An idea on reducing litter tray odour in multi-cat households and saving money

One of the big problems in multi-cat homes is keeping down litter tray odours. Ideally you need one litter tray per cat plus one (Jackson Galaxy). Depending on the number of cats it can be quite a lot of work keeping the odours down. It might even be impossible, which is why my neighbours home spells awful! Ammonia leaks out of it like a poison. I feel sorry for the cats. Odour management is vital I would have thought in multi-cat households.

Catio with outside toilet for the cats
Image by MikeB based on an image in the public domain as assessed.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

But a method to reduce these odours occurred to me this morning which may appeal to one or two caregivers who have a several cats to care for.

Catio with outside toilet

You build a catio attachment to your home which extends into the backyard (back garden). The ground underfoot is earth and grass. The catio is covered. It contains the usual climbers and other interesting hiding places and platforms etc.

As it is built into the garden it facilitates the option to construct an outdoor toilet within the catio near the fencing at the farthest point from the house i.e. the point where the catio meets the backyard proper.

An outdoor toilet would reduce or even eliminate the need for indoor litter trays required in a multi-cat home. They can be constructed fairly easily to make them low maintenance and they’d be available year-round in a place where the fumes can be wafted away by the fresh air coming into and passing out of the catio as the side farthest from the home is entirely open to the outside except for the wire fencing to keep the cats in and safe.

It may mean extending the catio so that it is bigger than initially envisaged to accommodate the cat toilet area. In essence it is about having the cats’ toilet as near as possible outside the home where it can be ventilated. That’s the theory behind the idea.

Depending on the number of cats in might be necessary to have the catio extended into the backyard to allow the fumes to disperse away from neighbouring homes. The neighbours are the biggest concern I’d argue. You have to maintain neighbour relations.


It may be advisable to have a run from the catio to the rear of the backyard where the toilets could be sited under a mini-covered enclosure. I am thinking of neighbours again. Although I’d expect very few people to consider this as viable. Too complicated. Too much trouble and expense. But it is important to have good systems in place to keep the peace with neighbours. Smelly homes are a problem for neighbours and the solution for the smelly home owner is not to close the windows 24/7. That just makes the interior intolerable for everyone including the cats.

Of course, the fumes can be managed by frequent attention to the outdoor cat toilet. Perhaps it should be cleaned up twice daily. This is about a commitment to finding a quality compromise solution that all parties including the cats find acceptable.

Outside toilet construction

Dig a hole that is about 40 cm deep and 100 cm square or larger depending on the number of cats. You can also build a series of smaller toilets.

Fill the toilet with playground quality, white sand not the ‘sharp’ builders’ sand (yellow/orange). Sand is cheaper than cat litter substrate so you save money. And the planet :). Cat litter can be pretty damaging to the planet as it has to be dug up and when used it is tossed into landfill.

How do you make cat litter environmentally friendly?

You use the litter scoop in the usual way to remove feces. The urine passes through the sand into the earth below. That’s how I see it.

You can refresh the toilet every few months by replacing the sand.

The project combines some important aspects of a multi-cat home:

  • A home which is more environmentally enriched thanks to the catio which is a nice compromise between letting cats go out unsupervised or keeping them inside full-time. Both methods of cat caregiving have weaknesses. For people who want peace of mind with a reducing in guilt (if they feel it) because they’ve kept their cats inside which is unnatural and it does create issues from the cat’s perspective such as compressed home range and consequential inter-cat aggression.
  • Deals with probably the biggest headache in multi-cat homes: minimising odours. Owners of cats in multi-cat homes get used to the smells. Neighbours don’t. And I’ve always believed that it is unhealthy for cats and humans to breath in ammonia fumes from urine 24/7. This can’t be acceptable from a health standpoint.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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