best cat litters for odor control

5 Best Cat Litters for Odor Control

See an expert veterinary review of the best anti-odor cat litters on the market

Being a cat mom that lives with human housemates means tackling the challenge of managing my cat’s leftovers and his not-so-pleasant cat poop smell is a top priority. After all, the last thing I need is to start the search for new housemates.

In this article, I’ll cover my top five best cat litter picks for odor control. I’ll also provide a commentary on each litter’s clumpability; scent; design; and value for money. All factors that are of great importance to cat owners. From a veterinary perspective, I’ll also point out whether or not your cat is likely to appreciate the litter, as well as any design flaws, be that packaging related, or perhaps health-related (such as making it more difficult to notice problems like blood in your pet’s urine).

We’ll discuss our top five in no particular order, before announcing our top pick. Impatient souls may prefer to skip to the winner.

So let’s get started.

Purina Tidy Cats Unscented Cat Litter

Purina Tidy Cats Clumping Cat Litter, Free & Clean Unscented Multi Cat Litter - 38 lb. Box

Overall Score 9/10

See how we scored it

Odour control power

10/10


Clumpability

8/10


Scent

N/A


Design

10/10


Value for money

8/10

Purina’s Tidy Cats unscented cat litter comes with a ten-day odor control guarantee, which is obviously a very promising place to start. As a vet, I really love that this litter is low dust, which is better for your cat’s respiratory system, and is of particular importance if your kitty suffers with asthma or sneezing.

I’m also a big fan of the natural clay and activated charcoal formula which naturally helps trap ammonia through a process that we nerds call adsorption. No, it’s not a spelling error; adsorption is different to absorption!

So whilst lesser cat litters may aim to achieve odor control simply by masking foul smells, Purina’s formula actually traps the stinky compounds and holds them in the litter so that they cannot reach my housemates’ noses. Amazing! And whilst advanced chemistry knowledge is always helpful in life (or so my science teacher would’ve had me believe), you don’t really need to know about adsorption to appreciate the miraculous efficacy of this litter when it comes to odor control.

Boxiecat Extra Strength Premium Clumping Cat Litter

Boxiecat Extra Strength Premium Clumping Cat Litter - Clay Formula Scent Free Multicat Ultra Clean Box, Probiotic Powered Odor Control, Hard Litter, 99.9% Dust

Overall Score 8/10

See how we scored it

Odour control power

8/10


Clumpability

8/10


Scent

N/A


Design

8/10


Value for money

8/10

Like Purina’s Tidy Cats litter, Boxiecat’s multiple award winning Extra Strength Premium Clumping Cat Litter relies on the adsorptive powers of clay, but we also have a new player on the field: probiotics. That’s right: who knew they didn’t only belong in kombucha?

This odor-killer combination will help stop odors before they start, meaning they never become a reason for your housemates to stick passive-aggressive post-it notes to the fridge requesting that you clean the tray out within minutes of a feline eruption. That said, it should be noted that the odor control power seems to be slightly less than that of Tidy Cats.

Boxiecat’s litter is also 99.9% dust free, as well as fragrance free. Quick veterinary comment: cats universally prefer fragrance free litters, because these allow them to more easily detect their own scent markers, which helps them to feel more confident that no intruders have snuck in and used their toilet whilst they were off exploring under the wardrobe upstairs. I don’t care if you think your cat isn’t fussy about whether their litter is fragranced or not. They are, and they prefer when their toilet smells of nothing, or better yet, of them.

Handily this litter also resists tracking, a clever little design feature that helps prevent the illusion that your cat has intentionally wiped their feet on your nice new carpet upon exiting the box.

To end on a final high, Boxiecat are so proud of their litter’s clumpability that they’ve actually gone to the trouble of trademarking it. I have awarded them four out of five stars, mostly because the clumpability really is very good, but also because I’m impressed that they took the time to trademark a type of cat litter clump. That’s the sort of thing I would probably do, if I worked in cat litter.

Fresh Step Odor Shield Clumping Cat Litter

Fresh Step Clumping Cat Litter, Odor Shield With Febreze, 14 lbs

Overall Score 9.6/10

See how we scored it

Odour control power

10/10


Clumpability

10/10


Scent

8/10


Design

10/10


Value for money

10/10

Similar to our other litters, Fresh Step Odor Shield fights bad smells by neutralizing them rather than simply masking them. However, unlike the other contenders discussed so far, Fresh Step is not fragrance free, but instead boasts a rather attractive fresh scent reminiscent of Febreeze. Not all cats will appreciate this, but many humans will.

99.9% seems to be something of a magic number when it comes to dust free claims, as like Tidy Cats and Boxiecat, Fresh Step is also supposedly – you guessed it – 99.9% dust free…at least according to the packaging. However, whilst equivalent in theory, compared to the competition Fresh Step seems noticeably dustier in practice, and so households with two or four-legged members with respiratory issues may prefer to avoid this litter. 

