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Why Cat Urine Smells So Bad—and What You Can Do About It


We’re all familiar with the offensive smell of cat pee, but why is it that cat urine smells so bad? The answer lies in the species’ evolution. Today’s cat descended from desert dwellers whose bodies needed to be very efficient at absorbing water, an efficiency modern cats still possess. Cats are able to absorb a large amount of water from their urine to maintain hydration. This is the reason why cats don’t drink much water and also why their urine is so concentrated and thus smelly.

Contributing factors. Older cats with diminished or compromised kidney function will have worse smelling urine. Urine from male cats also tends to smell worse than female urine, due to the presence of steroids such as testosterone.

How To Banish the Bad Smell of Cat Pee

#1 Address the litter box situation.

If your cat is going outside of the litterbox, addressing the litterbox is step one. It should go without saying, but scoop that litter box every day. A recent study, demonstrating what should be obvious, shows that cats without a doubt prefer using a litter box without clumps of pee and poo in it.

Second, make sure you have enough litterboxes. The general rule of thumb, says Jackson Galaxy, is one litter box for every cat, plus one (ie. one cat = two litter boxes; two cats = three litter boxes; etc.)

Third, choose an odor-attacking litter that your cat likes.

Lightweight and biodegradable! Snappy Paws (by Snappy Tom Pets) new plant-based, odor-controlling litter not only clumps but promotes the convenience of easily flushing those clumps down the toilet, for the ultimate in odor control.

Boxiecat’s litter utilizes probiotics to naturally and safely eliminate 100 percent of bacteria in the litter box, keeping your home cleaner. No longer will your kitty track bacteria out of the box and into the rest of your house.

Litter Genie, recommended by Jackson Galaxy, is an ingenious litter disposal system that locks germs and odors away. The standard size can hold up to two weeks of disposed of litter for one cat, so no more daily trips to the trashcan!

Next Gen Pet’s all-natural Timber Fresh litter is made from Cypress Wood, a renewable Japanese wood that is highly resistant to bacteria growth thereby naturally controlling odors.

#2 Is there hidden pee in your house?

Urine sprayed but gone unnoticed is what gives cat pee its reputation for smelling particularly terrible, says Joe Schwarcz. Ph.D. “What gives cat urine such a bad name is the fact that the urine is usually left unnoticed until it becomes a problem. After a while, bacteria decompose the urea and give off an ammoniacal odor characteristic of stale old urine,” he explains. “The second stage of the decomposition process emits mercaptans, compounds which also give skunk spray its nasty smell.”

Solution: Use a black light to detect the urine (it will glow under the ultraviolet light) and then treat with an enzymatic cleaner designed to bust the odor-causing bacteria, such as the aptly named Urine Gone. This cleaner utilizes enzymes for maximum odor-banishing cleaning power.

#3 Purify that air!

Cats don’t like fragranced sprays. Your cat has 200 million scent receptors versus the 56 million humans have, so scents and fragrance are pretty darn overwhelming and strong for them. The healthiest approach for everyone in your home is to filter the air. Purrified Air makes an ingenious odor filter that is designed to sit on top of both covered and open litter boxes, banishing odors at the source. 

Read this for more tips on how to get rid of the cat pee smell!

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