Litter Box 101: Tips for Keeping Your Cat's Bathroom Clean and Stress-Free


Ru Chen

- Updated April 11, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Scoop litter box every day
  • Replace litter every 2 weeks
  • Deep clean once every 3 months
  • Choose a suitable litter and litter box that your cat likes
  • Give rewards to your cat for desirable litter box behavior
Litter Box 101: Tips for Keeping Your Cat's Bathroom Clean and Stress-Free

A clean and stress-free litter box environment is essential for the overall health and comfort of cats. From litter to litter box, placement to maintenance, there are plenty of elements to consider. Dirty litter boxes can lead to infections and parasites, and ill-suited litter can lead to behavioral issues.

Let’s go over strategies for designing a litter box area, encouraging proper litter box usage, and cleaning a cat’s litter box.


Choosing the Right Litter Box

Litter boxes come in many sizes and shapes. There is no one-box-fits-all, so it’s important to pick a suitable litter box. Here are the main types of litter boxes you should consider.

Open vs. covered litter boxes

Open litter boxes offer greater accessibility. Cats can move in and out of the litter box more freely, and owners can clean waste and replace litter more easily.

Closed litter boxes prioritize privacy. While most cats prefer open litter boxes, cats who are more shy or nervous may benefit from having a closed litter box.

Self-cleaning litter boxes

Self-cleaning litter boxes are more expensive, but they use advanced technology to automatically clean the box. They work by automatically sifting out waste from the litter after your cat uses the litter box.

Odor control litter boxes

Many litter boxes are equipped with odor control systems, which help reduce the amount of unpleasant smells by neutralizing them. If you want to make your cat’s litter area feel fresher, consider purchasing a litter box with an odor elimination system.

Multiple litter boxes in larger households

It is highly recommended for households with multiple cats to have that many litter boxes plus one. This is the n+1 rule, with n being the number of cats you own). Cats are territorial, which means they might act aggressively toward each other if they need to share litter boxes. In addition, each cat may have their own preferences regarding the type of litter and litter box they use, so having individual litter boxes can help reduce stress.


Selecting the Right Litter

Cats instinctively bury their urine and feces, which is why we have cat litter. Cats will dig and bury what they eliminate in cat litter, making it easier for owners to throw out the waste and clean the area.

Clumping cat litter

Clumping litter means that cat waste will become clumped together. This type of cat litter is better at absorbing moisture, which often makes it easier to clean than non-clumping cat litter.

Clay litter: The most popular cat litter choice. Some brands of clay litter contain cat attractants so even a difficult cat will feel more comfortable around the clay litter.

Silica gel litter: Less dusty than clay while offering better odor control. Some cats even prefer silica gel litter to traditional clay litter.

Corn litter: A natural cat litter option composed of dried corn kernels that are biodegradable. Corn litter is more lightweight than clay litter, but may clump worse. However, some cat owners have had issues with dangerous aflatoxins in corn litter, which has led certain cat owners to prefer other clumping litter instead.

Non-clumping cat litter

Sometimes, non-clumping cat litter is recommended to be used by kittens, who might sometimes have trouble misidentifying clumping litter as kibble. However, non-clumping litter is typically seen as inferior to clumping litter.

Pine litter

Pine has the natural ability to fight off unpleasant odors. It is also light, absorbent, and creates low dust levels. Compared to clay litter, pine litter is softer and more environmentally friendly, making it an increasingly popular option amongst cat owners.

Pine litter comes in both clumping and non-clumping forms, allowing you to choose which option suits your cat better.

Paper litter

Paper cat litter is typically made from recycled paper, so it is a good environmentally-friendly choice. You can find paper litter in a shredded form or a pellet form.

Factors to consider when choosing the best litter for your cat

  • Odor control ability
  • Dust level
  • Environmental impact
  • Texture

Litter box aversion and elimination issues

Cats with aversions to litter boxes may end up eliminating on other surfaces in the home, such as the carpet or furniture.

Changing to new litter

If you’re looking to swap your current litter to a new litter brand or type, it’s a good idea to ease your cat into it through a gradual transition. An abruptly unfamiliar litter box may stress your cat out, leading them to eliminate elsewhere. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Gradual transition: Start by slowly mixing in new litter with your cat’s current litter. Over a few weeks of increasing the ratio of new litter to old litter, you can help your cat acclimate to the new texture and scent of litter.

Positive reinforcement: By rewarding your cat with a treat and affection for using the new litter box correctly, you can encourage the desired behavior.

Medical concerns

Some elimination issues and behavioral changes are caused by underlying medical conditions. It’s good to take your cat to the vet if they start exhibiting unusual behavior or have elimination issues. These issues may be symptoms of:

  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid disease

Proper Litter Box Placement

Picking a suitable place to put your cat’s litter box is vital to creating a stress-free environment for your cat. Here are the main elements of proper litter box placement to know.

Quiet area

Ideally, a cat’s litter box should be located far away from food and water bowls in the home. Keep a litter box in a quiet, low-traffic area so your cat can feel like they have privacy when going to the bathroom.

Escape routes

Cats feel safer if they have accessible escape routes. Place litter boxes in semi-private places that have more than one escape route for your cat to use in case they feel the urge to leave the area.

Consistent location

Try to avoid moving your cat’s litter box around. This helps prevent accidents and reduces stress on your cat.

