Why Does Cat Poop Smell So Bad? Short & Long Term Solutions

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Does your cat poop stink up the whole house? Because it shouldn’t. I’ll explain why your cat’s poop might smell so heinous, and some easy steps you can take to bring down the stink level.

Because, when it comes to WHY does cat poop smell so bad, there are a couple of clear answers and actionable solutions!

Contents

  1. This Cat Poop Smells Like Death
    1. Summary of Steps to Immediately & Permanently Improve Your Cat’s Digestion
  2. Food Quality, Food Type & Fermentable Fibers
    1. What Cat Food Ingredients Might Make Cat Poop Smell Worse?
    2. Wet Cat Food Vs. Dry Cat Food
    3. Fresh, Raw Cat Food
    4. Your Cat May Not Tolerate Table Food
  3. Feline Intestinal Microbiome
    1. Stress
    2. Digestive Support Supplements
  4. Side Benefits of Improving Feline Digestion
  5. Immediate Solutions For Bad Cat Smells
    1. Scientific Basis for Odor Elimination
    2. Eliminate Cat Litter Box Odor with an Air Purifier
    3. Wipe Surfaces in Litter Box Area
    4. Vacuum to Get Rid of Unpleasant Cat Smells
    5. Research Shows Charcoal Absorbs Odor
  6. Litter Type and Litter Box Setup
    1. Litter Type
    2. Litter Box Enclosures
  7. Cat Poop Smells Bad? PROBLEM SOLVED.

This Cat Poop Smells Like Death

Here’s how we’ll fix it. Poop is the end of the digestive process. In order to figure out why the end product smells so bad, it’s best to start at the beginning and work our way through. We’re going to start by look at the food your cat is eating, examining the digestive process as a whole, thinking about the microbiome, and analyzing how stress contributes to poor digestive health.

Then, in order to address each of these, we’ll look at improving food type and quality, supporting general digestive health, improving your cat’s microbiome, and lowering stress.

We’re also going to discuss the best types of litter for stinky poop, and help you analyze your litter box setup and cleaning routine.

By the end of this article, you will have a battle plan ready to implement to combat that awful cat poop smell.

Summary of Steps to Immediately & Permanently Improve Your Cat’s Digestion

To get your cat’s poop to not smell so bad, here’s your to-do list in the best order. If you are unable to do one of the steps, just move on to the next one.

How To Help Your Cat

  1. Make sure your are feeding a high-quality cat food with meat as the first ingredient
  2. Switch to wet food over dry food as much as possible
  3. Stop feeding your cat potentially irritating table food
  4. Implement a probiotic regimen & supportive herbs after consulting your vet
  5. Destress your cat as much as possible

Quick Fixes For Your Home

  1. Switch to a powerful air purifier
  2. Wipe down all surfaces in the area with vinegar or an odor-busting cleaner.
  3. Vacuum with a HEPA-grade vacuum cleaner
  4. Use charcoal bags or baking soda
  5. Rethink litter type and box placement

Food Quality, Food Type & Fermentable Fibers

Cat food comes in a wide range of qualities, with many different philosophies on ingredients. In order to have a mild, unoffensive output, you’ll want your cat to fully digest his food without any irritating ingredients causing problems.

What Cat Food Ingredients Might Make Cat Poop Smell Worse?

Cats are obligate carnivores. Their digestive tracts are not equipped to handle grains, certain fibers, or sugars. If your cat’s litter box has the world’s worst vibes, the first place to look is your cat’s food.

Studies have shown that cats aren’t always efficient at metabolizing dietary carbohydrates. Ingredients such as corn, soy, and sugar may cause irritable bowels and other health issues for a sensitive feline.

Flip that bag over and check out the ingredients list. That Meow Mix kitty might be nomming on has these as the first four ingredients: “Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal”. None of these are the high quality protein your cat needs, and corn, corn gluten, and soybean meal will be nearly indigestible by your cat’s delicate digestive system.

Many cat foods, both wet and dry, contain grains, processed grain proteins, and potentially irritating ingredients. Some examples of these potentially irritating ingredients are Ground Yellow Corn, Soy Hulls, Soybean Meal, Soy Flour, Wheat Gluten, Corn Gluten Meal, Food Starch, Sugar, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Dried Egg Product, Guar Gum, Red 3, Powdered Cellulose, Animal Digest, Soybean Oil, Ground Corn, Ground Grain Sorghum, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2.

