Back to BasicsBack to BasicsWe all have that one seemingly “easy” task we’ve never quite figured out. This week, no problem is too trivial, no question too stupid. Just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s not a hack.
The litter box. If you are a cat owner—especially if you have cats who seem to poop half their body weight daily, such as mine do—the foul rectangle inspires a particular sense of unease. Cleaning it is the task every cat owner dreads. This need not be the case.
Cleaning the litter box presents you with a choice: either do a little bit of work every day, or a whole lot of unpleasant work all at once. So it’s best to clean a little every day, the reward being that it’ll be a manageable amount.
So what is the best way to clean a litter box?
When it comes to doing their business, cats are quite particular. Although it’s tempting to blame this on the fact they are cats, let’s be honest: Everyone prefers a clean, private bathroom. Cats are no different.
A general rule of thumb is to have at least one litter box per cat, and at least one litter box on each floor, for easy access. Although there are different types of litters, ranging from traditional clay litter to self-clumping litter to biodegradable litters, cats are fussy and don’t react well to changes. It’s best to stick with whatever type they are used to, and to avoid filling the box too full. A couple inches is enough.
The litter box needs to be placed in an accessible area, one that offers a bit of privacy and isn’t too dark or damp. As much as you might want to shove a litter box into the back of a closet or in a dark corner of the basement, if you do that, there’s a chance the cats just won’t use it. Would you want to go to the bathroom in a dark, isolated place? Probably not.
Also, if a litter box is too smelly, messy or full, they may refuse to use it.
It’s important to scoop litter regularly, as that keeps the litter box from becoming a big, stinky mess. To keep this task manageable, aim to scoop every day or at least every other day. You’ll want to get a litter scoop, which has little slats that allow litter to fall out, leaving the big clumps behind. Clumping litter causes urine to clump into a solid chunk, which can then be easily scooped out. Waste should go into a plastic trash bag, which then gets tied up and put into the trash. You don’t need to buy separate bags for the task, as a plastic grocery bag works just fine.
Every few weeks, you’ll need to dump the litter and refill the box with fresh. To make this task easier, there are litter box liners, which are placed at the bottom of the box and covered with litter. The advantage with liners is they prevent wet litter from sticking to the sides and bottom of the box. A lot of liners will have a drawstring around the edges you can easily pull up to remove the litter and liner all at once.
When dumping the litter, you’ll also want to clean the litter box itself. Put on rubber gloves and attack it with dish detergent, water and a dedicated “cat box” sponge. Dish detergent is enough, as stronger chemicals can be harmful to your cat (and might leave lingering scents that will dissuade them from using the litter box). Let the box air dry or wipe it dry before putting in a new liner and litter.
Scooping litter and cleaning the litter box is a task that gets easier once it becomes a habit, and it is well worth taking a little bit of time every day to do it rather than face a big, smelly symbol of your procrastination. Scoop away. Your cats will thank you. Or at least, that’s what you can tell yourself. They are cats, after all.