Scented vs. Unscented Cat Litter: What Cats Prefer?

Caring for a cat involves making numerous decisions, including choosing the right litter for their needs. One of the primary considerations is whether to opt for scented or unscented cat litter. This article aims to explore the pros and cons of each option, shed light on potential risks associated with scented litter, provide effective methods for removing odor from used cat litter, and offer some alternative solutions. Whether you’re a new cat owner or looking to switch your current litter, this comprehensive guide will help you make an informed decision.

A Cat’s Sense of Smell

The key factor in deciding between scented and unscented litter is a cat’s sense of smell. Cats have a far superior sense of smell compared to humans. A cat’s sense of smell is 14 times stronger than a human’s. Therefore, the powerful fragrances added to many cat litters can be overpowering and off-putting to cats.

Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Pierson explains:

“I do whatever I can to provide my cats with the most natural and inviting litter available and that happens to be an UNscented clumping clay litter.”

She advises:

“Always use unscented litters and do not add any deodorizers to the litter or around the litter box. Cats, because of their extremely keen sense of smell, are often put off by scented litters and perfumed environments.”

Since the main purpose of cat litter is to provide cats with a comfortable place to eliminate, odorless litter is likely the best option for creating an inviting litter box environment.

Read more: Does Litter Box Attract Bugs as Ants, Flies,…?

Scented Cat Litter: An Overview of Fragrant Convenience

Scented cat litter, as the name suggests, is infused with fragrances designed to mask unpleasant odors. It is formulated using natural or synthetic additives that release pleasant scents when in contact with moisture. These scents can range from floral to citrusy notes, creating a fresh-smelling environment around the litter box. Many cat owners find scented litter appealing due to its ability to combat odor effectively. You may consider Scoop Away Cat Litter.


  1. Odor Control: The primary advantage of scented cat litter is its ability to suppress foul odors emanating from the litter box. The aromatic additives help neutralize unpleasant smells, leaving your home smelling fresher.
  2. Convenience: By using scented litter, you eliminate the need for additional air fresheners or deodorizing sprays, saving you time and effort in maintaining a clean-scented environment.
  3. Psychological Benefits: Some cats may find the scent of their litter more inviting, leading to increased litter box usage and reduced instances of accidents outside the box.


  1. Sensitivity: Cats, especially those with allergies or sensitive respiratory systems, might react negatively to the artificial fragrances present in scented litter. This can lead to discomfort, allergies, or even avoidance of the litter box.
  2. Overpowering Odor: While intended to mask unpleasant smells, scented cat litter may sometimes create an overpowering scent that is unpleasant for both humans and cats alike.
  3. Environmental Impact: Scented litter often contains chemicals that are harmful to the environment. The production and disposal of scented litter can have negative consequences on our ecosystems.

Read more: How To Get Free Cat Litter? Where to Find Free Cat Litter? 

Unscented Cat Litter: A Natural and Neutral Choice

Unscented cat litter, on the other hand, lacks added fragrances and relies on natural materials to control odor. It is typically made from clumping clay, recycled paper, plant-based materials, or silica gel crystals. Unscented litter provides a neutral base without any artificial scents, allowing cats to experience a more natural environment.


  1. Allergy-Friendly: Since unscented cat litter doesn’t contain artificial fragrances, it is generally safer for cats with respiratory sensitivities or allergies.
  2. Minimal Odor Interference: Unscented litter prevents overwhelming fragrances that may deter some cats from using the litter box. It allows your feline friend to experience the true smell of their waste, which can help them maintain good litter box habits.
  3. Environmentally Conscious: Unscented cat litter options made from eco-friendly materials reduce the carbon footprint associated with traditional clumping clay litters.


  1. Less Effective Odor Control: Unscented cat litter may be less efficient at masking odors compared to its scented counterpart, particularly in multi-cat households or if the litter box isn’t cleaned frequently.
  2. Potential Smell Accumulation: Without added fragrances, the litter box area might accumulate odors over time. Regular cleaning becomes crucial to maintain a fresh-smelling environment.
  3. Personal Preference: Some cat owners prefer the aromatic benefits of scented litters and may find unscented options less appealing.

Read more: Where Can I Buy Cat Litter Emergency? Do Gas Station Sell It?   

Why Companies Add Fragrances to Cat Litters

Fragrances are added to cat litters for the benefit of humans, not for cats. Companies may add fragrances to mask odors if the litter material itself is not effective at absorbing and eliminating odors. Fragrances can also be added for marketing appeal to humans who purchase litter. However, from the perspective of cats, fragrances are unnecessary and inappropriate additives.

