The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

How to Clean a Litter Box

By Lea Jaratz

cat sitting by litterbox

When you become a new cat caregiver, you’re excited about the snuggles and the playtime. You get the kitty toys and treats ready, obsess about picking out their name, and come up with a few cute nicknames too. But no one sets out to become a new cat guardian excited about litter box duty.

Litter box cleaning, if you make it a regular part of your routine, is very do-able. Let the litter box get out of hand and you might be in for a problem.  Because cats hate using dirty litter, they’re more likely to do their business elsewhere if you’re not keeping the box clean.

Here are our best tips and tricks on how to clean a litter box.

How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?

The first rule of thumb is that you’ll want to have at least 1 litter box per cat, plus a spare. So two cats need three boxes, at a minimum. 

Where Should I Put the Litter Box?

The boxes can be in the same area, so you can clean more easily. Basements, bathrooms, and laundry areas are commonly used for litter boxes because they’re easy-to-clean areas, in case your cat misses the box or litter goes flying. 

Make sure the box is easy to access and isn’t around noisy appliances, or your cat may avoid it.

What is the Best Kind of Litter Box?

Unless you know that your cat has a preference for a covered box, start with a basic rectangle tray. This doesn’t have to be pricey. If your cat starts missing the box often or seems to need more privacy, you can try a covered box later.

What is the Best Cat Litter?

Well, it depends. You can ask the shelter or breeder what they used to see if the cat has been using that consistently.  Selecting the right litter may take a bit of trial and error, as there are different types (such as flushable, clumping, all-natural, and scented). Start off with a small bag, enough to put about 3 inches of litter in the box. If your cat seems to use the box regularly, you’re off to a good start. If they’re avoiding it, try a different type.

Most cat shelters have good results with World’s Best, and it’s lightweight, clumping, and made from corn instead of clay, making it eco-friendly.

How Much Cat Litter Do I Need?

Filling the box to the top is only going to waste litter and cause a mess. Fill the bottom up about two to three inches, unless your cat is a digger, in which case you may need four inches.

How Often Do I Clean the Litter Box?

It’s smart to scoop your cat’s mess out twice a day, maybe more often if you don’t have a surplus of boxes. Use a cat litter scoop to clear out the clumps of waste. Add a little clean litter  to replace what was scooped out.

If you’re going to be gone longer than a day, your cat may be okay with additional boxes, or you might want to check out self-scooping litter boxes.

You have options for how to handle the scooped-out mess. Some households do fine with a covered trash can near the litter area. Others prefer a device like a litter genie to seal the odors in. You might prefer flushable litter, but not all of them are safe for every plumbing system.

How Often Do I Change Cat Litter?

Aside from the twice-daily scooping, you’ll need to dump all the old litter, wash the pan, and start with a new batch of litter on a regular basis. How often you empty the box and start from scratch can depend on your cat and other factors. Some homes may need to do this process each week. Clumping litter can generally be used longer than non-clumping, stretching it up to a month between cleanouts.

When it’s time to clean the litter box, dump the contents into a sturdy plastic bag and tie it closed. (Never dump the old litter into the toilet, even if it’s “flushable.”) Use unscented dish soap and hot water to clean the box out, rinse it well, and then air dry or use a paper towel. Refill it with two to three inches of fresh litter.

Once you get into a routine, managing the litter box shouldn’t be a problem. Keeping the box tidy is a small price to pay for a happy kitty.

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