How Often Should You Change Kitty Litter?

By Naomi Millburn

To encourage litter box use, scoop your cat's litter box at least once a day and replace litter on a regular schedule. Depending on the kind of litter you use and the number of cats you have, you'll want to change it as frequently as twice weekly or as rarely as once monthly. Felines are naturally tidy animals; many turn their noses up at litter that's anything less than immaculate.

Cat Feces and Infection

Regular litter box scooping is essential for good health. Cat feces can become infected by a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is spread through infected meat intake, infectious oocyst intake or transmission between mother and fetus. Infectious oocysts initially show up in stool matter three days after a cat is infected. A cat may excrete oocysts for as long as 20 days. If a person or pet unintentionally consumes infected stool, he can get infected with toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can bring on flulike effects in human beings. The disease can be particularly hazardous to pregnant women. If a pregnant woman passes the infection to her unborn baby, it can potentially lead to mental disability, blindness or hearing loss.

Roughly 30 percent of felines in the United States have had contact with Toxoplasma gondii. Since the infection is so common, it's vital for owners to be diligent about never allowing cat feces to linger in a litter box for a long time.

Frequent Cleaning Importance

Frequent litter box cleaning ensures that your cat doesn't get fed up by the mess and stop using it. If your pet's litter box is filled and reeks, he might try to deal with the yucky situation by finding another location to do his business -- making your problem far worse.

Some felines are fussier about and less tolerant of dirty litter boxes than others. If you observe your pet scratching the exterior of his box, he's signaling that he's not happy with how dirty it is. Felines aren't generally fans of soiling their feet.

Daily Scooping

If you want to ensure your cat reliably uses his litter box, scoop the stool matter and urine out on a daily basis. If you have more than one cat in your household, aim to scoop even more often -- and provide one litter box for each cat, plus one. Cats typically are most content when they don't share a communal litter box.

Litter Replacement

Routine emptying of the full litter tray is vital. If you fill your cat's litter box with clumping litter, replace it with completely fresh new litter once a month. If you fill the box with non-clumping litter, on the other hand, you should aim to do so two times per week. If you notice unpleasant cat waste smell in your home, despite scooping waste daily, it's time to change the litter.

Litter Box Scrubbing

When you replace your cat's litter, thoroughly scrub the box with a big disposable sponge. Clean it with a gentle dish soap and warm water. Avoid using cleaning formulas that are toxic to felines. Also avoid using formulas that contain citrus oils or ammonia. Both of those can deter cats. Don't forget to wash the scooper and box lid, too.

Regular sterilization of the box helps prevent odor and eliminates germs. If you want even more protection from odors, consider purchasing a cat litter deodorizer that's capable of neutralizing offensive smells. Some cat owners use baking soda to keep strong box odors at bay.

If you have any questions regarding safe cleaning products to use in your pet's litter box, consult your veterinarian for more information.