I have seen several questions about cats not covering their litter properly but my question is just about the smell.

I have three cats, two of which are perfectly toilet trained but the third almost never covers, or covers badly when she goes to the toilet. Sometimes she just jumps out of the tray, and sometimes she will try to cover what she's done but she deliberately aims for the hard plastic of the tray edge, so hardly moves any litter.

If she's been to the toilet while I'm out, there is often a nasty smell throughout the whole house when I get home. How can I reduce or eliminate the smell, even if her toilet behaviour is still abnormal? The main issue is the smell, if I can get her to cover that should fix the problem, but that's not the only solution I'll accept.

If you have had a similar experience and have had success with a particular method, I'd like to know although "in theory" guesses are welcome too. I can only try them and see if they work!


Since the answers so far have all been along similar lines I feel that I need to clarify my question.

Cat poo is smelly unless it is covered. This should not come as news to cat owners! Very rarely one of the others cats will poo where they shouldn't such as in the bathroom basin or in the bath. Their poo smells just as bad and also makes the whole house smell bad.

The cat with the problem digs a hole and poos in it but doesn't cover it because of where she's scratching. So she's trying to do the right thing, she just thinks the best covering litter is the edge of the tray, instead of the unused litter sitting just inside the edge. She tries to scratch the hard plastic edge of the tray onto her fresh poo, instead of using the loose litter. So I either need to train her to bury from where it feels soft instead of hard or somehow deal with the smell of the poo sitting in a shallow hole.

This happens if the litter is a day old or if I have just changed it. She's not actually pooing on the side of the box, her aim when squatting is excellent, just like the other two. Only the poo touching the litter is odour neutralised. The poo exposed to the air just makes the house smelly.

  • Have you considered a self cleaning litter box? Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 10:48
  • @James I have three cats that all interact in the same areas so that might get expensive. But I'll consider it if nothing better comes through.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 12:26

6 Answers 6


There's several things around the box itself you can try:

  1. If possible, clean the box more regularly. This doesn't sound like it applies to your situation, but for the general case.
  2. Get a larger litterbox. The cat may be going on the sides because the box is too small.
  3. Try different litter, such as crystal litter. Crystal litter is a dessicant, quickly drying out waste, and I've found reduces the smell significantly, at least up to the point of saturation, where it can no longer absorb. Changing out all the litter pretty regularly helps you avoid that problem.
  4. More litter boxes. Litters can only absorb so fast, so if your cat goes in more places, it might give the litter more chance to do its work.
  5. Try a differently designed box. There's enclosed boxes, and boxes with filters that can help.
  6. Place the box in a better ventilated area. You could even put it in your bathroom and leave your bathroom fan on. I know some bathrooms even have timers for their fans, so you could use that, if you've got it.

As also has been suggested, you can also address the smell itself. Consult your vet, and if there's nothing wrong, try out different diets to see if that helps.


When I took her for her annual vaccination shot I mentioned the problem to my vet and he suggested using an enclosed litter tray (I'd have to get three or four since I have three cats and they all share the litter trays). His reasoning was that there is no edge to scratch on, only walls. I told him that I keep the litter trays inside large plastic storage containers to stop the litter from flying onto the floor when they're covering and that maybe removing the trays and putting the litter directly into the boxes might help. He thought it was worth trying.

I have been doing this for about a week now and it has made a difference. She is now much more likely to cover her poo although she does still like to scratch on the edges, even though they are higher. It's harder for her to do this now so she scoops the litter more often than before. She still doesn't cover it properly every time but either she or one of the other cats covers it later. All three cats will try to cover it if they sniff it directly. So the problem is about 75% solved, which is a huge improvement! The house no longer smells of cat poo all the time!

  • As a cimpromise between A simple enclosed box and the folks who suggested motorized self-cleaning litter boxes: We've been using the Omega Paw litterbox, which when used with clumping litter is "manual self-cleaning". Roll it over, roll it back, empty the catch tray, add a bit more litter (I use a scoop from laundry detergent), done. Has quirks but I and my two furry supervisors are pretty happy with it. And the company's been very easy to deal with when the tray was misplaced after a move and I needed a replacement. Unsolicited plug; no connection except satisfied customer.
    – keshlam
    Commented Oct 27, 2015 at 4:13

Have you mentioned the smelly stool to your veterinarian? There are some medical problems that can cause smelly stool (parasites, malabsorption, allergies). Treating the problem may reduce the smell so it's less potent.


If it's just one cat out of several, definitely check for medical issue.

Food intolerance is also a possibility; you might want to change their protein source (give them bird or cow if they've mostly been getting fish, for example) and see if that helps.


I know exactly what you mean. My cat does the exact same thing. It can be for two reasons. 1. Cats are dominant in certain areas, unlike dogs. Most dogs are either dominant or not dominant in all areas. Cats are dominant over certain areas, such as the litter box. Leaving poo uncovered is one way of showing dominance.
2. One of your other cats is dominant over the litter box. What you may think is play could be one of your other cats waiting to ambush your cat (that is not covering) when your cat leaves the litter box.. This is actually my situation. So my cat hurries and uses the litter box and can't take the time to cover because she wants to get in and out before the other cat notices she's in the box. Also, the smell of her poo comforts her. Either way, let's deal with that SMELL!

I am fortunate because my husband is very ingenious when it comes to these things. We have transformed a small coat closet into the litter box room. He installed a low wattage computer case fan in the wall between the litter box room and the garage. The fan is quiet and is always on. It continuously sucks the air out of the litter box room and into the garage.

However, if you can get your cats to accept it, I have the best solution ---two words: CAT GENIE! This is the most amazing litter box you've ever seen. It's relatively inexpensive for the incredible things it does. It requires you, however, to relocate your litter box near a water outlet, such as in your bathroom or utility room. (Be careful with this: If you use your utility room a lot, it may be too noisy for the cats.)

The litter box uses granules that are quite like regular cat litter. After your cat uses the litter box, the sequence will initiate after several minutes of the kitty being out of the box (or at the time you set). The Cat Genie washes the granules, dissolves any big particles and washes them through the water outlet, puts the granules back in the box, and dries them - clean, smell-free, and ready to use again.

I highly recommend it. You can have supplies delivered directly to your house when you run low of the granules or cleaner. It's not much (if any) more expensive than using regular litter. AND IMAGINE...never clean the litter box again and never come home to cat urine/poo smell again! Here is a link for you to check out : www.catgenie.com


Besides a less radical approach as changing the litter type to one that works better for covering up the smell (while also being something your cats accept and not being too dusty etc), a more marked change would be to change their diets - for example to BARF feeding. BARF feeders regularly report way less smelly cat poop. :)

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