Fresh Step has especially good clumpability and is highly scoopable, which makes cleaning your tray easy and minimizes those annoying kitty litter crumbs left behind on the carpet like a proverbial Hansel and Gretel trail leading to the witches’ candy house, or in this case, your cat’s commode.

A possible downside is that some cats may find this litter a little too sharp if they have particularly sensitive paws.

World’s Best Cat Litter

WORLD'S BEST CAT LITTER Low Tracking & Dust Control Multiple Cat Unscented 15-Pounds - Natural Ingredients, Quick Clumping, Flushable & Made in USA - Long-Lasting Odor Control & Easy Scooping

Overall Score 8/10

See how we scored it

Odour control power

8/10


Clumpability

6/10


Scent

N/A


Design

10/10


Value for money

8/10

World’s Best deserve even more credit for their cat litter than they do for their marketing; whoever came up with the name deserves a raise.

A stand-out feature of this litter compared to every other litter on our list is that it’s flushable and even septic tank safe. Personally, I have an intense dislike of used cat litter sitting in the kitchen trash, but I’m also too busy or lazy (variable) on my days off to want to have to deal with a separate kitty litter can. So flushable litters suit perfectly; I’m sure many of you will agree with me on this!

The reason World’s Best can be flushed is that whilst our other litters so far are clay based, World’s Best is made of corn. Yup, like popcorn kind of corn. But obviously unpopped (and unsalted). But don’t worry: it’s not recognizably “corny”, rather it appears like lots of tiny nuggets of dehydrated soy protein. A notable upside: World’s Best is corn-pletely natural and with no nasty chemicals or artificial-smelling perfumes. This will make your cat very corn-tent.

World’s Best is on parr with Fresh Step in terms of being low tracking. It’s also – you guessed it – 99.9% dust free. I’m starting to think every litter makes this claim, although interestingly in reality it does seem like these litters do actually have quite variable dust levels. World’s Best truly has very little.

A potential downside is that due to the beige color of this litter it could potentially be a little more difficult to identify blood in your cat’s urine – something that necessitates a vet visit – however I decided not to make any cats bleed in order to test this theory, and so it remains exactly that.

Arm & Hammer Forever Fresh Clumping Cat Litter

Arm & Hammer Forever Fresh Clumping Cat Litter Cedarwood, MultiCat 18lb, Pet Friendly with Essential Oils, (Pack of 1)

Overall Score 7.2/10

See how we scored it

Odour control power

8/10


Clumpability

6/10


Scent

10/10


Design

6/10


Value for money

6/10

Arm & Hammer’s Forever Fresh litter is infused with essential oils, which are freed from their kitty litter prison and so release a new burst of botanical fragrance after each use. For those who prefer being able to smell their cat litter (in a good way, rather than a stinky way) this litter is an excellent choice. Obviously those who side with me (and every cat with a sense of smell) in believing cat litter is best when it smells of nothing, may prefer to select an alternative product.

Forever Fresh is reasonably good at clumping, and at this point I must admit I was shocked to note that there was no 99.9% dust free claim for this litter, instead only 99%. Oddly though, the 0.99% seems to make all the difference, as this litter does seem quite dusty.

Whilst Forever Fresh must lose design points for dust, sturdy packaging, a great smell and solid odour control mean it’s still a great choice. Pet Parents could certainly choose a worse cat litter for odor control than Arm & Hammer.

Overall winner: Fresh Step Odor Shield Clumping Cat Litter

And the award (as well as the questionable honor of lining my Ernie’s litter box for the next ten years) goes to Fresh Step!

A fantastic all rounder, Fresh Step is well packaged, well designed, provides exceptional and long-lasting odor control and doesn’t crumble when scooped. Whilst a little dustier than some of our other contenders, overall it outperforms the competition and so remains my number one choice.

FAQ

What Should I Look for in an Odor Control Cat Litter?

As a general rule, litters that neutralize odors rather than simply masking them are preferable, not least because cats don’t tend to appreciate strong fragrances and some will even refuse to toilet in the tray altogether if it smells too much like the perfume aisle at Walmart. Ingredients such as clay, probiotics and bicarbonate of soda are ideal for neutralizing odors naturally whilst still avoiding harmful chemicals.

How Can I Stop my Cat’s Litter Box From Smelling Bad?

Selecting the right litter is a super important step when it comes to stopping your cat’s litter box from smelling bad. Any of the litters discussed in this article would make an excellent choice, but in particular Fresh Step Odor Control Litter is recommended. It’s also very important to clean your cat’s litter box out frequently to prevent bad smells, and to reduce the level of potentially harmful microbes that your cat is exposed to. This is even more important in multi-cat households! Solids should be removed from the tray as soon as possible (I recommend that you check the tray twice daily if it isn’t somewhere you often pass by), and clumps (where your cat has peed) should be removed at least daily. To prevent your cat’s litter box from smelling bad it’s also vital that the whole tray gets emptied and thoroughly cleaned with a pet-safe litter box cleaner weekly.

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