8 tips for quick and easy litter box cleaning

What is the most daunting task in caring for your cat? For many cat owners, the answer is cleaning the litter box. It has to be done regularly because, if it isn’t, it can create litter box avoidance or smell badly. And don’t forget that litter box cleaning can also be hard. But does it have to be?

Litter box cleaning, heart shaped clumping litter in the litter scoop
Isn’t litter box cleaning just lovely? No? Photo by: Napolean_70, cc

In this article you are going to discover 8 tips that will let you clean your cat’s litter box quickly and easily each time.

  • Remove the hood from your litter box. While there are several pros and cons of covered litter boxes, one of the biggest advantages of a non-covered one is that it makes cleaning easier. Removing the lid before scooping and then securing it back can literally take almost half the time and effort needed to scoop the litter box. Having no cover also means you can scoop the litter on a passing-by. That is, you enter the room and notice, “oh, there’s poop in the box.” Just grab the scoop and bag, scoop the poop, and it’s done. And speaking of that…
  • Keep scoops and bags near the boxes. We’re sure you have more than one box, but do you have more than one scoop? A good practice is to keep a scoop and bags next to each litter box. Then you will be able to clean the litter box easily, even when just passing by. If you create a routine of cleaning all of the boxes at the same time, you don’t have to remember where you put the scoop because it’s always there by the box. We keep plastic bags next to the box that is usually the first in our routine, but if you like to clean each box when the opportunity rises, you can keep bags next to each of them. Some people also keep a small trash bin nearby, but it must be sealed tightly if you plan to keep dirty litter there.
  • Scoop more often. While you may think that more frequent scooping means more work, it actually means less. The math is simple – the amount of clumps and feces to be removed doesn’t change (unless your cat declares a peeing-strike), but the amount of collapsed clumps and litter stuck to the bottom decreases when you clean more frequently. Besides, the more often you scoop, the cleaner the box is. Therefore, there is less odor, and from a psychological point of view, you are less likely to procrastinate on the next litter box cleaning.
  • Dump the entire litter box regularly.There’s nothing as good as a fresh start, and if a litter box is filled with fresh litter, removing solid clumps and feces takes a fraction of the time when compared to older, weeks-old litter that contains a large amount of small pieces from broken clumps.
And how often do you clean all of your cat's litter boxes? Photo by Rikki's Refuge, cc
And how often do you clean all of your cat’s litter boxes? Photo by Rikki’s Refuge, cc
  • Make litter box cleaning a routine. What is the difference between an everyday task and a routine? Almost none, but we find that it’s easier to cope with tasks that are done automatically, as a part of routine. For example, we clean our litter boxes before we feed our cats; therefore, it’s not a task we need to get ourselves focused on, but it’s part of a bigger task that must be done anyway. It’s best if you can do it as a part of something you do every day, and it’s good if that happens more than once. Consider cleaning your litter box before you brush your teeth, right after you come home, before you go to bed, or after you take your dog for a walk.
  • Try different cat litter types. Litter type has a lot to do with how easy or hard it is to clean. For example, clumping and silica litters are easy to scoop, but pine pellets and absorbing litters aren’t. While this might strongly suggest going with clumping cat litter, there’s no right or wrong choice. Clumping may be easy to clean, but it also sticks to your cat’s paws and is easily tracked out of the box, through the house. The best way to find what works for you is to try different ones and see for yourself. You can find more about pros and cons of different cat litter types here.
  • Get a good scoop. By that we mean two things. The scoop must be of good quality, and it must be intended for the specific litter type in use. For example, most clumping litters are fine grained and do best with fine slotted scoops while silica may require one with larger holes. Pine pellets may benefit from having both a scoop with large holes and an additional scoop with no holes. But more importantly, the scoop must be comfortable to grip, large enough, and not too flexible, unless you want to trampoline pieces of litter up into the air. In our experience, good quality cat litter scoops can cut the time spent scooping by half, as well as increase the “enjoyment” of the activity.
  • Cat napping in a clean litter box.
    Cats enjoy basic open litter boxes the most. Above, however, is not why. Photo by Leonora Enking, cc
  • Use regular, old fashioned litter boxes. Products like automatic litter boxes, easy-clean liners, sifting boxes, flushing cat toilets, and other litter box innovations are advertised extremely well. They sell you a sense of ease and convenience, but in real life, and in our experience, just as training a cat to use a WC, it never is as promised. For example, automatic boxes still need maintenance on an almost daily basis. Sifting litter boxes and liners just replace scooping with sifting, which takes about the same amount of time, if not more. And then there are also “innovative” boxes, such as one that cleans itself by being turned around three times. Well, cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy once sarcastically asked about one of these in his show: “Who invented this?” Not the best idea, huh? Remember: automatic, sifting, and flushable boxes cost you money but rarely save time or inconvenience.  Trust us. We would earn a lot by advertising them here, but we won’t.
  • You don’t have to choose all of the above, and you probably won’t, but the more you are able to take into consideration for your cat’s litter box, the less daunting the task of scooping and cleaning will become.

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