How Often Should Cat Litter Be Changed
When it comes to the world of cats, and with particular reference to cat litter, a question that I am often asked, is how often should cat litter be changed?
In this article I am going to cover off exactly how often you should change a cat’s litter, and some other great tips to keep your cat healthy, and your home staying fresh and odor free.
If you think about the question in a little bit more detail, then you will probably agree with me, that the situation will not be the same for everyone. In fact, there a lot of variables that need to be considered.
- How many cats are in the home?
- How many litter trays or boxes do you have?
- What type of cat litter are you using?
I will offer advice on each of those, and from that you will be able to work out the best routine for you. Let’s begin with the number of cats that you may have.
Number of Cats in the Home
You may initially think that in most homes there will be just one single cat. It was actually really interesting to find that this is not the case. In the USA alone there are a total of 95.6 million cats, owned as pets.
The best information that I could find from actual statistics, was from US Pet Ownership Statistics. Those statistics were from 2012, so a little out of date. Nevertheless they showed that in the USA at that time, there were 36 million homes, and in those homes there were 74 million cats.
In other words most homes owned on average 2 cats. That is not as strange as it may sound as cat owners know that cats like to have other cats around for company. Litters of kittens are also quite large, so as you can see, the number of cats will vary in each home.
How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have?
Just before we look at how often cat litter should be changed, let’s take just a little time to check this important consideration. Vets and cat behavior specialists all state that the golden rule for the number of litters is:
A 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 is good evidence for that.
However, I want to keep the focus on cleaning the litter box, so if you would like to know why this is recommended, then please read this article about the number of cat litter boxes you should have.
The Different Types of Cat Litter
There are four main but different types of cat litter available on the market. These are:
- Non Clumping cat litter
- Clumping cat litter
- Natural or biodegradable cat litter
- Silica gel cat litter
The reason that I bring these to your attention is that the type of litter that you use, will have a strong influence, on how often you need to change it. It is also worth mentioning that there are a few other types such as pellets, but around 99% of cat owners will use one of the four main ones, I have shown above.
Now let’s get right down to answering your question, how often should you change out all the cat or kitten litter?
The information below is based on how often you spot clean the actual litter. That should be done on a daily basis for very important reasons. This is the minimum requirement, and most experts agree that 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 you cat will thank you for it. I also know that for busy homes that is not always possible, and that is why the experts agree that general cleaning should happen once a day, as a minimum.
They actually recommend removing poop as quickly as you can, and to do that at least twice a day. Most cat owners however will do this at least once a day.
Assuming that you do that, then you can apply the following general rules.
When you read any of the animal welfare information, they state very clearly, that cat litter should be replaced at least once a week. That is repeated over and over again by the experts, including vets and the RSPCA.
I know that is good advice and 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
This should be done once every 2 weeks for each cat litter box. When you do that, it is the perfect time to wash out the actual litter box and tray as well. 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. Please 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.
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.
This litter is not as popular as the two type I have already mentioned. That also means that the information available is also limited. What information does exist is divided in opinion. 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, and others said once a month. If I find out stronger recommendations, I will update those here. For now though the general consensus seems to be somwhere 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 that do 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. 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. You can check this article on how to clean a litter box quickly and effectively.
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 thing 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. 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?
Now this is an excellent question. I did a lot of research to try and 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 over time. 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
I have done a full article on cleaning a litter box which you can read by clicking here. If you don’t have time to do that right now, then here is a brief summary.
Empty out the litter box, and then wash the inside with hot water and a mild detergent. Do not use disinfectant even if your are tempted to do so for hygienic or strong odor reasons. Always allow the litter box to fully dry, before adding the new fresh litter to a depth of about 3 inches.
Do Cats Like Covered Litter Boxes?
That is a subject for a whole new article. I was however asked this question in the context of how often cat litter should be changed. The person asking the question believed that her cat stopped using the box, because it was covered.
This can happen of course, but it is unusual. Cats like to feel safe and not trapped and they like an enclosed box for both the fact that it makes them feel safer. Many cats who go outside will return inside to use their litter box for that reason. In the case of the lady above, the reason for her cat pooping outside the box, was that it was not cleaned daily.
She did it every couple of days, and that is not a good idea. The odor was strong and the cat did not want to stand on clumped litter and old poop.
The type of litter box will however have a huge impact on how often litter needs to be changed in some circumstances. The majority of cat owners have a covered litter box, some use trays which are open, and some use self cleaning boxes.
The self cleaning boxes do tend to use more litter, and even they will need to be fully emptied and cleaned.
Conclusion of Cat Litter Changing Frequency
A lot of what I have 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 even better.
If you can achieve that, then the frequency when you have to do a full clean and replace will be longer. 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, using either of these.
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.
Changing a cat litter regularly does of course cost money. The benefits of doing so though are pretty obvious.
- Cats will use the litter if cleaned regularly and that stops them doing anything outside their litter box
- It goes a very long way to reduce and keep down odors and smells
- It is easier and faster to clean a litter every few weeks, than a really messy litter, which is not a pleasant experience I assure you
- It is better for the overall hygiene and freshness of your home
- It is also much better for any children in the home or any other domestic pet