If you’re taking your cat with you to a new place due to travel or relocation, make sure to implement comforting techniques to help your cat get used to their new litter box environment. Ideally, use the same type of litter or litter box so your cat can be soothed by a sense of familiarity.

Litter Box Maintenance

Dirty and odorous litter boxes can cause serious health issues for your cat. Cats exposed to unclean litter may develop painful kidney and bladder infections, toxoplasmosis, and other issues. Maintaining a clean litter box can also keep it safer for humans to handle the litter.

1. Scoop daily

Every day, you should scoop dirty clumps out. Seal the clumps in a bag and dispose of it.

If you have a self-cleaning litter box, you won’t need to scoop daily. Instead, the litter box should automatically scoop and dispose of the waste into a garbage bag after each use.

2. Clean weekly

It’s important to clean the litter box thoroughly at least once a week. Empty the litter box and use soap and water to clean it.

3. Clean twice a week for non-clumping litter

If you use non-clumping litter, it’s better to clean the litter box with soap and water at least twice a week. This is because more urine will be left behind in the litter.

4. Replace litter every two weeks

Even though cat owners should scoop daily, it’s still important to replace the litter at least once every two weeks. If you notice a strong, unpleasant odor coming from your cat’s litter box, you might want to replace the litter sooner. An odorous litter box environment may cause your cat to develop litter aversion.

5. Deep clean every three months

A deep cleaning counters bacterial growth and should be performed once every two to three months. Pour hot water into the empty litter box and let it soak for a few minutes. Stir in soap to get waste and litter out of all the nooks and crannies within the litter box. If you have a special automatic litter box, make sure to follow any cleaning instructions.

Don’t forget to also wash and clean the area surrounding the litter box to ensure your cat’s bathroom is sparkling clean.

6. Avoid chemicals

Avoid using harsh chemicals like ammonia or bleach. Cats are sensitive to smells and may refuse to use a litter box if it has an unpleasant odor.

7. Wear gloves

While rare, toxoplasmosis can spread to humans from cat feces that contain toxoplasma. Wearing gloves and maintaining a clean litter box environment can help reduce the risks when scooping and replacing litter.


Encouraging Proper Litter Box Use

Using positive reinforcement

Cats should be praised and rewarded for engaging in desirable behavior. This is because punishment only hurts cats without teaching them what they are supposed to do correctly. In this case, you should reward your cat with a treat, affection, or playtime when they use the litter box as intended.

Dealing with behavioral issues

If your cat is displaying hostile or fearful behavior and “goes” somewhere other than the litter box despite attempts at encouraging proper litter box use, your cat may have a strong litter box aversion. A vet or cat behaviorist can help you determine an effective, individualized strategy to handle these issues.

Medical issues

Kidney disease, thyroid problems, and diabetes are just a few examples of medical conditions that can affect a cat’s ability to properly eliminate. If your cat is exhibiting worrisome or new behavior, take them to the vet for a physical check-up.

Pet Insurance for Cats

Pet insurance provides financial protection to pet owners who need to pay for veterinary services and cat healthcare. If you’re worried about your cat receiving the proper medical attention needed to deal with potential litter box-related issues, pet insurance can help you save money on vet visits and cat medications.

Types of pet insurance coverage

Accident-only coverage: Basic pet insurance policies only cover accident-related expenses. This includes treatment and diagnostic exams for accidents such as bite wounds, lacerations, broken bones, and toxic ingestion.

Accident and illness coverage: Comprehensive pet insurance policies will also cover illness-related expenses on top of basic accident coverage. This typically includes coverage for medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.

Wellness plan: This is an insurance add-on that covers preventive care expenses. Commonly eligible costs include routine vet exams, vaccinations, spay/neuter, and parasite medications.

How to research pet insurance providers

Pet insurance premiums, coverage type, and claims processes will vary depending on who you choose as the provider. Choosing a suitable pet insurance carrier results in better financial protection for you so you can better care for your cat. When comparing pet insurance, make sure to keep the following in mind.

Premium: This is how much you need to pay for active pet insurance coverage. For cats, pet insurance premiums average $32 a month. If you want accident-only coverage, premiums can go as low as $10 a month.

Deductible: You need to reach the deductible in out-of-pocket expenses before pet insurance will kick in. A higher deductible means greater upfront costs in case of an incident, but lower monthly premiums.

Coverage: Think carefully about the type of coverage you need. Comprehensive coverage is often recommended for cats, especially breeds with greater health risks, since veterinary bills for diagnosis and treatment can be very expensive. A preventive care wellness plan is also recommended since many pet owners find it a worthwhile, cost-effective add-on.

Exclusions: Most pet insurance policies have exclusions and restrictions. For example, pre-existing conditions (i.e. conditions diagnosed before you obtained coverage) are not covered by pet insurance. Because of this, the earlier you get pet insurance for your cat, the more secure your coverage will be.

Here are our top insurance provider recommendations.


A clean litter box helps ensure a happy and healthy kitty. To create the ideal litter box setup, make sure to:

  • Scoop your cat’s litter box daily
  • Choose the right litter type for your cat
  • Clean out litter box with soap every week
  • Place the box in a private and quiet place, with multiple escape routes

Proactive litter box management is key to promoting a cat’s health and well-being. Remember to observe your cat to see what litter box setup they prefer and see the vet for potential medical and behavioral concerns.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

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