Research tells us that there are numerous concerns with additives such as these, and avoiding foods with these ingredients will improve your cat’s digestive system, lower inflammation, and benefit your cat’s overall health.

Wet Cat Food Vs. Dry Cat Food

Wet food has a few advantages over dry food, digestively speaking.

Hydration

Wet cat food is hydrating. A well-hydrated cat will have a better-functioning digestive system than a dehydrated cat. Cats eating dry food need to make up the difference by drinking more water to stay healthy. Not all cats will drink enough water, so wet food can help ensure that your cat will stay hydrated.

Processing and extrusion

Dry food is more processed than wet food. Dry cat food is typically made by grinding all the ingredients into a powder. Then the factory mixes them, and forces the mixture through an extruder. The extruder steam cooks the food, and pushes it at very high pressure through a die which shapes it into those cute shapes.

Unfortunately, during the process of powdering and high-pressure extrusion, proteins can become damaged. This highly processed food is not as nutritious as it was before processing, and can be irritating to a sensitive kitty tummy. (By the way – a lot of human cereal is extruded using the same process).

A few of my top picks for wet cat food are listed below.

  1. Tiki Cat Aloha Friends Grain-Free Wet Food
  2. Tiki Cat Aloha Friends Grain-Free Wet Food
    $14.32 ($0.40 / Ounce)

    Looking for a high-protein diet that won’t give your cat tummy troubles? Tiki Cat is perfect for sensitive cats. It combines high-quality shredded chicken or wild-caught flaked tuna with pumpkin, a nutrient-rich source of gentle fiber, plus real fish, seafood or meat in a savory broth. The result is a delicious, easy-to-digest meal that our feline friends love, without the grains, potatoes and artificial stuff they don’t. With 10 different varieties, you can rotate flavors and even combine with dry food to thrill your cat at every meal! 

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    01/06/2023 04:24 pm GMT
  3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Wet Cat Food
  4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Wet Cat Food
    $32.96

    Packed with more of the meat cats love and free of the grains that contain gluten, BLUE Wilderness grain free wet cat food is made to feed your feline’s wild side. Featuring real chicken, plus fruits and vegetables, this high protein cat food features the finest natural ingredients enhanced with vitamins and minerals. Plus, it’s formulated to support the unique nutritional needs of adult cats. Packed with protein from real chicken and healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables, this recipe provides the energy your cat needs for an active lifestyle.


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    01/06/2023 04:34 pm GMT
  5. Reveal Natural Wet Cat Food
  6. Reveal Natural Wet Cat Food
    $16.99 ($0.29 / Ounce)

    Reveal wet cat food is made with 100% natural ingredients, real protein, and contains nothing more than the ingredients listed. This grain free food for cats that contains NO artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. The limited ingredient recipes are made with delicious, natural foods your cat will love.


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    01/06/2023 04:44 pm GMT

However, I recognize that it may not always be possible to feed wet food. Dry food has a longer shelf life and is more convenient and practical in many situations.

Fortunately, research shows us that the quality of the dry food can make a big difference for your cat. The results of this study showed that fresh meat-based dry food formulations are a better choice for protein content and digestibility.

If you choose to feed your cat dry food, look for one with a meat-based formulation and high quality ingredients. The options listed below are a few of my top choices.

  1. Instinct Raw Boost Freeze Dried Raw Cat Food
  2. Instinct Raw Boost Freeze Dried Raw Cat Food
    $44.99 ($4.50 / lb)

    Raw Boost mixes high protein, grain free cat food with our freeze dried raw cat food toppers in one bag. Balanced nutrition for all cats & solutions for indoor & healthy weight. Delicious flavor that picky cats & kittens love

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    01/06/2023 02:55 pm GMT
  3. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Dry Cat Food
  4. Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain Free Dry Cat Food
    $42.92

    Blue Buffalo dry cat food is made with the finest natural ingredients enhanced with vitamins and minerals; It never contains chicken (or poultry) by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives

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    01/06/2023 03:25 pm GMT
  5. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
  6. CRAVE Grain Free High Protein Dry Cat Food
    $17.99 ($4.50 / lb)

    High protein cat food provides cats with essential nutrients for developing muscle, aiding in digestion, and supporting healthy immune systems


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    01/06/2023 10:04 am GMT

Fresh, Raw Cat Food

Most people are familiar with wet cat food and dry cat food, but there are actually a few more options. Some people like to use raw ingredients at home to make homemade raw cat food. This is a great option, and but it does take some time and lots of research to implement correctly. More power to you!