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Recommendations for Odorless, Unscented Litter

To create the most comfortable litter box environment for cats, veterinarians and cat experts recommend using unscented, odorless litter. Even litters marketed as “unscented” may still have noticeable fragrances, so it is best to choose a litter specified as completely odorless. High quality odorless litters will be able to effectively absorb urine and feces and eliminate odors without any added fragrances or masking agents.

If odor is still an issue with an odorless litter, there are some other troubleshooting steps cat owners can try, such as:

  • Using enough litter boxes for the number of cats
  • Using adequate litter in each box
  • Scooping boxes frequently
  • Regularly cleaning boxes

Focusing on providing odorless litter and proper litter box maintenance is the best way to keep cats comfortable and encourage continued litter box use.

Potential Risks of Using Scented Cat Litter

While scented cat litter provides benefits in odor control, it is essential to be aware of potential risks associated with its use. These risks include:

  1. Respiratory Issues: Cats with sensitive respiratory systems might experience discomfort or allergic reactions due to the artificial fragrances present in scented litter.
  2. Ingestion: Cats are meticulous groomers and may ingest litter particles while cleaning themselves. Consuming scented litter can lead to digestive issues or toxicity if the additives used are harmful.
  3. Feline Preference: Some cats may find scented litter aversive, leading to litter box avoidance or inappropriate elimination.

Read more: Can You Use Cat Litter For Rats? Read This Before Doing!! 

How to Remove Odor from Used Cat Litter?

No matter what type of litter you choose, managing odor from used cat litter is an important aspect of maintaining a fresh and hygienic environment for both you and your feline companion. Here are some effective methods to tackle this issue:

  1. Regular Scooping: Ensure you scoop your cat’s litter box at least once or twice daily to remove solid waste promptlyand clumps. This helps prevent the accumulation of odor-causing bacteria and keeps the litter box fresher for longer.
  1. Baking Soda: Sprinkling a thin layer of baking soda over the litter can help absorb odors. It acts as a natural deodorizer and is safe for cats. Just mix it in with the litter during each refill or sprinkle some on top after scooping.
  1. Activated Charcoal: Another excellent natural odor absorber is activated charcoal. Place a small amount of activated charcoal in a breathable pouch and hang it near the litter box. It will help eliminate odors by trapping them in its porous surface.
  1. Odor-Neutralizing Sprays: There are various cat-safe sprays available that neutralize odors without relying on strong fragrances. These sprays work by breaking down odor molecules, eliminating unpleasant smells effectively.
  1. Litter Box Liners: Using high-quality litter box liners can help contain and control odors. Look for liners with added odor-fighting properties or those made from odor-resistant materials.
  1. Proper Ventilation: Ensure the area surrounding the litter box is well-ventilated. Opening a window or using an exhaust fan can help circulate fresh air and reduce lingering odors.
  1. Litter Box Placement: Consider the location of the litter box in your home. Avoid placing it in confined or poorly ventilated areas such as closets. Opt for well-ventilated spaces where odors can dissipate more easily.

Read more: How To Transition Your Cat To Covered Litter Box? 

Alternatives to Scented and Unscented Cat Litter

  1. Natural Pine Pellets: Made from compressed pine sawdust, these pellets are highly absorbent and have a natural pine scent that helps control odors. They are biodegradable and eco-friendly.
  1. Recycled Paper Litter: This type of litter is made from recycled paper products and is free from additives or fragrances. It is highly absorbent, dust-free, and gentle on your cat’s paws.
  1. Crystal Litter: Silica gel crystal litter is highly absorbent and effectively controls odors. It is low-dust, non-tracking, and can last longer between changes compared to traditional litters.
  1. Coconut Coir: Made from coconut husks, this natural and biodegradable litter provides excellent odor control and absorbs moisture effectively. It is also eco-friendly and sustainable.

Step-by-Step Guide: Choosing the Right Cat Litter

  1. Consider Your Cat’s Preferences: Observe your cat’s behavior and preferences when it comes to litter. Some cats may have sensitivities or aversions to certain textures or scents.
  1. Evaluate Odor Control Needs: Assess the odor control requirements based on the number of cats you have and how frequently you are able to clean the litter box.
  1. Research Different Types of Litter: Familiarize yourself with the various types of litter available, such as clumping clay, crystal, pine, etc. Understand their pros, cons, and specific characteristics.
  1. Test and Transition: If you are considering a new type of litter, introduce it gradually by mixing small amounts with the current litter. Monitor your cat’s response and adjust accordingly.
  1. Monitor and Adapt: Regularly assess your chosen litter’s effectiveness in controlling odor and meeting your cat’s needs. Be open to switching if necessary.
  2. Read more: Do Cats Need Light To Use Litter Box?

