Cat Litter Box 101 – Maintenance, How Often, and How To Clean

Maintaining the litter box is one of the primary concerns for all cat owners. As long as the cat uses the litter box, the owner is happy. But there are times when cats don’t use the litter box for a while. And they don’t do such behavior willingly!

Yes, the relationship between your cat and the litter box is way too complicated than how it seems.

When you get a perfect litter box for your fur buddy, the next big thing is how to clean the thing. Cats don’t like dirty stuff, and that’s why when the litter box seems unpleasing to the feline, it prefers to do its business outside the box.

This guide will tell you everything about maintaining the litter box and how should you react when the situation isn’t favorable to you.

Why Litter Boxes and Not Something Else?

Cat Litter Box 101 – Maintenance
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Have you ever wondered why is that cats use litter boxes? Why not something else like a plain basket, or a bowl? To get the answer, you need to consider what would a cat does in wild nature.

Cats in the wild typically release the waste on objects such as sand or soft soil. And always after the excrete, they bury their business within that sand or soil. They do such a thing because of one reason.

The smell of urine or excrement helps other predators to find them. When a cat hides its urine or excrement underneath the sand or soil, the smell doesn’t come out, and this leaves no trace for other predators to find it.

Now, bring the same cat inside your home. Cat litter box is the closest mimic of the cat’s natural toilet environment. They use litter the same way they would use the sand. The litter doesn’t allow the scent to come out to some extent. And that makes them convinced with using litter boxes.

Cleaning Your Cat’s Litter Box – Why Do You Need to Take It Seriously?

Cat Litter Box Cleaning
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Unlike most other animals, cats are very picky about things that they need to deal with. Cats don’t eat where they excrete; they don’t drink from dirty water or where dead animals lie. Certain changes in their surroundings can even affect their food habits and day to day activity.

Similarly, cats are also very choosey about the litter box. If they find the litter box too dirty and too much bad odor coming out of the litter, most likely they will find another place to excrete themselves.

In most households, this is one of the major reasons why cats pee and poo on beds, couches, a corner of the carpet, and other places because their litter boxes aren’t appropriately cleaned.

So, you need to take this cleaning stuff very seriously. You don’t want to see or smell anything terrible on your bed and couches, do you?

Where to Place the Litter Box?

Where to Place the Litter Box
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The general rule of thumb is to have two litter boxes for one resident cat. However, if you have nine litter boxes for five cats, this will do the trick fine as well.

A household that has more than three litter boxes, there will not be enough space to keep each litter box separately. In that case, the owner needs to create a “Litter Station” by placing three or four boxes close to each other. It will accommodate more cats at a time.

But if you find the cats aren’t comfortable, remove one or two boxes from the station. Create two different litter stations with four boxes. This will make your cleaning chores easy and more convenient.

No matter which litter box you buy, make sure the box is large enough for your cat to move inside at ease.

You need to maintain a little privacy to place the box as well. There should not be any appliance that makes a loud noise, such as a washing machine. Also, the cat should be free to walk through the route to her potty-house.

If you have a dog or other cats who love to bully other pets, make sure they don’t make any hassle on the way to the litter box. Otherwise, your cat will avoid the litter box, and you know the consequences.

How to Clean the Litter Box?

Your cat’s smelling sense is 14 times stronger than you. So, you might think the litter box is cleaned, but to your feline, it might be too dirty to do her business on it. This section will help you to properly clean the litter box and make it friendly to your cat.

Preparing the Litter Box

Things You Will Need –

  • The litter boxes, of course
  • Cat litter
  • Litter scoop
  • Wastebasket or bag or zipper bag (a disposal pail will do fine as well)
  • Warm water or vinegar, detergent or dishwashing soap
  • Paper Towels
  • Litter box liner (not mandatory but it makes the cleaning a lot easier)

As I have mentioned before, using the litter box liner isn’t compulsory, but it is very convenient for waste disposal in the time of emptying the box. However, if you have a non-scooping litter, you must get a litter box liner.

Then, it’s time for pouring the cat litter. It’s recommended to make a cat litter layer of 2-3 inches. But if your feline scratches to the bottom of the box, then you may need to make it about 3-4 inches. At first, try with 2 inches and see if your cat needs more, and the odor doesn’t come out.

Cleaning the Litter Box

Cleaning the Litter Box
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No matter whether you use a litter box liner or not, you must dispose of the waste from the box properly. If the odor is an issue that you cannot deal with, there are waste disposal solutions on amazon that deal with a bad odor like a boss. It makes both the scooping and disposing of waste a lot easier.

You can also get some large size zipper bag and drop all the scoopings inside and zip the bag. Later on, discard the bag on the garbage day.

Clumping litter helps to keep the box clean and smelling fresh for longer than non-clumping litter. But, you will need to empty and clean the box thoroughly as well.

Make sure you always empty the box using a sturdy plastic bag and tie it before you discharge it into the trash. Even though some litters are flushable, you cannot dump all the contents of the litter box into a toilet.

Then, thoroughly wash the litter box using detergent or dishwashing soap with warm water or vinegar. Completely rinse it. Drying under direct sunlight will kill the bacteria.

How Often to Change Cat Litter?

This is the most commonly asked question of cat owners. Well, there is no straight forward answer to the query. It all depends on the type of litter you use. Some litters need to be changed once a week. There are some others that require to replace once every four or five weeks.

However, if you use non-clumping litter, then you need to empty and wash the box more often. What happens with non-clumping litter is, the urine stays at the bottom and the odor gets stronger very quickly.

Always when you dump the old cat litter, be sure to add 2-3 inches of fresh litter.

How Often to Scoop Litter Box?

