Cleaning the litter box. It’s one of the most dreaded jobs of kitty lovers everywhere. If you’re saying Urgh! over the smell of your cat’s box, rest assured, he is too. Seriously, though. It’s important to regularly clean your cat’s litter box for two reasons: one no one wants a stinky house, and two – more importantly, no one wants a sick pet. Since the job has to get done, and you haven’t been able to teach Tiki how to clean his own mess, we’re here to tell you how to safely clean your cat’s litter box.
It’s imperative to remember that the feces and urine in your cat’s box can be harmful to the person cleaning it. That’s why it’s important to have the right tools on hand.
Before you clean, make sure you grab a pair of rubber gloves and a mask. The mask is to reduce the risk of toxoplasmosis, a dangerous virus that can be contracted through cat feces. Another word of caution, if you’re pregnant, you need to recruit another volunteer for this assignment.
You should scoop feces (or the urine that clumps together from clumping urine) from your cat’s box at least once a day. You should clean your cat’s litter box once a week.
Cleaning entails throwing out the old litter, scrubbing the box clean and adding fresh, new litter. If you use a liner in the litter box, pull the liner (remember our gloves, here) off of each corner and place the entire contents of the bag in a trash bag. If your cat is one of the persnickety creatures that hate litter liners, dump the entire contents of the unlined box into a trash bag. You might need to use your scooper to scrape the dried litter off the box. Open the bag wide enough for the litter to fall inside and not on the floor. A mask is key here because litter dust will begin to scatter. Make sure the trash bag is tied or sealed, and any litter on the floor is swept into the bag too.
The best place to ditch your cat’s business is not in your kitchen or bathroom trashcans. It’s the in the outdoor receptacle that’s waiting patiently for the garbage truck on Friday.
Now it’s time to clean the box. Don’t be surprised to look over and find Tiki inspecting your work. He’s just making sure you are in fact using soap. Using your gloves, wash the litter box inside and out with a sponge, warm water and dish detergent. Include the lid too if it has one, and the scooper. Other harsher cleaning products can be harmful to your kitty. Don’t clean the box in your kitchen or bathroom sink or tub. You can use your laundry sink, or better yet, take the litter box outside and use the house bucket. After you scrub, rinse all of the soap. You can scrub repeat the rinse again process if you would like.
If the box is outside, it’s okay to let it air dry or dry it with a towel. Add a new liner or just add no more than two to three inches of new litter to the unlined box.
After you put the box back in its familiar place, don’t be surprised again to see the Tiki for the final inspection of your handy work.
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How to Clean the Litter Box
Cleaning the litter box may not be the most delightful task related to having a cat. Still, it needs to be done (and done well) in order to keep your furry feline friend happy and healthy. Luckily, there are some tips and tricks that can make the task easier for you.
Invest in a Sturdy Box
The first step in creating your good litter box cleaning routine is acquiring the box. It’s a good idea to choose a sturdy plastic box with nice straight corners that will be easy for you to get your scooper into. A large, flat storage box can work quite well as a litter box (without the cover).
Many people prefer covered litter boxes because they hide the sights and smells inside the box. However, many cats don’t like their litter box to be covered because it traps the scents into the small space, making them too strong for their heightened senses. Some cats have trouble fitting into the position in which they like to eliminate when there is a cover on the box. A cover also creates an extra thing for you to clean routinely. Still, covered models used without the covers make great litter boxes because they have high sides to keep litter and waste contained and easy entryways for your kitty to get in.
Get a Good Litter Scooper
One of the most important things you can do to make litter box cleaning easier on yourself is to invest in a great scooper. Scoops that break easily under the weight of clumped litter, rust over time, or cause you hand, wrist, and forearm strain will create a more difficult task that you are likely to avoid.
At PurrfectPost.com, our favorite scooper is the Durascoop. It is made of aluminum, so it won’t rust. It’s extremely durable and won’t bend or break when you are scooping up heavy, urine-clumped litter. It’s also deep and wide, so it is a very efficient litter scooper, making shorter work of an unpleasant task.
The edge of the Durascoop is designed in such a way that it scrapes the sides and bottom of the box exceptionally well without flicking any litter around. The handle is ergonomically shaped so you will be less likely to experience hand or wrist pain when you’re using it.
Another great system to consider when you are looking for a litter box scoop is one that self-contains much of what you will need to have near you to accomplish your task. An example is this Litter Buddy 4-In-1, which combines your scoop, broom, and dustpan together on a convenient mount. This product is great because it allows you to have designated equipment for the litter box cleaning task and keeps it all together for you.
Place a Mat Under the Litter Box
Taking the time to find a good mat on which to place your litter box can decrease your cleaning time and keep the mess contained. At PurrfectPost.com, we love this one: Perfect Litter Mat. It will fit under almost any litter box and extend out on all four sides. This means that, when your cat steps out of the box, any litter that’s stuck to her feet will be dislodged and stay there rather than be tracked around your home. Stay away from regular bathmats or towels because it can train your kitty to eliminate on them when she finds them elsewhere in your home, such as the floor or the laundry basket.
