Aqueos - Why it's important to clean your cat's litter tray

Aqueos - Why it's important to clean your cat's litter tray

Sharing your home with a feline friend brings many joys… cleaning the litter tray is not one of them! Nobody likes this job, but it is necessary for both your, and your cat’s, health. So let’s look at cat litter tray care.

Why is it important to clean your cat’s litter tray?

Cats are fastidious creatures! They are very particular about where they toilet. If the litter tray is dirty then they may well refuse to use it, leading to accidents elsewhere in the house. Of course, another reason to keep your cat’s litter tray clean is to avoid unwanted smells around the home. Last but not least, keeping litter trays clean can also help prevent infections that can be spread to humans through cat feces (stools).

How often should I clean my cat’s litter tray?

 The correct answer here is as often as needed! Once your cat has passed urine or feces in a litter tray, it’s likely they won’t want to use it again until it’s clean. Of course, if you’re out you won’t know. This means you need to have at least one litter tray available per cat, plus one extra. So, if you have one cat, you need at least two litter trays. This can help to avoid urinary problems such as cystitis, since your cat won’t be holding on to their urine longer than they should, waiting for a clean tray.

Even if your cat is usually an outdoor cat, it’s a good idea for them to have the option of a litter tray inside, just in case it’s too cold to go out, or something outside has spooked them.

As a general rule of thumb, litter trays need to be picked out at least once a day. The tray will need a full change of litter at least weekly and a proper wash once a week. Poor litter tray hygiene may lead to your cat choosing somewhere less suitable to do their business, such as the bath or floor!

What should I use to clean my cat’s litter tray?

What you use to clean your cat’s litter tray is very important, since some cleaning products are actually toxic to cats. Beware of strong scents too. They may seem pleasant to you, but they are likely to deter your cat. Use washing-up liquid and hot water, or a pet-safe disinfectant. It’s also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on any cat-safe disinfectant.

Should I use a liner in my cat’s litter tray?

Cat litter tray liners are popular. They make cleaning the tray easier and they often smell pleasant. However, they are not so popular with cats! Cats can get their claws caught on the liners, which is a sensation they don’t enjoy! The scent can also be overwhelming. Your cat may tolerate a liner, but it’s a long way from their natural environment and it’s likely they would prefer no liner. For other cats, liners can actually put them off using the tray, causing toileting issues.

Do cats use self-cleaning litter boxes?

Self-cleaning litter trays are great, in theory! However, the noise coupled with sudden movements may actually scare your cat. Cats have good memories – if they’re scared in the tray once, they may well avoid it in future.

Are hooded litter trays more hygienic?

Hooded litter trays are also popular, since they are perceived to contain the mess and smell, as well as being more private. Some cats don’t mind them. However, some cats don’t like the lack of visibility, especially in a multicat household. Cats may feel vulnerable to “attack,” since they can’t see if any threats are approaching. There is also only one way out, which can make some cats nervous.

Is clumping or non-clumping litter better?

There is such a wide variety of litter types available nowadays, it can seem overwhelming! They each have their own pros and cons.

It’s sensible to avoid scented litters, since the smell can be overwhelming for your cat. If your cat has any medical conditions, such as asthma, your veterinarian may recommend avoiding certain types of litter. Otherwise, whichever litter suits your cat is fine; individual cats tend to have individual preferences. Sandy litters are probably the closest to their natural toileting substrate.

Usually, cats like to stick to the same litter type they were weaned on to as kittens. This means if you wish to make a change, you ought to do so gradually. You can achieve this by mixing a little new litter into the old litter, then gradually increasing the amount over time.

Litter tray top tips:

  • Litter pick at least once a day and clean the tray thoroughly with pet-safe disinfectant once a week
  • Avoid scented litters and litter tray liners
  • Find out your cat’s individual litter preference and stick to it
  • If you are going to change litter, do so gradually
  • Make sure you put enough litter in the tray, around 3-4cm deep
  • Offer at least one litter tray per cat, plus one extra
  • Make sure the litter tray is big enough for your cat to turn around fully; this means it should be around 1.5 times longer than your cat
  • Place the litter tray away from food, water, and toys: cats don’t want to eat or play and poo in the same place!
  • Place the litter tray against a wall or ideally in a corner, away from cat flaps and windows, so that your cat has good vision around them while in the tray (i.e., they aren’t worrying about perceived potential threats behind them)
  • Place the litter tray somewhere quiet, where your cat won’t be disturbed.


Keeping your cat’s litter tray clean is essential for both hygiene and the health of your cat. Dirty, poorly positioned, or unsuitable litter trays can cause cats to toilet outside of the litter tray, or hold on to their urine for longer than they should. These can lead to cystitis, or an inflamed, sore bladder. So now you have all you need to know about good cat litter box care!

Sarah-Jane Molier BVM&S BSc MRCVS