House Smells Like Cat Litter But No Cat? (Possible Causes & Fixes!)

Paige Hanawalt
by Paige Hanawalt
It can be disconcerting when your house smells like a cat but you don’t have a cat in the home. Several things can create a similar smell to a cat in your home such as mold, mildew, and certain plants. Luckily, you can get to the bottom of the smell if you go through a small checklist, so let’s take a look at what can make your home smell like a cat without a cat.

Odors in your home can be frustrating if you can’t find the source. Knowing where to look is half the battle. If you have struggled with your house smelling like cat litter or cat urine, this is the guide you have been looking for.

When your house smells like cat litter but no cat lives with you, it could be due to mold, plants, leaking Freon, sewer gases, spoiled food, or previous pet owners. To get rid of the smell, check for mold, spoiled food, or any leaks in your home. If mold or a gas leak is the problem, consider hiring a professional immediately.

If your home doesn’t smell great, it can be embarrassing to invite friends and family over. While you can cover the odors with air fresheners sometimes, it’s not going to help you resolve whatever is causing it.

Plus, in some cases, when you attempt to mask odors with air fresheners, it can actually make the aroma even worse. Instead, take a look at the tips listed below and check each one off your list until you figure out what the problem is.

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Let’s Talk Mold & Mildew

No one wants to have mold in their home, and it’s understandable! Oddly enough, it is very common for mold to smell like cat urine. Mildew can smell like many other things as well, such as wet grass.

If you find your home smells like cat urine, it’s a great idea to give your space a good once-over to see if you can detect any mold. Check crawlspaces and basements because moisture can seep in and wreak all sorts of havoc.

Stick With A Professional

Attics, bathrooms, and ceilings are common places where mold develops too. If you see any evidence of mold, it’s time to go to the next stage…getting a professional in there to have a look.

Even if you don’t uncover any mold yourself, if you suspect mold, the best thing you can do is hire a professional mold inspector. They know what they are looking for and can do air tests to figure out what kind of mold it is and how dangerous it is. Then there will be no question if you have an issue or not.

Plants Could Be The Culprit

Whether you have landscaped your entire yard or you have a few houseplants, there is a chance they may be the culprit. Planting shrubs and various plants add to the charm and character of your home, but sometimes they bring pests and strange aromas.

While you may not want to get rid of the plants, it’s helpful to know if they are what is causing your home to smell like cat litter. Listed below are some common plants that tend to smell like cat urine.

Viburnum Tinus

This stunning plant can grow to be up to 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It’s the mammoth of landscaping plants. They catch your eye with their beautiful white flowers. Additionally, they provide fabulous green foliage that makes a lovely backdrop, so it’s no wonder why so many people plant it.

While the plant doesn’t always have an odd smell, on days when it’s especially humid, or there is rain, it’s much more noticeable. If you don’t have a strong sense of smell, you may not even notice it. But those who smell everything will probably catch a whiff each time it rains.

If the plant is near an open window or entrance of the home, the smell of cat urine may waft into your home. There isn’t much you can do other than live with it the way it is, remove the plant, or keep the doors and windows closed that are near it.


This herb can be used as part of your landscape and has been known to help with anxiety and insomnia.

Green leaves and little purple or pink flowers make it inviting. Just one problem…everything except for the flowers themselves have a strong cat urine odor.

If you have planted valerian, there is a good chance that is why your home is smelling like cat litter even though you don’t have a cat.


With all the farmhouse decor and charm that we all love nowadays, boxwood is increasingly popular. Even though it’s super stylish, most people don’t realize that it has a very strong cat urine odor.

If you have a boxwood wreath hanging in your home, there is a good chance it’s what is causing your home to smell bad.

One option would be to swap indoor boxwood plants with artificial arrangements. Outdoor boxwood plants may not be as offensive unless they are located near a window or door.

Freon Can Be An Issue

If you live in a home that has an older air conditioning unit, it’s possible that it uses Freon. In recent years, the EPA has put a halt to producing air conditioners that rely on Freon. Freon is harmful to the ozone layer, so finding a different chemical is a must.

Because Freon is a gas, it can leak into the air or through your vents. Many people think that the odor of freon is sweet smelling. But it can also smell like paint stripper, ammonia, or cat urine.

If you have any concerns that your air conditioner may be leaking, you need to have a certified HVAC professional inspect it. If that is what is causing the odor, there is a chance you are going to need to replace the air conditioning unit.

Bathroom Problems

If you have a bathroom that doesn’t get used often, once the water evaporates in the drain trap, it can allow the smell of sewer to seep into the house.

Sewer odors can smell very similar to a litter box and are unpleasant. Whether it’s a sink, shower, bathtub, or floor drain, it can leak odors into your space.

To stop the odor, you simply need to run water down all of the drains that aren’t used often. Make sure you do this every few days to prevent it from happening again.

Spoiled Food

We have all been there at one point or another. Spoiled food can lead to some really funky smells. There is a chance that you have old food in your refrigerator or in your pantry.

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic tend to have a very strong aroma when they spoil. If one fell back behind a cabinet shelf or under your refrigerator, it may be hard to pinpoint.

Thoroughly inspect your kitchen and pantry and throw out anything that is outdated or questionable. Odds are, if food is the culprit, you will know as soon as you find it.

Previous Pet Owners

Even if you don’t have cats or pets, it doesn’t mean that the previous owners didn’t. The previous tenants could have had a litter box or pets that had accidents in the home.

If this is the case, there are many things you may need to do to get rid of the odor. It will take time, energy, and possibly money to make it happen. Follow these steps to get your home in top shape:

Removing Pet Odors

Step 1: Wipe everything down. While you probably already wiped everything down when you moved in, it’s a good idea to do it again. Use odor eliminating cleaners like vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. Clean the inside and outside of cabinets, wipe down walls, clean the baseboards and all other surfaces in the home. It may seem extreme, but if there has been pet dander in the vents, it can blow all over the home when the heat and air are running. Then it settles on surfaces and can lead to odors.

Step 2: Have the carpets professionally cleaned. You may be tempted to do it yourself, but hiring a professional is the way to go for this type of situation. If the carpets can’t get cleaned properly, there is a chance that you may need to replace them. This can be costly, depending on how large your space is. It’s a good idea to try deep cleaning the carpet first if replacing it is not in your budget.

Step 3: Open the windows and air the home out. Fresh air can do wonders for eliminating smells throughout your home. You will need to open them as much as possible until the odors are gone.

Step 4: Have your vents cleaned. It’s best to hire a professional to clean out the air ducts. Dust and dander can build up and cause some strange smells in your home.

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Summing It Up

There are many odors that can cause your house to smell like cat litter, even when you don’t have a cat. Whether it’s a serious concern like a leaking air conditioner or mold or it’s a simple fix like cleaning your fridge, it’s fixable. It may take some effort depending on the cause, so don’t give up because it will be worth it.

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Paige Hanawalt
Paige Hanawalt

Paige is an elementary school librarian with a passion for writing. Her hobbies include reading an exorbitant amount of fantasy, slowly teaching herself to draw, and home decor. While she isn't the most talented artist or interior designer, what she lacks in skill she more than makes up for in enthusiasm. When she's not curled up with a book, you can certainly find her curled over the keyboard.

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