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Cleaning and Maintaining a Cat Litter Box

Category Cats
A cat smelling a litter box
Cats make great pets but keeping your house from smelling like a cat box can be a challenge. With regular cleaning and proper maintenance, your cat box can go unnoticed by you and your friends. This guide is about cleaning and maintaining a cat litter box.
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May 16, 20084 found this helpful

I have 10 cat litter boxes for our "always full" cat shelter. Over the years we have learned several things to keep the litter costs down, keep things clean, and we make our own litter boxes for some of our big cats.

First, we use large, high sided, plastic totes as litter boxes. We cut a hole in either the front or the side of the tote with a box cutter. (Be careful when using the cutter please.) These litter boxes fit our Maine Coon mixes (20 lbs. of big cat). The high sides of the boxes allow for any spraying incidents to stay within the box and keeps the litter inside the box as some cats love to really dig.

Second, we have a roll of paper towels and a cleaned, reused dishwashing soap bottle (with a hand-written label on it) filled with a mixture of bleach and water in every room of the house. The mixture is 1/8 part bleach and the rest water. The paper towels and bleach mixture take care of any accidents right away. Having these cleaning supplies within easy reach helps us keep on top of things and is very cost effective.

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Third, we use cedar shavings as litter. This is the same type of litter used in small animal cages but we buy it at Wal-mart in very large, compressed bags. Cedar shavings smell wonderful, are very absorbent, have little to no dust, do not track all over the place as badly as most litter and it is bio-degradable. (A word to the wise, do not change your cats litter from one type to another all at once or you are doomed to failure. Go slow. It can take weeks or months, slowly mixing in some of the new litter to the old.) Cedar shavings are inexpensive and you'll feel how light weight the box is when compared to higher priced litter. But, you must change the box out completely about every 3-4 days. Unlike scoopable litters, shavings do not clump. On the plus side, cleaning and refilling the box is fairly easy. A trash can on wheels helps. Empty the litter box, use your handy bottle of bleach mix to clean it, wipe out with a paper towel and refill the box. Soon, you'll have this chore down to a science.

By Marie from Rosenberg, TX

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April 22, 20101 found this helpful
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To clean litter boxes I took a hint from the Cleaning ladies from BBC. I cover the bottom with baking soda, and when I change it I pour vinegar in the bottom. This foams up the pan, and cleans and deodorizes. I pour out the 'sluge' and recoat with baking soda, put in litter, and replace.

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February 6, 20121 found this helpful
Top Comment

Hello,

I like your concept but using cedar or pine shaving in or around cats or gerbils can cause an upper respiratory infection, also known as an URI. I have worked for a Veterinarian for over 27 years and our Doctor's always recommended a product called "Care Fresh", it is a natural product made of recycled newspaper. Take care

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August 2, 2015

We don't have any pets of our own and I'm having the pleasure of keeping my 2 grandcats for a couple of weeks.

When Max does his business, he loves to dig deep into the litter box and sometimes the urine sticks to the side and bottom of the box. When trying to remove it, no matter how hard I bang the box on the floor, it does not turn loose. If I try to scoop it out, the wet litter sticks to the scoop and makes a big mess.

This morning I came up with the idea of using the sharp top of the cat food can to lift it up. I put some duct tape around the part I hold so I won't cut myself. It worked great.

Although the litter is deep, I'll add a little more to it and that should also help.

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January 29, 200512 found this helpful

There is nothing I despise more than cleaning the litter box. Even when you dump it, there is still litter stuck to the bottom that you have to scrape out, and it stinks to all high heaven. Well, here's a way to keep the stink off and save yourself the trouble. Clean the box off and wipe dry. Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with baking soda; pour in litter, and you are done. The next time you clean, there will be no clumps stuck to the litter box.

By Suzanne S.

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May 27, 20056 found this helpful

To keep clumping kitty litter from sticking to the bottom of the pan, spray it with non-stick cooking spray before adding the litter. It works like a charm!!

Mya and Max, two housecats.

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December 27, 2011

If you're like me and have multiple indoor cats, you need several litter boxes. It's often hard to find a spot to keep them where they're not too much of an eyesore and the litter that gets kicked out doesn't cause an issue.

I've come up with two solutions.

