A 2022 study was published regarding how often and how companion pet parents are cleaning their pets’ bowls. This got us wondering: are there any surveys about the frequency of scooping or changing of the cat litter box? Oddly, we couldn’t find any readily available.
Yes; we found surveys on the purchasing behavior of type of litter box and litter itself. We found research studies about clumping vs. non-clumping litter, liners vs. no-liners, scented vs. unscented, smell vs. physical obstruction as a litter box deterrent, environmentally friendly litters vs. clay litters, etc.
Yes; those studies are important. However, they do not answer our singular and fundamental question: how frequently are companion cat parents scooping and changing the litter box?
Indeed, scooping and changing of the litter boxes is the first step in preventative medicine for cats and humans. These simple procedures can help reduce the incidences of: Feline Idiopathic Cystitis and other urinary tract diseases cats may develop, litter box avoidance, eliminating outside the litter box or in inappropriate areas of the house, inflaming asthma attacks in humans from cat urine, spreading of diseases and parasites, and the worst of giving up companion cats.
This led us down the path to finding out the recommendations on frequency, type of litter, and type of box. We discovered a number of recommendations from veterinarians and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP).
So, we decided to pool together the resources we uncovered. You and – most importantly your companion cat – will have to find the right balance for your household. We dislike to say it, but we wonder if even the minimum recommendations are being met in the majority of households.
Clumping vs. Non-Clumping Litter – Drs. Paul Pion, Wendy Brooks, Christine Calder and the AAFP state that many cats prefer clumping litter or that it works best.
Scented vs. Unscented – Again, these experts all agree that unscented is preferable.
Litter Box Liners – It is recommended not to use liners.
Number of Litter Boxes – There should be one box per cat, plus one extra. So, if you have one cat, you should have two boxes. Two cats? Three boxes.
Location – Away from food and water and in a quiet, ventilated, non-threatening, and low traffic area of the house. While you may be OK with your pets visiting you while you are on the loo, you don’t necessarily want another human. Indeed, if you were a cat, would you want the dog in your business?
Multiple Locations (in fact!) – If the home has multiple stories, there should be a box on each level.
Litter Box Size – Litter boxes should be 1.5 times the length of the cat from the nose to the base of the tail (note: not the end of the tail). The AAFP states, “In general, bigger is better and many commercial litter boxes are too small.” So, they provide DIY alternatives.
Scooping Frequency – Dr. Pion: 2x/day is ideal. Dr. Calder: Daily. Dr. Brooks: Daily or even twice per day. AAFP: Remove waste at a minimum of once per day and add litter as needed.
Cleaning/Scrubbing/Changing of the Litter in the Litter Box – All of the experts agree that cats prefer cleanliness! We wholeheartedly agree. This is where the advice starts to slightly diverge. So, we will quote all of them directly.
International Cat Care – “Litter trays should be cleaned out completely at least weekly and topped up with fresh litter daily once the solids and clumps are removed. If the litter is a non-clumping variety it should be changed every couple of days (solids removed daily) since the build-up of odour from the urine passed can become extremely unpleasant for the cat.”
Dr. Brooks – “Clumping litter should be changed at least monthly and non-clumping litter should be changed twice weekly. The box should be washed with soapy water or water alone with no strong-smelling disinfectants that might be objectionable to the cat.”
Dr. Calder – “…litter changed every one to two weeks. When cleaning the box, only soap and water should be used since most cats will find citrus scented products unpleasant.”
Dr. Pion – “…make sure that it’s completely scrubbed clean and aired out on a weekly basis.”
AAFP – “Wash the litter box every 1-4 weeks using soap and hot water only. Avoid strong chemicals or any ammonia-based products.”
Brooks, Wendy. “Idiopathic Cystitis in Cats.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 12 Dec. 2020, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951488.
Brooks, Wendy. “Inappropriate Elimination (House-Soiling) in Cats.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 7 Mar. 2021, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951508.
Calder, Christine. “Feline House-Soiling.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 24 Sept. 2020, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=9820130.
Feline House-Soiling. American Association of Feline Practitioners, https://catvets.com/public/PDFs/ClientBrochures/HouseSoiling-WebView.pdf.
Pion, Paul. “Inappropriate Elimination.” Veterinary Partner, VIN, 12 Nov. 2014, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951284.
Soiling Indoors. International Cat Care, 13 Aug. 2018, https://icatcare.org/advice/soiling-indoors/.