You know when your cat’s litter needs changing, but how frequently the litter box itself needs replacing is a somewhat different question. Litter-box durability and your kitty's needs affect when you need to get a different box.
Years and years of use may wear out the litter box, if it is made of brittle plastic and cracks, or if your cats excessively scratch up the base of the tray in moving litter around. If you notice stains or odor even after cleaning and air-drying the litter box outdoors, it’s time for a new one; but keep the old one on hand to transition your cat gradually. Many litter boxes last indefinitely though if you keep them clean and handle them carefully.
If you do switch to a new litter box, show your cat where it is and allow her to use it while keeping the old one as well. Set the replacement box next to the old one for a short time, allowing the cat to use the new box before removing the original one.
Though small litter boxes with low sides are perfect for kittens, they no longer suffice as kittens become cats. As she approaches her first birthday, provide a box large enough for her to squat and comfortably turn around in, though she will appreciate any additional room. A box with high sides also helps reduce the amount of litter scattered over the floor. Alternatively, when cats become elderly, and possibly arthritic, the high entrance to the box can be a painful obstacle. Give her quick and easy access to the litter by replacing the box for one with a very low side or entrance so she can step in and out without discomfort.
You need to add a cover right away if your cat is spraying above the sides of the box, hitting the walls or floor. Also switch to a covered box if you have shy cats who appreciate privacy. Most box-and-cover models have a front entrance while others allow the cat in from the top. Plastic tubs also provide a low-cost option and can be cut to provide a front or side door or opening in the top. If you work long hours or just cannot scoop the litter daily, a self-scooping litter box is another option but needs to be replaced if it breaks.
Litter Box Liners
Liners can prolong the life of the litter box by acting as a barrier between the box and the cat's urine and feces. Certain cats end up scratching slits in the plastic with their claws, leaving a shredded mess. Still, you can try liners as an experiment. Wash the box often with soap and warm water, not harsh chemicals or bleach, to remove any particles left by the cat's elimination. Eventually the litter box may show wear and tear, needing to be replaced if it cracks or does not clean as well. Look over the box every time you clean it to check for any breaks and see if the material is holding up.
- The Humane Society: Preventing Litter Box Problems
- Blount Veterinary Clinic: Introducing Your New Cat or Kitten to the Litter Box
- ASPCA: Litter Box Problems
- Cat Wrangling Made Easy: Maintaining Peace and Sanity in Your Multicat Home
- Good Cat! A Proven Guide to Successful Litter Box Use and Problem Solving
Pam Smith has been writing since 2005. In addition to her work for Demand Media, her articles have been published online at CBS Local. She also wrote for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book's Literary Map while earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English at the Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an editorial assistant for Circulation Research.