In the basement we keep the litter box inside of a dog crate (minus door). The cat food and water are stored on top. The litter stays inside the box and it's fairly well covered and protected from the dog (who is not interested in going inside the crate - lol!).

We have another litter box in the kid's bathroom. Extra kitty litter was constantly an issue on the floor, especially when damp feet came out of the bath, even though I keep a small whisk broom under the sink and sweep every time we scoop the box. To keep the litter contained, I purchased a tall sided plastic storage tub (often on sale after the holidays) and keep the litter box inside that. It has helped immensely.

By Stephanie from Hillsboro, OR

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By 2 found this helpful
October 25, 2007

Having had cats, and litter boxes, all my life I've tried every combination of things to make cleaning out the litter box quick, clean and easy.

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By 4 found this helpful
December 27, 2007

Save the can that coffee came in and the lid. When empty, use the can to put dirty cat litter in, the kind that lumps and put the lid on top. This will keep the odor at bay and can be used several times.

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By 2 found this helpful
April 8, 2008

You can recycle even when cleaning up after your kitties! I was scooping the cat litter into plastic bags each day, thinking I was recycling the bags, but duh! They still sit in the landfill, not breaking down.

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By 5 found this helpful
May 28, 2015

I love my cats, but I don't love stinky litter boxes so I have two litter boxes. One is in use and the other is away. When one box gets dirty I replace it with the other box to give me time to empty the first one and thoroughly clean and sanitize it with vinegar, water, a bit of dish detergent and baking soda.

Fuzzy and Lil Orphan Annie

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January 15, 2014

I use an ice cream bucket to put the litter clumps in. The top fits tightly so I don't have to worry about odor, and they are disposable.

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By 3 found this helpful
November 12, 2014

Get 4 or 5 litter boxes of the same size. Fill each one with a few inches of litter. Stack one on top of another. When it's time to change the litter just remove the top most box.

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By 3 found this helpful
October 17, 2011

With this system you use clumping litter and every other day lift out the layer on top and it sifts the good litter down for the next day. Then just throw away the layer with the soiled litter.

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By 6 found this helpful
March 8, 2011

When cleaning cat boxes, the ammonia smell lingers. Although ammonia is a weak base, it can also be a weak acid. My solution was to reduce the acidity by putting a small layer of wood ash from my fireplace in the bottom of the cat box, then add the litter.

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By 4 found this helpful
January 22, 2012

Check the litterbox for solids every time you use the bathroom. You were going to wash your hands anyway.

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August 11, 20113 found this helpful

Litter boxes can get smelly and dirty very quickly, especially if you have multiple cats. Here are a few tips to keep your litter box clean and smelling fresh:

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October 18, 2011

I have found that Scoop Away is by far the best clumping litter. Sometimes my cats get lazy and don't cover their "product," and Scoop Away leeches the odor very well; likewise, for the urine.

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April 13, 2011

An application of non-toxic paste wax to a new litter box will keep clumping litter from sticking to the sides and it will be much easier to clean.

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September 23, 2009

Insert a clean empty litter box into a large plastic trash bag. It should fit in the bag loosely. Dump the kitty litter into the the box. Using the bread tie twisters or other type plastic twisters, close the bag.

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By 1 found this helpful
October 25, 2011

Hard clumping litter makes it easier to notice when you need to fork out the clumps. Plus having an automatic battery operated air spray freshener nearby helps.

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March 1, 20050 found this helpful

Line your littermaid plastic bins with grocery plastic bags. This keeps the waste bins from becoming soiled and they won't have to be replaced as often. Simply lift out the grocery bag each day and replace the bins when cracked.

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By 0 found this helpful
July 9, 2014

I find it helpful to put many layers of old newspaper in them and then sand on top. I only let them use 1 box and keep the other clean, with its door to the wall.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
May 11, 2017

What is the best way to clean a cat litter box?

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
May 11, 20171 found this helpful

Wearing gloves and a mask, empty all the contents into a bin and scrub box with a mild cleaner like dish soap and water. Rinse thoroughly. Your cat may not use the box if it smells like soap. Dry al the way through. Refill with litter.

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May 11, 20171 found this helpful

You need to wear gloves, especially if you are pregnant.

