How Often Should You Clean Your Cat Litter Box?

In this article, I’m going to answer many questions regarding cat litter hygiene and cleanliness, including:

  • How often to clean the litter box
  • The correct number of litter boxes to use (this may shock you!)
  • The best types of cat litter for optimal cleanliness
  • And much more

So, read on to learn the best ways to keep your home (and kitty) staying fresh and clean.

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have?

Statistics in 2012 show that there were 74 million cats living 36 million homes in the US, acording to US Pet Ownership.

In other words most homes have two cats on average.

That is not as strange as it may sound as cat owners know that cats like to have other cats around for company.

But how many litter boxes should you have per cat, isn’t one enough?

Well, vets and cat behavior specialists all state the golden rule for the number of litters is:

One litter box for one cat plus one more.

So for one cat there should be two boxes, for two cats, three boxes and so on. There’s good evidence to back this claim up too.

Crazy, I know!

How Often Should You Clean Your Cat Litter Box?

Before I tell you how often you should clean the litter out, let’s first take a look at the different types of cat litter.

The reason being is because the type of litter you use will strong determine how often you’ll need to change it.

The Different Types of Cat Litter

There are four main types of cat litter available:

  • Non clumping cat litter
  • Clumping cat litter
  • Natural or biodegradable cat litter
  • Silica gel cat litter

There are a few other types such as pellets, but around 99% of cat owners will use one of the four main ones above.

Spot cleaning Vs Full Cleaning

Spot cleaning is removing any cat poop and soiled litter from the litter box and disposing of it, whereas a full clean is emptying the entire litter and cleaning the box with appropriate cleaner.

So when we talk about cleaning out a litter, it isn’t necessarry to dispose and disinfect the box everyday, but spot cleaning should be done once a day at a minimum.

This is the minimum requirement that most experts agree on, but poop should be removed as quickly as possible.

That helps a lot in keeping down odors, and is also a very hygienic thing to do, and your cat will thank you for it.

This is good advice, but it is based on having one litter tray or box in your home.

However if you follow the golden rule of having an extra litter box for each cat, then I would suggest following the rules below.

Cat Litter Box Cleaning Routine

A full litter clean should be done once every two weeks for each cat litter box.

To do this properly all that is needed is to wash the litter box with a mild detergent and some hot water.

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 it.

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 then add about 3 inches of new cat litter to each cat litter box. Now the type of litter also makes a difference.

Below I have shown the frequency to change depending on the cat litter type

  • Non Clumping litters – change every 2 weeks
  • Clumping – every 2-3 weeks
  • Biodegradable – every 4 weeks
  • Silica Gel – every 4-6 weeks

Non Clumping Litters

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

There is actually a strong argument to change that on a weekly basis, if you can afford to do so. If you can’t then once every 2 weeks should be the minimum.

Clumping Litters

With clumping litters, the litter clumps can be removed each day, and then topped up with new litter.

Over time though the cat urine does seep through the litter, and it will start to build up. That is why it is recommended to change the complete litter once every 2-3 weeks.

Biodegradable Litters

This litter is not as popular as the first two types so the information available is also limited.

These natural litters do not clump, and as such absorb a lot of urine. Some users stated they change the litter fully every 2 weeks, where others said once a month.

For now though, the general consensus seems to be somewhere between 2-4 weeks for a full replacement.

Silica Gel Litters

Likewise, this type of litter is pretty new to the marketplace. Some cat owners love it and some do not.

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 4-6 weeks.

How Often Should You Clean a Litter Box for One Cat?

There are many cat owners who have just one cat, but the same rules apply as I have written out above. I would advise you though to have two litter boxes, as that helps spread the load.

It also means you can increase the length of the full change out of the litter on each one.

This will of course depend on whether or not your cat prefers one box over the other.

What About Cat Litter Box Liners?

Some cat owners prefer to use litter box liners to make it easier to clean out the litter box each month. All you have to do is line the box or tray with a litter liner and then dispose of the whole thing when it’s time to clean it out.

You can learn more about cat litter liners in my full article.

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.

How Often Should You Get a New Litter Box?

That’s a good question. I did a lot of research to find an answer for this.

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.

How to Clean A Litter Box

Check out my full article on how to cleaning a cat litter box, but here’s a breakdown in 3 steps:

  1. Empty out the litter box, and then wash the inside with hot water and a mild detergent.
  2. Do not use disinfectant even if your are tempted to do so for hygienic or strong odor reasons.
  3. Always allow the litter box to fully dry, before adding the new fresh litter to a depth of about 3 inches.

Conclusion of Cat Litter Changing Frequency

A lot of what I’ve explained above is common sense.

Your own personal circumstances should dictate what you need to do.

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.

Resources Used

US Pet Ownership Statistics, AVMA, and RSPCA

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