Understanding Why Your Cat Litter Smells Like Ammonia

cat litter smells like ammonia

If you are a cat owner, it’s crucial to understand why cat litter smells like ammonia as this will help you to manage all the risks associated with your pet’s health.

Every cat owner at some point will encounter the strong, unpleasant smell of ammonia coming from the cat’s litter box.

quick answer
The ammonia smell in cat litter comes from the breakdown of urea in cat urine. This process intensifies if the litter box isn’t cleaned regularly or if the cat has certain health issues.

Today we will dive deep into the causes, dangers and solutions to this common cause

Why Does Cat Litter Smell Like Ammonia?

Ammonia is a natural byproduct found in cat urine. When your cat uses the litter box, the cat pee begins to break down and turn into ammonia, making it smell very bad. This is a natural process and there is nothing to worry about at this stage.

cat litter and ammonia
Cat litter and ammonia solution

Now, if you’re not a fan of this smell, cleaning the litter box regularly can help to keep it under control.

The longer you leave the pee to sit in the litter box, the more it breaks down and the smell will get even stronger.

On top of that, if the litter box is warm and a bit damp, the smell can get even stronger (especially if the litter box is covered)

The type of litter you use can also make a difference. Some litters are very absorbent and can keep the smell down with ease. But let’s be real, no litter can completely get rid of the smell once the pee starts to break down.

If you suddenly feel that the cat litter smells like ammonia but the smell is very strong, and you have been cleaning the litter box regularly, it might be a sign that your kitty isn’t feeling too well. Things like urinary tract infections, kidney problems, and even diabetes can make a cat’s pee smell stronger.

So if you notice any change, it might be a good idea to have a chat with your vet.

The Dangers of Ammonia in Cat Litter

While for us the smell of ammonia in the litter box might just be a bit unpleasant, for our pets it can be more than just a stinky problem. Hight levels of ammonia cat actually be very harmful to both cats and humans

If your pet is hanging around too much ammonia, it can lead to some health issues that are not fun to deal with. Breathing in a lot of ammonia can irritate their lungs, which over time can lead to breathing problems.

Their eyes might also get irritated and water

In more severe cases too much ammonia can even mess with their kidneys

For pet owners with breathing issues like asthma, being around too much ammonia can cause throat irritation and trouble breathing

But don’t panic! While all of this might sound scary, these problems usually happen with very high levels of ammonia.

The key is to keep the litter box clean and to frequently check cat litter smells like ammonia. If you are doing that, the risk of these health problems is pretty low

How to Control and Neutralize Ammonia Smell in Cat Litter

Keeping the ammonia smell down in the cat litter box is all about regular scooping and a few handy tricks. Here’s how you can keep your nose happy and your cat’s litter box fresh:

  1. Regular Cleaning: This is the biggest step. You will need to scoop out the soiled litter daily. It might seem like a chore, but it’s the best way to stop that ammonia smell from building up and the litter sticking to the box. Once a week you should always fully change the litter and wash the box with mild soap and warm water.
  2. Enzymatic Cleaners: These are like magic for getting rid of smells. They have good bacteria that munch away on the ammonia, effectively getting rid of the smell. They should be available at most supermarkets
  3. Choosing the Right Litter: There are many types of litter to choose from when it comes to controlling odor. Some of them have additives like baking soda or charcoal that help to control the smell, while others are made from materials like sawdust or corn that can naturally reduce odor. You will have to try a few different ones and see which one works the best for you
  4. Litter Deodorizers: These products are designed to help you to control the odor in the litter box. They come in different forms like powders, granules or sprays and you will need to add them to the litter box by following the instructions.
  5. Regular Vet Check-ups: Sometimes, the ammonia smell in cat litter can be a sign of a health issue with your cat. Regular check-ups with the vet can help to catch any potential problems early

Controlling the litter box smell is not just about making your home smell better. It’s also about keeping our feline friend healthy and comfortable


While the cat litter smelling like ammonia whenever you pass around it can be a challenge, understanding the causes and danger, and knowing how to effectively control and neutralize the smell, can make the task much more manageble

Our tips should take care of all the problems you have related to ammonia

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below!


Ammonia inhalation toxicity in cats: a study of acute and chronic effects: This study, published by the National Institutes of Health, explores the effects of ammonia inhalation on cats. The research involved exposing cats to 1000 ppm of ammonia gas for a 10-minute period and observing the acute and chronic effects.


Is the smell of ammonia in cat litter harmful?

While the mild ammonia smell is normal and generally harmless, high levels of ammonia can pose health risks for bot cats and humans.

How can I reduce the smell of ammonia in my cat’s litter?

The first step you should take is to clean the litter box more often. After that you can look at switching litter brands and using litter deodorizers

Can a strong ammonia smell in cat litter be a sign of a health issue in my cat?

Yes, sometimes a strong ammonia smell can be a sign of a health issue in your cat such as a urinary tract infection or kidney disease. If you notice a sudden change in the smell of your cat’s litter, it’s a good idea to consult with a vet

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams

Indre K Williams (DVM) graduated from the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2015, she brings a wealth of knowledge and a genuine passion for animals to their writing. With years of experience working closely with pets and their owners, she has developed a deep understanding of their needs and behaviour.

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