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May 12, 20171 found this helpful

some people line their litter boxes before adding the litter so that the cleaning process doesn't have to be so onerous

i would probably still clean it even if doing that, though

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you

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May 12, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you

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May 14, 20171 found this helpful

Key word here is DAILY. Sometimes more than once a day, depending on how much your cat goes. Cats instinctively bury their business so regardless to whether you see the poop, you need to scoop the box often. If you use the clumping litter, dumping the entire contents isn't necessary, just scoop and refill. If you aren't using it (which I highly recommend that you do) then plan on dumping the box completely at least every other day as the urine will create a icky mess at the bottom of the box that neither you, nor your cat, will enjoy. If possible, clean your cat box outside. Use gloves, dump the dirty litter into an empty bag, when done- tie the bag up and dispose in trash. Use a garden hose to spray it clean. Flip it over to drain quick and let the sun dry it completely. Refill with litter and if your cat is anything like mine- it will immediately jump in and give you a reason to plug your nose lol

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May 18, 20171 found this helpful

Well it looks like you have been bombarded with suggestions and most of them seem reasonable.

I can only speak from experience but if you wish to wear gloves and a mask then that is your choice. I kinda think my cat would freak out if she saw me adorn such an attire but then everyone has different ideas as to what is needed for cleanliness - health wise.

I presently only have one cat but she is a "drinker" and tends to use her litter box quite frequently so my daughter and I tend to tidy up her box several times a day. This was not possible when I worked so that was usually my first order of business when arriving home. If you like your cat, this procedure is not a problem.

I personally think you just need to look at your cat "situation" and decide what it is that bothers you and then read suggestions on how to fix or eliminate the problem.

I use a heavy kitchen slotted spoon as a "scooper" (now over 30 years old) because it does an excellent job. Use cat letter of your choice and bag it (grocery bags, empty food containers, etc) to go to your garbage can outside.

As to weekly cleanings, that is also your choice, one week/two weeks depends on your cat and your household/family.

The main thing to remember is to put ALL cat litter in containers that will go into your garbage can as most cat litter is a clay substance and can make a real mess if disposed of in the wrong place (think - wet slippery clay).

Vinegar and sunshine do an excellent cleaning job.

There are lots of cleaning "accessories" out there so if you wish to try something new then - that - is also your choice.

If you are still looking for suggestions the here is an excellent site:

http://www.huma  ox_problems.html

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May 21, 20170 found this helpful

Thank you for your help. Yes I love my cat. I want him to have a good clean place to do his business. I had heard that if the litter box stays dirty too long the cat will go else here to the bathroom.

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June 5, 20131 found this helpful

How do you keep the cat pee smell out of the litter box? It is cleaned every day. I have put baking soda in the box and nothing helps. I have tried different brands of litter.

By JB

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June 7, 20131 found this helpful

More than likely your cat has got into the habit of splashing over onto the floor or wall around the litter box. The tray may not be long enough or deep enough for the size of the cat. (Or he/she is deliberately doing the splash-over to tell you the tray is not satisfactory to him/her for whatever reason. Cats are funny, ours wants his tray cleaned after EVERY use and if we don't, he piddles off the edge)

Use a half-half mix water and distilled white vinegar to thoroughly wipe down the area around and under the tray.

Replace the tray with something longer and deeper, and you might want to consider placing a protective mat underneath. We use an old car mat we can hose off at the same time we hose the tray when changing out the litter completely.

We have a large and long neutered Siamese-Abyssinian who taught us the above:) He still splashes over on occasion if we aren't as quick as he likes to clean his tray, but since changing the tray to a deeper, longer one, and since placing the mat under it, we have an odor free home.

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June 12, 20131 found this helpful

We had the same problem with our cat. We tried every kind of litter box available and she tended to pee over the sides and down the sides of each box. We even had a enclosed box and still it was no good. The problem was that she was too big for any of the other boxes. She stood up when she peed and that's why it went over the sides and back of the box.

We finally got some good info on Thrifty fun about using a Rubber maid tote container and cut a hole in the side of the box just big enough for her to get through. We put a litter mat to catch the remaining litter. It works really great and the box doesn't smell like pee. Also the best litter I have found is Tidy Cat Instant Action scoop for multiple cats. It automatically clumps and stops the odor. I have tried all types of litter including using baking soda for the odors and this is the only thing that has helped. I hoped this has helped.

