Cat Product Review: Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators

Rochester

I, Rochester, am a very intelligent cat, even by cat standards. I am also a very “senior” cat, with vast experience in the ways of the world and of human behavior. That said, it should come as no surprise that someone should ask me to evaluate a new product. Actually, they asked a member of my staff to do it, and that person committed me to the project without so much as asking me. I’m a little irritated that she took such a liberty, but she’s been with me for many years and her level of service is usually acceptable, so I relented and agreed to do this small favor.

I should preface this review by saying that the people who made this product, and those whose job it is to promote it, were very polite and helpful. I wanted to be able to say good things about it. However, I am first and foremost a cat of honor, not to say nobility, and if I must find fault with a product, I will do my duty, no matter how unpleasant that might be.

The product is Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators. The idea behind its development is a pretty good one. The Arm & Hammer folks spent some time watching people cleaning their cats’ litter boxes, and noticed that they didn’t make a particularly good job of it. They missed clumps of used litter, and had a tendency to leave litter in the box long after it had outlived its usefulness. The company decided to develop a litter that would change color on contact with urine, so that people could easily see what needed scooping. Also, as colored litter builds up in the box, it signals when it’s time to dump the old litter and start anew.

My staff and I tested the product for several days. It does indeed do what its developers intended: the indicator crystals change color when I urinate on them. It isn’t dusty and it doesn’t track onto the floor. The color crystals didn’t stain my paws or the carpet. That said, I must also say that our tests were not the unqualified success we were hoping for.

The first problem was the fragrance. I prefer unscented litter myself, although I will accept some mild fragrance, especially in winter when the other feline member of the household (I call him “the stupid baby”) is using the litter boxes as well. Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators is too fragrant. It’s not an unpleasant aroma; it’s just far too much aroma. I can see why one would need a visual odor indicator, because there’s no way one could detect any other odor emanating from a cat box with this product in it. We asked if an unscented version might be on the horizon, but there are no current plans to develop one.

I’m a pretty tolerant sort of cat most of the time, and I can accept the idea that some people might like this fragrance. I can’t really imagine a cat enjoying it, but I suppose anything’s possible. Some cats would rather eat beef than turkey, too. Different strokes.

A second problem with the litter is that it doesn’t really dry… at least not here in coastal New England. My staff isn’t especially fastidious, but they are reasonably good about tending to the litter box, because they know dirty litter is one of my pet peeves… if you’ll pardon the expression. At any rate, although they had no trouble finding the clumps, the litter didn’t dry well enough for them to remove the clumps efficiently. The product coagulated into a gray, mud-like substance with bits of blue crystals in them. The mud stuck to the bottom of the box, and the clumps crumbled at the edges when the staff tried to remove them.

This wet litter proved to be something of an annoyance. I got up to relieve myself late one night and accidentally brushed my tail against one of the wetter clumps. Stupid of me really, but I just don’t have the coordination I had as a young cat and I lost my balance… it happens sometimes. I pulled myself together and stepped out of the box, then realized that my tail was smeared with perfumed mud. I had to wake the staff to have my tail washed. They’re used to answering the after-hours call to action… after all, it’s their job… but I must say that I’m not of an age where an impromptu tail washing in the dead of night does anything to lighten my mood.

On the morning after the tail-soiling incident, I directed the staff to set up a test box in the basement, and to pour a quarter-cup of water in it, to see how long it would take to dry. We started the test at noon on Sunday. It was still very wet, and somewhat crumbly, on Monday night. On Wednesday morning it was still quite wet, but was at least a solid clump.

Another thing we noticed is that in the humid basement, even the crystals in the “dry” area of the test box turned blue. This did not happen with the litter box in the house proper, but it did suggest that if one lives in a very humid climate and does not have air conditioning, the product might have limited usefulness as an indicator of just how dirty the litter box is.

Alas, there’s nothing more to be said. We feel badly about having to give this product the “paws down”. Like everyone else in the world, we use Arm & Hammer products for many household tasks, and we wanted to be able to recommend this latest offering. It might work well in a drier climate, but it didn’t work well for us.

