Kitty litter changing frequency
January 29, 2004 9:49 PM   Subscribe

How often do I REALLY need to change my cat's kitty litter?
posted by adrober to Pets & Animals (25 answers total)
when it starts to smell. or when the cat stops using it and complains.
posted by Hackworth at 10:07 PM on January 29, 2004

i dunno, that's just when we did it, back when there was a cat.
posted by Hackworth at 10:08 PM on January 29, 2004

You're supposed to change it when it no longer absorbs odor or liquid, but it's kind of hard to tell when it's just a bunch of brown gravel.

I use those Litter Pearl things. They're just silica like you get in those desicant packs in shoes and electronics (they say "do not eat" on them). They soak up loads of liquid and odor and since they start out white and semi-opaque, when they get wet over time they turn white to yellow. It's pretty easy to know when to change out litter pearls, when you get a pale yellow overall color and most gravel is no longer clear.
posted by mathowie at 11:06 PM on January 29, 2004

Uh you're saying that I'm NOT supposed to nibble on those things, Matt...?

But seriously -- we've got two of the little fuzzballs, and they are VERY picky about their litter. If the store happens to be out of their "regular" brand and I substitute another brand, they'll poop about two feet away from the litter basket. Spiteful, eh?
posted by davidmsc at 11:18 PM on January 29, 2004

Spiteful, eh?

NO (can't tell if you're joking, but NO, NO and also NO). Some cats get very accustomed (AKA "addicted") to their litter, and anything else doesn't seem like litter to them - in fact, if you plan to change brands after using the same brand for a while, you should do it gradually. They're pooping outside the litterbox because the litterbox doesn't smell normal to them, not out of spite. Animals don't do spite.

As to how often to change - if it smells, or there are obvious wet patches, change it. As a general rule, once a week is fine for a full litter change for one healthy cat, as long as you pick out the "solids" every day or so. If you use clumping litter, just sift it out every couple of days and do a complete change once or twice a month. Keep in mind that if you let it get dirty enough, your cat will start engaging in extralitterboxular activities rather than have to deal with a filthy litterbox, and that can become a very ingrained habit - don't think of changing the litter as a chore, think of it as avoiding far worse eventualities.

Those litter pearls are great if your cat will use them, my cat thought they were alien mind-control devices and wouldn't go near them.
posted by biscotti at 11:37 PM on January 29, 2004

Biscotti, are you really, really sure that animals don't do spite? My cat once pooped in the middle of my pillow when I went away for the weekend. That seemed just a tiny bit spiteful to me. On the litter pearls question, wouldn't it be an option to introduce a little into the regular litter, then continue to increase the ratio over time to get the cat accustomed to the silica?
posted by taz at 12:26 AM on January 30, 2004

I won't go into detail, but I can confirm that cats absolutely, positively, definitely do spite.
posted by mmoncur at 3:18 AM on January 30, 2004

I've been using the litter pearls to great success. The ones I got come in a little bag and you mix them in with your regular litter. Totally cuts down on the smell, which is good when you have a cat who pisses pure ammonia. They're pretty cheap, too.
posted by eilatan at 5:59 AM on January 30, 2004

Yeah, the litter crystals are the best thing I've found. I have two cats, and the stuff lasts about 6 days before getting gross. Oddly, though, the owners of the best pet store around me - I trust them for everything else - insist that the crystals haven't been proven safe, and that they dry out cats' paws, so they don't sell them.

And oh yes - cats definitely do spite. But they do get upset and confused by changes in brand of litter/food.
posted by stonerose at 6:22 AM on January 30, 2004

we use the pine stuff -- it's basically sawdust that's packed into pellets. when the cat pees, the pellets absorb the urine and break down. so you don't have to worry about cleaning out the pee like with clumping litter (plus the whole mining for clay just for cat litter seems absurd, whereas the pine dust is left over from normal sawing activities).

anyway, for our one cat we clean out the poo once a day and then do a full litter change about once a week. if I'm good, I wash the box/pan about once a month.

yes, when you change litter you need to do it gradually, just like changing food. they get used to things and don't like abrubt changes. for litter I read the best way to do it is to put a thin layer of the new litter on the bottom, with the regular litter on top. then when they scratch to cover their business up, it gets mixed up. you slowly add more new litter and less old stuff, until you are just sprinkling the old stuff on.
posted by evening at 6:27 AM on January 30, 2004

In our household, we clean two litter boxes twice a day for 3 cats. Anything less for us is unacceptable.

We have two of these, and they are super easy to clean, just roll it over on it's back, hit the bottom a few times, then roll it back. All the poop and clumped litter falls into a little drawer.

For litter, we use The World's Best Cat Litter. It's not cheap, but it's virtually dust free, made out of corn, and flushable.
posted by corpse at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2004

We are die-hard fans of the World's Best Cat Litter.

