A cat looking up from his litter box.
A cat looking up from his litter box. Photography ©ZoranMilisavljevic83 | Getty Images.

Wondering How Often to Clean a Litter Box? Check Out Our Tips

See advice on how often to clean a litter box, including when to scoop, add new litter — and when to completely throw out your litter box and get a new one.

I know, I know: Cleaning the litter box is about at the bottom of the list of “fun things to do for your cat.” But it’s crucial to know how often to clean a litter box if you don’t want to have a hurricane of pee and poop stink everywhere except the litter box. So how do you get the most out of your litter — and your litter box?

These tips represent the minimum to do to keep your cat happy, and they’re based on clumping cat litter. If you use non-clumping litter, you will have to clean more frequently, as that type of litter tends to accumulate odor faster than clumping varieties. With that in mind, here’s the scoop on how often to clean a litter box.

How Often to Clean a Litter Box: Take Out Clumps and Feces Daily

Litter box scoops.
Dispose of clumps and poops in the litter box every day. Photography ©worldofstock | Getty Images.

Clean clumps and feces out of the litter box at least once a day. I try to do this chore once in the morning and once at night. After all, kitties like clean toilets. It’s a good idea to top off the litter box every few days to make up for the clumps you removed.

Do not flush clumps! In my experience, even some litters that say “flushable” might clog your waste pipes and septic system. Plumbing systems vary. Trust me, you do not want to deal with the results of a clog; I have, and it wasn’t pretty.

How Often to Clean a Litter Box: Dump Everything Out and Rinse It Weekly or Biweekly

Dump the entire contents of the litter box and rinse out any dust with warm water weekly or biweekly. Dry thoroughly, then add the cat litter. Put a little baking soda or cat-specific odor control product on the cat litter to boost the odor control. My cats prefer their litter to be 2 to 3 inches deep, but different cats have different preferences.

Sweep or vacuum around your litter box. If you use a litter mat, vacuum any particles out of that, too.

Don’t dispose of used cat litter in compost. Unless the compost is getting warm enough to kill bacteria and parasites, you run the risk of having dangerous stuff in that compost. Instead, discard it with your regular garbage.

How Often to Clean a Litter Box: Give the Litter Box a Good Scrub Monthly

Someone cleaning or sweeping with a cat.
Give your litter box a good, thorough cleaning each month. Photography ©pedphoto36pm | Getty Images.

Dump the entire contents of the litter box and give it a good washing. Use a sponge and dish detergent (preferably unscented) or a mild cleaner specifically made for litter boxes in order to avoid leaving tiny scratches in the box’s plastic.

Dry the box thoroughly and add new litter — plus a little baking soda. Also, place a box of baking soda near your cat’s litter box to control odor. Keep an eye on your cat to make sure she isn’t playing with the baking soda box. If she does, remove it.

I live in an apartment, so the best place I have to clean out my litter boxes is the bathtub. If you have a laundry sink or the ability to wash your litter box outdoors, that’s usually the best choice. If you clean your litter box in the bathtub, you’re going to have to clean your bathtub after you clean the litter box.

Do not use bleach cleaners on the litter box. Cats find this scent too strong. Some cats might be sensitive to citrus-scented cleaners, too. You don’t want your cat to avoid the litter box because of cleaning odors. Don’t use ammonia, either, as that will strengthen any urine odors rather than removing them. Powdered abrasive cleaners like Ajax can leave scratches in the box’s plastic, too.

How Often to Clean a Litter Box: Buy a New Litter Box Every Year

Buy a new litter box every year. After a year, the scratches in the plastic from your cat’s claws and any cleaning products you used will do more to hold odor than eliminate it.

If you use an automatic litter box, replace the waste receptacle and rake at least once a year — depending on how many cats you have. Disposable litter boxes can last at least four weeks.

How Often to Clean a Litter Box — When You’re Pregnant

A pregnant woman and a cat.
What about pregnant women cleaning litter boxes? Photography ©Osobystist | Getty Images.

There’s a lot of fear-mongering when it comes to pregnant women and cat waste, and the vast majority of it is unfounded. While it is possible to contract toxoplasmosis from cat litter, it’s only possible during very short windows of time. Nevertheless, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you’re pregnant (or your immune system isn’t up to par, either because of disease or because of immunosuppressant medications), consult your doctor. At minimum, wear a new pair of medical gloves whenever you handle the litter box and litter utensils. A mask will help you keep any wayward particles from getting into your respiratory system and causing trouble.

If you follow these simple tips on how often to clean a cat litter box, you’ll have happy cats and a stink-free home.

Thumbnail: Photography ©ZoranMilisavljevic83 | Getty Images.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Catster magazine. Have you seen the new Catster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting area of your vet’s office? Click here to subscribe to Catster and get the bimonthly magazine delivered to your home.

About the author

JaneA Kelley is the author of the award-winning cat advice blog Paws and Effect and a contributing writer at Catster.com. She is a volunteer with Diabetic Cats in Need, a nonprofit that helped save her diabetic cat’s life.

