Let’s face it. Cleaning out the litter box is never a fun task. But, the more you avoid it, the more likely you’re going to end up with a cat that refuses to use their litter pan.
That’s why we’ve gathered this list for you of 27 litter box cleaning tips and tricks. These will make cleaning out the litter box a significantly better experience for both you and your feline friend.
Keep in mind, our focus is on getting your cats and you clean and fresh-smelling litter boxes at all times! With that in mind, many of the tips aren’t about how to actually clean a litter box (though many are just about that!) but about how to help you get a better-smelling box even without having to change your cleaning methods!
Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
- 1. Change the Location
- 2. Make it Part of Your Routine
- 3. Schedule Deep Cleanings
- 4. Consider Switching Litter
- 5. Choose the Right Litter Box
- 6. Get an Automatic Litter Box
- 7. Use Litter Box Liners
- 8. Make a Cleaning Bucket
- 9. Get a Litter Mat
- 10. Use a Litter Genie
- 11. Add Baking Soda
- 12. Uncover the Box
- 13. Use the Right Amount of Litter
- 14. Have Enough Litter Boxes
- 15. Switch to a Heavier Litter Box
- 16. Scoop it Often Enough
- 17. Use an Anti-Stick Spray
- 18. Know How to Deep Clean It
- 19. Replace Box Annually
- 20. Get a Bigger Litter Pan
- 21. Use an Air Neutralizer
- 22. Get Odor Eliminators
- 23. Use the Right Kind of Scoop
- 24. Get a Standing Scoop
- 25. Scoop Deep and Wide
- 26. Have a Pan for Every Floor
- 27. Consider Flushable Litter
- Final Thoughts
1. Change the Location
There are several reasons choosing a location for your litter box is important. First and foremost, you want it somewhere that it’s convenient for you to clean. If it’s too far out of your normal path, you may neglect it because you just don’t see or smell it.
Cats also prefer to have a litter box in a certain location. It should be quiet so they can relax while doing their business, but not be so far away that they can’t get there quickly if needed.
Something else to keep in mind is that although cats can see better in the dark than people, they prefer to have their litter box in an area where they can see. Cats like to keep an eye out for potential predators, something they can’t do in complete darkness.
Just make sure to stick to the guidelines detailed here: Where to Put the Litter Box? a Concise Room-By-Room Guide
2. Make it Part of Your Routine
The best thing you can do for yourself and your cat is to make cleaning the litter box part of your daily routine. Ideally, you should be cleaning out the litter pan twice daily. To avoid thinking of this as an undesirable chore, get used to automatically doing it and you won’t even think about it.
Here are some suggestions for when to include cleaning the litter box as part of your routine:
- After brushing your teeth
- When you feed your cats
- When you change your clothes
- After making breakfast and dinner
3. Schedule Deep Cleanings
Even with regular scooping, your litter box should still be deep cleaned every once and a while. How often all the litter will need replacing depends on what type of litter you use. Non-clumping litter will typically need to be replaced once a week. Most clumping litters can last 2 – 3 weeks before needing replacing.
See more: How Often Should You Clean a Litter Box
4. Consider Switching Litter
If your cat seems to have trouble using the litter box regularly, you may need to switch to a different cat litter. In general, non-clumping unscented litter is best for cats. Clumping litter has been associated with health problems and the scents added to litter can be a turn-off for a cat’s sensitive nose.
Having the right kind of litter will also make it easier for you to keep the litter box clean. Take some time to research types of cat litter and try a few to decide which is best for you and your cat. Be sure to make the switch gradually, though, as a sudden change could cause your cat to boycott the litter box.
5. Choose the Right Litter Box
In addition to having the right litter, you also need the right litter box for your cat. An elderly cat, for example, won’t be able to use the same type of box as a young, healthy adult cat. They’ll need a box with a low entry point that they can easily get in and out of.
This can prevent cats from going outside the litter box which makes cleaning up after your cat a much bigger hassle. Every cat will have a personal preference, so consider this as well. Some cats do well with top-entry boxes whereas most prefer a traditional open-air box.
