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How Often Should You Change Your Cat Litter? (The Answer May Surprise You!)

Posted in: Cat Litter - Last Updated: February 18, 2022 - Author: Rebekah Carter
Posted in Cat Litter 
Last Updated: February 18, 2022  
Author:  Rebekah Carter
cat just used his green standard litter tray

Knowing how often to change cat litter can be challenging. 

On the one hand, you’d probably rather avoid cleaning your cat’s litter box as much as possible – it’s not the most exciting part of being a pet parent. On the other hand, failing to change the litter frequently enough means you end up with a stinky home. 

Learning how often to clean the litter box will help you to keep your home smelling wonderful and fresh. It’s also a great way to reduce your risk of a kitty going to the bathroom outside of the litter tray. After all – no one likes a bathroom that stinks.

Deciding How Often to Change Cat Litter: The Basics

The frequency of your litter changing habits will depend on several factors, including how many cats you have, the kind of litter you use, and how many litter trays you have in your home. If you use a non-clumping litter, you’ll need to change it more frequently than if you’re using a clumping one. Clumping litters allow you to remove waste more easily daily. 

On average, cat parents will keep their home smelling fresh when they scoop the litter box twice per day. If this isn’t an option for you, you should be scooping away any waste at least once per day. When scooping litter, drop the clumps in a sealed bag and take the bag straight out to the trash can.

While removing large clumps regularly is important, cat parents should wash the litter box at least once per week. You can use dish soap and warm water to clean the box, but it’s important to stay away from harsh cleaners like bleach.

litter tray being cleaned out with scoop

What is the Right Way to Change Litter?

Knowing how often to clean litter box messes is just the first step of a good cat care. You’ll also need a strategy for sanitizing the box correctly. Start by setting up a trash can or a bag close by you can pour the litter tray into. If you’re pouring out a lot of litter, you might want to protect yourself by wearing gloves and even a mask. Some litters can kick up a lot of dust, which can make it harder to breathe when you’re cleaning the litter tray.

Step 1: Removing the mess

Scrape out as much of the unwanted muck from your litter tray as possible. You can then fill the empty litter box with hot water and a little dish soap and scrub it clean. Remove any of the remaining clumps stuck to the litter tray this way. You don’t necessarily have to do a full clean every week. Some experts recommend only washing the litter tray once per month.

If you’re struggling to get rid of all the mess, you can make a pretty good natural cleaning agent with some baking soda and warm water. Make sure you rinse all the soap away after cleaning, as cats may be deterred by the smell of soap.

Step 2: Dry the litter box

Next take the litter box outside so it can dry out for a while or wait for it to dry in an undisturbed area, away from the cats. You can use paper towels to help speed up the drying process if necessary. It’s important to ensure the box is fully dry before you add new litter, as otherwise, you’ll end up with new litter stuck to the inside of the tray. 

If you have clumping litter, there’s also a risk that pouring into a wet try will cause it to clump and make the litter practically unusable.

Step 3: Adding your new cat litter

Once you’re sure the litter tray has dried fully, you can begin to add your new litter. Before pouring in the litter, you might decide to add a thin layer of baking soda. This helps to absorb the smells of your cat going to the bathroom if you struggle with scooping every day. You can also find deodorizers for cat litter trays that work in a similar way.

After sprinkling in your baking soda, pour in the fresh litter. Make sure you add the correct amount of litter here. Too much, and you risk wasting a lot of expensive litter. Excessive litter also increases the risk of your cat kicking litter all over the floor and making a mess. Some cats are even reluctant to use a box too full of litter. 

Most cats only need around 2 inches of litter, and you shouldn’t need to add more than four inches to the bottom of the tray, otherwise, your cat might not use the box. Whatever depth you choose, it’s best to be consistent. Your cat can sometimes feel stressed and confused by sudden changes to its litter situation.

Step 4: Make sure you dispose of your litter properly

Remember, when emptying your cat litter or scooping it regularly, you’ll need to ensure you’re disposing of the mess correctly. As tempting as it might be to flush your litter down the toilet, this can significantly damage your plumbing if you don’t have a biodegradable type.

wood pellet cat litter with purple scoop dug in it

How to Scoop Out a Litter Box Daily

Sometimes, you’ll be able to wait even longer than a week between full litter clean-out sessions. Learning how often to change cat litter also means paying attention to your cats’ bathroom habits. However, it’s important to make sure you’re still scooping the majority of the waste out of the box each day. Scooping the litter box daily will reduce the smells in your home and stop waste from being kicked and flicked around your home.

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If your cat doesn’t go to the bathroom very often, you shouldn’t have to devote much time to this daily practice. If you’re using clumping litter, you’ll also find you can scoop away waste much faster, and usually without as many aggressive smells. To scoop daily:

  • Place a trashcan close by: Make sure you have somewhere to deposit the litter you’re scooping. There are some great odor-fighting litter solutions out there, which work similarly to diaper genies to help you reduce your trips to the trash can. If you don’t have one of these products, a can with a bag should be enough.
  • Start scooping: Aim to remove as much of the poop and clumps of litter as possible. Your litter tray should be mostly clean by the time your cats are going to use it again. You can also re-administer any deodorizing products you’re using on your litter, like baking soda or scented powder at this time.
  • Remove the trash: Immediately tie up your bag of cat litter and take it outside to the trash can so you can avoid the smell building up in your home.

