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How Often Do I Really Need To Clean My Cat's Litter Box?

Reviewed by Dr. Peter Kintzer, DVM, DACVIM on Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Posted December 18, 2014 in Cat Behavior

Litter box

Who knew there was so much to kitty litter? Dr. Justine Lee provides some valuable litter box advice. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

Last week, we talked about adding the appropriate number of litter boxes to your house. Well, just because you added n+1 litter boxes doesn’t mean you can clean less frequently! We neurotic types clean litter boxes daily. If that’s too much for you, litter boxes should be scooped out at least every other day. Of course, this depends on how many cats you have. The more cats you have, the more frequently the boxes should be scooped out. While it’s a dirty job, it really should be done for the best interest of your cat(s).

If you notice your cat scratching outside the litter box instead of inside (“What’s a cat gotta do to get you to clean the litter box? Helllllo!”), it’s his way of telling you that the litter box is disgusting and he doesn’t want to get his feet filthy while he’s “attempting” to cover up his poop inside. If you just cleaned the litter box and he’s still doing it, it’s likely from a bad memory of getting soaked or dirty while in the box, so unless you want a pet that poops in random places, get in there and scoop.

Some cats will “hold it” and urinate as infrequently as possible to avoid stepping into a dirty, filthy, full litter box. Instead of urinating two to three times a day, your cat will tighten up and only go once a day. This makes his urine get more concentrated and could make crystals and urine debris plug up and cause him to get a life-threatening feline urethral obstruction (FUO). With FUO, cats may have stones, crystals, or mucous plugs in their urethra that prevent them from being able to urinate. Not only is this painful, but it can also lead to temporary kidney failure, electrolyte abnormalities, vomiting, lethargy, cardiac arrhythmias, and death. So to help prevent problems like this or even diseases like feline lower urinary tract disease or sterile cystitis (e.g., feline urinary tract disease or FLUTD), scoop!

The other added benefit of scooping frequently is that it helps you detect medical problems earlier. If your cat isn’t urinating, you’ll notice when there’s no urine in the litter box for two days. If your cat

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.