litter box cleaning and cat poop scooping
Facebook Pinterest Twitter

How To Clean a Litter Box: The Comprehensive Guide

Est. read time: 7 min.

Having furry family members of the feline variety means dealing with the task of maintaining their litter box. Whether you have a traditional litter box or a self-cleaning model, it’s still essential to keep it clean for your cat’s health. If you’re seeking tips on how to clean a litter box (especially if you’re sensitive to smells!), we’ve got ideas for both the routine and the methods you should follow.

Litter box cleaning tips

cat litter box cleaning tips

Wear gloves

Whether you’re scooping, replacing cat litter, or cleaning the litter box itself—it’s always best to have a pair of disposable gloves on hand! Cats may shed bacteria or parasites in their waste that can be passed to humans. Most people don’t need to worry about contracting diseases from their cat, but it’s particularly important that pregnant people and immunosuppressed cat parents wear gloves when cleaning the litter box. (Even better: Have someone else clean the litter box for you!)

Ensure your scoop is well-designed

If you must scoop, use a shovel that is ergonomically designed. That means easy for you to grip, with tines that are wide enough to sift clean litter and narrow enough to catch all the clumps.

Use an unscented, pet-friendly cleaner

When it comes to cleaning the actual litter box, we recommend using an unscented and pet-safe cleaner spray or wipes. Cats are very sensitive to odors, many of which end up in cleaning products. If the litter box suddenly smells of a lingering fragrance that your cat hates, they probably won’t use it! 

Avoid harsh chemicals

Many household cleaners contain ingredients that are toxic to our furry family members. Avoid cleaning products that contain the following: bleach, ammonia, isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, chemicals that have the word “phenol”, glycol ethers, and formaldehyde.

How to clean a litter box: Step-by-step guide

how to clean a litter box - scooping poop

  1. Gather your cleaning supplies: gloves, litter scoop, trash bags, cleaning cloth, and, of course, a pet-safe cleaner.
  2. Empty the litter: put on your gloves and scoop out any solid waste and litter clumps. Place the waste into a cat litter trash. For a deep cleaning of the litter box, fully empty out the litter into a separate trash bag. 
  3. Spray the litter box with the cleaner: using an enzyme cleaner or a pet-friendly cleaning spray, start scrubbing the litter box.
  4. Rinse: rinse thoroughly to remove any soap residue and keep the litter box safe for your cat. 
  5. Dry the box: use paper towels or a cleaning cloth to thoroughly dry the litter box. If your litter box is still humid, the new litter will stick to it.
  6. Refill with fresh cat litter: add fresh layer of cat litter to the clean, dry litter box. If you're not sure how much cat litter to use, fill it with about 2-3 inches deep. 

Building a litter box cleaning routine

Once you get a routine down for cleaning the litter box, it doesn’t feel so much like a chore. Here’s our suggested schedule for maintaining your cat’s litter box on a daily basis, as well as what to clean weekly, monthly, and even quarterly.

Scoop daily

If you have a traditional litter box—as in not automatic or self-cleaning—you’ll want to make sure you’re scooping the litter box daily. Also be sure to have one more litter box than you have cats. (So, if you have one cat, you need two traditional litter boxes. Three cats, four litter boxes!)

Why scoop daily? Because a clean litter box is essential to good cat health. As an emergency critical care veterinary specialist, Dr. Justine Lee explains that cats don’t want to step into a dirty litter box too often. They may choose to only urinate once a day instead of 2-3x/day; when this happens, their urine becomes very concentrated, and with it, red blood cells, mucous plugs, or even crystals can become more concentrated. This can potentially result in signs of either feline idiopathic cystitis (formerly called feline lower urinary tract disease) or a life-threatening feline urethral obstruction

Replace the litter every 2-4 weeks

Every 2 to 4 weeks, you should completely throw out the litter in the litter box(es) and replace it with fresh litter. How often you have to do this depends on how many cats you have, their bathroom habits, and which type of cat litter you use. 

If you begin noticing that telltale ammonia smell of cat urine buildup in the litter box, that is a good indicator that you should replace the litter as soon as possible. Ideally, you’ll do so before it gets to this stinky point. 

The more cats that you have, the more often you’ll likely need to replace the litter. If you use non-clumping litter that doesn’t allow you to remove urine clumps, you’ll also need to replace it more often.

We recommend using a high-quality clay-clumping litter so that you can promptly dispose of both urine clumps and feces—leading to longer-lasting litter!

Clean the litter box monthly or quarterly

Now, don’t overlook the litter box container itself. Whether it’s a traditional litter box or automatic litter box, you’ll want to regularly give it a good cleaning (just as you would your own toilet!). Again, how often you clean it depends on how many cats you have and just how messy they are. But at a minimum, you should clean the litter box itself every 1-3 months.

How can I reduce the smell of my cat's litter box while cleaning it?

If you find the smell of your cat's litter box overpowering when you clean it, there are a few strategies you can employ. Firstly, consider using a litter that offers superior odor control. Secondly, cleaning the box regularly can help keep smells in check. Also, you may want to open a window or use a fan while you're cleaning to help disperse the smell. If necessary, you could also wear a mask while you clean the box.

Are there any alternatives to manual litter box cleaning?

Yes, if manual cleaning isn't feasible or preferable for you, consider using a self-cleaning litter box. These automatic devices remove waste from the box and require less frequent cleaning. They're especially useful for multi-cat households or for those who have a busy schedule. However, even with a self-cleaning litter box, regular maintenance is required to keep the box fresh and functioning properly.

How to clean Litter-Robot

Litter-Robot cleaning

With an automatic litter box like Litter-Robot, you don’t have to scoop daily (or ever!). You may only have to replace your litter monthly because the patented sifting process removes only the clumps, preserving the clean litter. 

However, you’ll still want to clean the Litter-Robot's globe every 1-3 months.

We also recommend deep cleaning your Litter-Robot 4 or Litter-Robot 3 approximately three times per year, depending on your personal preference and your cat’s behavior. The four-part system (base, globe, bonnet, and drawer) was constructed with easy upkeep in mind.

Now that you have tips on how to clean a litter box, you can work this important (albeit undesirable) task into your routine!

Hand holding Litter-Robot Cleaner Spray - how to clean a litter box