Scented vs. Unscented Cat Litter: A Comparison

AspectScented Cat LitterUnscented Cat Litter
Odor ControlHighly effective at masking odorsMay be less effective in controlling odors
SensitivityCats with respiratory issues may be sensitiveSuitable for cats with allergies or sensitivities
Environmental ImpactMay contain harmful chemicalsEco-friendly options available
Personal PreferenceSome owners prefer the aromatic benefitsNeutral and natural for a more authentic experience

Tips for Successful Litter Box Usage

  1. Provide Multiple Litter Boxes: If you have multiple cats, ensure there is one litter box per cat, plus an extra. This prevents competition and ensures each cat has access to a clean box.
  1. Regular Cleaning Routine: Stick to a consistent cleaning schedule to maintain a hygienic environment. Cats appreciate a clean litter box and are more likely to use it consistently.
  1. Litter Box Placement: Choose quiet and low-traffic areas for litter box placement to provide your cat with privacy and minimize disturbances.
  1. Avoid Strong Chemical Cleaners: Use mild, cat-safe cleaners when cleaning the litter box. Harsh chemicals can leave residual scents that may deter your cat from using the box.
  1. Periodic Litter Replacement: Completely replace the litter in the box every few weeks to maintain freshness and prevent odor buildup.

Read more: Can You Mix Two Different Cat Litters? 

The Best Cat Litter for Your Feline Friend

The best catlitter for your feline friend ultimately depends on their individual preferences and needs. Some cats may prefer the scented options, while others may be more comfortable with unscented litter. It’s important to consider factors such as odor control, sensitivity, environmental impact, and personal preference when making a decision.

If you’re looking for a highly effective option for odor control and don’t have a cat with respiratory issues or sensitivities, scented cat litter can be a good choice. The aromatic benefits of scented litter can help mask unpleasant odors and keep your home smelling fresh. However, it’s essential to ensure that the scent used is not overpowering and doesn’t cause any discomfort to your cat.

On the other hand, unscented cat litter is a suitable option for cats with allergies or sensitivities. It provides a neutral and more natural experience, free from any artificial fragrances. Unscented litter can also be a better choice for environmentally conscious pet owners, as there are eco-friendly options available that minimize the use of harmful chemicals.

When considering the best cat litter for your feline companion, it’s crucial to assess their specific needs and preferences. Some cats may be more sensitive to scents or textures, so it’s essential to observe their behavior and make choices accordingly. Additionally, conducting thorough research on different types of litter and their pros and cons can help you make a well-informed decision.

In conclusion, whether you opt for scented or unscented cat litter, the key is to prioritize your cat’s comfort, health, and overall well-being. Regular cleaning and maintenance of the litter box, along with providing multiple options if you have multiple cats, will contribute to a positive litter box experience for both you and your feline friend.

Read more: Why Is Your Cat Missing The Litter Box and Pee, Poop Everywhere?

FAQs Scented vs. Unscented Cat Litter: What Cats Prefer?

Q1: Can scented cat litter cause allergies in cats?

A1: Scented cat litter may cause allergies or sensitivities in some cats, especially those with respiratory issues. It’s important to monitor your cat’s behavior and health when introducing scented litter and switch to unscented options if needed.

Q2: Are there any eco-friendly alternatives to traditional cat litter?

A2: Yes, there are several eco-friendly alternatives available, such as natural pine pellets, recycled paper litter, and coconut coir. These options are biodegradable, sustainable, and minimize environmental impact.

Q3: How often should I clean the litter box?

A3: It’s recommended to scoop the litter box at least once a day to remove solid waste. Additionally, the litter should be completely replaced every few weeks to maintain cleanliness and freshness.

Q4: Can I mix scented and unscented litter together?

A4: Yes, you can mix scented and unscented litter together if your cat prefers a subtle scent or if you want to gradually transition between the two types. Monitor your cat’s response and adjust accordingly.

Q5: Are clumping litters better for odor control?

A5: Clumping litters are generally more effective at controlling odor as they form tight clumps around liquid waste, preventing the growth of odor-causing bacteria. However, other types of litter, such as crystal litter, also offer good odor control properties.

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