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How Do You Safely Clean a Cat Litter Box?

by Dr Linda Simon MVB MRCVS, Nov 25, 21
Table Of Contents

Article at a glance

Spending a little extra time making sure you’re cleaning your cat’s litter box as you should is important.

·      It’s paramount that you keep yourself safe and always practice good hygiene. This is especially true for women of childbearing age.

·      Using the right box and the right type of litter will encourage your cat to use their box.

·      Failing to clean your cat’s tray appropriately could mean they refuse to use it and start to soil in the house or develop cystitis.

Implementing a ‘daily’ and ‘weekly’ cleaning routine will help you keep on top of things. Not only will this ensure your house is kept clean and odour-free, it should also keep your cat happy.

What Is a Cat Litter Box?

A litter box or litter tray is the area where your cat passes their urine and poop. Cats are naturally clean animals and they have a desire to keep their home clean and to toilet in the same place. A single cat home should have two trays, while a house with two cats needs three.

There are an array of litter boxes available for cats and your cat is more likely to use one that suits them. Shy kitties like to use enclosed boxes that have a roof. Pernickety kitties who hate to use a dirty tray may prefer a tray that is automatically cleaned after every use. Older cats or those with joint pain will prefer a box with a low lip and that offers plenty of space to stretch out.

Ideally, a litter box is put in an area of the home that has low foot traffic and offers some privacy. This will encourage its use, even in the most timid cat.


How to Clean the Litter Box Step-by-Step

Performing Daily Litter Box Maintenance 

When it comes to keeping your litter box clean, it is important not to skip a day. So, if you’re very busy, consider having someone else do it for you. 

Every day we must scoop out the stool. This is a must do. The poop is scooped into a plastic bag and disposed of. We can then add a little more litter if needed. If not, clean the scoop and then use it to spread some litter over the empty spot that is left behind.

Of course, if you have more than one cat or if your cat tends to poop more than once a day, you may need to empty the tray more regularly. This is especially true if the tray is in a room that you tend to use!


Wear disposable gloves and consider wearing a mask

You can never be too hygienic when around cat poop. This is something you also need to make any children in the home aware of. Stool contains bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella that can make people very ill if mistakenly consumed. Also, even well cared for cats can have infectious diseases such as worms and Toxoplasmosis.

It is never a bad idea to use disposable gloves and a mask. Indeed, after the COVID pandemic, we all have some spare ones lying around. This extra precaution is important for pregnant women, elderly people and those who are immune-compromised.  This is to protect them from zoonotic disease.

Toxoplasmosis is an infection that is usually harmless to people but can damage developing embryos in the uterus. Sadly, it can cause serious complications in the unborn baby and women can miscarry. It is safest for pregnant women to have someone else clean the tray. However, this may not always be an option.


Scoop out solids 

This must be daily ritual and all poop should be removed. Ideally, it is taken out as soon as it is passed. This keeps smell to a minimum and makes for a happy cat.

Scoop out urine clumps

While clumped, wet litter does not need to be changed immediately, regular cleaning out of urine clumps is important. Cats will start to refuse to use the tray if there are too many clumped patches. Even scented litter cannot mask the ammonia smell for too long.

Use the scoop to remove the clumps and dispose of them in the outdoor trash, ensuring no smell lingers in your home. Always clean and disinfect the scoop after.


Pour in clean litter

It is vital that any litter taken away is replaced. Cats like to have the tray completely covered so that they can rummage about with their paws and cover up any stool passed.

Once a week, you should completely replace all litter and disinfect the tray. This removes any residue of poop that may left behind.

We recommended this Scruffy Paws UT Wellness Chews product  

During the course of their lives, many cats will develop cystitis. Signs can include excessive thirst, frequent urination and straining in the litter tray. Cats may also urinate outside of their tray and lick their private parts, in an attempt to minimise discomfort.

UT Wellness

As well as keeping their trays nice and clean, we can consider feeding a wet diet and encouraging them to drink water. The more dilute their urine, the less risk of cystitis.

Our Wellness Chews can also be offered. With ingredients such as N Acetyl Glucosamine and cranberry extract, the bladder wall is supported. A natural barrier is formed, protecting the cells from the irritating effects of the urine.

The chew is highly palatable and can be crumbled on food or given as a treat. This means there is no ‘battle’ to give it to your cat each day.


Final Thoughts  

While it can be easy to overlook the importance of a clean litter box, keeping on top of the cleaning routine is vital. Not only does it make for a happier cat and cleaner home, it also minimises the risk of urinary tract disease and ‘accidents’.


Dr. Linda Simon, BVMS, MRCVS
Veterinary surgeon,
Dr. Linda Simon MVB MRCVS is a locum veterinary surgeon who has worked in London for the past 8 years. She graduated top of her class in small animal medicine from UCD, Dublin. She is currently a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

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