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Litter Box Cleaning: How Often and Are You Doing It The Right Way?

Posted by Alicia Compton on

For over 10 years I’ve worked in rescue. So, over the years, a lot of feline friends have came in and out of my life. I don’t think “litter box cleaning” is necessarily a career. But, after all the litter box cleaning I’ve done, I think I’d qualify for a management position. That is, if it was a career.

In fact, for a year I worked at a local cat rescue. This cat rescue housed over 300 cats! Yep, you read that right. Over 300 lovely felines! They had rooms for kittens, adults, seniors, and even cats with special needs. Each individual room was also equipped with many litter boxes. It was my duty, as an employee at the rescue, to make sure these litter boxes were maintained.
While cleaning the litter boxes in the “special needs” room we had to take precautions. Because, the cats had diseases, special needs, and such. Litter box cleaning is imperative for any cat. It’s also imperative if you want to leave in peace with your kitty.
Why litter box cleaning is important
Why Routine Litter Box Cleaning Is REALLY Important
We all know the main reasons why keeping your cat’s litter box clean is important. Who really wants to deal with the smell of a dirty litter box? I know I don’t. I’m sure you don’t either. But, making sure your home and litter box stay odor free isn’t the only reason to keep litter boxes clean.
According to The Nest there are many reasons you should keep a litter box clean. I’ve listed some of those reasons below.
A Dirty Litter Box Is A Danger For Your Cat
By nature, for the most part, cats are clean creatures. That’s why you’ll often see your cat grooming themselves. Some cats even bite their nails! Most cats are going to be turned off by a dirty litter box.
Plus, a cat who has a litter box that is dirty may hold their urine and/or bowel movements. Because, well, they don’t want to step into a dirty area. Just like it’s not good for us to “hold it”, it isn’t good for them either.
Cats, especially male cats, can develop urinary problems fast. The most common issue seems to be a urinary blockage. Most of the time this is caused by crystals or stones. These crystals and stones keep the cat from being able to relieve themselves. As a result, you end up with a sick cat.
In an unfortunate situation, I personally experienced a cat with a urinary blockage. One of my own, to be exact. My 3 year old tabby, Willie, developed a urinary blockage. One day he was fine, the next day I found him laying in his litter box. Willie couldn’t stand. He was meowing softly over and over.
When I found Willie, the first thing I did was check the color of his gums. His gums were pale white. I knew we were in trouble once I saw that. I rushed him to the closest veterinary clinic that was open. He was wrapped in his favorite blanket and I was sobbing. They took him back as soon as I walked in the door.
Not even 5 minutes after we got to the clinic, the doctor had a diagnosis. Willie had a urinary blockage. He told me they were sure they could save him. But, I would need to leave him with them over night. Before I left the front desk gave me an estimate. The lowest treatment cost hoovered right around $400. While the highest estimate was closer to $900.
A couple hours after I dropped Willie off the veterinarian called me. Even after removing the blockage, IV fluids, and antibiotics we had lost Willie. That’s how fast our lives turn around.
Now, here’s where I feel guilty. As dedicated I am to the pet industry, I’m human. It’s in my DNA to make mistakes, I’m sure. It was in my daily routine to clean Willie’s litter box. But, while it’s no excuse, we had a new baby in the house. I was trying to adjust to life. So, for only 2 days, Willie went without his litter box being changed.
How to properly clean a litter box
Since Willie was a very “clean” cat, he didn’t want to use the litter box. So, he refused to use the litter box. Which resulted in that tragic afternoon.
This is why I can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure you do litter box cleaning on a regular basis.
An Unclean Litter Box Is Harmful To Humans, Too!
Have you ever heard of a zoonotic disease? Well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks down it down. In short, a zoonotic disease is a disease that animals can pass to humans. But, not only can we can get these diseases from animals. With zoonotic diseases, we can pass them to animals as well.