How Often to Scoop Litter Box
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How long you can go without cleaning the cat litter, largely depends on how often you scoop the litter. It’s recommended to scoop the box twice a day.

You can do a single scoop if you don’t have enough time. But you should never leave it for more than a day whatsoever.

How Often to Clean Litter Box?

Although cat litter boxes are of sanitary grade, still you should clean it on a regular basis. You need to be scooping out daily. Cleaning the litter box depends on changing the litter. Whenever you change the litter, make sure you clean the litter box as well.

Getting a self-cleaning automatic litter (these are not healthy though) box will help you with scooping out daily. But still, you will have to change the litter and clean the box. If your cat has the habit of dragging the litter out of the box, consider getting a litter mat and place it underneath the box.

You also need to clean the litter sifting tool whenever you clean the box. Using a paste of baking soda with water works great in this case.

Types of Litter You Can Use

When it comes to cat litter, there are many of them. Each of the variants has a different level of absorbing capability.

Nonetheless, the most commonly used cat litter is non-clumping clay litter. It has decent absorbing power and doesn’t track onto the floor that easily. You will also find some biodegradable litters such as wood pellets, sawdust, recycled newspaper, etc.

There are some litters that last up to 5 weeks, such as silica gel, crystal litter. These expensive litters are good at preventing odors as well.

Do You Need to Train Your Cat to Use a Litter Box?

How Often a Cat Uses the Litter Box
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Cats naturally look for the sandy surface when they need to do their business. A litter box is instinctual to them. Therefore, you don’t need to struggle with a cat the same way that you need to do with a puppy.

But still, your kitty needs to adjust with the litter box, and you need to make some efforts here.

Don’t place the litter box where the kitty is afraid to visit. There shouldn’t be any other pet that can bully itas well. Take the kitty to the litter box when you bring it into your home.

You need to take it to the litter box in the morning after the meal when it wakes up from a nap, and in the evening until it is regularly using the box.

How Often a Cat Uses the Litter Box?

Typically, cats pee 2-4 times a day. Usual factors such as indoor temperature, fluid intake, and age affect the urination schedule. If you see any unusual changes in urinating, consult with your vet.

As far as the solid business is concerned, cats usually do it once a day. But, some might do more than that due to factors such as age, diet, health and medications. A kitten needs to do more than an adult cat in a day.

If you notice blood in the stool, your cat is suffering from constipation and diarrhea, visit the vet as soon as possible.

So, overall, a cat uses its litter box 3-5 times a day. Again, the numbers can increase depending on the factors that I have mentioned earlier. Regular scooping will keep the litter box and its nearby environment clean and pleasant.

Why Do Cats Freak Out When You Clean the Litter Box?

Dominant cats scratch things and can smell the scent of the scratches, which remarks as their territory. A litter box isn’t an exception to this rule. When you clean the litter box and wash away the smells, the feline most probably will jump back in the box.

Also, it might wonder why you are even sifting through its nuggets.

Things You Need to Avoid While Maintaining Cat Litter Boxes

Some litter box maintenance mistakes impact on cats very negatively. These missteps can quickly turn off a cat and make it avoid the litter box and do its business somewhere else in the house.

1. Wrong Size of the Litter Box

You should never buy a litter box just for its appealing construction. Always consider your cat’s size before buying one. The box should have enough space for your cat to move easily inside it. Make sure the box is 1.5 times the actual length of your cat (from nose to the base of her tail).

2. Uncleaned Litter Box

Cleaning the litter box is a concern of your cat’s toilet habit and maintaining a healthy indoor environment. Make sure you change the cat litter once a week if its non-clumping litter that you are using. As far as the clumping litter is concerned, it’s per the instructions of the manufacturer.

Also, whenever you change the litter, be sure to clean the litter box as well. The most important part of cleaning is scooping. You should scoop once a day at least.

3. Placing the Litter Box in a Wrong Location

Don’t place the litter box next to where your cat eats. You already know, they don’t excrete where they eat. Also, the place should NOT be close to any appliance that makes a loud noise.

Place the litter box in a place where the cat isn’t afraid to go. There shouldn’t be other pets that can bully her as well.

4. Too Few Litter Boxes for Multiple Cats

How many litter boxes you need to buy depends on the numbers of cats you own. The rule of thumb is that you must have at least two litter boxes for a cat. If you have three cats in the house, you should have 5-6 litter boxes, not less than that.

5. Unappealing Litter

Cats prefer the soft and sandy texture when it comes to dig and hide their business. Don’t buy scented cat litter whatsoever, because, cat’s nose is very sensitive and they don’t like to be assaulted of any kind of scent when they step into the box.

6. Not Pouring Enough Litter

You need to put enough cat litter into the litter box so that there is no issue of absorbing liquid and odor. When the layer of the litter is less, it allows the urine to hit the bottom of the box and makes it a stinky box which by no means will be appealing to your feline.

Thus, always make sure that the litter layer is at least 3 inches.

7. Covered Litter Boxes

Even though you prefer getting a covered litter box, it’s not suitable for most cats. Most covered boxes don’t have enough space to accommodate a cat freely (considering the ease of moving).

Furthermore, the drying efficiency isn’t great on the covered ones. If your cat smells stinky things when stepping into the box, it can be discouraging to use the litter box.

Final Words

Ensuring the proper maintenance of a cat’s litter box is more important than training how to use it. If you have got expensive litter boxes and cat litter but don’t care about cleaning and stuff, you will find your cat doing its business here and there.

So, make sure you regularly scoop, clean the litter and the box. This will keep the indoor environment healthy and fresh, and make your cat encouraged to use the box.

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