We have a full guide for you on this topic: How to Choose a Litter Box for Your Cat
6. Get an Automatic Litter Box
Using an automatic or non-scooping litter pan can help you cut way down on the amount of time it takes you to take care of your cat’s waste. Keep in mind that some of the electronic ones can make a lot of noise and may even scare your cat into finding another place to take care of their business.
However, some of the rolling ones that quickly sift out clumps and allow you to simply remove the waste can drastically cut down on cleaning time. Whenever you introduce a new litter box to your cat, you should always keep the old one around for a while to give them options when looking for a place to go.
See our selection of automatic self cleaning litter boxes reviews.
7. Use Litter Box Liners
To make that weekly or bi-weekly litter box cleanout fast and easy, you can use litter box liners. These plastic bags are designed to fit in the litter box. Then, when it’s time to replace the litter, you simply remove the liner and throw the whole thing away.
Not all cats will take to using litter box liners, so be prepared to have to skip this hack. If your cat does accept them, however, you can save yourself a lot of time and hassle.
Need more information? It’s all available here, inlcuding additional solutions: Litter Box Liners (And Alternatives Too!)
8. Make a Cleaning Bucket
Being prepared to handle any mess your cat throws at you will help you take care of it much faster, and you don’t have to waste any time looking for what you need. You can use a bucket or box to hold your cat litter box supplies. This litter box has a built-in tray where you can keep whatever you need.
Make sure to include these in your cat litter cleaning bucket:
- Slotted litter scoop
- Non-slotted scoop
- Hand brush
- Non-toxic spray cleaner
- Paper towels
Keep this kit right next to the litter box so it’s handy when you need it. If you have multiple boxes throughout the house, keep a kit next to each box. Then cleaning supplies will always be within reach.
9. Get a Litter Mat
Even the neatest cats will track litter out of the box. To keep it from going too far, use a litter mat. This will prevent litter from ending up all over the house. Most litter mats are designed so that you can simply dump the collected litter back into the box.
You’ll still want to deep clean the litter mat occasionally, but it will overall cut down on the amount of time you spend picking up after your cats.
10. Use a Litter Genie
If you have kids, you’ve probably heard of the Diaper Genie, which uses a patented system to lock in odors by sealing a bag one diaper at a time. Now there’s a Litter Genie, which follows the same design. Dump dirty litter inside, pull the handle, and the litter is now trapped along with foul odors.
Using a Litter Genie not only reduces odors associated with litter boxes, but it also makes cleaning a breeze since you don’t have to figure out what to do with all those clumps.
11. Add Baking Soda
There are many reasons to add baking soda to your cat’s litter pan. One of which is that it makes it easier to clean. When sprinkled in the bottom of the litter pan, urine will stick to it rather than the plastic so it comes out easier during deep cleanings.
Plus, you can use baking soda as a gentle but powerful abrasive to clean the litter box. It will absorb odors as it cleans and can get into small cracks more easily that may cause the litter pan to smell bad.
Check out our special guide: Should You Add Baking Soda to Cat Litter?
12. Uncover the Box
This may seem strange, but uncovering your cat’s litter box may be the best thing you’ve done for your litter box routine. For one thing, it makes it easier for you to clean which cuts down on the time you spend cleaning and makes it an easier chore.
The other reason you may want to uncover your litter box is that it makes it easier for your cats to use it. In the wild, cats go in wide open spaces. They like to be able to look around and see that they’re safe while in a vulnerable position.
For some cats, a covered litter box is too confining and they may end up looking for another place to do their business. They may also do this because the odors become trapped in a covered litter box which also creates a very unpleasant experience for them.
Learn more: Do Cats like Covered Litter Boxes?
13. Use the Right Amount of Litter
If you have too much litter, there’s a high chance of it ending up all over the floor when your cat gets in to dig. If you don’t have enough litter, the litter box itself will get coated in all kinds of waste.
You need to have enough litter so that your cat can dig a deep enough hole to use, but not so much that they can get it out of the box. As a general rule, you need between 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10 cm) of litter in the litter box.
