How Often Do You Clean The Cat Litter?

Be honest, how often do you clean your cat’s litter tray? You have to be honest, now. Is your cat walking on used cat litter sometimes?

I clean the cat litter once per day. That was when my late lady cat used the litter. She used the litter tray about twice per day. Once for a pee and once for defecation. Although later on she peed more often during the day. When that happened I should have made it a routine to clean the tray more than once per day. I did occasionally. At the time, I felt that was OK but…ideally I now feel that I should clean the tray after use so that when it is reused it is totally clean. Do you think that way? Can you achieve that? You may not be able to because you are out all day, most days.

How often do you clean the cat litter tray?
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

How often do you clean the cat litter tray? Montage by Michael from a picture by gravyphig.

The Wild Cats: In the wild, wild cats sometimes do have toilet areas but they are much larger than a litter tray. They are not going to use the same spot each time. It is the size of the tray that is confining.

Michael J. Fox, a well known vet and author says:

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

“The litter box should be cleaned three to four times daily, and fresh litter put in to replace the soiled litter as needed…”

This is incorrect, really, because if you have one cat and that cat uses the tray once per day it is pointless cleaning it four times. However, he makes a good and strong point.

The point he is making is that when we go to the toilet in our bathroom we expect the previous user, which might have been us, to have flushed it! We don’t expect to have to flush the toilet first. That would be considered disgusting. Yet there are many cat owners who expect their cats to accept that situation and worse, because they can’t flush it away! And we know how fastidiously clean cats are.

I wonder how they feel walking on their own pee and poo? Or worse still in households where there is more than one cat walking over another cat’s pee. It may be that he does not like the other cat and we know that pee is heavily scented. Cats are very sensitive to scent. This is the sort of scenario where a cat could become stressed.

There are also the health risks. A cat walking on another cat’s poo is likely to ingest it afterward when he licks his paws clean. This is a way diseases are transmitted (i.e. toxoplasmosis)

The point that I think is worth making is that there is a tendency to get a bit casual about cat litter. And I am not being critical of anyone. In multi-cat households, and there are lots of households with two cats, the work load in cat litter cleaning duties mounts considerably. There is an argument that there should be one litter tray per cat. I doubt whether many people follow this rule or suggestion.

Bearing in mind how clean cats like to be and how sensitive to scent they are, it would seem fair and proper that we clean the cat litter tray after each use and present our cat with clean litter every time he or she uses it. That is the target. I wonder how often that simple target is met in households across North America, Great Britain and elsewhere?

One of the most prominent cat behavior problems is “inappropriate elimination”. I actually dislike that often used phrase because for the cat it is appropriate to eliminate outside the litter for whatever reason and one good reason is that the litter is dirty. Persian cats are particularly sensitive to this. Some individual cats of any breed or randomly bred will be sensitive too.

Often “inappropriate elimination” could be re-written “inappropriate litter”

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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18 Responses

  1. mayen alcebar says:

    I clean my one and only 4 y/o cat’s litter box after each use and I do try to be prompt about it and if I’m not available I ask someone reliable to do it because I’ve observed that if it is soiled with either poop or pee she chooses to do it on my shoes, pillows or couch, this behavior actually started at about the time she turned 2. When she came to live with me as a 1 month old kitten she automatically just went to her litter box when she needed to without any training/coaxing whatsoever. It was a breeze. As she got older she became fastidious about its cleanliness. So I keep it clean.

  2. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    I meant Marc– very early here– not awake enough to type!

  3. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    Monty didn’t poop outside for at least the first two years I had him, but then suddenly he decided he could go outside. So for about a year now he has been going in leaves outside. He prefers to bury it in them. Before that he was like Bigfoot, asking to go in to use his box and then wanting right back out.
    I might be diligent about poop scooping, but I don’t play with Monty as much as I should. Marx is really good about playtime. I seem to always put it off, though once in awhile Monty’s pointed glances at the top of the shelf where I keep his fishing pole toy will motivate me to get it out and play with him for awhile.
    The other day I fed him a large amount of food and took him out with me. Before we came in I was throwing little sticks and he was chasing them or jumping for them. When he came in he barfed. It was too much activity on a full stomach. So even when I try to do right by him it is wrong. I learned to just give him a little bite of food when I get home from work, take him out, and then give him the rest of the meal when he comes in.

