kitten stepping from litter box

How To Look After A Litter Box


As cat owners we go to great lengths to make sure that our kitties are well fed, kept warm and safe, that they have flea protection and regular health checks, so it make sense that the litter box is kept as fresh as possible.  

Cats are very clean animals and as cat owners it is in our best interest for the litter box to be clean.

As well as good hygiene for your cat, having a clean litter box will prevent odors in your home and also encourage kitty to actually use the box.

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How Big ​​​​​Should The Litter Box Be?

Ideally the box should be approximately one and a half times longer than your cat.

​​A cat needs space to turn around without feeling cramped. Bear in mind also that if you have a kitten now, you may need to get a bigger box as kitty grows.

It should be easy for the cat to physically​ enter the box.  ​A senior cat may have more trouble navigating a box with high sides, so make sure that ​an older cat is able to enter and exit the box easily.

looking after a litter box

How Often Should The Litter box Be Scooped?

Keep the box clean by scooping at least once a day.  Some people do scoop the litter box more often and this may be necessary if more than one cat is using the box or if you have multiple cats and boxes.

The weather​ also plays a part here, on hot humid days the smell may be more acute, reminding you that you need to scoop.

If you are using a standard litter box that means scooping the clumped feces and urine once a day and then disposing of the matter, in the trash preferably.

​Cats don’t like dirty litter boxes and if they stop using the litter box they may go to the toilet in less desirable locations.  I’m sure you get the drift.

Once cats stop using the litter box it can be difficult to coax them back to the box.  This is a very good reason to keep the box clean.

how to look after a litter box

Can Cat Litter Be Flushed Down The Toilet?

This can be a somewhat controversial topic and there are some litters that are marketed as flushable. Clay litters are definitely not suitable for flushing as they contain bentonite clay which will go rock hard in water, so definitely not good for the plumbing system.  

It should be noted that even products marketed as flushable can clog the plumbing if more than 1 or 2 clumps are flushed at a time.  ​

If there was a fail-safe method it would be great but for now using cat litter bags and then disposing of them in an outside garbage bin is the best option.

This will then go to landfill which is designed to safely handle these products. Dirty diapers fall into the same category. Also, check the regulations where you live.  The State of California does not allow cat litter to be flushed.

Can I Compost Cat Waste?

No, not safely and this applies to all pet waste. Home composting systems rarely reach temperatures high enough needed to get rid of dangerous pathogens.

It is not worth risking the health of  others by adding cat feces to the compost pile.

The bacteria can live on in the soil for a number of years even if the waste appeared composted before using in the garden.

keep litter box clean

What is The Danger In Cleaning The Cat Litter Box To Pregnant Women?

There is a small risk of exposure to Toxoplasmosis in the cat litter. There are simple precautions that can be taken to avoid infection. This article explains the precautions to take if you are pregnant and have a cat.  It is mainly commonsense but there's some good points to note.

This short video also explains the risks and actions to take.

How Do You Dispose Of Cat Litter?

​Cat litter bags are biodegradable and do break down over time. Check the information from the manufacturer as this will vary from product to product. The bags are usually in boxes which look similar to a box of tissues which makes it very easy to pick up a bag before scooping the litter.

Some cat litter bags have a drawstring which makes it easier to remove the bag from the box. 

If not using cat litter liners, pour the litter into a plastic bag, tie at the top and dispose of in the trash.  Some litter is very heavy and two plastic bags may be needed.

Do I Need A Cat Litter Scoop?

Yes, you will need a cat litter scoop to scoop the litter box.  They all do the same job however the design features and sizes vary, some may be plastic others stainless steel and so on.

Stainless steel will be longer lasting but may cost more initially, so the choice of materials may affect the cost of​ the scoop.

When buying a scoop look at the size of the sieve to make sure that is is suitable for the litter you are using.  If the litter is fine you will need a finer sieve and if the litter is larger such as crystals the sieve can be wider.

cat walking out of cat litter box

You may try several before you find one that works for your purposes.

They are relatively inexpensive items so don’t put up with one that isn’t doing the job properly.

What Do You Use To Clean a Litter Box? 

Use an unscented soap product to clean the box.  If the soap/cleaner you use to clean the box  is perfumed make sure the box is rinsed thoroughly so that there is no residual smell for the cat.  

If possible leave the box outdoors to air and dry. Make sure the box is absolutely dry before adding the new litter.

A cat’s sense of smell is far more acute than ours.

You can also buy a cat litter deodorizer however be wary or any fragrances that may end up annoying you and the cat.  A masking odor can become cloying.  ​

how to look after a litter box

Where Should the Litter Box Be Located?

Preferably, away from food and away from water or if space is limited just bear this in mind and do the best you can.

Outside cats will always prefer to go to someone else's yard to poop because their primal instincts are to deter predators.  No matter how much we adapt to modern life, those instincts are still there.

Your cat needs to be able to escape if he senses a threat or danger so don’t poke the box into a confined space. Of course you may not have huge open expanses but just consider that wherever the box is placed your cat needs to know that he can zip out at a moment's notice.

If you are short of space consider a partition or screen to segregate a living area for example from a litter box area.  Both can coexist, it just takes a little creative thinking.

As cats are basically scaredy cats, try not to place the box where there might be unexpected loud noises, for example a thoroughfare.

It should be easy for the cat to get to the box.  Think of your senior kitties as the needs may be different.  A senior cat or kitten may have more trouble navigating a box with high sides so make sure that entry to the box is easy.

If possible, locate the box where these is some ventilation.

An open window and fresh air will work wonders for keeping down any odor.

caring for a litter box

Should I Use A Litter Box Liner?

Liners make it easy to dispose of the litter when the box is being washed. ​Some liners have elastic at the top to keep the litter bag in place. Sometimes kitty scratching about in the litter can pull the bag back into the box.

If there is not enough litter in the box and the cat is scratching at plastic - this is not good.

​Cat feces can get stuck to the plastic and make scooping difficult. If you do use a liner and many people do just make sure the litter is topped up.  

In fact, after scooping it will almost always be necessary to top up the litter.

How Much Litter Should I Use?

Be generous, too shallow and litter will fly everywhere as the cat may get quite frantic trying to bury her business. The litter should be about 3 inches deep (around 7 cm)

Use unscented litter where possible.  The scent is really for humans and quite honestly if the box is scooped daily there should not be a pong problem.

Recently there have been variants on scented litter that are not as overpowering plus many litters now are odor controlling even without an added fragrance.

and finally...

Although there may seem like a lot of dos and donts when first setting up and getting used to cleaning a litter box, it will soon become second nature.  

​Decide on a cleaning schedule that suits you. Many people clean the litter box on the weekend as this is convenient however midweek would be fine if the weekend is too busy.  The main thing is to plan a schedule and stick to it.  An adhoc approach is more likely to lead to problems as it becomes difficult to remember when the box was cleaned.

A dirty litter box will put kitty off and may result in litter box refusal.  It is worth spending the time to keep the litter box smelling fresh as a daisy.

how to look after a litter box

About the Author Rebecca Parker

Hello! I am Rebecca Parker, the content editor of this site. My kitty cat contracted diabetes at age 14. This means twice daily injections and to his dismay, no snacking in between meals. This gorgeous and very loved kitty is sadly now deceased, old age caught up with him.