Did you know that a dirty litter box can make your cat sick? Cats can develop various health problems from using a dirty litter box, such as painful kidney infections, bladder infections, bladder stones, and urinary tract infections. Going too long without cleaning the litter box also causes stress for your cat, which only exacerbates these issues. Read on to learn more about the problems that a dirty litter box can cause, and how often you should be scooping.

How Often Should You Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box?

In order to keep your cat happy and healthy, it’s typically best to clean the litter box once a day. However, if you have a particularly large cat or multiple felines, then you should be scooping at least twice daily to effectively keep the litter box clean. If you have a busy schedule, try setting an alarm to remind you to clean the litter box every day.

Common Cat Health Problems Caused by Dirty Litter Boxes

1. Urinary Tract Infections

When a litter box does not get cleaned properly, cats risk squatting over and stepping in old excretions. Bacteria from festering waste in the dirty litter box can travel up the urethra, causing a urinary tract infection (UTI) in your cat. 

Symptoms of feline UTIs include:

  • Frequent urination, but only passing a small amount of urine 
  • Urinating outside the litter box 
  • Blood in the urine 
  • Straining to urinate 
  • Crying out in pain while urinating 
  • Increased licking of urinary opening

2. Feline Interstitial Cystitis

This inflammation of the bladder causes lower urinary tract disease. While the exact cause of feline interstitial cystitis is unknown, stress often plays a large factor. Stress caused by a dirty litter box can manifest itself as an inflammation of nerves, including those that fill the bladder. 

Symptoms of feline interstitial cystitis include:

  • Frequent attempts to urinate
  • Straining to urinate
  • Urinating in inappropriate places in the house
  • Crying out during attempts to urinate
  • Blood-tinged urine

3. Bladder Stones

Bladder stones form when minerals and organic materials accumulate in the bladder, and are usually the result of inflammation or disease. These stones can block the urethra and make it difficult or impossible for your cat to urinate. Typically caused by urinary tract infections, they are often linked to dirty litter boxes. 

Symptoms of bladder stones include:

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Genital licking
  • Blood in the urine (hematuria)
  • Painful urination
  • Chronic urinary tract infections
  • Urinary tract obstruction (especially in males)
  • Urine spraying
  • Passing urine in unusual places

Litter Box Management

Make sure to empty the litter box frequently and clean it thoroughly before refilling it to protect your cat’s health and safety. You can also provide more than one litter box throughout the house to help prevent stress when one gets dirty. Many cats prefer a large litter box because it provides more room for them to turn around inside. 

It’s important to check the height of the litter box before you purchase it to make sure your cat can get in and out easily. This is especially crucial for senior cats and cats with stiff joints. The type of litter you use can also play a role in how comfortable your cat feels while using the box. Always place the litter box in a safe location so your cat feels calm and undisturbed while using it. 

Cat Veterinarian in Gilbert, Arizona

Don’t let your cat suffer any health problems from a dirty litter box. Keep it clean and contact us if you notice any changes in their urinating habits. Anasazi Animal Clinic offers non-invasive ultrasound imaging and radiographs to make the correct diagnosis. If your cat is in pain, we also offer emergency vet and urgent care services. Call us today to schedule an appointment for diagnosis and treatment.

Photo by Litter Robot on Unsplash