How Often Should You Clean the Litter Box?


When it comes to litter boxes, cleanliness truly is next to godliness. Cats are fastidious creatures. Using a dirty litter box is, at best, uncomfortable for them, and at worst, will cause them to eliminate outside the box.

A dirty litter box, to a cat, is the same as a public restroom with unflushed toilets and toilet paper all over the floor is to us. How many times have you walked out of a restroom like that without using it, no matter how badly you needed to go?

Keeping a clean litter box is one of the responsibilities of being a good cat parent. The following recommendations are based on the assumption that you use some sort of clumping litter, regardless of which type.

Scoop solid waste at least twice a day

Remove urine clumps and feces at least twice a day, or more frequently if you’re home. If you can scoop as soon as your cat has finished doing his business, that’s great, but be aware that with some types of clumping litter, the clumps may be firmer after they’ve sat a while, so if you scoop too soon, it’s going to be harder to get the clumps without them breaking apart.

Refill litter as needed

Refill your litter box with fresh litter to maintain a height of two to three inches at all times.

Clean the entire box once a month

Once a month, dump out any remaining litter and thoroughly clean the litter box. Use hot water and a mild, unscented soap (such as a dish detergent) and scrub thoroughly. Do not use harsh, scented chemical cleaners or ammonia. Cats are very sensitive to scent, and any lingering detergent smells may deter them from using the box.

Replace litter boxes every six months to a year

No matter how well you clean, the porous plastic will start to break down and eventually absorb bacteria. Plan on replacing litter boxes completely after 6 months to a year. The frequency of replacement will depend on the type of plastic, quality of the litter box, and how many cats you have and how frequently they use the box.

Litter additives

While litter additives can help keep your box clean longer, be careful about which ones you choose so you don’t inadvertently create a litter box aversion. Use enzyme or probiotic based products with no added scent. Baking soda is an inexpensive litter additive that provides good odor control.

Liners and litter mats

Even though litter box liners make clean up easier, most cats don’t like them. Be careful about using litter mats. These mats are designed to trap litter so it doesn’t track, but the rough surface of some of these mats are hard on soft kitty paws and can lead to litter box avoidance for some cats.

Our favorite litter box and litter

Our favorite litter box is the NVR Miss. Ruby is a vertical pee-er (who, for some weird reason, also likes to sleep next to the box sometimes!), and this is the only box I was able to find that was high enough to prevent urine from going over the sides.

Two alternatives to the NVR Miss with similar dimensions, but about half an inch lower, are the Nature’s Miracle High-Sided Litter Box and the LitterMaid High Sided Pan, both available from Amazon with free shipping for Prime members.

I do not recommend covered or automatic litter boxes.

Despite the availability of many alternative litters, the best cat litter that I’ve found, and have used for many years, is Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat. This clay litter clumps harder than any other litter I’ve tried, it has virtually no dust, and, most importantly, cats like it. If you want to experiment with different types of litters, always make sure you keep the original litter that your cats are currently using in at least one box. A word of caution: if you don’t have litter box problems, don’t tempt fate by offering different litters. You may inadvertently create a problem by confusing your cats.

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