Photo: Patty Richard

28 Responses to “Cat Product Review: Arm & Hammer’s Odor Alert Clumping Cat Litter with Pre-Odor Indicators”

  1. Anonymous says:

    WHAT IS THE CHEMICAL ADDITIVE THAT CAUSES THE COLOR CHANGE?
    AND PRAY TELL, WHAT IS THE COUNTRY OF ORIGIN?
    ONCE BURNED, 100X A SKEPTIC.

  2. Anonymous says:

    What chemical additive(s) cause the color change (obviously by chemical interaction with urine)?
    COUNTRY OF ORIGIN for the chemical(s)?
    Another wonderful amazing harmless product of the petfood/petproduct cartel, in cooperation with friends in big chem/pharma, no doubt.
    ONCE BURNED, 1000 TIMES A SKEPTIC.
    They can keep it.

  3. Tina says:

    Well written - I loved the ‘cat’s perspective’. Would like to read more by this author.

  4. Judy says:

    That sounds nasty to me and why do you need the litter to change color, it is clumping litter. This is pretty simple to me if there are clumps it needs scooped. I don’t think having the litter change color is going to help people either change the litter or they don’t.

  5. Connie says:

    Rochester, I appreciate your professional testing of this product and honest review. I tried the clay form of Arm & Hammer, hoping it was a good litter — alas, the colored crystals in it, I assume the odor control, would turn the white fur on the paws on my cats GREEN. Other than that, I did like their clay litter, but never bought more than that first bag. If I wanted pets with green paws, I’d have frogs.

  6. Maria says:

    “I had to wake the staff to get my tail washed…” Thanks for posting this review. I noticed this new formula because I buy the regular Arm & Hammer clumping litter, but after this review, will stick with what I’m already buying.

  7. ROCHESTER says:

    Anonymous, I had my staff ask those same questions. According to the manufacturer, the crystals are compacted baking soda crystals with a soluble, safe food grade blue dye. When exposed to moisture, the blue dye on the surface of the baking soda crystals is dissolved and turns blue.

    I also directed the staff to inquire about country of origin. The product is manufactured by CHURCH & DWIGHT CO., INC. at their manufacturing plants in Green River, WY and Old Fort, OH. They answered the question about the ingredients in this way: “All raw materials used in Arm & Hammer Odor Alert are sourced in the USA.” That’s very carefully worded, so I wouldn’t take it on faith that the ingredients actually come from the USA, but possibly a distributor in the USA who got the stuff from we know not where.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Rochester: Hmmm. Thanks for that info. Good going.
    “a soluble, safe food grade blue dye. When exposed to moisture, the blue dye on the surface of the baking soda crystals is dissolved and turns blue.”

    So they have to apply the “soluble safe food grade blue dye” to every single crystal in order for the “moistened” crystals to “glow”. That’s a lot of dye. Even food grade dye is a for-profit commodity right? I personally am one of many that question FDA approvals, since, as we’ve come to learn so vividly, they do have friends and benefactors among the very industrial clients whose products desire their stamp of “safety” (whatever that’s worth). Not to belabor the point.

    Again hmmm. “manufactured by …” and “sourced in” equal a great big fat ??BS BS BS?? marker to me.

    keep up the good work itchmo with product reviews for public comment.

  9. ROCHESTER says:

    Thank you, Anonymous, I’m happy to be able to do this small service for Itchmo and my fellow felines.

    On the crystals, I had my personal assistant take a tablespoon of the product and pick out the crystals to see just how much of the total volume of the litter they comprise. I’m afraid that she has a pretty short attention span when it somes to these types of tasks, but her best estimate is that they make up maybe 25-35 percent of the actual litter volume; the rest is bentonite clay. And fragrance.

    I’m not as worried about the phrase “manufactured by” as I am “sourced in”. But I certainly understand that a lack of trust prevails right now when it comes to products for the furry nation. Can’t be too careful.

