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How Often Should I Scoop My Cat’s Litter Box?

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One of the most common debates cat owners have is about how often they should scoop the litter box. As a certified feline behaviorist, professional cat sitter, kitten fosterer, and cat mom, I believe, ideally, it's best to scoop a cat's litter box every time they use it, but this may not be realistic for people who are away from home most of the day. For people who are unable to scoop their cat's litter multiple times a day, it's best to scoop daily, but why?

how often should i scoop my cat's litter

1. It can prevent your cat from developing litter box issues

Litter box issues can be incredibly frustrating for cat parents, and they’re also notoriously difficult to resolve, which is why it’s extremely important to stop them from occurring in the first place. Unfortunately, litter box issues are also pretty common, with one out of every 10 cats developing some sort of problem during their lifetimes. One of the common reasons a cat will stop using a litter box is because it’s not being scooped frequently enough.

Our feline friends are famous for being tidy — there’s a reason they spend so much time cleaning themselves — and so it’s no surprise that they might want to avoid urinating and defecating in a soiled, smelly place. If you don’t like the idea of standing in your own waste while using the bathroom, then it’s easy to understand why your feline friend might feel the same way. Fortunately, scooping your cat’s litter box at least once a day is a great way for you to keep them using it.

2. It can prevent your cat from getting sick

If your cat doesn’t mind using a dirty litter box, infrequent scooping can still lead to problems. Allowing a cat’s urine and feces to fester can cause the litter box to become a breeding ground for bacteria. Unfortunately, when a cat crouches in a litter box to do their business, their genitalia can come in contact with this bacteria, allowing it to travel into their urethra. This can result in a urinary tract infection, which is not only painful, but also potentially deadly without timely treatment.

Also, cats can be carriers of the Salmonella bacteria, which they can spread to one another — and people — via their feces, making it extremely important not only to scoop boxes at least once a day, but also to have more than one litter box in a multi-cat household. When a cat or person is infected with the Salmonella bacteria, they may exhibit a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, and vomiting.

3. It can prevent you from getting sick

In addition to Salmonella, dirty litter boxes can essentially become Petri dishes for a variety of parasites and bacteria that can make human beings ill. While most people know pregnant women shouldn’t scoop litter boxes because they don’t want to come in contact with the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, also known as T. gondii, which can cause them to develop toxoplasmosis, a disease that can seriously affect fetuses, not everyone is aware of the risks this parasite poses to those who aren’t pregnant. T. gondii can cause a wide range of symptoms, including memory loss, cognitive issues, impulsivity, and anger.

Another bacteria, Bartonella henselae, or B. henselae, can cause people to develop cat scratch disease (CSD), which can result in serious health issues for people who are immunocompromised, such as individuals with AIDS, type 1 diabetes, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Symptoms of cat scratch disease can include weight loss, fever, fatigue, body aches, sore throat, loss of appetite, blisters, and swollen lymph nodes.

Not scooping your cat’s litter box every day can also lead to the creation of ammonia fumes, which can cause both you and your kitty to experience breathing issues. Breathing in this toxic gas can irritate the bronchial membranes, resulting in coughing which can cause serious damage to both the trachea and the lungs. While this is particularly danger to people and cats with asthma and other pulmonary issues, it can also cause otherwise healthy individuals to have headaches and to feel lightheaded.

4. It can help you promptly identify certain medical issues

Your cat’s litter box usage can reveal a lot about their health, including if they’re constipated or have diarrhea, as well as if they’re urinating too little or not enough. Constipation can be a sign of a number of different issues, including an intestinal blockage, which may require costly surgery, especially if it becomes severe. Constipation can also be a symptom of kidney problems, cancer, arthritis, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, megacolon, spinal issues, nerve damage, diabetes, rupture of impacted anal sacs, stress, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and perianal disease. It can also be a sign your cat’s diet doesn’t include enough water, fiber, or both.

On the flip side, it’s relatively common for cats to experience diarrhea at one time or another, especially when they’re experiencing stress or are transitioning too quickly from one food to another. However, frequent and persistent diarrhea can also be a symptom of food allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, hyperthyroidism, colitis, and pancreatic disease.

Scooping your cat’s litter every day can also help you keep tabs on the amount they’re urinating, as well as how often they’re peeing, allowing you to identify potential problems early. If a cat is urinating large amounts, it may be a sign of diabetes, kidney disease, excess blood glucose, or hyperthyroidism, all of which require prompt medical attention.

Alternatively, if your cat goes more than 24 hours without urinating, or is only urinating very small amounts, they could have a urinary tract infection, which should go away with prompt administration of antibiotics. However, it can also be a sign of a much more serious issue, such as kidney or bladder stones, feline interstitial cystitis, or feline urinary tract disease. All of these conditions can lead to blockages, which are not only painful, they can also be life-threatening if not treated promptly. In addition to scooping every day, a health monitoring cat litter can help you identify certain issues early.

5. It can stop your home from smelling like cat urine and feces

No one wants their home to smell like a litter box, especially when they’re entertaining guests. After all, you don’t want people to associate your place with unpleasant odors, especially if you want your friends and family to love your cats just as much as you do. Also, while you might think a dirty litter box will only make your house smell bad, these unpleasant odors can cling to your clothing, causing you to bring the scent of cat urine and feces with you everywhere you go.

If you don’t have time to scoop your cat’s litter box every day, an automatic self-cleaning version might just be what you and your kitty need. Automatic litter boxes come in a variety of sizes and at lots of different price points, making it relatively easy to find one that fits a range of homes and budgets. Plus, they can limit your — and your cat’s — exposure to parasites and bacteria, although if you have a multi-cat household, it’s still a good idea to have at least one litter box for each of them, even if they’re self-cleaning, to help prevent issues associated with territoriality. A lot of self-cleaning litter boxes even feature built-in health monitoring, offering yet another way for you to keep a close eye on your kitty’s well-being!

Even if you opt for an automatic litter box, depending on the type you purchase, you may still have to come in some sort of contact with your cat’s waste. In order to limit your exposure to bacteria, parasites, and ammonia fumes, it’s a good idea to wear gloves and a mask when scooping a traditional litter box or removing the waste from an automatic one. You should also practice good hygiene by washing your hands with warm water and anti-bacterial soap after coming in contact with your cat’s litter box.

Also, it’s important to regularly change your cat’s litter, but because guidelines can vary from one variety to another, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. When changing your cat’s litter, be sure to thoroughly clean the box — and scoop — with hot water and anti-bacterial soap. You can also use an enzymatic cleaner to remove unwanted odors from the box and scoop, but remember that litter boxes should be replaced regularly, as they can become damaged over time due to wear and tear caused by your kitty’s claws.

Over time, it can also become harder to rid them of unwanted odors, so it’s best to get a new litter box at least once a year, if not sooner. However, to prevent potential litter box issues, it’s important to properly transition them from the old one to the new one.

Another way to decrease the amount of time you spend scooping your cat’s litter is to choose one that only requires you to remove solid waste, such as a non-clumping variety. My favorite non-clumping litter is Fresh Step Fresh Scented Non-Clumping Crystal Cat Litter because it absorbs moisture, locks in odors, and is lightweight and low dust. Plus, because the crystals are larger than a lot of clay litter granules, it’s less likely for your cat to track it all over your home.

I hope I’ve convinced you to scoop your cat’s litter every day, and if you have any questions about anything I’ve mentioned in the article, please feel free to leave me a comment!

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