The More Often You Scoop, the Easier the Task
One of the ways to make your litter box cleaning task easier is to do it more often. This might sound counterintuitive, but the longer you leave the box messy, the harder it is going to be to get all of the urine and stool out of it. Procrastinating also makes it more likely that your cat will develop an inappropriate elimination problem, which will really cause you increased cleaning time, trying to get messes out of your carpet, laundry, or bedding.
Warning!! Pregnant women should not clean litter boxes due to the danger of toxoplasmosis infection. Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that can spread to humans and other cats through egg spores present in cats’ feces when they are infected. While most cases of toxoplasmosis in humans do not cause illness, the agent can cause birth defects when a fetus is exposed to it. Daily scooping and disposing of litter helps to decrease the risk that a person will be infected with Toxoplasma gondii because the spores require incubation for several days before they develop the ability to infect someone. If a pregnant woman must clean the litter box, it is imperative that she does it every day, wears disposable gloves, and washes her hands thoroughly afterward. However, if you are pregnant, you should check with your doctor for specific recommendations. The threat of contracting toxoplasmosis is also present when women are gardening (outdoor cats love to use gardening beds as litter boxes) or consuming undercooked meat. Pregnant women should wear gloves while gardening and eat only well-cooked meat.
Scoop your cat’s litter box once a day or more. If you have multiple cats using the same box, you may need to do it more. The more often you do it, the less overall time it will take because it won’t be as dirty each time.
It’s a good idea to wear disposable gloves (choose the right size for you) while performing this task, and some people like to wear a mask.
Step-by-Step Litter Box Cleaning Instructions
Below, we’ve outlined a good procedure to follow for daily litter box cleaning. This technique assumes that you are using clumping litter. For non-clumping litter, you can follow some of the same steps, but you will also need to drain out any urine present and you will probably need to replace the litter more often.
Sift and Scoop. When it’s time to clean the litter box, the first thing you’ll want to do is scoop out any solids. Take care to ensure that you get all the way to the bottom of the box, removing any trace of waste. Be sure to have a garbage receptacle ready and within reach to receive the used litter. You don’t want to be walking across the room with each scoopful, trailing litter and who knows what else along behind you.
Tip and Tap. The tip and tap technique helps you get any urine-clumped litter that might be hiding in the corners of the litter box. Simply tip the box at about a 45° angle on its side so the majority of the litter moves out of the way, and give the box a little tap. Scrape and scoop out anything that comes loose, and repeat the procedure on the other three sides.
Wipe and Wash. As you tap the litter away from each side of the pan, if you see anything stuck to the sides or bottom, use a wipe to clean it off. Make sure to use a type that is non-toxic to cats.
Dump and Dust. Now is a good time to clean any wayward cat litter out of the mat on which your litter box sits. Be sure you have a sanitary spot to place the litter box while you perform this part of the task. Dump the mat out into your garbage receptacle, dusting it off with the broom dedicated to litter box care if necessary, and use the pet wipes if there is anything stuck on it. You should scrub the mat with mild dish soap and water periodically as needed.
Replenish and Rake. You’ll want to add enough fresh new litter to the pan to make up for what you removed when you cleaned it. Smooth out the new litter so it’s nice and inviting to your kitty.
Sprinkle and Stir. You can sprinkle a little baking soda into the litter if you wish. Stir it in to help absorb odors until you scoop again.
About once a week or so (possibly more often if multiple cats use the box or less often if you are diligent about cleaning it daily), you’ll want to get rid of all the litter in the box and clean the box itself well, then fill it with fresh, new litter. When you do this, don’t use straight bleach, ammonia, or citrus-based cleaners. These can all be too strong for your cat and result in litter box aversion.
Ivory® soap is great for cleaning the litter box, or you can make a paste with a little baking soda and water. You can use a dilute bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water) to rinse the box after you’ve washed it. Rinse it well with plain water afterward so there is no residue which may end up in your cat’s mouth when she licks off her paws.
Make sure the box is completely dry before you add new litter.
Cleaning the Litter Box: How Often Is Best?
There are many reasons a cat may not like his litter box. One of the most important reasons, and thankfully the easiest to remedy, is that the litter box is just plain dirty. Our feline friends will put up with a lot in terms of lax litter box cleaning habits, but at some point every cat will stop and say “No way!”
Some cats, just like some people, are more bothered by unsanitary conditions and will stop using their litter boxes sooner than other cats might. Unscooped, dirty litter boxes are the cat equivalent of that public bathroom with toilet paper all over the floor and unflushed toilets — you wouldn’t want to use that either! An extension of this problem is having too few litter boxes for your cats — the rule of thumb is at least one more litter box than the number of cats in the house.
Litter boxes should be scooped at least once or twice a day, and it’s even better if you can get to it as soon as your cat has finished his business. There are self-cleaning litter boxes available that use a sensor to tell when a cat has entered and then left the litter box. While these are great at keeping up on scooping duties for people, they tend to scare at least some cats away from using their litter box and would not be a good choice for a timid cat. In addition to daily scooping, it is important to regularly change the litter box (twice weekly for non-clumping litter, monthly for clumping litter) and to wash it with soap and water. Plastic litter boxes should also be replaced once a year, because the scratches they tend to get during regular use can hold odor and debris.