Scented vs. Unscented Cat Litter: What’s the Difference?

No one likes dealing with litter box odors but the type of litter you choose does play a role in controlling strong smells. Some kitty litters are lightly scented with a pleasant-smelling scent, while others are unscented and don’t try to smell like flowers, but may use other ingredients, such as baking soda, to help neutralize odors. Let’s decipher the difference between scented or unscented cat litters to help you decide which is best for you – and kitty – to use in your home.


What is Scented Cat Litter?

Scented cat litter refers to clumping or non-clumping cat litter that has added scent to help control litter box odors and provide a more pleasant, intentional smell. The scent is often mixed in with the litter or there are separate cat box deodorizers you can sprinkle in for a refresh.

Most scented litters have a light scent that people would describe as pleasant and most cats don’t mind. Some scented litters go even further and are formulated with other ingredients such as essential oils. ARM & HAMMER™ Forever Fresh Clumping Litter is a lavender-scented litter that delivers calming freshness.

Pros & Cons of Scented Cat Litter

The biggest benefit to using a lightly scented kitty litter, such as ARM & HAMMER™ Clump and Seal™ AbsorbX™ Clumping Litter, is the odor-blocking, clean scent that helps refresh the litter box even when you can’t scoop it. Scented litter can help prolong the time between scoops and full litter box changes and help keep your house from telegraphing “cats live here.”

Some people wonder whether scented litter is bad for cats or OK to use regularly. Cats are small and have an excellent sense of smell, so the added scent in kitty litter is designed to be subtle. Like humans, some cats are more sensitive to scents than others. If you or your cat sneezes or coughs around scented cat litter, an unscented version may be better for you.

Pros of Scented Kitty Litter

  • Masks ammonia smell of cat urine
  • Can provide multiple days of odor control (but still recommended to scoop twice per day!)
  • Keeps litter box fresher longer between changes
  • Can make the cat box easier to hide in your home by hiding litter smells
  • Has a pleasant, but not overpowering scent

Potential Cons of Scented Litter

  • Some cats are sensitive to the scent or the dust of clay cat litter itself
  • Your cat may smell like the litter after using the box
  • The cat litter scent may become the new “litter box smell” to your nose


What is Unscented Cat Litter?

Scented vs. unscented cat litter.

Unscented litter has no added scent or intentional smell. However, unscented litter may still contain odor neutralizers such as baking soda or fragrance ingredients with no detectable smell to help control the strong ammonia smell of cat urine and feces. Unscented means no scent and is not the same as fragrance-free (free of any added fragrances).

Technically, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, anything added to a product that changes the original smell (cat litter, for example, may smell like bentonite clay or Fuller’s Earth) is considered a fragrance, but unscented cat litters aren’t made to smell like flowers or any other smell. They smell like … nothing. On purpose.

Pros & Cons of Unscented Cat Litter

Being unscented doesn’t mean a litter lacks odor-control properties. Although there is no positive smell to cover the ammonia smell of cat pee unscented clumping litters still trap urine inside clumps for easy removal and may contain other odor-neutralizers to offset the acidic urine and feces. The faster your litter absorbs urine, the quicker it can lock away the odors and keep the liquid off the bottom of the litter box.

Some cats are sensitive to the dust in clay-based clumping or non-clumping litters – even when they are unscented. If that describes your kitty, try a low-dust formula such as ARM & HAMMER™ Cloud Control™ Breathe Easy Clumping Litter or switch to a non-clay-based litter such as ARM & HAMMER™ Feline Pine™.

Pros of Unscented Clumping Kitty Litter

  • Fast absorption to trap urine and odors
  • Other odor neutralizers help offset the ammonia smell
  • Good for cats and cat parents who are sensitive to smells
  • Available in multiple types depending on your needs

Potential Cons of Unscented Litter

  • May require more frequent scooping or litter box changing, depending on number of cats and your tolerance for odors
  • May have more of a “cat box smell” than scented litters

The Right Litter for Your Cat May be Scented or Unscented

As with most things in life, there isn’t a single solution or one-size-fits-all. There are many different types of cat litter from lightweight vs. regular, clumping vs. non-clumping, clay-based vs. grain or wood-based, to scented vs. unscented. Finding the right litter can be a process as you figure out what your needs are and what your cat prefers.

ARM & HAMMER™ offers a range of cat litters so you can find your favorite balance between price, tracking, odor-control, weight, and other factors. What do all ARM & HAMMER™ kitty litters have in common, though? ARM & HAMMER baking soda in every scoop!

Try ARM & HAMMER™ Forever Fresh Clumping Cat Litter, with long-lasting calming freshness, and lavender scent plus baking soda to help neutralize odors. Or browse our collection of cat litters to find the right one for you and download a coupon for extra savings.

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