Hygiene

How Often To Change Cat Litter

Wondering how often to change the cat litter box? We get into all the stinky details. Learn all about litter, why cleanliness is crucial, and most importantly, how often to change the cat litter box and more.

Danielle DeGroot

Last Updated: January 5, 2023 | 9 min read

Woman cleaning cat litter tray at home, closeup

How often to change the cat litter box is a huge question among feline owners. Of course, this is a big concern, cats poop a lot, and it often smells. Owners want to ensure they keep their kitty’s bathroom area as clean as possible for hygienic and health reasons. No one wants to have a smelly home, so owners must know how to clean up the kitty’s bathroom area before bringing a purr baby home. Cats are curious creatures and may engage in strange behavior, especially around the bathroom area.

Keeping the kitty area clean is not a matter of simply swapping out the contents for fresh litter every few weeks. This is the wrong way to handle this. Though changing this out can be unpleasant for purr parents, it is an essential part of cat care. If not kept up properly, it can lead to behavioral and health issues in felines.

This is an integral part of your kitty’s life, and we want to help make the process of keeping it in top shape as straightforward as possible. This quick guide discusses how often to change the cat litter box. With the right attitude and information, kitty box maintenance does not have to be the worst part of your day. Let’s jump in and learn all there is to know about changing a cat box and answer some frequently asked questions.

How Often To Change Cat Litter Box

The true answer to this question is as often as needed. Keep in mind that every cat and their digestive needs are different. This also depends on the number of cats in the home, their size, and the food they eat. You will need to change the kitty litter box as often as needed. Scooping the waste out of the tray should be something that happens daily.

On average most information recommends changing the litter tray out every 2 to 4 weeks, but some kitties may need this done once a week. Homes with multiple kitties likely need more changes than single kitty homes. Remember that what you feed your purr baby is directly related to how often they need to relieve themselves. Make sure to discuss with your veterinarian if you are worried about your kitty’s eating or bathroom habits. Always watch for sudden changes or signs your pet might be sick. Stress can cause issues in this area, so owners must pay close attention to what is happening with their pet’s digestion.

Types Of Litter

Wood shavings for cat litter close-up. Ginger cat at the tray. View from above
There are a few different types of kitty litter owners can use.

Felines tend to be very fussy about this and do not like it when things change. Kitties may not like strong fragrances and, in some cases, may even be allergic.

Below is a quick overview of the most commonly used types:

  1. Clay litter is one of the most widely used kinds. Clay has been used the longest and is what most people think of when discussing this subject. This variety can be clumping or non-clumping. Clumping has added ingredients like baking soda, fragrance, and odor reducers, that aid in clumping. Many owners prefer this option as it creates easy-to-clean clumps of urine and feces. Non-clumping does not have the added ingredients and is more absorbent than clumping. Non-clumping tends to be cheaper but requires more changes, sometimes as often as every other day.
  2. Pine pellet litter is made from compressed pine wood pellets. These have a natural pine smell and break down slowly over time. Many owners prefer pine because it is less messy than clumping and smells significantly better than clay’s added fragrances. It also tends to last longer than clay between changes. This is a natural, environmentally friendly choice.
  3. Walnut is an option that consists of crushed walnut shells. This one has a more similar clay-like texture than pine, so it is a popular choice. It is much lighter than clay and clumps up reasonably well. A downside to this one, it must be stirred regularly to keep the odor-absorbing properties working.
  4. Recycled newspaper pellets are another eco-friendly option. Many owners like this option because it is made from old paper with natural additives. It is not highly effective for odor control, but some kitties like it. Newspaper pellets do not hold up as long as most other options, so it requires changing more often.
  5. Silica litter is made from silica crystals. Silica is made from mined quartz sand and is highly absorbent. Owners of multiple cats often pick this, though it does get tracked around the house. Silica can also be harmful if swallowed, so owners will want to be careful with this.
  6. Corn kitty litter is made from corn cob and is highly absorbent. It is good at naturally absorbing odors, like the smell of urine. Some owners like this because corn cob is dust free and natural. Some kitties may try and eat it, as the corn scent attracts their interest. It also attracts bugs and rodents and will mold easily.
  7. Tofu cat litter is made from an ingredient more often associated with the kitchen than the bathroom. Tofu products are made from soya. Soya is a protein that is derived from soybeans. Soy clumps well. It has no artificial additives and is biodegradable. It has a fresh and natural scent. Soy is lesser known to feline owners than the other options and may not be available in grocery or big box stores. Tofu lasts longer than most of the alternatives and requires less regular changing.