We're also both possessed of very keen senses of smell, and, thanks to the obsessively clean upbringing by my anal retentive mother, I would rather have a guest take a crap in my foyer than smell cat pee in our apartment.

We have three cats, two litter boxes, we clean the clumps out twice a day, and probably only completely change the litter once a month. Plus this litter is all-natural, flushable, biodegradable, made from corn, and is dust-free. And doesn't dry out any little kitty paws. And most importantly, according to my mother, our house smells cat-free.
posted by jennyb at 6:34 AM on January 30, 2004

Clean your cat's litterbox as frequently as you can. Do you like stepping around excrement trying to find a place to do *your* business?
posted by agregoli at 7:36 AM on January 30, 2004

Biscotti, are you really, really sure that animals don't do spite? My cat once pooped in the middle of my pillow when I went away for the weekend. That seemed just a tiny bit spiteful to me.

The key in your sentence there is "to me" - a behaviour which, if a human did it, we'd attribute to spite should not be assigned the same motivations when performed by another species. Spite involves a whole host of higher thinking which cats, smart as they are, likely aren't capable of. Cats (and some dogs) often get stressed by upheaval (and that can include their owners, whom they're used to being around, going away), and sometimes that stress is expressed through poop, the fact that your pillow smells like you, and the cat's stress was likely related to your absence gives you a perfectly reasonable explanation for why there was poop on your pillow without adding the concept of spite into the equation. Just because a behaviour bears similarity to a human behaviour does not mean that the motivations and emotions behind that behaviour are the same.

Look, those of you who insist on animals being capable of spite (which is deeply unfair to animals, since it places expectations on them which they cannot possibly fulfill, what Jean Donaldson calls the "Lassie has a lot to answer for" syndrome), just think about it critically: the evidence you have at hand does not support the cat exhibiting spite, for it to be spite requires you to add extra motivation and thinking on the part of the cat.
posted by biscotti at 8:34 AM on January 30, 2004

Response by poster: *ducks head* Well, it's been like...uhhh...two weeks...I guess I better go change the kitty litter.
posted by adrober at 8:46 AM on January 30, 2004

Um, I've never changed the litter. Ever. I just scoop out the poop-and-clumps every night and pour in a little more litter when it starts getting shallow. Is that really bad?
posted by brownpau at 9:19 AM on January 30, 2004

I scoop out daily and add more when it needs it, but I've started dumping the whole thing and hosing out the box every 6 weeks or so. It just doesn't take me that much time or work to do it, and I have a vested interest in the cats loving their box and thus not looking for another place to go.
posted by GaelFC at 9:25 AM on January 30, 2004

also a dirty box can lead to poo stuck to the cats fur - which is realy bad when the cat is a persian and you can't see it for awhile -- reaaalllyyy bad.
posted by Julnyes at 10:49 AM on January 30, 2004

When you can no longer approach the box because of the noxious ammonia cloud hanging over it, it's time to change it. Oh... well, wait-
posted by scarabic at 10:51 AM on January 30, 2004

we have 3 cats and 2 litter boxes which get cleaned out every morning. the best litter depends on what your cat likes or whether it has an airway disease such as asthma. in fact the abietic acid found in pine litter can damage the respiratory tract causing chronic respiratory disease, and or asthma. dusty clay and scented litters are also problematic.

a box that doesn't get changed enough can cause all kinds of other problems, in the area of bacterial infections which can attack the cat's internal organs and urinary tract infections/crystals.

and what biscotti said. try not to personify your cat, it's not fair to them and it can often cause you to not take notice when their behaviour is a sign of actual illness.
posted by t r a c y at 11:51 AM on January 30, 2004

I clean the litterbox about 10 minutes after the cat uses it. Well, it cleans itself, actually. I have found the combination of a LitterMaid self-cleaning litter box, Tidy Cats Crystals Blend (a clumping litter with some moisture-absorbing crystals mixed in), and a Sharper Image Bathroom Ionic Breeze (find it on eBay for $25) to be basicaly unbeatable.
posted by kindall at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2004

We have two cats and one box with clumping litter. We clean it once (sometimes twice) a day and do a full litter change every 3-4 weeks.
posted by trillion at 12:52 PM on January 30, 2004

Count me in the scoop often and keep a clean cat box crew. Change the drinking water at least once a day--and rinse out the bowl when you do it--too. I try to change the water every time I'm in the kitchen. I wouldn't want to drink a glass of days old water with a bunch of cat food crumbs in it--would you?
posted by y2karl at 4:17 PM on January 30, 2004

Two things:

1. I have a Littermaid -- Like Tivo, I honestly can not imagine my life without it. I only have to clean it once or twice a year, as long as I refill it regularly.

2. Cats are spiteful. If I am late refilling the litterbox, I hear about it. More than once, early in our relationship, a cat would enter a room, wait to catch my eye, and piss on the floor. Once I woke up to a cat peeing on my bed, while I was still in it -- and he was on me.
posted by o2b at 9:37 PM on January 30, 2004

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