    • Michael says:

      I find it interesting that Monty preferred to poop outside eventually. He must have been used to cat litter and then discovered his roots and found earth the better substance. This is unsurprising since his wild cat ancestors preferred it too.

  4. Barbara says:

    Hmmm, about once every six months as that’s about how often one or the other of our boys use a tray, the rest of the time they go happily off to answer the call of nature outside in their own litle latrine corner.

    • Dorothy says:

      That is certainly a preference for cats. Except for Bigfoot. I still wonder where Marvin goes. He’s very private about it. I may never know! Yellow cat loves the foot-deep fallen oak leave bed out back. Shadow likes the dirt pile behind the vegetable garden. Thank goodness not in the tomato garden!

    • Michael says:

      Love it. These days I don’t do it at all as Charlie goes in the garden. He always has it seems. I wonder if some indooor/outdoor cats use a litter tray or whether they all use what is natural outside.

      • Dorothy says:

        Bigfoot is free to go outside, but he chooses to use his own litter. He sometimes comes running in fast, up the stairs jumps in his litter tray…then goes back outside. Makes me scratch my head in wonder. He is odd on many fronts. I love him anyway.

  5. Dorothy says:

    Here too. Bigfoot is the only one of my four cats that uses litter. I clean it two to three times a day. If I’m in a far way part of the house, or out he will wait on the landing of the stairs and meow loudly in a certain way that lets me know it is time to scoop the poop! He is a fastidious old man, and doesn’t suffer fools.

    I love the communication. He also herds me to his water fountain if the water is getting too low. The pump makes a certain sound he doesn’t like and he lets me know. I am most definitely his servant.

  6. Marc says:

    I scoop every morning and sometimes in the evening if it looks like it needs it. Every weekend I scoop out about 75% of the litter – the saturated (crystals) under the suface and refill it with a fresh bag. That leaves about one quarter of the the cleaner stuff underneath 3 quarters of brand new. I have one small litterbox and one huge one. Its usually pretty clean with that routine. But Molly seems to be in heat right now and part of that involves her peeing really alot and in places she shouldnt – like on the couch and in the kitchen sink. She is in heat and it coincides with that although I did start to worry when she went on the couch that there might be something wrong. She drinks a lot, they all do, especially after playing and they have a nice water fountain which I occasionally put and ice cube in to make it nice and cool for them. I am booking their spay appointments for the 8th or so of December. Luckily Gigi is not in heat. I’m scared of the surgery, they both have fast breathing and also I am scared of the price for both of them!

  7. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    I have scooped twice already today. I’ll inform my husband of my new title. LOL!

  8. Ruth (Monty's Mom) says:

    Monty’s litter box gets scooped every time he uses it as soon as I can get to it. If I work all day he may use it twice before it gets scooped, but often just once. I scoop it in the morning as soon as he’s been in it. I scoop it right when I get home from work. I scoop it before bed if necessary. I scoop it when my husband announces, “The cat pooped.” Monty also has the largest litter box I could find, so if he has to go twice in there he just uses the opposite side of it. He also sometimes uses the outside as a bathroom. He seems to prefer to pee outside but still comes in to use the litterbox for poop most of the time, though there are exceptions.

    • Michael says:

      I think you are the “Poop Scoop Champion of Wisconsin”. PoC awards you that treasured prize and a free entry to the 2013 World Championships to be held in London, UK 🙂 Seriously, though, you are good, excellent in fact. Monty has a life that is as good as it gets for a domestic cat. I am impressed. Marc is in your league though 😉

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