Types Of Litter Boxes

woman changing odor-absorbing filler in cat litter box
There are several types of kitty litter boxes and trays feline owners can choose from.

These range from simple open containers to self-cleaning varieties.

  • Open boxes are usually plastic trays with a rim but no cover. Owners can use these with or without liners. These are the most common, and many kitties prefer the open style. These do not offer any extra odor protection or privacy.
  • Sometimes open boxes will be used with a sifting pan. This can help make cleaning easier. Sifting boxes are simple, an open tray with another one inside it that has a grated bottom.
  • Covered boxes have a hood or other type of covering on them. They can be used with a grate as well. Some purr babies prefer these because they like the privacy and safety they offer. They can also be helpful for odor control.

Scooping & Cleaning vs Changing Litter

Closeup of person scooping cat poop out of litter box
Scooping is the process of removing solid waste and clumps every day.

Scooping is something owners will do at least once a day. Often this needs to be done at least twice a day.

Changing a litter box is the process of thoroughly cleaning out the tray and its contents and then replacing that with fresh litter and liners. This does not need to happen as often as scooping. On average, a total change can be required weekly or every 2 to 4 weeks. Of course, this depends on the type of product used.

Self-cleaning boxes are pricier but make the cleaning process much more manageable. These regularly sift the interior for waste, then dispose of it in an easy-to-empty compartment. These are great for busy owners, very meticulous cats, and homes with more than one feline.

Homes with more than one kitty need at least two waste trays. Even a single-cat home can benefit from more than one tray. Air purifiers are also a great option to keep the area and air around the area clean and fresh. There are disposable options that are not great for long-term use. These allow owners to throw the whole thing out when it can no longer be used. Disposable boxes are great for travel or as a temporary solution.

Do I Need to Change The Cat Litter Box Every Day?

It is usually unnecessary to completely change your kitty’s litter tray daily. With regular daily scooping, they should last at least a week to two weeks. Again, this is an estimate, as all kitties are different. Different types of kitty litter may stay fresh longer than others, so product choice plays a significant role. Some owners may find that daily scooping and changing out a litter tray twice a month works. For others, a complete change is better once every 2 to 3 weeks.

Why Cat Litter Box Cleanliness Matters

There are obvious reasons this is important, like cleanliness, hygiene, reducing smell, and reducing the chance of waste and fecal matter being tracked into your home. Keeping a clean tray reduces the chances of spreading diseases. Felines can spread diseases to other pets and humans, and keeping their potty area clean dramatically minimizes that risk.

Kitties are incredibly meticulous about where they do their bathroom business. If the area is not clean, smells terrible, or contains fecal matter and urine, they may not want to use it. Felines will hold in their urine, leading to bladder issues, urinary tract infections, kidney infections, kidney stones, and even kidney dysfunction, among other problems. Long-term damage is possible if this becomes a habit.

Dirty boxes can attract parasites, some of which can be passed to humans. These include roundworms, which will cause unpleasant symptoms in both felines and humans. Human symptoms include intense stomach pain, restlessness, nausea, diarrhea, coughing, weight loss, fever, wheezing and more. Felines can experience weight loss, nausea, poor coat health, low energy, and more. Sometimes they will shed roundworms in their feces. If you see roundworms, take your pet to the vet for an exam and treatment options. Treatment options usually include deworming medications.

