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Do you know how often to change cat litter?

Ginger cat in litter box
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you're considering how often to change cat litter, you have to take a feline's hygiene standards into account. Get it wrong and there's every chance that your cat's toilet habits will be thrown into disarray and it can also lead to mounting medical problems. While the best self-cleaning cat litter boxes can certainly help make life easier, you’ll still want to change your kitty’s litter on a regular basis.

Even with the best cat litter filling their box, your feline friend will soon let you know if you’re not changing it enough. One of the key ways they demonstrate their displeasure is to go to the toilet elsewhere and getting them back into the swing of using the cat litter once more could prove difficult. 

As anyone who has been confronted by a puddle of pee on the carpet will know, it's not pleasant and the strong urine smell is difficult to eliminate. In short, you'll be making more work for yourself. Thankfully, this guide on how often to change cat litter will help you make sure your fur baby’s litter box lives up to their high standards!

So how regularly should cat litter be changed?

The answer isn't as straightforward as you may imagine. Given what has just been discussed, you may now be tempted to change the cat litter every day but, in truth, that isn't convenient for you and it isn't actually necessary either.

What you should do, however, is scoop feces out of the cat litter every day – a relatively tiny task that will do three things: reduce the chance of poo smells wafting around your home, increase the time needed between total cat litter changes, and prevent cats from turning their nose up at a soiled box, causing them to head off elsewhere.

From that point on, though, you're getting into the different types of cat litter on the market and whether they make a difference in terms of cleaning regularity. Simple answer? Yes. If you invest in clumping cat litter – the more expensive type that quickly absorbs liquid to make it easily removable – then you're in luck: it may only need to be cleaned every two or three weeks, depending on your standard of daily maintenance.

By contrast, non-clumping cat litter may need to be changed as often as twice a week although, again, with daily cleaning, you could extend that to once every seven days. The main problem with non-clumping litter is that it soaks rather than becomes solid and it doesn't trap odors as well as the clumping variety. Even the use of charcoal or baking soda, which is supposed to help make the litter less smelly, doesn't totally eradicate the problem.

So what else is out there? Well, corn-based litter may last 30 days while wood pellets will need changing in half that time. One of the best litters, however, are those made from liquid-absorbing silica gel which could last as long as two months between changes. Again, though, you shouldn't just put the litter in the box and leave it. Regular monitoring will always give you a better indication of how regularly the cat litter should be changed.

Is it enough to just change the litter, though?

Every time you change cat litter, you should take the opportunity to clean the litter box itself. And if you're not sure how to clean a litter box then it's worth taking the time to read up on it. That's because you may be surprised at the number of things you should take into consideration in order to do an effective job. In general, it involves giving the box a wash with water and a gentle dish soap, yet you'll want to avoid using anything with a strong smell because that will put a cat off from using the box again. 

If you have fallen into that trap, though, and you're having trouble with felines refusing to do their business in the right place – perhaps because you've left it too long between changes – you will have some extra work to do. Start by learning how to get a cat to use a litter box and, once they're back in the swing of things again, you can stick to the regular cleaning schedule to ensure they keep using it.

Will I need to change the litter more often if I have multiple cats?

Woman holding litter in her hands over litter box

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The more cats you have, the less time you should wait between litter changes – assuming they are all using the same litter tray, anyway. Likewise, if you have more than one litter tray, then the length of time between changes could be increased, again depending on how many cats you have!

If you do have more than one cat, look for cat litters designed for multiple-cat households, all of which are going to be of the clumping variety and packed with a greater number of odor neutralizers. Some cat owners will swear by cat litter made from ground-up walnut shells but litter for multiple cat households can use anything from biodegradable corn to wood and clay.

Will my cats be healthier if I change the litter often?

As we mentioned earlier, dirty litter can lead to medical problems – in both you and your cat. One of the biggest issues facing humans is inhaling too much ammonia from the feces and urine. But there is also a chance of developing a bacterial infection from the poop or coming down with toxoplasmosis caused by a parasite found in the feces of infected cats.

Cats can get a fungal infection from a filthy litter box but the main problem emerges in felines who decide to stay clear. If a cat starts to avoid a dirty litter box, then they may begin to hold their urine for longer and this can cause a urinary tract infection and problems with their kidneys and bladder. Untreated, a cat can become very ill and could even die.

Is there a way of reducing the hassle of cleaning cat litter?

If you're cleaning feces from a cat litter tray each day, then you'll be reducing the amount of time you'll spend on a full change by the sheer fact of not having to do it as often. You could also save some time by popping waste little down the toilet. But is cat litter flushable? The reality is more complicated than you may imagine.

The best way of taking the hassle out of cleaning cat litter, though, is to invest in the best cat litter subscriptions. In many ways, they do the hard work for you. They come in boxes that can simply be thrown away so you don't actually have to get your hands dirty other than in scooping out the poop each day. You don't have to remember when you last changed the cat litter, either, because a fresh batch will be arriving at your door on a regular basis. For some people, it's the ultimate solution.

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.