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June 19, 20131 found this helpful

Keep that litterbox immaculate. Scoop as often as you can, and make sure to get down to the bottom and scrap the edges. Replace the litter as often as you need to, I change mine out completely once a week. I've found that sWheat Scoop controls odor well.

Every day when I scoop out the box, I wipe down the sides of the box with a mild vinegar solution. I keep a spray bottle of 1/2 white vinegar, 1/2 tap water on hand. Shake all the litter to one side of the box, then spray a paper towel with the vinegar solution and wipe the sides of the box, where the cats often pee. Then tilt the box the other way, and wipe down that side.

Once a month, dump out all the litter, and scrub it, inside and outside with dish soap and vinegar. Rinse, dry and refill with clean litter. If the litterbox is on a hard surface, wash the area with vinegar. If it's on carpeting, sprinkle the carpet with baking soda, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, then vacuum. Consider putting an indoor-outdoor rug or mat under the box, something that you can take out and wash down occasionally.

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November 15, 20110 found this helpful

Is 20 Mule Team safe to use in a litter box?

By Ruth from NY

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November 15, 20111 found this helpful

I would say no. I use a lot of Borax and love it for urine odors in the wash. However in powdered form it can migrate to eyes, mouthes etc. When wet it changes chemically (boric acid) which can be dangerous. Either of those three could cause illness in a cat (or human).

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November 15, 20111 found this helpful

I would say no also. Putting it in the litterbox allows the powder to be stirred up into the eyes & respiratory tract. Also, it gets on the paws & the cat licks it off & swallows it - would be like feeding it directly to the animal.

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November 23, 20111 found this helpful

If you use the clumping type litter and change it frequently, there should be no smell and you will not need to use Borax.

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July 13, 2015

Can anyone recommend a kitty litter product that doesn't stick to your cat's feet and track all over the place?

We have two cats and used to have two litter boxes. We used to keep one of the litter boxes in the kid's bathroom, but even after putting it in a large storage container with high sides and using one of those no-track mats, the litter would stick to the cat's feet and end up all over the bathroom floor when they jumped out of the storage container. I was sweeping in there almost daily and it would still stick to the kids damp feet when they got out of the shower - disgusting!

I tried removing that litter box and keeping just the one downstairs, which I clean daily. One cat has no problem with this. The other cat will poop in the downstairs litter box, but will not pee in it. He now pees on the bathroom floor where the old litter box used to be and if someone is in that bathroom when he needs to use it, he will scratch on the door twice and if it doesn't open, he proceeds to go to a room where there is a person and pee on the carpet along the edge of the room, even if the closest person is nowhere near that bathroom - jerk! It's driving me crazy.

So it looks like I have to put the litter-box back in the bathroom and might even need to put in a cat door in case someone has the gall to actually use the bathroom. I a little concerned about this as it is right at the top of the stairs. This means I'm back to my original problem - how to keep the cat litter from tracking all over the bathroom floor? Any ideas? He is very set on this particular location and I have three kids using this rather small bathroom including a teenage daughter that likes to take long baths with the door shut.

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July 14, 20151 found this helpful

If you have a long-haired cat chances are the litter is sticking to the fur around and between his toes (that's what the problem is with our male cat).

We improved the "tracking situation" by placing an old bath mat under the front of the litter box (the kind with rubber backing so it doesn't bunch up) and carefully trimming the long tufts of fur on the bottoms of his feet. This has helped a lot, but now while cleaning, we have the added step of taking the mat outside and shaking the litter out of it, and washing it every couple of weeks.

Just a suggestion - I know it's frustrating but our pets add so much to our lives, aren't they worth it?

Reply Was this helpful? 1
July 14, 20151 found this helpful

Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, he is short hair, so there's no fur to trim between his toes. I have one of those rubber mats that are designed to take the litter off his feet but he jumps over it and he was peeing on the bathmat when we had one in the bathroom, so it's been removed. Unfortunately, the bathroom is pretty small. We're using a clumping type litter. I'm hoping someone can recommend another type that doesn't cling to their feet so badly and also doesn't smell?

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August 12, 20130 found this helpful

Can I use Pam to keep used litter from sticking inside the box, especially urine at the sides?

By Patricia J

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
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