Here’s How Often You Should Really Be Changing Your Cat’s Litter Box

by Alli Hoff Kosik
Chris McGrath/Getty Images News/Getty Images

There are a lot of perks to having a cat. Like any other pet, a feline sidekick can serve as a source of unconditional companionship and plenty of laughs. When a cat's in the mood, they'll be your best friend and the ultimate snuggler. They'll keep the weird bugs in your apartment at bay. Occasionally, they'll roll around on their back in a super dramatic way while you're trying to throw a party and your friends will think it's the funniest thing they've ever seen. The downside of cat ownership is pretty clear, and it's the litter box. But how often should you change your cat's litter box? The answer will be seriously useful in helping you weigh the pros and cons of having a cat... and in keeping your home (and all the living creatures in it!) clean and healthy.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, the general rule of thumb for optimal litter box hygiene is that you clean it about twice per week. Like most general rules of thumb, though, there's room for variation here. Your particular needs might differ based on how many cats you have, how many litter boxes you have (if you have multiple cats), and what kind of litter you use in them.

Start off with a twice-weekly schedule, but pay close attention to the state of your cat's bathroom spot for signs that adjustments might be necessary. The bottom line, per The Humane Society, is that a litter box that's especially smelly needs to be changed, no matter how recently you've cleaned it. If the litter is more wet or clumpy than usual, it's also time for a change. If you have multiple cats using a single box, you'll probably find that you're better off refreshing the litter more frequently than twice per week. After all, a little extra cleanliness can't hurt. You might as well err on the side of hygiene, no?

Some sources actually suggest what seems like near-constant hygiene. Dr. Stephanie Janeczko D.V.M., medical director for animal care and control of New York City, wrote in Petfinder that litter boxes should be scooped at least once or twice daily. Ideally, she said, you should try to clean up after your pet as soon as they've done their business. But let's be real — very few of us actually have the time for that.

If you like the idea of sticking to Dr. Janeczko's advice but aren't excited about the idea of monitoring your cat's every trip to the bathroom, you might consider checking out a self-cleaning litter box. These gadgets use a sensor to initiate an automated cleaning process, and while some cats might find them a little scary, they definitely have the potential to make your life a lot easier... and your home a lot cleaner.

Here are a few self-cleaning options you might want to consider:

If you're skeptical of going the self-cleaning route — or you're worried that your cat will be skeptical of it — there are other ways to stay ahead of the litter box mess to make the cleaning process easier on you. Animal Planet suggests putting a thin layer of baking soda in the box before the litter. This will help absorb icky odors. The Humane Society notes that box liners can make cleaning more convenient, but that some cats actually claw at them, which will have the reverse effect when you try to pick up the box's contents. Resist the urge to put more than two inches of litter in your cat's box. Felines don't actually need more than that, and the more litter you have, the more you'll have to clean... and buy. And who wants that