  10. Badness, Scrappy and Tucker (Bridgett's cats) says:

    Thank you for the review! You did a very good job. Humans can only evaluate cat products from the limited human perspective. We really needed your extensive expertise, especially since litter is such a hot topic for most cats.

    Tucker is currently having litter issues. He vetoed Swheat Scoop. We were thinking of exploring other litter options. After reading your review, however, we can scratch Arm and Hammer off the list.

    Have you previously reviewed Tidy Cats?

    We anxiously await more reviews!

    - Badness, Scrappy and Tucker

  11. MaineMom says:

    Dear Rochester,

    Lincoln and Disco both wish to thank you for sharing your test results and ask if you and your well-trained assistant could put Clorox brand EverClean unscented EverFresh Low Track through your exclusive “box” test. They respect the opinions of their elders, and await your review with tuna-baited breath.

  12. ROCHESTER says:

    Hello Badness, Scrappy, Tucker (and Bridgett), and thank you for your kind words. I’m sorry to learn that Tucker does not like Swheat Scoop, since it’s one of the products I’ve instructed my personal assistant to investigate. I have not reviewed Tidy Cats, although I am very familiar with the product.

    My assistant wrote an overview of cat litter recently that might or might not be helpful for you folks:

    http://www.itchmo.com/getting-.....itter-2348

    There was some very lively discussion on that thread and some good ideas for products that we might look at in the future.

  13. ROCHESTER says:

    Dear MaineMom, I’ll have my assistant make a note of it. I can’t say when we’ll get to review it though, because we live in a very remote area and the staff doesn’t get to go shopping very often. I’ll see that it gets on our list though!

    And thank you to all of the kind folks who took the time to comment on my review. It’s most gratifying to know that the opinion of a senior cat counts for something. Now I must stop dictating (my arthritis prevents me from typing anymore) and see what the staff is preparing for dinner.

  14. Badness, Scrappy and Tucker (Bridgett's cats) says:

    Rochester,

    We liked the idea of Swheat Scoop being more enviromentally friendly and healthier for us cats. But, we found that it didn’t clump hard enough and the clumps broke apart during scooping. Plus it become odoriferous more quickly than clay clumping litter.

    Did someone say tuna?

    - Badness, Scrappy and Tucker

    Ps. Scrappy thinks you are very handsome.

  15. Jenny says:

    Thanks for the review, I especially enjoyed the tail washing. Hope you write more, Rochester.

  16. highnote says:

    I think my only concern would be since this got on the tail is if you tried to lick it off would anything at all be in the product that could make you sick or harm you Rochester. And by the way you are a very handsome cat.

  17. Andrea says:

    Great review!

    I have seven cats so it’s usually a sure bet that the box needs scooped without any fancy color coding.

  18. ROCHESTER says:

    Dear highnote,

    I think you make a very good point. As a very experienced cat, I knew that the staff was better equipped to deal with emergency tail grooming than I. A younger, more impetuous cat in the same situation might not come to the same conclusion.

    The safety of bentonite clay… the type used in clumping litters… has been called into question before. While there’s some anecdotal information to suggest that a problem might exist, we’re not aware of any definitive studies on the matter.

    I’m actually less worried about the baking soda crystals. Baking soda tastes quite awful. Sometimes my personal assistant brushes her teeth with it, and it doesn’t appear to me that she enjoys it very much at all. I don’t believe that most cats would take more than one lick.

    In small amounts, baking soda is considered benign, and historically has been used as an antacid by humans. The food grade dye… well, it’s probably not a great idea to lick it, but since it’s part of the baking soda crystals, I doubt that the average cat will want to anyway.

    I’m glad that you think I’m handsome. I think that you are a very discriminating and tasteful human being.

