foul smelling cat urine
Questions About Cats

Why Does My Cat’s Urine Smell Strongly of Ammonia?

It’s sometimes a relief that cats don’t need to go outside late at night or in the rain to urinate. Unfortunately, cat urine can leave a strong smell of ammonia in their litter box. This can leave your home smelling horrible, especially if you live in a shared house or small apartment.

What causes cat urine to smell like ammonia? Often, dehydration or urinary infection is to blame. If there’s not enough water in the body to dilute chemicals, foul-smelling cat urine follows. Neutering male cats will also control their testosterone, and reduce the smell of the urine.

Ammonia in your cat’s urine can be dangerous, for both you and your pet. Let’s discuss why this smell arises, and how you can prevent it from happening in the future. It’s also crucial that you know which room is best to put your cat’s litter box.

What Does it Mean When Your Cat’s Urine Smells Strong?

Of course, masking the smell of ammonia is only half the problem. You need to find out what is causing the smell to arise in the first place.

Some of the most common reasons for strong-smelling cat urine are as follows:

  • Dehydration. Cats originated in the desert, so they tend to hold water well. This means that they may not drink from their bowl as much as they should. If a cat gets dehydrated, their urine will smell strongly of ammonia. If your cat doesn’t lap from their bowl, try lightly running the kitchen tap. Cats love the sensation of running water on their tongue. Here are some other tips on how to get your cat to drink more water.
  • Urinary or Bladder Infections. These health conditions tend to be extremely painful, and can spread to the kidneys. If you see blood in your cat’s urine, or they seem reluctant to pee, see a vet. Your cat will be treated with a course of antibiotics to clear up the problem.
  • Diabetes. Overweight cats could also be at risk of feline diabetes. Rancid urine is a common symptom of this condition. Other warning signs include lethargy, a change in movement, vomiting, and sudden, unexplainable weight loss.
  • Stress. A stressed cat will produce smelly urine. Observe your cat’s general demeanor, and ensure that they seem otherwise content. If their routine has been disturbed or something has changed, this could be the underlying cause.

The scent of ammonia is common, but it’s undesirable. You should do whatever you can to eliminate it from your home.

how to neutralize ammonia in cat litter

How to Remove the Smell of Ammonia from a Cat’s Litter Box

Unless you mask the ammonia in cat urine, your home will smell like a litter tray. You can neutralize the impact by doing the following:

  • Clean the litter box regularly. Just because you cannot see or smell waste, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. If left too long, urine will seep into the litter and start to stink. Scoop your cat’s litter at least once daily, and completely change it at least twice weekly. You should also change the box around once a year. Cats like to dig, and their claws may create grooves that the smells cling to.
  • Buy the highest-quality cat litter that you can afford. Not all brands of cat litter are equal. Some of the cheaper brands do not have any discernable scent-masking properties. Invest in a higher standard of litter.
  • Use a litter box deodorizer. Any reputable pet store will sell sprays that neutralize the smell of pee in cat litter. Alternatively, sprinkle a little baking soda over the litter. It does the same job for a fraction of the price. Never use bleach. This will create another strong smell, as well as being harmful to your cat.
  • Keep the litter box by an open window. If the odor of a litter box cannot breathe and dissipate, it will keep getting stronger. Ensure that there is ventilation.

Of course, you could also use room diffusers and air fresheners. Just remember that cats have a very strong sense of smell. If you spray too many artificial chemicals in a room, they will not like it.

Male Cat Urine vs. Female Cat Urine

Male cat urine is much stronger-smelling than female cat urine. It is especially prominent if your cat has not been neutered. This is due to the presence of testosterone in male cat bodies.

Cats are possessive by nature, and thus like to spray to mark their territory. Once a cat has been neutered, they are less likely to engage in this behavior. It will not eradicate it, as cats still possess their base instincts. However, you should find that the spraying is less commonplace.

If you have a male cat in your home, the smell is something that you may have to adapt to. Pick up a higher quality cat litter, and consider another external source to mask the scent. If you have male and female cats, offer them separate litter boxes. Your female cats may be just as disturbed by the stench of ammonia as you.

Just because you have a female cat, however, your home will not be scent-free. A female cat that has not been neutered will enter heat, and spray at will.

What Can I Give My Cat for Strong Urine?

In addition to masking the scent of ammonia, you could minimize its impact. There are a handful of lifestyle changes that will aid this process. Encouraging your cat to drink more is one.

You could also try the following:

  • Get your male cat neutered. It’s a complete no-go if you plan to breed your cat. However, male cats have very pungent urine. Once they have been neutered, they are less driven by testosterone. This will make their pee a little less pungent.
  • Vary your cat’s diet. Cats are naturally carnivorous, so many of their meals are chicken-based. This is fine, but the protein within chicken creates a crystalline compound called urea. This is then eliminated in urine, and smells like ammonia. If you alternate your cat’s diet with salmon, they’ll still get a protein fix without urea. Dry food is also more likely to cause strong urine. If you exclusively feed your cat kibble, consider offering them wet food. Raw food may be even better, if you can afford it.
  • Regular grooming. This is particularly important for older cats. As cats age, their mobility diminishes and are less able to groom themselves. As cats are naturally very clean, this can cause them stress. Also, the smell may be urine clinging to a cat’s fur. Give your senior cat a regular once-over with unscented wet wipes to prevent fur from becoming greasy and clumpy.
  • Keep your cat calm. If you have an anxious cat, such as a rescue, they may be easily stressed. A treatment such as Rescue Remedy is safe for cats, and will have a calming influence.

Cats will always need to urinate, so there will always be a smell. However, if you manage ammonia levels and clean their litter regularly, it will be manageable.

litter box smells like ammonia

Can Ammonia from Cat Urine Make You Sick?

Ammonia doesn’t just smell foul; it’s also an irritant. Anybody living with respiratory conditions like asthma or bronchitis will struggle should never breathe in ammonia.

Some side effects of ammonia in cat urine for humans include a runny nose, itchy and inflamed skin and red, streaming eyes. This is just another reason why ammonia in cat urine should be minimized and disposed of.

How Do You Get Toxoplasmosis from Cat Litter?

Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic condition found in animal waste that can have severe health implications. Some of the side effects, as explained by the CDC, include blindness.

Humans can contract toxoplasmosis by handling soiled cat litter without gloves. The ammonia found in cat litter can increase the risk of contracting the condition.

The good news is that it can take up to five days for toxoplasmosis to take form. Changing cat litter regularly, washing your hands with soapy water afterward, minimizes the risk of exposure.

Dealing with urine is nobody’s favorite part of owning a cat, but it’s vitally important. Perhaps more than any other animal, cat pee has a very distinct scent.

On the plus side, you can turn this to your advantage. As soon as the first tell-tale smell of cat urine reaches your nose, clean it up. This will keep you, and your feline companion, happy and healthy.