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Woman sitting crossed legged on the ground with a disgusted look on her face spraying something directed at a cat in a litter box. There are smell lines emanating from the litter box.

The Battle of the Odors

My cats bring me such happiness and comfort. Those of you with animals likely know how wonderful it feels to have a little being in your house who loves you unconditionally and often cuddles with you when you aren’t feeling very well.

My life with cats

My two cats, Satchel (a handsome gray tabby) and Cubbie (a solid black dynamo), make me laugh all the time. And having to care for them can keep me in a routine myself. It’s hard to sleep more than I ought to when there are meows of despair or scratching at the bedroom door — the cats are trying to tell me how hungry they are, or how much they want to come in and cuddle.

Cats and their litter boxes

Unfortunately, cats — just like every other animal, including humans — have basic biological needs. They poop and pee regularly, which means that their human must clean up after them. And most cats are rather fastidious and do not like climbing into a litter box that hasn’t been tidied up recently. I mean, would you like to poop in a container that was already marred with waste? I didn’t think so.

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Cleaning the litter box isn't always easy

When I am unwell and cannot clean the litter box as often as I’d like to (bending down can really aggravate my migraine attack), the cats sometimes go to the bathroom nearby but not in the litter box. The boys are trying their best to follow house rules, which I appreciate. But the rumors about cat pee are true: It. Smells. Horrible.

Eliminating the smell of urine

Cat urine reeks of ammonia and can make an entire house smell if it’s not taken care of right away. And it can’t be cleaned up with an ammonia-based cleaner — that just increases the chance that the cats, who are driven by scent, will pee in that same place again. One must use ammonia-free, enzymatic cleaner to fully eradicate the cat pee smell and clean up the mess.

A migraine-friendly deodorizing cleaner

But here’s the rub: The options for enzymatic cleaner, at least at my local pet store, are limited. I went to buy some recently and was disappointed to see that the usual bottle I bought was no longer being made. Instead, I purchased a similar product that boasted a “new, fresh scent.” I wasn’t able to smell the cleanser (it was sealed), but I figured it had to be better than the smell of cat pee.

Except it wasn’t, in a way.

Blessed and cursed with a strong sense of smell

True that the average human would prefer to smell a flowery cleaning product than even a half-cup of cat urine. But we migraineurs are not average humans — and we’ve been both blessed and cursed with a sense of smell that is far more attuned to the world than most people’s.

What do you do?

What do you do when you need to eradicate a gross, non-migraine-triggering odor or stain but your only available option is to use a chemical that will likely trigger a migraine? This is a catch-22 I am unlucky enough to deal with in my home, and I’m over it. I did find a slightly better-smelling enzymatic cleaner, but even that one can get on my nerves if I’m not feeling well when I use it.

Do you animal lovers have any tips or tricks for me? What do you do when you encounter a battle of the odors?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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