How Often Should You Change Cat Litter?

IncredibleKitty.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on my site, I may earn a small commission at no added cost to you. Learn more here.

If you’re asking yourself “how often should I change my cats litter”, then here’s the quick answer:

You should change your cat litter and do a full clean of the litter box every 2-4 weeks, but it all depends on the type of litter you use and how many cats you have.

I’ll explain in further detail in this article.

Here’s what this post will cover:

  • The difference between scooping and cleaning
  • How often to scoop vs full clean
  • How many litter boxes you should have (you might be surprized!)
  • When to replace your litter box
  • And much more…

Let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

What’s the Difference Between Scooping and Full Cleaning

First off, is there a difference between scooping vs changing vs cleaning?

The answer is yes. If you manage your cats litter efficiently, here’s the entire process:

  1. Fill your litter box or tray (around 2-3 inches)
  2. Scoop out any poop or soiled litter each time your cat uses the litter (usually once or twice per day)
  3. Top up the box with fresh litter every 5-7 days (a few scoops is fine)
  4. Stop refreshing new litter after 2-3 weeks (depending on the type of litter you use)
  5. Completely empty old litter after 3-4 weeks, do a full clean and fill with new litter

So as you can see, scooping means removing soiled litter, changing means topping up, and cleaning means renewing the entire litter after sanitizing the litter box.

Although I refer changing to topping up, most people use the terms changing and cleaning interchangably.

I get it, this might seem like a lot, but there are a few benefits when you keep on top of this.

  • Saves you money in the long run because you waste less litter
  • Saves you time having to physically clean the litter box if you don’t scoop
  • Less smell and more hygienic for your cat and home

The key is in the scooping, the more often you scoop, the fresher the remaining litter will stay, which prolongs the need to do a full clean.

Depending on the type of litter you use will depend on how often you’ll need to do a full clean.

If you don’t scoop and you only do a full clean, the entire litter will be contaminated within a few days or up to a week.

This is because your cat moves the soiled litter around and will eventually run out of clean litter to use.

When you get into the habit of scooping out waste on a regular basis, you will save time having to clean the litter box every few days and you will also save on the amount of litter you use.

How Often Should You Clean a Litter Box?

As I’ve mentioned, it all depends on the litter you use.

Lets looks at the different types and how often you should do a full clean of each of them.

  • Non Clumping litters – full clean every 2-3 weeks
  • Clumping – full clean every 3-4 weeks
  • Silica Gel – full clean every 4-5 weeks

The reason why each type of litter should be cleaned out on different occasions is because of how contaminated the entire litter gets everytime your cat uses the litter.

Most clumping cat litter does a better job of absorbing urine and forming clumps which prevents it from spreading throughout the whole litter box.

Then if you can scoop this out on a regular basis, and top up every 5-7 days, you can keep going like this for several weeks until it’ll be time to empty it all and clean out the box with soap and water.

There are a few other types such as pellets, but most of cat owners will use one of the four main ones above.

How Often to Change Non-Clumping Litter – Every 1-2 Weeks

Non clumping litters absorb cat urine and do not clump. As such, this litter does need to be changed more often.

It’s really down to trial and error and testing things out yourself. If you and your furry friend doesn’t mind non-clumping litter, then try to see how long you can go before it needs a full clean.

As there’s less absorption, it’s best to do a full clean every 2 weeks or so.

How Often to Change Clumping Litter – Every 3-4 Weeks

Clumping litters are much better at absorbing kitty waste, therefore it’s much easier to scoop out and doesn’t contaminate the entire litter in the box when you keep on top of it.

After a few weeks of scooping and topping up, urine will start to spread round the rest of the litter.

This is when you’ll want to stop adding more fresh litter and then give it a full clean after another week.

Overall, if you keep on top of scooping, you can go up to 4 weeks without having to do a full clean.

How Often to Change Silica Gel Litter – Every 4-5 Weeks

Silica gel litters have become more popular in recent years, yet some cat parents love it and some don’t

Those who like it, appreciate that it is more expensive than the main litters. What they like about is that, you replace any litter that changes color from white to yellow.

The crystals change to this color when they can no longer absorb moisture. Cat owners then remove the yellow crystals with a scoop and replace those with fresh litter.

The average user of this type of litter, do a full change about every 4-5 weeks.

How to Clean a Cat Litter

When it’s time to clean your cats litter box, you’ll need to completely empty any used litter that’s left over.

Pro Tip: A week building up to you cleaning the litter box, it’s best to stop adding more litter so that when the time comes, you’re not throwing away too much fresh litter.

Never use a detergent that has a strong scent to it as that will be over powering for your cat, and may put them off using the litter afterwards.

Also give it some time to properly dry, otherwise the new litter will stick to the sides, and that makes it hard to get off the next time.

When the litter box has fully dried out and the amount you should add to the litter box is about 3 inches. Now the type of litter also makes a difference.

Here are the steps:

  1. Empty out the litter box, and then wash the inside with hot water and a mild detergent.
  2. Do not use anything too strong like bleach or harmful chemicals as this may have harmful effects on your cat.
  3. Always allow the litter box to fully dry, before adding the new fresh litter to a depth of about 3 inches.

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have?

Most people have an average of two cats per household.

But did you know that most cat parents don’t have enough litter boxes.

Well, vets and cat behavior specialists all state the golden rule for the number of litter boxes you should have per cat:

One litter box for one cat plus one more.

That’s right, even if you only have one cat, you should have an extra litter box.

And for two cats, there should be three boxes, and so on.

Crazy, I know!

How Often Should You Change Litter Boxes?

That’s a good question.

The general consensus seems to be about once a year.

The main reason seems to be that the base of the litter box gets scratched from the claws of your cat.

That breaks through the protective layer of plastic. Odors can then start to seep into those areas of damage, and over time they start to hold debris and strong odors.

It is also well known that plastic tends to absorb odors. That is especially true if they get scratched or damaged.

Tiny particles of the litter then get stuck into the cracks and the box slowly starts to get the cat urine smell.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Use Litter Box Liners?

I’ve answered this question in another post which you can read here, but the short answer is, yes, if it works for you.

If you think they could help, try them out and see how you get on.

Should I Consider Changing Litter Brands?

Cat owners do change litter brands from time to time.

Mostly this is done because cats may stop using one particular type of litter. They may start to do their business outside the litter, and that is a clear sign that something is not quite right.

More often than not though, the reason cats do that is simply because the litter is not scooped out daily.

This single change makes a huge difference to how often you will have to completely change out a cat litter.

How Often Should You Change Wood Pellet Cat Litter?

A number of cat owners prefer to use some type of wood pellet.

The good thing about that is you can see when it needs changing because it breaks down into a non-smelly damp sawdust.

Then it needs to be fully replaced. Most cat owners who use pellets change it completely once a week.

Conclusion

It’s best to follow these as a guidline and eventually judge for yourself how often you clean out the litter box.

Daily cleaning of poop or clumped litter is vitally important, and more than once a day is better.

If you can achieve that, then the frequency when you have to do a full clean and replace will be longer, usually every 2 weeks on average.

Of all the cat litters available, clumping litter and silica gel litters do not need to be changed as often.

Anything from 4-6 weeks seems to be the normal time span for most cat owners.

For natural cat litters, biodegradable and wood pellet based litters, the period seems to be about one week for a full change out of the litter.

For the popular non clumping litters, every 2 weeks is what is recommended.

Steve is a blogger with an unhealthy cat obsession. He enjoys reading non-fiction books, cooking and cuddles with his cat Fij.

1 thought on “How Often Should You Change Cat Litter?”

Leave a Comment