Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Is Scented Cat Litter Bad for My Cat? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Patricia Dickson

By Patricia Dickson

cleaning cat litter box

Vet approved

Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Learn more »

If you have a cat, you know a dirty litter box can make your house stink. However, if you’ve used scented cat litter, you’ve probably also read the reports that say this type of litter is bad for your cat. So, which one do you believe? Is scented cat litter bad for your cat?

The answer to this burning question for cat owners is that it depends. This is because while many scented products are considered okay for cats, they can trigger respiratory problems. There are a few reasons that some experts and pet parents argue against using scented cat litter. We’ll talk about those reasons and more below.

Why Can Scented Cat Litter Be Bad for My Cat?

While there is no denying that urine and feces in a cat litter box can almost run you out of your own home, there could be something to the claims for some cats. It is possible that the scents in the litter can irritate a cat’s nose because they’re chemical fragrances. There is also evidence that when some cats catch a whiff of the scented litter, they refuse to use their litter boxes because the smell is too strong for them.

british cat inside litter box
Image Credit: Natasha Zakharova, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Cat Litter?

There are several types of cat litter, but the primary forms are crystal, clay, and flushable/biodegradable.


Clay litter comes in clumping and non-clumping and is made of super-absorbent bentonite clay. These provide odor control and stop build-up in the litter box. Clay litters can cause respiratory problems in humans and pets, so it’s best to change them out completely at least once a month.


Crystal litter is different in that it doesn’t clump. It is lighter, and you must scoop the litter out daily to eliminate the smells of built-up urine. It’s affordable and produces less dust than clay litter.


Even though these litters say flushable on the bag, you shouldn’t flush them down your toilet as they can cause problems with your septic tank. However, most brands are safe to compost.

Woman scooping cat litter
Image Credit: sandyman, Shutterstock

How Can I Tell If My Cat Is Allergic to Its Cat Litter?

Sadly, cats can sometimes be allergic to scented and unscented cat litter. That’s why it’s essential to know that there are risks with any cat litter you purchase. Here are the signs that your pet may be allergic to its litter:

  • Dry cough
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Runny eyes
  • Excessive grooming and scratching that results in hair loss
  • Swollen face

While one or two of these signs doesn’t mean that your cat is allergic to its litter, it’s worth checking out if the conditions worsen or if more signs are shown. There could also be other underlying causes for these symptoms, so make an appointment with your vet for diagnosis and treatment to err on the side of caution.

tabby cat sneezing
Image Credit: Jupiter_79, Pixabay

Should I Use Scented Litter?

In reality, there is no undisputed proof that scented cat litter is harmful to cats, but it is possible that your cat is sensitive, and you may need to avoid it. If your cat isn’t sensitive to scented cat litter, it’s probably okay to continue using it. If you’ve never used scented cat litter before, keep an eye on your cat for a few days to ensure they aren’t allergic to the litter.

Should I Use Unscented Litter?

If you find out that your cat is sensitive to the fragrances in a scented litter, it’s best to go with unscented litter to be safe. Also, if your cat tends to roll around in its fresh litter before using it, it might be best to go with unscented litter.

sphynx cat on cat litter mat
Image Credit: Kokorina Mariia, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

In reality, you don’t clean the litter box any less when you use scented over unscented litter. You still need to scoop the box daily, and you still need to change it. Scented litter may be too fragrant or irritating for your cat, but some cats can use it without issues. While some cat litters are better than others, they need to be emptied entirely and changed at least once a month, depending on how many cats use that litter box. Whether your use scented or unscented litter, the main objective is to keep your cat healthy and happy.

Featured Image Credit: Zoran Photographer, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database