For a slightly easier option with all of the benefits, you can get highest-quality fresh raw cat food, either delivered to your door or at your local grocery shop.

Darwin’s Natural Pet Products will deliver nourishing, easy-to-digest raw cat food right to your doorstep. Darwin’s explains some of the benefits of feeding raw food on their website:

“Litter-box scoopers, rejoice—since cats can utilize most of raw food, that means you’ll find less and less to scoop; and when you do, it will be dry and will have very little order. This is a welcomed sign that your cat’s digestion is working at its most efficient, compared to high-carbohydrate diets which overtax cats’ tiny systems, leading to excess—and smelly—waste”

Raw Paws is another great option that is conveniently available to order through Amazon.

Your Cat May Not Tolerate Table Food

If your cat is getting lots of people-food snacks, some of them may be upsetting his tummy, resulting in foul litter box odors. Some foods I’ve seen fed to cats include cheese, a bagel with cream cheese, olives, ramen noodles, and actual bites of a burrito.

While not all table food is bad for cats or will upset Tigger’s tummy, some foods are certain to cause problems. For more in-depth discussions on specific foods, check out our article series on what cats can and cannot eat.

Feline Intestinal Microbiome

A microbiome is a community of organisms – bacteria, fungus, and every other tiny thing living in an environment. The microbiome in your cat’s digestive system – his “gut microbiome” – plays an important part in his health.

If the gut microbiome has the right amount of the right bacteria, your cat’s digestive system will work optimally. Additionally, he will feel happy and calm, have a smooth and shiny coat, and have a strong immune system.

The food your cat eats is one of the most important ways to improve your cat’s digestive system, as discussed above. But you can also consider the stressors in your cat’s environment, and supplements that can support the microbiome.

Stress

Just like stress affects our health as humans, stress also affects every system in your cat’s body. One way it affects their guts is by raising cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that increases in the body when you, or your cat, experience stress. Scientific study results have proven that stress-induced cortisol production can disrupt the gut microbiome in animals, negatively impacting health.

For more ideas on how to lower your cat’s stress, check out our article covering 5 easy ways to reduce anxiety in cats.

Digestive Support Supplements

If you feel that your cat could use some additional support on top of optimizing food and environment, some basic gentle supplements could help breathe some life back into your kitty’s digestive system.

Your cat’s internal bacterial environment affects more than just their poop. Researchers have uncovered links between the feline gut microbiome and social behaviors. This means that improving the type of bacteria in their digestive tract can help them to feel better and behave differently.

Pet WellBeing offers a wonderful 9-strain probiotic, as well as digestive supplements that help to promote healthy bowel tone and normal peristalsis. These supplements are gentle on sensitive systems and fast-acting for quick support.

Side Benefits of Improving Feline Digestion

By working to improve your cat’s digestive health, your cat will also fart less. Hooray!

Immediate Solutions For Bad Cat Smells

Changes in your cat’s internal environment will take some time to manifest. But you’d probably like some immediate help dealing with unpleasant litter box odors.

Scientific Basis for Odor Elimination

We smell an odor when microscopic particles from the object reach our nose. Get rid of the particles, get rid of the smell!

For a fast fix, implement an odor-eliminating air purifier, wipe surfaces with vinegar, use a high-quality vacuum, and utilize odor-absorbing charcoal bags or baking soda around your cat’s litter box areas.

Eliminate Cat Litter Box Odor with an Air Purifier

An air purifier will provide a constant stream of air filtration throughout your home. Most air purifiers will filter ALL the air in your space every couple of hours. Many of them have odor-trapping filters to specifically remove bad smells and freshen your air.

For a breakdown of the best air filters for cat litter, dander, and hair particulates, check out our article on air purifiers here. Our top recommendation for litter box smell is the VEVA ProHEPA 900, a workhorse of an air filter that will keep your home fresh under any circumstances.

Best Air Purifier for Litter Box Smell
VEVA ProHEPA 9000 Premium Air Purifier w/ H13 Washable HEPA Filter VEVA ProHEPA 9000 Premium Air Purifier w/ H13 Washable HEPA Filter

The VEVA ProHEPA 9000 uses four different types of filters in three layers to strategically catch every potential odor-causing particle. This model produces no ozone, and pre-filter is washable which means there are fewer filters to replace over time.

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Wipe Surfaces in Litter Box Area

While you wait for food changes to kick in, refreshing the litter box area will help get rid of the old stink.

