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How to Clean Your Cats’ Litter Tray, Step-by-Step

by Ben Doyle | Reading Time: 4 minutes

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Cleaning your cat’s litter box isn’t the most glamorous part of owning a cat. That said, it’s necessary to keep it clean if you want your cat to use it and keep them well.

So, in this article, we’ll cover;

  • Why it’s important to keep your cats’ litter box clean
  • What you’ll need to clean your cats’ litter tray
  • How to clean your cats’ litter tray, step-by-step

Why You Should Clean Your Cats’ Litter Box Often

A dirty litter box doesn’t only look and smell bad, it can be a serious health risk to you and your cat. Even the best cat litter trays can cause problems if you don’t keep them clean.

Risks to Your Cat

Cats are hygienic animals, they like a clean toilet.  If you don’t keep their litter tray clean, it could lead to litter box aversion. This means they might avoid using the litter box and choose to toilet behind the sofa instead.

A clean toilet is also important for your cats’ overall health and wellbeing. It can prevent problems like urinary illness and other infections.

If you find your cat meows in their litter box, they could be trying to tell you it needs cleaning.

Risks to You and Your Family

A dirty litter box doesn’t only affect your cat. It can be harmful to humans too.

If you allow urine and faeces to build up, it can lead to several illnesses, including;

  • Ammonia exposureAmmonia in the litter box not only smells, it’s also toxic and can cause headaches, asthma attacks, and in some cases, pneumonia.
  • Cat scratch disease – A bacterial infection that cats can pass to humans. As the name suggests, cat-scratch disease is most often passed via cats’ claws via scratches.
  • Salmonellosis – A common bacterial infection,  salmonellosis affects the intestinal tract. Passed from cats to humans through their stool. 
  • Toxoplasmosis – A parasitic infection that is spread via cat’s faeces. Pregnant women are more at risk.

What You’ll Need to Clean Your Cats’ Litter Tray

Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to clean your cats’ litter box;

Scooping the Litter Box Daily

Scoop your cats’ litter box at least once a day. Twice a day is better. 

Use a scooper with holes or slots in it that lets clean litter sieve through it.

Always put cat faeces and clumps in the bin. Some cat owners put it in poo bags and put it in the bin, others prefer a dedicated cat poo bin which reduces plastic bag waste.

Top up the litter every couple of days to place the litter you remove when scooping.

How to Clean Your Cats’ Litter Box

Even with regular scooping, you’ll need to empty and clean the litter box every so often.

If you use non-clumping cat litter, do it once a week. If you use clumping cat litter, clean the litter box at least once a month.

Now is also a good time to clean your cats’ litter mat.

Step 1: Empty the Litter Tray

The type of cat litter you use and the way you dispose of it will dictate how you empty the litter tray.

For example, the only way to dispose of clay or silica cat litter is to put it in the general waste bin. So, you can tip the whole lot in a plastic bag and chuck it in the bin. You can dispose of all cat litter by putting it in the bin.

If you use a biodegradable litter that you want to compost, scoop out the solid waste first and put it in the bin. Then tip the rest on your compost heap.

If you don’t want to compost the cat litter yourself, you can also tip it straight into your green waste bin. Just make sure you take out the solid waste first.

Step 2: Wash the Litter Box

With the litter removed, you need to wash the litter box. 

Use a mild soap like Fairy Liquid or litter box cleaner. 

Don’t use perfumey or strong-smelling detergents. Especially anything floral citrussy or anything that smells like ammonia. This could put your cat off using it when you fill it with fresh litter.

Once you have given it a good scrub, rinse the litter box with warm water. Be thorough when rinsing, you want to get rid of as much detergent smell as you can.

Step 3: Dry the Litter Box

Once you have given the litter box a good scrub, you need to dry it.

Make sure you dry it properly. You don’t want the fresh litter sticking to the bottom and the side of the tray.

Step 4: Add a Litter Box Liner (Optional)

If you use clumping cat litter, you shouldn’t need to use litter box liners. The litter will absorb all the wet stuff.

If you or your cat prefer non-clumping litter, liners can stop urine from staining the box and making it smell. Especially if you have cats that share a litter tray.

Liners also make it easy to empty the litter box next time you do a full clean. All you have to is lift the liner and its contents out, tie it up and bin it. In the same way you’d empty the bin.

Step 5: Fill the Tray With Clean Litter

When the litter box is dry and you’ve added a liner, refill it with fresh cat litter.

How much cat litter you put in the tray depend will depend on your cat. Most cats need 2-3 inches of litter in their tray so they can dig around in it. 

If you put too much in, chances are your cat will kick it out while covering up their mess. Too much litter could even put long-haired breeds off using it because it can get stuck in their fur.

Use too little and you could find the litter tray starts to smell. And not enough litter can also put your cat off using it because they can’t dig in it to cover up their waste.


While cleaning your cat’s litter tray isn’t the most glamorous part of owning a cat, it’s an important one.

Keeping the litter box clean will keep you, your family, and your cat healthy. 

And it’s easy to do.

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Ben Doyle

Ben Doyle co-owns Pet Checkers with his wife, Vicki. He spends his days looking after all kinds of animals, from dogs to eagles. When he's not taking care of animals, he's writing about them.

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