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How to Keep Your Cat's Litter Box Clean—By Dr. Kimberly Couch

Cat in a litter box
Written by Dr. Kimberly Couch, DVM
—Veterinarian 🇺🇸

Today we’re going to talk about everyone’s least favorite part of owning a cat...the dreaded litter box. 

No cat owner wants their guests to be hit in the face with the lovely aroma of cat urine and feces as soon as they walk in the door. In the article below, I will touch on some helpful tips to keep your cat’s litter box clean and discrete.


Selecting a litter

Selecting an appropriate litter can be a difficult task; There are so many to choose from! There is clay litter, paper litter, crystal litter, wood litter, and many more. A lot of this choice is dependent upon your individual cat’s preference. 

The most important thing to consider when making this choice is to make sure your cat likes and will use the litter box with that particular litter present. In my experience, I find that most cats prefer a soft litter such as clay rather than crystals. 

Similarly, scented or unscented litter options are available. While the scented litter smells better, the non-scented litter may be preferred by some cats.

Another important choice to make is clumping vs. non-clumping litter. I typically recommend clumping litter because the litter forms clumps on both the urine and feces and can be easily scooped. 

Selecting a litter box

There are just as many options for types of litter boxes as there are types of cat litter. This decision is also largely dependent upon your cat’s personal preference. The most important thing to consider is to make sure your cat will use whatever litter box type you provide for them. 

Many people like the idea of automatic cleaning litter boxes. These can be great options if you start your cat with this as a kitten. However, some adult cats will be afraid of them if they have never used one before and may choose to do their business elsewhere (like the carpet). 

Regardless of the type of box used, I still recommend cleaning the litter box out and replacing the litter regularly. If you are comfortable with manually scooping your cat’s litter box, there are still many options- most of which are suitable. I recommend selecting a box your cat can get in and out of easily and has room to move around and comfortably do their business.

There is also the option of a covered litter box vs. a non-covered box. Some cats prefer the covered box for added privacy. However, oftentimes the cover traps odors and isn’t as good for proper ventilation. You may find that the covered litter boxes smell worse than the open ones due to the lack of ventilation.


How often should I clean the litter box?

I recommend scooping the litter box twice a day (morning and night). I also recommend completely changing out the litter once a week to every two weeks. At this time, you should also clean the litter box itself with water and diluted bleach or soap.

Additionally, it is also helpful to replace the litter box container about once every 6-12 months. This is because, over time, the bottom surface of the box becomes scratched and can hold in odors!

I also recommend sweeping up stray litter and shaking out litter mats as often as possible. The areas under and around litter boxes can trap pesky used litter odors; Cleaning them regularly makes a HUGE difference. 

Where do I put the litter box?

Litter boxes should be placed in well ventilated, semi-secluded areas. If you have multiple cats and multiple litter boxes, I recommend placing them in different locations so that cats have options and don’t have any incidents (accidental or intentional).

I also recommend placing litter boxes on a litter mat or plastic garbage bag to catch spills and stray litter for easier clean-up. Also, I do not recommend placing litter boxes on the carpet if possible, to prevent the carpet from absorbing the litter smell and causing overall house odor. 

How many litter boxes should I have? 

I recommend that for every cat you have, you have that number of litter boxes plus one. For example, if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes; If you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes, And so on. This is so that every cat has a quiet, private place to do their business, without feeling pressured or competition from their housemates. 

Can I add anything into or around my cat’s litter box for odor control?

Yes! Baking soda is a safe and effective odor-controlling product than being sprinkled into litter boxes. Odor eliminating plug-in air filters can also be plugged in in rooms where litter boxes are present. These filters replace odor-filled air with clean, purified air and can cut down on litter box odors.

Additionally, some plants are also really good at filtering air naturally. These plants also look adorable and thrive indoors. Just make sure the plants you choose are safe for cats! The following are good options: bamboo palm, spider plant, prayer plant, and Boston fern.

Even though these plants are safe, please keep them on a shelf somewhere where your cat doesn’t have easy access to them.


In conclusion, everyone loves cats until they have to smell the litter box. The above tips are my recommendations for litter box maintenance to keep you and your cats happy and healthy.


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