14. Have Enough Litter Boxes
Did you know you’re supposed to have one more litter box than you do cats? Having the right number of litter boxes will reduce the chances of a cat going elsewhere because the box is too dirty. It will also mean that each box will stay clean longer.
Spread these litter boxes throughout the house. Cats tend to be territorial, and sometimes one cat will prevent the others from entering a certain area of the house or using a certain litter box. By having enough litter boxes for every cat, you can avoid many litter box mishaps.
Read more here: How Many Litter Boxes per Cat Should You Have?
15. Switch to a Heavier Litter Box
Big cats and lightweight litter boxes spell trouble. If your cat has a bad habit of dumping their litter pan, it may be time to find a heavier litter box. That way, even if they decide to perch on the edge of the litter box to do their business, you won’t have a big mess to take care of later.
16. Scoop it Often Enough
We’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth mentioning again. You should be cleaning out your cat’s litter boxes at least twice per day. The more often you scoop it, the less often you’ll have to completely clean it out.
It only takes a couple minutes to scoop the litter boxes, but far more time to have to deep clean often because of how badly the clumps have become stuck onto the bottom and sides.
This is such an important topic, we have an entire guide dedicated to it: How Often Should You Clean a Litter Box
17. Use an Anti-Stick Spray
To prevent those clumps from sticking to the litter box in the first place, you might consider using a litter box treatment spray. This spray dries quickly and forms a non-stick surface in the litter box. Then, when it comes time to clean it out, the clumps slide right off it.
You should spray a generous amount the first time you add it, then lighter coats on subsequent applications. For best results, add it every time you empty out your litter box. Don’t forget to coat your scoop in it, too!
Anti-stick spray is particularly well-suited for automatic litter boxes. The biggest problem with automatic or non-scooping litter boxes is that the clumps tend to stick to the rakes or sifters. This problem can be easily solved with a litter box treatment spray.
18. Know How to Deep Clean It
We’ve mentioned the need for regular deep cleanings several times, but what we didn’t cover yet is how to do a deep cleaning. A proper deep cleaning of your litter box will help it last longer and can greatly reduce bad odor buildup.
For regular cleanings, you’ll just need to use hot water, unscented soap, and a scrub brush. Unscented soap is important because although scented soaps may be appealing to our human senses, they can be overwhelming to a cat, which could cause them to look for another place to go.
After completely dumping the litter, take the box outside or else use a utility sink in your house, such as the one for your laundry machine run-off. You’ll also want to protect yourself by using rubber gloves, a face mask, and goggles.
Then, follow these directions to thoroughly clean the litter box:
- Wet with hot water.
- Use gloved hands to scrape off any stuck clumps.
- Add soap.
- Scrub inside bottom and sides with brush.
- Scrub outside bottom and sides with brush.
- Rinse several times with hot water to ensure all soap is removed.
- If possible, allow to air dry in sunlight. Otherwise, use a clean towel.
- If using a non-stick spray, coat the interior surfaces with the spray. Allow 5 minutes to dry.
- Refill with cat litter.
Don’t be insulted if the first thing your cat does when you finish cleaning it is use it. Cats truly enjoy a clean place to use the bathroom, so it should be no surprise they’ll be eager to hop in as soon as it’s spotless.
19. Replace Box Annually
Over time, a litter box gets damaged. No matter how often you clean it, there’s going to come a time when you just need to replace the whole thing. Experts recommend replacing your litter box every year, unless you’re using a high-quality one that’s designed to last longer.
Replacing your litter box will give you a fresh start so you don’t have to keep struggling with keeping odors down in your old box that’s been scratched from use. When you’re in the market for a new litter box, it’s a great time to pick one that has a micro-ban coating or that’s better suited for your needs.
To remember when it’s time to replace your litter box, always replace it around a significant event. This could be your cat’s birthday, your birthday, or Christmas. If you already get your cat gifts for Christmas, then why not start including a new litter box every year?
Here’s some more information: How Often Should You Buy a New Litter Box?
20. Get a Bigger Litter Pan
A bigger litter pan may sound like more work, but it will save you the trouble of cleaning up a number of messes. First and foremost, if it goes a day or two without being cleaned, your cat will likely continue to use it since there are parts of it that are clean.