We often keep our cat’s litter boxes in bathrooms, laundry closets, office corners or cabinets. To quickly improve the smell of that area, grab a little bucket and some gloves. Dilute 1 cup of white vinegar with 3 cups of water. Dip a rag or some paper towels in this mixture and use that to wipe down the surfaces around the litter box.

Vinegar is a potent odor remover and works wonders at removing scents. However, if you want a product specifically formulated to break down compounds found in animal waste, this enzyme-powered odor eliminator is the most effective stain and odor product on the market right now – and, it’s Certified Safe by the Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI).

For bonus points, use a UV flashlight like this one to make sure you get all the mess.

Vacuum to Get Rid of Unpleasant Cat Smells

While air purifiers are great for passively addressing the issue, a quality HEPA vacuum will go a long way toward immediately lowering the cat litter particulate count in your home. Fewer particulates means better smelling air.

Check out our article on the top litter dust-busting vacuums in each category – from traditional upright vacuum to robot-vacuum cleaner. Our best pick is the Dyson V11 – it’s easily maneuverable and super powerful for a noticeable bump in air quality each time you use it.

Best Cordless Vacuum for Cats
Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner Dyson V11 Torque Drive Cordless Vacuum Cleaner

This vacuum is my personal favorite. The unparalleled suction power automatically optimizes for each surface. It's lightweight, convenient, runs quietly, cleans the air, cleans the car, and does everything else I need from a vacuum except make my morning coffee.

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Research Shows Charcoal Absorbs Odor

Activated charcoal has a huge surface area with lots of tiny pores. These pores absorb tiny particles, effectively eliminating odor-causing particles from the air. Tests show that charcoal can eliminate up to 99% of odor-causing substances from the air. This can make a huge difference in your experience living with an animal with a non-ideal digestive tract.

Some air purifiers, such as the VEVA Pro-HEPA 9000, have charcoal filters built in and will circulate your home’s air to actively filter out odor-causing particles. Charcoal bags are another amazingly versatile tool. These bags are about the size of a softball, and you can tuck them around your home to actively absorb kitty-cat stink.

You can refresh the bags by setting them out in the sun for two hours. The sun’s radiation will release the odors, and you’ll have a good-as-new activated charcoal bag to freshen up your space.

Nature Fresh Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags Nature Fresh Bamboo Charcoal Air Purifying Bags
$21.97 ($0.62 / Ounce)

These bamboo charcoal bags helps to eliminate odors and purify the air wherever you have musty smells. Activated bamboo charcoal is highly porous which causes adsorption when exposed to toxins in the air. Toxins, chemicals and other particles gravitate to the charcoal bags allowing the air to be purified and deodorized. 


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01/06/2023 10:38 am GMT

Baking Soda

Alternatively, experts have proven that baking soda is another fabulous odor absorber. Purchase a few small boxes of baking soda and place them around the areas where you struggle with smell. Change the box out every 15-30 days for maximum freshness.

Litter Type and Litter Box Setup

Placing the litter box in an out-of-the-way spot will help smells to stay isolated. If your box is in a living space, consider getting a really solid piece of litter box furniture to sequester the odors more effectively. This, combined with regular cleaning, charcoal bags, and an air purifier, will make a huge difference immediately.

Litter Type

Look for a litter that excels at odor control. A few top-in-class options are ÖKOCAT Natural Wood Clumping Litter, Pretty Litter, and Purina Tidy Cats Clumping Cat Litter.

Litter Box Enclosures

This Shaker Style Chest Litter Box Cover is a beautiful, sturdy piece that exemplifies what I’m recommending. Cats and humans have approved of the design.

This walnut-finished mid-century modern wooden litter box enclosure is another great option with a different style.

Cat Poop Smells Bad? PROBLEM SOLVED.

Now you are well-equipped to handle the problem of your cat’s poop stinking up the whole house from multiple angles. You can implement long-term solutions of improving your cat’s gut health through research-backed methods. You are armed with data to find the best type of food and supplements, how to keep your cat hydrated, and ideas to lower your cat’s stress and anxiety. You know how to clean the litter box area, purify the air in your home, and sequester smells to provide a quick fix. Go forth and enjoy a fresher-smell home, cat lover!

Why does cat poop smell so bad? Find solutions here!

Kelsey Madison

Kelsey Madison is a cat lover, fostering enthusiast, part time vet tech & writer. She has fostered close to 300 animals over the last 10+ years, and currently has 3 beautiful tabby cats who love to stick their faces in her morning lattes. She is passionate about helping others develop a deeper understanding of their beloved felines and learn more about fostering.