Does Wood Pellet Cat Litter Smell? How Does it Manage Odor?

Wood pellet cat litter has a mild, natural smell, best described as warm and earthy. Pine pellets will smell crisp and sweet, like Christmas pine trees. Cedar pellets smell woodsy and smoky, like pencil shavings. The exact scent will vary depending on the type of wood.

Their mild, natural scent and natural antimicrobial properties place wood pellet cat litter among the most effective types of litter at managing odor. With proper care, a wood pellet litter box will smell much better than a clay litter box.

Do wood & pine pellet litter boxes stink?

Wood pellets are among the most effective litters at controlling the smells of urine and ammonia, but not so great at managing the odor of feces. With proper upkeep, wood pellets are among the least stinky varieties of cat litter.

Wood pellets are great at managing the odor of urine

When compared to traditional clay clumping litter, wood pellets do a much better job of managing the odors of urine and ammonia.

When wet, wood pellets dissolve into sawdust which traps and neutralizes odor. Certain types of wood (like pine and oak) have natural antimicrobial properties, which suppress odor causing bacteria.

Clay cat litter, on the other hand, does nothing to actually manage odor. It simply tries to overpower smells with strong perfumes.

Wood pellets are less effective at managing the smell of feces

A major downside of wood pellet litter is that it doesn’t do quite as good a job of controlling the odor of feces.

Smells travel by a process called diffusion, in which odor particles randomly spread through the air. 

When buried in clay litter, the small pieces of clay form a more tightly-packed seal around feces, allowing fewer odor particles to escape. Pellets, being much larger, allow more open airways through which odor particles are free to diffuse.

Making matters worse, cats are much less likely to bury their poop in pellet litter. Some cats, particularly senior cats, heavier cats, and declawed cats may avoid burying their waste in pellets because the coarse texture is uncomfortable on their paws

Proper care will help to reduce litter box smell

Purple scoop in pellet cat litter

To keep your wood pellet litter box smelling good, a consistent cleaning routine is important.

  • Sawdust should be sifted at least once daily.
  • Solid waste should be removed as soon as possible.
  • Pellets should be changed about once every four weeks.
  • When you change the litter, wash the litter box with water and a mild detergent.
  • Replace plastic litter boxes every six months or so. Plastic will absorb odor.

Learn more ways to make your wood pellet litter box smell better.

What do wood & pine pellet cat litters smell like?

Wood pellet cat litter has a mild, natural scent. The exact smell and potency varies with the type of wood used. Softwood pellets, like pine and cedar, will have a bit of a stronger scent. Hardwood pellets, like oak, are more subdued. 

Fluffy cat laying on wood stump

Pine, the most common type of wood pellet litter, has a smell that is often described as sharp, crisp, and sweet. Think Christmas trees. Cedar has a smell that could be described as woodsy and slightly smoky. Think pencil shavings or a fine cigar box.

Whatever type of wood pellet you use, expect the warm, earthy scent, commonly associated with wood. 

Wood pellets aren’t scented with artificial fragrances

The synthetic fragrances found in some types of cat litter can be irritating, and potentially harmful, to cats.

Because most cat litters do little to actually manage smell, artificial fragrances are sometimes added to mask unpleasant odors. Litter boxes get nasty pretty quickly, so the fragrance needs to be pretty overpowering to be effective.

Unfortunately, a cat’s sense of smell is much stronger than a humans. About 14 times stronger.

As a result, these fragrances can be overwhelming and irritating to our pets. 

Dropper adding liquid to test tube

What’s worse is that these artificial fragrances are loosely regulated, their long-term effects unknown. 

Cats regularly inhale litter dust during use, ingest litter particles during grooming, and absorb the chemicals found in cat litter through their paws. Lacking the appropriate enzymes needed to break down many common chemicals, combined with their relatively small size, cats are particularly prone to the harmful effects of many chemical compounds. 

Allergic reactions, respiratory distress, nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms may occur.

When it comes to our pets, a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach is recommended, which means avoiding any litter containing artificial fragrance.

Wood pellet cat litters are naturally scented, and free of any questionable synthetic compounds.

Does pine litter control odor?

Pine litter is great at controlling the odors of urine and ammonia. The mild, natural scent of pine helps to mask odor, while the antimicrobial properties of pine help suppress odor causing bacteria.

Do pine pellets cover the smell of cat poop?

Though pine pellet cat litter is great at managing the odors of urine and ammonia, it isn’t so great at covering the smell of poop. While the mild, natural pine scent will help mask some odor, the large size of the pellets allow more odor particles to diffuse than with a granular litter.

To minimize odor, scoop solids as soon as possible.

Final thoughts

Wood pellets are naturally scented, inheriting the smell of whatever wood they’re made from. They naturally suppress odor-causing bacteria, making your litter box smell more pleasant to both you and your cat. 


About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.