Q: How frequent should I clean the litter box? Is it necessary to change the entire litter?
Oh litter box. They are a joy and a pain at the same time. Not having to schedule my day around my pet’s bladder and bowel clock is a wonderful flexibility. But the stink that the box produced is a headache, figuratively and literally.
The cleaning frequency ultimately boils down to how much bacteria can accumulate in between cleaning. These bacteria are responsible for producing the ammonia that we have all become too familiar with (aka stinky litter smell).
In deciding the best cleaning frequency for your household, you will need to consider these variables:
The rule of thumb is one cat per box. This prevents any territorial issues and prevents large accumulation of poop and pee in between cleaning. As the cat:box ratio increases, it is necessary to increase the cleaning frequency.
There are all types of litter available: clumping, non-clumping, and environmentally friendly-type. How well they address the smell (as discussed here Why is My Litter Box Stinky?) will ultimately decide what is the best frequency.
As I do not have an army waiting by the box to scoop as soon as the “package” is dropped, I prefer to go with a litter that has some additive to control the bacteria growth such as this one. It enables me to clean once daily while making sure that the box is still pleasant to use in between cleaning.
Tip: If you have an affinity for a certain litter brand, the multi-cat version is typically better at odor control.
You AND your cats have a big say in this matter.
Your life schedule may prevent you from cleaning more than once daily, that is OK! However, you need to listen to your cat. Cats are clean and fussy animal with high standards. You need to learn what their standard is by watching for signs (mine leaves me some visual cues to let me know that it is TIME TO CLEAN!).
For complete litter overhaul, I usually do a complete change out once every 4-6 weeks for clumping-type litter. This makes sure any bacteria that manage to grow is completely eliminated.
Non-clumping litter especially paper-based such as the Yesterday’s News should be changed out more frequently. This type of litter absorbs the urine from the bottom, which means that the bottom of the box is always exposed to urine. As plastic is a porous material, it is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.