How Far Away Can a Cat Smell Its Litter Box?

It’s a situation no one wants to find themselves in the middle of confronting. Somehow, your shy indoor kitty managed to get out of the house and hasn’t come home yet.

You give her until the end of the day to go back, but as the sun sets and starts to appear in the darkening sky, you begin to worry.

Your cat hasn’t come home!

You worry about what you can do to bring your cat home. The last thing you want is to tell your children your cat met the neighbor’s dog and lost the fight.

As you search the internet to figure out what to do, you come across a pro tip with kitty litter.

The article claims you need to lay your cat’s dirty kitty litter all over your yard to get your kitty to come home. You’re desperate to get your cat home, but you stop and think about this.

Does this trick work?

How far away can a cat smell its litter box anyway?

Will putting a lost cat’s litter box outside help it find its way home?

No matter how desperate you are, you shouldn’t leave your cat’s dirty litter box outside.

If anything, you’ll end up reducing the chances of your cat coming home sooner.

Not only will we explain why this won’t work, but we’ll give you some tips for finding your lost cat faster than dirty kitty litter.

How far away can a cat smell its litter?

Let’s get this first question out of the way. Most life hack websites swear cats can smell their kitty litter from a mile away.

However, there isn’t any scientific proof of this being true.

The farthest a cat can smell is a few hundred feet, and that’s if the weather is good. If the weather is windy, it’ll be harder for your cat to smell her litter box.

Many people on the internet swear the dirty litter hack works to bring their cats home.

Most of the time, the cats come home on their own anyway. If anything, the dirty litter box could’ve delayed the cats coming home.

Laying out the dirty litter was nothing more than a coincidence for these owners.

Why don’t you want to do the dirty litter trick?

Both indoor and outdoor cats aren’t going to stray too far from their homes. As we mentioned above, your cat will come home on its own because of its temperament or because it’s in a situation where it can go home.

For example, your cat could’ve gotten stuck in your neighbor’s garage for a while and finally managed to get herself free. It’s a lazy way to get your cat to come home.

Will cat litter attract stray cats?

One of the scarier reasons to not leave your cat’s dirty litter outside is the other animals around your home. If you’re in an area with a lot of outdoor or stray cats, this could make your cat’s attempt at coming home more dangerous.

The scent of your cat’s dirty litter could start attracting other cats to your house. Some of these cats could be so aggressive your cat won’t feel safe trying to come home.

Cats are territorial creatures, and giving outdoor cats a chance to start a territorial feud could leave your cat traumatized or seriously hurt after a fight with one of these cats.

If you live in a more rural area, other cats might not be the problem.

The problem could be attracting more predatory animals to your home. A cat’s instinct is to bury its poop to keep its predators from smelling its poop. If predatory animals can smell a cat’s poop, they’ll know there’s a tasty meal around for them to eat.

Like with the more aggressive tomcats, the predatory animals lurking around the dirty kitty litter could make your cat feel your home isn’t safe anymore.

This could also lead to your cat being killed. That’s the worst thing you want to happen to your cat.

How to get your lost cat to come home?

Instead of leaving out dirty kitty litter and seeing what happens, there are safer alternatives to getting your cat home faster.

Use pictures of your cat and get the word out. The traditional way is to leave flyers with your cat’s picture and your contact information if they found your cat.

However, in the time of social media, you can also post your cat’s picture. You can get as many of your friends looking for her as possible.

Keep in contact with your local animal shelter.

It’s possible someone found your cat and turned her into the animal shelter. Make sure you bring a picture of your cat when you first walk in with your contact information so they can call you if they have her.

Typically, animal shelters will keep an animal for 3-5 days before the shelter either put an animal up for adoption or euthanizes them.

Leave out food and a camera to attract your cat home.

This will do two things for you. The smell of food will attract your cat, but it will also attract other cats. Having the camera will tell you if your cat is coming back for the food and if other animals are coming over for a meal.

If there are other cats, they won’t be as aggressive towards your cat as they would be if you left out the dirty kitty litter.

Leave out a humane cat trap.

If you have a shy, skittish lost cat, leaving a humane trap could be the one thing to help her come home the fastest.

Leave the trap outside at night. In the morning, if she goes in the trap, she’ll be waiting for you.

Walk around your neighborhood with her favorite toy or treats.

If she hears you calling her name or the sound of her favorite things, she’ll come back to you.


Losing your cat is scary.

Leaving their dirty kitty litter might sound like a good idea when you’re desperate, but it’s more destructive to bringing your cat home.

If they’re not hurt, they will come back on their own.