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Is Scented Cat Litter Bad for My Cat? Vet Approved Guidance

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Dr. Marta Vidal-Abarca Photo

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Cat owners know the difficulty of dealing with the smell of their cat’s poop and pee. From air fresheners, proper ventilation, all the way to constant cleaning, many cat parents look for ways to manage the intense smell their cats leave in the litter box.

One common solution in the conversation is the use of scented litter in the hopes of controlling unwanted odors. But is it safe for your cat? Well, yes it can be safe, but it depends! Today, there are a variety of scented cat litter that use natural scents and are considered safe for cats, but the use of scented cat litter may depend entirely on how your cat responds to it. Aside from your cat’s preference and reaction to the scented cat litter, there are also some health risks to consider when choosing scented cat litter.

Here, we will run down the important things to know about using scented cat litter and the things to watch out for!

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What is Scented Cat Litter?

Scented cat litter refers to any type of litter that includes fragrances and aromas in its formulation. While many scented cat litters contain odor-absorbing ingredients, the goal of adding scents in the cat’s litter is to mask the bad scent from your cat’s droppings.

Aside from masking the odors, many cat parents choose scented cat litter for the simple reason that it gives the room a more pleasant smell altogether, which can help areas of the house in need of some odor repelling!

There are different types of litter, such as clay litter, crystal litter, and even biodegradable or flushable litter, all of which can have scented variations. With the availability of various scented cat litter products, it is important to consider the ingredients in them to make sure they’re safe for your cat.

While many cats use scented cat litter with no problem, some cats may not respond to them very well and may prefer the unscented option instead.

pouring cat litter in the litter box
Image Credit: Seika Chujo, Shutterstock

Artificial vs. Naturally Scented Cat Litter

Artificially scented cat litter uses synthetic fragrances, while naturally scented cat litter uses natural materials that absorb odors. Naturally scented cat litters are often preferred because of their subtle aroma and use of natural ingredients, making them safer and less overwhelming for cats. Natural cat litters are also more sustainable and environment-friendly, making them a better choice.

Artificially scented cat litter often has more intense fragrances that can be uncomfortable even for humans. The exact numbers are difficult to establish, but cats have roughly over 200 million smell receptors, making their sense of smell 14 times more sensitive than that of humans.

Natural scented cat litters are definitely the better choice, but regardless of whether it’s natural or artificial, be sure to carefully inspect the ingredients used, as well as how your cat reacts to the scent.

Potential Risks of Using Scented Cat Litter

The use of naturally scented cat litters should generally be safe for cats, but they may not be for everyone. While they may smell pleasant to us, scented cat litters can potentially overwhelm some cats with their scent, causing discomfort and behavioral issues. Rather than helping with your cat’s droppings, this can cause stress, anxiety, and litter box avoidance instead. When introducing scented cat litter, observe how they respond to it and see if they like it or not.

Naturally scented cat litter may not be suitable for cats with certain health issues. For instance, it may be best to use unscented cat litter for those who have a history and are prone to respiratory, skin, or urinary issues.

They may be at risk for respiratory issues from the inhalation of strange fragrances and particles from the scented litter, as well as digestive issues in the rare scenario of your cat ingesting litter. Some cats may also have sensitivities, which may cause skin allergies and irritations.

Cats with a history of urinary tract problems are also recommended to avoid scented cat litter due to the risk of recurring issues due to the potential irritants in the cat litter.

cat lying on the wooden floor beside litter box
Image Credit: Tanya Plotnikova, Shutterstock

Signs to Watch Out For

While we all want our house smelling pleasant and fresh, we still want our cat to be happy and comfortable. Here are a few negative signs that may tell you your cat may not be responding well to the scented cat litter.

  • Visible signs of stress and anxiety
  • Litter box avoidance
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, wheezing, sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
  • Visible skin irritations
  • Constant scratching and discomfort
  • Constipation, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Increased frequency of urination

Should you observe any of these signs, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian for proper medical consultation and recommendations.

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Unscented Cat Litter

Unscented cat litter is the basic and safest bet, as they have no added scent or fragrance to mask the odors left by your cat’s droppings as compared to the scented versions. Like the scented litters, they can come in clay, crystal, and biodegradable litters.

Unscented cat litter is considered safer because they purposefully do not have any smell, removing the risk of overwhelming your cat’s sense of smell, and the ingredient list is kept simpler. They are also considered the better option for cats who are prone to health conditions, such as respiratory issues, allergies, and urinary tract problems.

Despite having no smell, many kinds of unscented cat litter may also contain various ingredients also present in scented litter that are made for absorbing odors, such as baking soda.

When choosing an unscented cat litter, you are also going to have to choose the type of litter that is best for your cat whether it’s clay, crystal, or biodegradable. Just make sure you find something that is comfortable for your cat!

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Final Thoughts

Generally speaking, scented cat litters are not entirely bad or harmful for cats, but they do have their risks and are definitely not for every cat. They can overwhelm cats with scent sensitivities and can also put them at risk for a variety of health complications.

Despite this, scented cat litter is not tagged as harmful, and many cats around the world use scented cat litter with no problem. Keep in mind that no cat is the same, and that your cat may have a different health profile and particular preferences. Just make sure you choose a cat litter that keeps your cat happy and comfortable!


Featured Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock



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