There are many ways that zoonotic diseases are passed back and forth. But, can you guess the most common way these diseases are spread when a cat is infected? If you guess through feces, then you’re right! Just another reason why litter box cleaning is important.
Actually, it is recommended that women who are pregnant stay away from litter boxes. That’s because cats are susceptible to carrying Toxoplasma gondii. Especially cats who spend time outside. A pregnant woman infected with Toxoplasmosis may end up miscarrying. Toxoplasmosis infection in pregnant women has also been known to cause birth defects.
The CDC recommends that people who are elderly or have compromised immune system steer clear of litter boxes.
You may be a first time cat owner, someone who owns many cats, or someone who is thinking about getting a cat.
So, of course you’re curious about proper litter box cleaning. I already filled you in on why it’s important to keep a clean litter box.
But, I have to fill you in on what I think are important “litter box guidelines.” The nitty gritty of all things litter box.
Litter Box Guidelines
Always have ONE extra litter box per cat.
Ok, so this one is pretty self explanatory. Pretty much, if you have 1 cat, you need 2 litter boxes. If you have 10 cats, well, you’ll need to hire help. Plus, have room for 20 litter boxes in your home.
Keep litter boxes in a low traffic area.
I don’t know about you. But, I don’t enjoy the thought of using the bathroom with an audience. Although, as a mom and a pet owner, that’s impossible. I’d much rather prefer silence over an audience, though. The same goes for your kitty.
Give your cat a private restroom area.
If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
Cats are finicky creatures. If you find a litter or litter box design that your cat loves, don’t ditch it.
Sometimes a change is unavoidable. Such as a favorite litter becomes discontinued.
Some cats who have surgery also need a different arrangement as well. But, if change is avoidable, keep it the same.
Remember your hygiene is important, too.
Make sure you wash your hands well before and after you clean any litter box.
Of course you need the right tools for a pleasant litter box experience.
The first tool you’ll need is, without a doubt, a litter box. But, there are other handy litter box tools that will make your life easier, too.
Accessories for litter box cleaning
Must Have Litter Box Tools
Litter Box
Like I said above, this one is a no brainer. There’s a lot of options out there. So, getting overwhelmed is likely. Make sure whatever option you chose that it’s the right choice for your cat and home. Make sure that the size is large enough. But, that it will also fit where you plan on putting the box.
The Pet Fusion BetterBox is a great choice for cat owners. It’s a larger litter box. So, in all honesty, it’s great for any kitty stage. It has a lot of awesome features that will benefit you and your cat.
Pet Fusion BetterBox Features
  • Recommended by veterinarians
  • Has a non-stick coating
  • Made of durable ABS plastic
  • Includes a 12 month warranty.
  • Anti-microbial
  • The non-stick coating provides up to 70% less sticking.
  • The spacious curves and design make the litter box inviting.
  • Has an easy grip lip. Which makes it perfect for any age.
  • All materials have been tested using international safety standards.
Litter
The must have, of course, is your preferred litter. Like I said above, some cats are finicky. So, you may not find a winner your first go around. But, once you find litter that you and your cat love, stick with it.
One recommendation I’d make is to keep it simple. While fragrant litters may seem “inviting,” your cat may not love them.
Cat Litter Mat
I’ll be the first to admit that I am fooled by “false claims” often. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love an advertisement that offers you everything you’ve been looking for?!
As pet owners, we love our pets. But, we don’t always love their mess. So, a litter box that promises less litter tracking may send cat owners into a frenzy.
But, I have to say, I’ve tried quite a few of these products. Some of them did seem to track less litter. While some of them just didn’t live up to their claim. Having a litter box is messy. Plain and simple.
That’s why, even if you happen to own one of these “magical litter boxes,” I still suggest a litter mat. These really make a difference in tracking litter through the house.
If you’re looking for a suggestion, I have one. The Pet Fusion SmartGrip Cat Litter Mat. This mat is stylish and functional. It’s modern look is also quite appealing.
 
