Cleaning the Cat Box

Doing the dishes is almost the worst household job of all time. If your household is like mine, with no dishwasher, you’re done until you take a drink to celebrate your victory over the Mount Everest of flatware, and then you need to start again.

But the worst job of all has to be policing the litter box. Between the smell and the fact of what is in the box, it’s smelly and messy and a job that needs to be done as often as the dishes do. It’s worse than cleaning a toilet – you don’t have to handle toilet contents to clean it. And if the box is not policed, you might end up with what I’ve heard called “poops of protest.” And not just by the litter box – you can find them all over the house. And then you have to handle them anyway. It’s so much easier to keep the box clean so that they’ll stay in the box.

I have pulled together a few things over the years from various cat experts that help me in the nastiest of household jobs.

  • Clean the box often, as unpleasant as it may be. Cats have a much more sensitive sense of smell than humans do, and they can smell the box a mile away. And any non-cat person who comes into your house will be able to as well.
  • When you do wash the box, don’t do it too often, or with anything strong-smelling. To cats, detergent is a strong turn-off. I know someone who bleaches her cat box at least once a week – this is not recommended.
  • Use liner bags. They’re not perfect. Sharp cat claws can rip them, which still dirties the box, but they can help contain the mess.
  • In using air fresheners, use scentless ones. Heavy scents just mingle with whatever odors are coming from the box – they really don’t hide them. Oust, especially, can work wonders.
  • If you use natural kitty litter, give either Cedarific or World’s Best Cat Litter a try. (The second, especially, has been getting a lot of attention lately.) Cedarific smells fine in the house, even when lightly used (emphasis on the “lightly”). It’s lightweight to carry, comes in big bags, and is relatively cost-efficient. World’s Best Cat Litter comes in decidedly smaller amounts, but it is a clumping litter, which means it can last far longer than the other. It also has a pleasant smell (although not cedar).

As always, ask the advice of your veterinarian for any questions that you might have concerning your pet’s care. You could do some research online (, for example), but always run things by the professional caregiver. And don’t forget you need to do the dishes, too – just not after you finish with the litter box!

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How often should I clean the cat box?

Twice a week is a general guideline for replacing clay litter, but depending on your circumstances, you may need to replace it every other day or only once a week. If you clean the litter box daily, you might only need to change clumping litter every two to three weeks.

How do you deep clean a litter box?

Use warm water and a mild detergent, like dish soap, that won't leave any harsh chemical smells or residue behind. You can make an effective cleaning agent by scrubbing baking soda and a little warm water on all inside surfaces of the litter box. Make sure that you rinse away all of the soap.

What is the best self cleaning cat box?

For a reliable automatic litter box that gets the job done, pick up the PetSafe ScoopFree Ultra Automatic Self Cleaning Litter Box

Why do cats use the litter box after you clean it?

Why do cats love using a freshly cleaned litter box? If your cat has more of a dominant personality, chances are they are re-marking their territory. The smell of fresh litter tells them that they need to restake their territorial claim.

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