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How Often Should You Clean Out Your Cat’s Litter Box?

Picture of a cat in a litter box

Cleaning out the litter box isn’t the most pleasant of tasks, especially for people who get grossed out by the results of animals’ digestion process. You might think that forgetting to clean your feline friend’s litter box today or even two days in a row wouldn’t lead to any problems. But is that really true?

So, how often should you clean out the cat’s litter box? The answer is simple — as often as possible. Routine litter box cleaning is extremely important since it can ensure that both your home and the litter box stay odor-free. But that isn’t the only reason to keep your cat’s litter box (or litter boxes, if you have multiple cats) clean.

Let’s look at some of the dangers that you’re exposing your cat to if you fail to stick to your litter box cleaning schedule. Also, did you know that doing so can even be dangerous to people? Read on to find out everything you want to know about all the risks involved. 

How can you tell if the litter needs to be replaced?

While the smell of the litter box might be one clue that you could use to find out whether the litter needs replacing or not, there’s another rather important one. It’s your cat’s behavior. Litter boxes can be compared to public toilets that aren’t cleaned more than once or twice a day. Would you want to use a public restroom other than in an emergency case scenario? 

Cats tend to be quite bothered by your inability to clean the litter box regularly. 

I’ve noticed this myself with my own cat. I do my best when it comes to replacing the litter and cleaning the box as often as possible, but for some reason, I must have forgotten to do so for two days. I had a friend visiting me, and we were talking, and I kept noticing that my cat was going to the litter box every couple of minutes without really doing something in it. 

She just scratched and attempted to cover her pee or poop without really ‘going to the bathroom’. After I cleaned the box and replaced the litter with some fresh one, she went and did her business and didn’t come back to the litter box until the next day. 

But not all cats are as obvious as mine, and they might not exhibit behaviors that could show you that something’s wrong. While some might scratch outside the litter box, sit right in front of it for some time, or even meow when trying to use the litter box, others might not show any of these signs. 

These are the cats that are most predisposed to urinary pathologies as they basically hold it in until you clean the litter. Instead of urinating up to three times over the course of a day, the cat will tighten up and go just once a day. 

Why is failing to clean the litter box often dangerous for the cat?

If you’ve wondered how often to change your cat’s litter or clean the box, we’ll tell you that many vets recommend doing it once or even twice a day. It all actually depends on the amount of litter that you use. If you tend to put more in the box, you can clean it once a day or every other day. If you use less, it’ll get dirty easier and faster, so it’s a good idea to change it more often. 

As for the dangers that you are exposing your cats to, if you don’t stick with the plan, there are many. Cats, in general, but especially male cats, can quickly develop urinary problems. With male cats, urinary blockages can even be life-threatening, especially as they have a short and narrow urethra, which makes it almost impossible for urinary crystals to be eliminated naturally. 

Sometimes, a urinary blockage can happen after just two or three days of you not cleaning the litter box. If you have a particularly clean cat, he or she isn’t going to use the litter box, which can result in a tragic outcome. 

A dirty litter box can be harmful to humans

The most important disease that can be transmitted by cats and by getting in contact with their feces is by far Toxoplasmosis. This disease is particularly dangerous to pregnant women, which is why it’s highly recommended that they avoid cleaning the litter box at all costs. So yes, a sick cat can make you sick, but that means that you should ask someone else to clean the litter box if your cat is diagnosed with Toxoplasmosis and you’re pregnant.  

There are self-cleaning litter boxes nowadays that make it impossible for the feces and urine to get in contact with the rest of the world, meaning that they are often covered or have a very narrow pathway that the cat uses to get inside. 

The ideal setup

It’s generally acknowledged that for every feline friend that you add to the family, you should add one litter box. So yes, that does mean that if you have three cats, you need to have three different litter boxes placed in your home. But there are some things that can affect your cat’s peeing and defecating ability even if you do clean the litter box often.

The location is important. While the litter box should be in a place that can give your cat some privacy, it also needs to be easy to get to. If you put it in the basement, the cat might not want to use it.

Avoid placing a litter box next to noisy appliances. The noise can make your pet nervous. Replace the litter box every six months or so if it is made of plastic since it can develop grooves from the scratching, and in those grooves, there can be some nasty germs or dirt hiding.

If you know that you’re going to travel with your cat for a good number of hours, make sure that you bring some of her favorite litter along in the carrier. As weird as this might sound, it can be a solution. Use pee pads to manage the situation as best as possible, but you should also know that cats that have to travel become extremely stressed and could avoid urinating in unknown places. 

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