Felines also can carry the toxoplasma gondii parasite. Toxoplasma is a parasite felines carry and shed in their feces. Humans can become infected with it if they directly encounter infected feline feces. This can be especially risky for pregnant women and cause congenital disabilities in unborn babies.

Factors that Affect Cleaning And Changing The Litter Box

The type of litter is a significant factor in how often the kitty tray needs to be changed. Some varieties, like clay, may need to be changed more frequently. Expect to change everything from about once a week to every 2 to 3 weeks. Some cats may need things changed more often, even every few days.

Nutrition also has a substantial impact. What a kitty eats and drinks directly impacts how much urine and feces they produce. Felines who eat top-quality nutrition will have healthier bowel movements than those fed lower-quality chow. Cheaper food often uses lower-quality ingredients, which can lead to more odorous poops. Keep this in mind when picking the best food for your cat.

How To Change A Cat Litter Box

  1. Changing a kitty tray is a straightforward process. It requires about ten to fifteen minutes. Owners should always have extra litter and liners on hand. Owners will develop their own system, but the process is the same. Ensure you thoroughly wash the tray and other parts with soap and water about once a month. This helps eliminate clinging odors and bacteria.
  2. Use a waste bag. A large trash bag works well. Some owners will dump the contents into the trash bag. If you do this, make sure to put the end of the tray in the trash bag first to prevent spills. Some owners will use the trash bag as a liner and then take it out and replace it with a new one. Others will place the entire thing in a trash bag and then empty the tray right into it.
  3. Once the waste and contents are emptied, the tray should be sprayed, wiped down, and dried. Soap and water are best. Avoid harsh-smelling chemicals like bleach.
  4. Once cleaned and dried, place liner or bags in and around the box as preferred. Fill with fresh litter. About 3 to 4 inches is a good guideline. If you have multiple purr babies, they may need a little more in the box.
  5. Install an air purifier near the kitty’s bathroom area to reduce allergens, microscopic fecal matter, and dust from the air. Cleaning the air is helpful to both humans and felines.
  6. You can also vacuum the area after changing to pick up any waste on the floor. You do not want this tracked all about the house.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I scoop the litter box?

Scoop out the box every day, multiple times if needed. Keep it as clean as possible to reduce the spread of diseases and eliminate odor.

Will my cat get sick if the litter box is not clean?

Yes, your pet can get sick if this is not cleaned regularly. Bacterial infections, urinary tract infections, bladder infections, and parasites are all possible. Sometimes felines who refuse to go to the bathroom in a dirty area can have long-term kidney damage.

How often do cats use the litter box every day?

Cats pee about 2 to 4 or more times a day. They usually go number two once or twice a day. Some kitties may go a little more often, some a little less. This all depends on their age, diet, when they eat, and environment.

What is the best kind of cat litter?

This one is a tough question that does not have one specific answer. Every feline is different and will have their own preferences. Like humans with toilet paper, there are many product choices. Cats develop their particular tastes and likings as they age. You may need to try a few kinds of litter before finding the one your kitty likes best. Do not suddenly change a cat’s litter unless it’s unavoidable. If you must switch a kitty from a product they like to a new one, try to do so gradually and mix the two, similar to changing dog foods. Gradually reduce the old and add in the new stuff.

Final Thoughts

Changing the cat box is not the most pleasant of chores, but it is an unavoidable part of owning a feline. Keeping the litter box clean is essential for hygiene and health. A dirty box can cause illness in felines and humans and deter your kitty from using the bathroom. Litter boxes need to be changed anywhere from once a week to every 2 or 3 weeks. Remember that this all depends on your cat, your choice of litter, and what your pet eats. The box should be scooped daily to keep things clean and help things last as long as possible. Cleanliness is a big deal for cats and should be for purr parents too. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your purr baby’s bowel habits or digestive health.

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