, depending on the cat. Some seem to eliminate more often than others, or produce larger amounts of waste.
A helpful trick is to apply some odor control to the bottom of the litter pan before you put in the new sand. Some people find that pan liners are helpful, while others find them to be just another problem. Occasionally, a cat will simply shred the liners, making more work for the litter patrol personnel.
Locate litter boxes in well ventilated areas, such as near an open window, weather permitting.
With all the advances in technology, litter pans can be simple or complicated, from cheap to expensive, accordingly. The cat doesn't care about that part of it, so get a pan that pleases you.
Hooded litter boxes can help hide things, as well as contain odors to some extent. Automatic self-cleaning boxes are nice, too, and self-sifting boxes are also available. There even is a new litter disposal technology that uses a pan that integrates with the flushing mechanism of a toilet. It's expensive, but could be well worth it.
2. The litter itself. There is quite a variety of litters for sale now, from simple clay "sands" to odor-controlling crystals. The simple sands become used up very quickly, but you can extend the "life" of the less costly products by adding those odor-stopping crystals to it, or by mixing in some clumping litter to make it easier to remove the wastes. While the more expensive litters can seem too costly, they can actually "cost" the same over time since they last longer.
3. The air in the room. Wherever the litter box is kept there is a strong potential for odor in the air, no matter how often you clean the box and change the sand. To control air borne odors, there are several options. Some pet stores sell bags of crystals, or pulverized volcanic rock, to absorb odors by hanging or placing the bag near the box. There also are odor-controlling candles that may be lit during an "odor emergency," for example, and some pet owners might find the battery powered automatic freshener dispensers to be useful. But be very careful using spray products. They can be toxic to cats if used too often or too much, and if the cat finds the freshener odor to be repulsive, he may refuse to go near his box.
4. The trash. No matter how well you wrap the used litter, it still smells. Keep it outside, in a larger container such as a trash can or dumpster, or in the garage, and be sure to place it at the curb in time for any scheduled trash pickups. If you live in the country, it may be buried if there isn't too much. Remember, cats cover their waste when they live "naturally" in order to hide their odors and thus, not attract predators. So, if you simply throw used litter outside on your country property, you might find coyotes or other pesky visitors coming around more often, not to mention flies.
5. Floors and furniture. If a cat eliminates behind or under furniture, it may not be found immediately, and can become quite difficult to clean. If not cleaned adequately, that spot may forever be flagged as a soiling location, and any cats in the area will use it. It's best to clean up such messes when they are fresh, but even that is no guarantee you will get it all out. It is this area of odor control that is the most difficult to deal with, even worse than the litter box. The only advice here is to experiment with the variety of products available today to see what works best in your home.
6. The cat. Some cats are NOT as fastidious as others and may allow residues to accumulate on themselves. These cats usually need to be bathed from time to time. However, don't blame the cat. This problem can be associated with physical disabilities, age, obesity, certain health problems, or personality quirks. If a cat is neurotic, for example, due to extreme fear from some traumatic experience, he may not feel safe taking the time to groom himself. Expressing your displeasure as anger only makes the problem worse. If bathing is necessary and your cat can't handle getting wet, use one of the "dry wipe" products on the market. Or, take him to a professional groomer.
Remember, cats have a sense of smell many times greater than ours, so odor control is important not only for our own comfort, but for the cat's well being, too.
Dr. R.J. Peters started a rescue shelter in 2002 and has experience with hundreds of animals, mostly cats and dogs. Learn more about cat behavior at http://www.theproblemcat.com