Pet Fusion SmartGrip Cat Litter Mat Features
  • It comes in a jumbo size. So, it covers quite a bit of area.
  • The mat has raised bumps on the outer channel. Allowing it to catch litter easily.
  • Unlike most mats, the SmartGrip is made out of soft material. This allows cats to relax their paws. Plus, it prevents jumping as well.
  • Made of FDA grade silicone.
  • It’s non-toxic.
Litter Box Liners
I’m not the only one who recommends liners as a must have litter box accessory. The Humane Society of the United States also recommends litter box liners.
They’re easy to use. Plus they make litter box cleaning super easy.
Litter Scoop
This is another one of those must have accessories. Even if you have an automatic litter box, I still would recommend having a litter scoop available. Well, not just one. I’d recommend having a few.
If you’ve used a litter scoop before you know how messy they can get. Especially after you just scooped a dirty litter box. Urine and feces tend to get stuck on them. As well as tons of litter.
Pet Fusion has created a great alternative to your everyday litter scoop. The Pet Fusion QuickScoop. The best thing about this litter scoop? It’s non-stick! Yep, you heard that right. That is a cat owner's dream.
 
Pet Fusion QuickScoop Features
  • The design allows this scoop to sit flush. So, it scoops under the litter.
  • It’s coating is non-stick
  • Ensures superior hygiene
  • Design provides faster sifting. Allowing you to get the job done faster.
Are you ready to set up your litter box now? If so, now it’s time to learn more about the cleaning process of caring for a litter box.
Litter Box Cleaning Frequency
So, here’s one of the top questions we get in the pet industry. How often should you clean your litter box?! Before I tell you what professionals recommend, I’ll fill you in on what I have experienced.
Like I stated above, I spent over 10 glorious years in the industry. In the early years, I spent a year at the local cat rescue. The rescue consisted of two shifts. Each shift scooped litter boxes when they arrived. Plus, scooped them all at the end of their shift. Which means over 300 litter boxes were scooped 4 times a day.
I can tell you though, the rescue never smelt like “cat” when you walked in. So, the frequency must have worked for the rescue.
Five years of my pet industry career were spent in a veterinary clinic. At this clinic I was a kennel worker, a veterinarian assistant, and a receptionist.
I didn’t scoop litter boxes as a receptionist. But, I did as a kennel worker and assistant. We usually had anywhere from 10-15 boarding clients. As well as 5 or more hospital patients. If any were cats, their litter boxes were scooped once in the morning and once in the evening.
The Humane Society of The United States suggests scooping once daily. They offer different suggestions on when you should dump the litter.
There are different factors that come into play on when you should do a complete change out.
  • How many cats you have in your home.
  • How many litter boxes you have in your home.
  • The type of litter you use.
If you use clay litter, the Humane Society of the United States recommends replacing it twice a week. But, what if you use clumping litter? As long as you’re scooping out the waste once a day, you’ll only need to do a full switch out every 2-3 weeks.
How often should you clean your litter box
Proper Used Cat Litter Disposal
As tempting as tossing the litter into the kitchen trash can may be, it’s not the best option. We all know how bad a dirty litter box can smell. That’s not a smell you want lingering in your kitchen.
Depending on the type of litter you use, I make different recommendations on disposal.
Clay and/or Clumping Litter
These are probably the most popular litter types out there. Most cat owners are familiar with clay and clumping litter.
Remember: it’s recommended that you ALWAYS wear a mask when scooping litter. As it’s likely that dust will float around in the air. That’s not something you want to inhale.
The recommended disposal of clay and clumping litter is scooping it into baggies. Once scooped into the baggies it’s recommended that the baggies are thrown in an outside trash can.
It’s not recommended that you flush clay or clumping litter.
Newspaper Litter
Using newspaper litter is popular when a cat is declawed. If you ever have to use newspaper litter, you’ll want to know how to dispose of it.
If you’re looking for a flushable option, you have a few. Wheat, corn, and pine litters are the litter types that are deemed to be okay to flush.
Deep Litter Box Cleaning
Is it time to give your cat’s litter box a deep cleaning? If so, you’ll want to know how to do it the right way. Proper litter box cleaning equal proper hygiene.
How to clean a litter box
Before you start deep cleaning, you want to make sure you have all your tools ready.
Handy Tools for Deep Litter Box Cleaning
  • Litter scoop
  • Baggies
  • Trash bag(s)
  • Dish detergent
  • Water hose
  • Face mask
  • Disposable gloves
  • Disposable sponge
It seems kind of silly to have water hose up there, doesn’t it? But, Animal Planet actually recommends the best place to rinse out your litter box is outside. This also ensures that no unwanted litter goes down your pipes. They also recommend only washing your litter box in dish detergent. As well as allowing your litter box to dry outside, in the sunshine.
I know that this seems like a lot to take in. But, if you read my story above about my sweet Willie, you’ll understand why it’s necessary. Why, as a cat owner, you have to make sure your cat’s litter box has proper cleaning. As well as regular cleaning.

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