Read more about cat litter box issues on Catster.com:

13 thoughts on “Wondering How Often to Clean a Litter Box? Check Out Our Tips”

  1. Pingback: Only Kats Aliso Viejo, CA Cat News: 5 Tips for Controlling Cat Litter Tracking and Scattering – Only Kats News | Aliso Viejo, CA

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  3. margaret anderson

    My cat is a big boy and uses his litter box several times a day. If I am home all day I clean it as soon as I see he has used it. Have just done this for years, no big deal. I look at it like if I had to use a litter box and it did not get cleaned but every other day would I not be stepping in my own poop and pee and tracking it all over the house. Remember cats are very clean and they will start going elsewhere if you are to lazy to keep the box clean.

  4. I just saw this litter box air filter at a friend’s house, and for the first time, her apartment did not stink. It sat on top of the box and sucks air through the vent. Then I got one for my cat because my boy friend says my apartment stinks (I don’t think so but, oh well). He says it works great. It’s called Purrified Air. I got it from their website at purrifiedair.com.

    1. Your Not Suppose to use covered litter boxes. It really does cause anxiety. I always put myself in my cats position and then understand that it is for the owners sake and not for the best for your cat. What benefit is covering the litter box for a cat? They cannot swing around and get into the needed positions to go potty. Especially when you have other pets as it causes them to be cornered and held hostage when they need to feel the most safe. Please remove the dome!!! Please do whats best for your cat if you love and care for them.

    2. Your Not Suppose to use covered litter boxes. It really does cause anxiety. I always put myself in my cats position and then understand that it is for the owners sake and not for the best for your cat. What benefit is covering the litter box for a cat? They cannot swing around and get into the needed positions to go potty. Especially when you have other pets as it causes them to be cornered and held hostage when they need to feel the most safe. Please remove the dome!!! Please do whats best for your cat if you love and care for them.

  5. I have a cat with kidney disease :( who likes to urinate right at the entrance of the litter box.

    She literally goes in, tail still sticking out, does her thing – and then backs out; quite a hilarious thing to witness, as she fumbles blindly behind her with her back foot to find the exit. Every. Single. Time.

    And my goodness does she pee buckets right up against the entry side wall. So, due to this health issue and its side effects of excess urination, I clean the litter box at least every night and often twice a day.

    Once clumps and cement buildup is removed, I shift all the litter to the back side and wipe down the front (entryway side) with vinegar – made homemade vinegar wipes out of paper towel roll cut in half. I let that dry and then spread the litter back out.

    And trust me, there is no getting around this; we’ve explored. One void alone oversaturates the litter especially when up against the edge of the litter box… it just comes with the territory of kidney disease. :(

    When I need to add new litter, which is multiple timed a week due to her output, I push all the old litter to where my sweet girl pees right up front because it’ll be saturated and ready for scooping in no time. I rotate that way a few times a week: pouring the new litter in the cleaned and vinegar-wiped back of the litter box, and pushing old litter to the daily-wiped down front of the box. I wipe down above the litter area to remove dust each time, too.

    I also keep a tiny dustpan near the litter box and sweep up daily after the night time scoop. I keep a broom right in the entry to my bathroom because scatterproof litter or mats are a lie. ;) I sweep any tracked litter towards the litter box corner and sweep it up with the dust pan in the evening.

    It’s a process, but keeps the litter box incredibly clean and keeps me and my girls happy!

    I try to pretend I’m a little kid simply playing in a sandbox to make the process a little easier. It kind of works… good in theory anyway. ;)

    I also LOVE my litter box with a clear lid; I can sometimes catch and watch their habits and watch for any struggling, straining, or normal business habits – without them really knowing (litter box is behind a curtain in my apartment bathroom).

    This clear lid – possible TMI – It was incredibly helpful to identify the one time my “kidney” cat had explosive diarrhea that actually splattered the LID! It was due to her sudden and immediate taking to KD food and refusing to eat her old food – just too much change for her belly all at once.

    Worth noting because if it had been a solid lid I may not have seen how bad her situation was, never mind no lid… eek!

    Bonus: they sort of look like they’re in the Jetson’s mobile with the clear lid and it’s pretty darn hilarious.

    I share details in hopes I can help another lover of furry friends who may be dealing with a cat with varying health issues like myself.

    She’s so worth it and I’m proud to be able to do the best I possibly can for her!

    1. margaret anderson

      It would appear you take great care of your kitties. Not many people go to this extent. I know family members that leave the box for days and there is no excuse for that. I had a cat with kidney issues and she did the same thing.

    2. Please use a large size litter box like a low under the bed storage box. Never cover them as they cannot swing their selves around to properly go potty. I have a 15 year old and deaf cat who has explosive runs also. I do what ever it takes to make her end times as comfortable as possible. Please do the same! Please.

  6. We put a 3 mil. Home Depot contractor clean up bag down and the cat litter in it in the box. Scoop daily etc. But then monthly trash the entire litter contents then start over.
    Has worked great for years and no dust ever.

  7. I clean out clumps twice a day, morning and night. I scrub with Dawn once a week. I put the baking soda on the bottom of the clean litter box. I then add 2-3 inches of new litter. The baking soda makes it much easier to clean the clumps from the bottom. The scooper just slides across the bottom, with the baking soda.

  8. I use the very large and. deep heavy foil pans made for oven cooking then disposal. I change them frequently. Have used them for many years, paula

    1. That is an absolutely genius idea!!! I’ve had cats my entire life and this is by far the best cat tip I’ve ever read!! ????????

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