Additionally, a bigger litter pan will provide more digging space for your cat, making it less likely to fling litter outside of the pan. Of course there will always be cats that dig in the corners, but even they may venture further into the middle if they have the room.
21. Use an Air Neutralizer
Scented air fresheners may be great for us humans, but they can overwhelm our feline friends just like scented litter. Besides that, air fresheners don’t really eliminate the odor. They simply cover it with potentially harmful chemicals.
To save your cat’s nose and health, try adding an air neutralizer instead. Be sure to find one that’s pet-safe and fragrance-free, like NonScents Pet Odor Remover Spray. This one was designed specifically for neutralizing pet odors and has a wide variety of uses beyond controlling litter box odor.
22. Get Odor Eliminators
Another way to eliminate odors from the litter box is to use a cat litter deodorizer. These can be sprinkled right into the litter box like baking soda. However, they have additional compounds that make them even more effective at keeping your house smelling fresh.
23. Use the Right Kind of Scoop
With the right kind of scoop, you can spend less time cleaning your cat’s litter box and more time playing with them. Plus, you can more effectively remove soiled litter which will keep it overall cleaner. This limits litter box odors and extends the life of your litter.
There are two types of scoop you should have for your litter box: a slotted scoop and a non-slotted scoop.
Slotted scoops are primarily used with clumping cat litter. They’re great at removing solid waste and clumps. Be sure to choose one with the right sized slots. You want to make sure the clean litter easily falls through the holes and all of the clumps are removed.
Non-slotted scoops should be used with non-clumping cat litter to remove wet areas. Non-clumping litter is designed to simply absorb urine and hold it until the litter is removed. In most cases, this means when you dump the entire box.
By removing wet areas as they’re created, you can avoid a buildup of urine odors and can go longer between replacing all the litter. Since it’s nearly impossible to find non-slotted scoops specifically for litter boxes, we recommend using a serving spoon.
24. Get a Standing Scoop
Speaking of scoops, this is one that will help you remove cat waste without needing to bend down or kneel. It’s perfect for someone who has trouble moving around or who simply doesn’t like getting too up close and personal with the cat box.
The standing scoop has a long handle so you can scoop cat litter from a standing position. By cutting out the time and effort it takes to get up and down from cleaning the litter box, you can save time and keep the litter box cleaner.
25. Scoop Deep and Wide
When cleaning out the litter box, you should always check every part to ensure you’ve gotten every last clump or wet spot. Since cats like to bury their waste, it can be difficult to find in deep litter.
You should always go over every inch of the litter box after you remove what you can see. This will allow you to get the hidden “treasures” your cat buried well. Don’t forget to scoop in the rounded corners, too, as this is another place waste can hide.
26. Have a Pan for Every Floor
If you have several levels in your home, you want to make sure your cat has a place to go on each one. This can help keep them from finding another place to go. Imagine if your cat is relaxing in the second-story bedroom and has to go all the way to the basement just to use the bathroom.
While many cats wouldn’t mind this trek, older cats or ones with bladder or digestion problems may opt to go somewhere closer. That could be your bed, the bathtub, or the hallway. To avoid this problem, spread out your litter boxes throughout the house.
27. Consider Flushable Litter
Last but certainly not least, a great way to save time on cleaning out the litter box is to have a flushable cat litter. There are many to choose from, but it’s a cat litter that’s safe to toss into your toilet and flush down the drain.
This is particularly useful when you keep your cat’s litter box in the bathroom since you don’t have to worry about keeping a waste container in there as well which can make your bathroom smell awful. It also saves you the trouble of having to haul waste from your bathroom.
While you certainly don’t have to follow all of these litter box cleaning hacks, just picking a few that work for you will help you reduce the amount of time you spend cleaning the litter box, eliminate litter box odors, and decrease the chances of your cats having litter box problems.
We hope these tips and tricks make this chore far more bearable for you and improve your cat’s life in the process. If you know anyone else with cats, be sure to share this with them to spread the news. And don’t forget to leave a comment to share your own litter box hacks with us!
Your cat’s litter box doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying having a cat.