  19. Kelly says:

    I’ve had problems with their products before…a litter they had out over a year ago where I’ve forgotten the name. I haven’t seen it in awhile and sadly don’t remember specifics just now. It was supposed to be more natural and I decided to test it out on my cats for a 3 day road trip in the car, not a good idea! One of my girls slept in the box most of the way and the litter left her very grimy…then when I gave her a bath the residue from the litter left her slimey. It was a problem with all the of the cats and it was very hard to wash off, never touched the stuff again and haven’t bothered to use any of their products since.

    I’ll be sticking with my Worlds Best Cat Litter….but this was an entertaining read still. I also agree with the comment someone made about Swheat Scoop. My step mother uses it for her cats and I tried it once…it never fully dried and stuck to everything like cold oatmeal, ugh.

  20. MaineMom says:

    Dear Rochester,

    If your assistant can’t find EverClean Low Track near your home, she can order it from Petco.com. Our Mom likes to go to Petco or PetsMart to pick it up because she can frequently get the big promo boxes (with 3 extra lbs.) and we do use it up faster than some petite kitties.

    VTY,
    Lincoln

  21. Senior Cats and Hearing Loss | Itchmo: News For Dogs & Cats says:

    […] or subscribe in a RSS reader.Rochester here. So many nice people wrote in to compliment me on my first-ever Itchmo post that I was inspired to write another article. This time, I will share an intimate secret about […]

  22. Kristy says:

    LOL. This is one of the best reviews I have ever read. Thanks for the info. Look forward to many more.

  23. E. Bashir says:

    I like the unscented Arm and Hammer and so tried the new Odor Alert. To my dismay, it had a strong sickly artificial scent that permeated two rooms of the house. Kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?
    Will not buy again. Stick to the unscented!

  24. Sue says:

    I used Arm and Hammer litter for years. UNFORTUNATELY IT CONTAINS (ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN WEBSITE) BENTONITE WHICH IS TOXIC TO HUMANS AS WELL AS CATS. IT IS NO DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER CLAY LITTER - DANGEROUS………….DON’T USE IT. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND FIND THE BETTER ALTERNATIVES!

  25. Christina says:

    Hello - I came across the site when I googled “Problems with Odor Alert Cat Litter.” My 3 yr. old Bengal kitty dissliked the scent of this brand of litter so much that he relieved himself on my $3,000 Ethan Allen sofa and on my area rug (#2!). I was appaled and spent almost $1,000 to have the sofa professionally cleaned with Dead Sea Salts. I wrote Arm and Hammer, showed them photos, my receitps for the sofa cleaning and requested to be reimbursed for my troubled directly caused by this product. I got the usually corporate-style “its not our fault” letter with coupons to buy more of this stuff! Well, I did not and that was 1 yr. ago and my kitty never had another “outside the litter box” experience again. THANKS FOR NOTHING, Arm-n-Hammer! Buyer BEWARE!

  26. Deborah says:

    I have had cats all my life and I buy a lot of litter I just now tried Arm-Hammer Order Alert and WOW I have to say my house doesn’t seem and it is really great I love it Deb

  27. Jordan says:

    I agree…Arm and Hammer Odor Alert is not good at all. The smell was horrible and the clumps were wet and stuck to the bottom of the litter pan. I will never buy Arm and Hammer again!

  28. Paula says:

    Love your witty review. And I totally agree about Odor Alert. The chemical smell of this product is amazingly strong, even to a human! (Imagine how strong it smells to cats, with their keen sense of smell, and their noses so close to the litter) I tried one box many months ago, and if I recall right, I could smell the chemical odor when I’d first walk in the door to my condo! And the litter pans are all the way down the hall, and I have just two cats (and three pans). … After that experience, I went back to using “plain” unscented Arm & Hammer clumping cat litter (and old-fashioned Tidy Cat), both of which I like — but I’ll NEVER use Odor Alert cat litter again. It’s like having a chemical plant in your home. If Arm & Hammner is smart, they’ll discontinue this variety which seems to be turning people off from the A&H brand of litters in general. (By the way, in general, I think cats prefer UNscented litters. The scents are there just for us humans.)


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