The Wrong Way to Change a Litter Box

Finding the right strategy for changing your litterbox can be a little tough. On the one hand, you don’t want to change your litter too frequently, or you could end up spending a fortune on your cat’s bathroom. Alternatively, failure to change the litter often enough puts you at risk of various problems. Not only do you end up with an unwanted smell in your home, but they're are also additional risks to consider, such as:

  • Problems with your cat’s health: Exposure to a dirty litter tray can lead to urine infections and other problems for your cat. The problem may also lead to sickness or force your cat to inhale dirty dust when going to the bathroom.
  • Problems with your health: Leaving your litter trays untouched for too long allows bacteria and germs to thrive and grow. Every time your cat goes to the bathroom, they kick more of that bacterium into the air, exposing you to health issues.
  • Behavioral issues: If your cat doesn’t want to go to the bathroom in a dirty litter tray, they’ll end up looking for alternative options. This often means you end up with waste and urine on your furniture, clothes, and carpet.

When cleaning your litter tray, avoid washing the full tray every day, but make sure you’re removing the clumps and waste you can see as often as possible. Ensure the amount of litter in the tray is suitable for your cats too. Around two to three inches of depth is generally all you need. 

Avoid mistakes like using scented litter products which might drive your cats away from their bathroom. Cats like their litter trays to smell natural (and a little like them). At the same time, stay away from any bleaches or toxic products when cleaning the litter tray, as it’s easy for cats to get residue from these substances in their mouths when they’re cleaning themselves.

tabby cat exiting enclosed litter box

Adopting a Good Litter Box Cleaning Routine

Once you know how often to clean litter box waste (both fully and on a daily basis), you can begin to develop a routine. One thing to keep in mind when you’re planning your cleaning schedule is there are factors that might influence how frequently you need to clean. Some of the most common variables include:

1. Litter type:

The type of litter you choose will make a huge difference in how often you need to clean the litter tray. If you choose a clumping litter, you’ll be able to extract large amounts of urine and waste easily when you scoop your litter tray each day. Alternatively, non-clumping litter allows moisture to sink to the bottom of the tray, so you need to wash the whole thing out a lot more often. 

Many cats prefer clumping cat litter to no cat litter because it’s easier to walk on and made of finer material. However, if you’re looking after new kittens, it’s best to stay away from clumping litter until they grow. Some kittens can eat litter and clumping variations may lead to bowel obstructions.

2. The number of cats:

The number of cats you have will also influence how frequently you clean the litter trays in your home. Usually, you’ll need at least one litter tray per cat in your home, plus an additional litter tray – just in case. This means homes with 2 cats need around 3 litter trays. 

You may notice your cats have preferred litter trays they use every day, while other cats will share litter trays and jump between different boxes depending on their needs. If your cats use certain litter trays more than others, you may need to clean these boxes more frequently.

3. Cat preferences

Just as we have our own preferences when it comes to going to the bathroom, cats can have specific requirements too. Some cats hate traditional clay litters and litter made from wood pellets, whereas others will be happy with any kind of litter, provided it doesn’t smell too terrible. 

If you’re changing your cat litter regularly, and cleaning the tray when you need to, but your cat still goes to the bathroom outside of the litter tray, the issues could be with your cat’s preferences. Some cats are susceptible to smells and need the tray to be cleaned more frequently. There’s also a risk the smell is becoming worse because you have a litter tray placed near a source of heat, so make sure you position the litter trays in your home correctly.

cat using a purple open top litter tray with wood pellets in

FAQs

How do you know how often to change wood pellet cat litter?

Wood pellets don’t need to be changed as often because they dissolve when soiled. However, you should be removing clumps of waste from the litter daily. Consider cleaning your tray out around once per week.

How often should you change the cat litter with multiple cats?

It depends on your cats, but most will appreciate you changing the litter once or twice a week. Watch out for signs of discomfort in your cat, and try changing the litter more frequently if you notice a problem.

How often should you complete change cat litters?

The answer to this depends on a number of variables, including which litter you use, and how often your cat goes to the bathroom. Cat parents can change the litter completely every one to four weeks.

How often should you change cat litter?

Keep an eye on your cat's behavior and pay special attention to any avoidance of the litter tray or instances of going to the bathroom outside of the tray. This could be a sign you’re not cleaning your tray frequently enough, or that there aren’t enough litter trays in your home to suit your number of cats.

How do you know how often to change cat litter crystals?

Check the instructions on your litter tray, but most of the time you’ll be able to replace crystal litters every one or two months.

Keeping Cats Happy with the Right Litter Box Strategy

Keeping your cats happy with the right litter cleaning schedule is a must-have as a pet parent. Aside from knowing how often to change the litter tray, it’s also important to think carefully about the kind of litter you’re going to use, and what kind of litter trays suit your cat best.

You can even reduce the effort involved in cleaning our daily lumps and clumps with products like the arm and hammer sifting litter box. This ensures you can simply lift the sifting tray when it’s time to remove waste each day.

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About the author

Rebekah Carter is a dedicated animal lover. Her Savannah cat, Roscoe, has a lot of attitude, while her Maine Coon, Dukino, is full of love. When not writing, she’s looking after her cats and researching ways to help them live their best possible life. Her passion for animals and natural skill for writing led her to pursue pet blogging.

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