Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How to Safely & Quickly Clean a Cat Litter Box

cat litter box_Lightspruch_Shutterstock

When you think about dangerous activities, you probably think about skydiving or mountain climbing. You certainly don’t think about cleaning your cat’s litter box!

While you might not realize it, cleaning out a litter box can be hazardous to your health. Here, we show you the safest way to accomplish this unpleasant task, so you can give your pet a clean bathroom — without winding up in the hospital in the process.


Cleaning Out a Litter Box Is Dangerous?

Image Credit: Lilia Solonari, Shutterstock

Many people don’t realize it, but coming in contact with cat urine and feces can expose you to all sorts of potentially dangerous diseases. Here are a few of the most common.

  • Toxoplasmosis

Caused by the Toxoplamsa gondii parasite, which cats can catch by eating raw or undercooked meat, toxoplasmosis can cause flu-like symptoms in most people.

However, pregnant or nursing people should avoid it at all costs, as it can cause birth defects or be transmitted to the child while nursing. Those with weakened immune systems should be careful as well, as it can lead to severe symptoms like seizures or lung problems.

  • Campylobacteriosis

This bacteria — also contracted by eating raw meat — will cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps in those affected. You can generally avoid it by washing your hands thoroughly after cleaning the litter box, though.

  • Giardiasis

Rather than being caused by raw meat, this parasite gets picked up when your cat drinks contaminated water. They pass it out through their poop (which will be frothy, greasy, or loose), and if you catch it, you can expect cramps, bloating, nausea, and watery diarrhea.

  • Roundworms

If you see little things that look like spaghetti climbing out of your cat’s poop, congratulations, your cat has roundworms. If they enter your system, you could suffer cramps, organ damage, or blindness. Their eggs can survive outside of a host for years.

  • Ammonia

Cat urine is full of ammonia, and ammonia exposure can cause damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach. Fortunately, you’re unlikely to come in contact with dangerous amounts of ammonia through your cat unless you have many of them and never clean their litter boxes.

Before You Start: Get the Proper Tools

Cat litter box cleaning II_borzywoj_Shutterstock
Image Credit: borzywoj, Shutterstock

You may think that all you need to clean out a litter box is a scooper and something to put the waste in, but do you really want to take your chances with any of the aforementioned diseases?

You’ll want a mask and a pair of rubber gloves, just to be safe. This may sound like overkill, but you’ll wish you’d worn them if you come down with bloody diarrhea or blindness or any of the other horrible things that can happen if you catch something from your cat’s waste.

Keep a trash can with a heavy bag close by, especially if you’re replacing all the litter. You don’t want to have to carry a box full of used litter far, as jostling it will stir up dust, and there’s always the risk that you could fall and send it flying everywhere (or worse, faceplant into it).

You’ll also want to keep other gear close at hand, such as replacement litter and liners, deodorizer, or anything else that you need.

Cleaning vs. Scooping: What’s the Difference?

Cat litter box scooping_Ninotee_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Ninotee, Shutterstock

You should tend to your cat’s litter box every day. This means taking the time to scoop out any clumps of waste that you see inside and either putting them in the trash or dumping them in a storage container of some sort.

Not only will this keep your house smelling fresh and your cat’s bathroom clean and sanitary, but it also forces you to look at your cat’s waste. This is a good way to keep tabs on their health, as you’ll want to know as soon as possible if they’re not peeing much or have diarrhea or something like that.

Cleaning, on the other hand, involves replacing every bit of litter inside the box and scrubbing the box itself. It’s a much more thorough and involved job, and it should be done every few months, even if you’re meticulous about scooping every day.

If you use litter liners, you may not need to clean the box itself unless there’s been a leak. All you may need to do is replace the liner and refill it with fresh litter.

Even if you keep a clean and tidy litterbox, you probably still find yourself with cat odors and stains around the house – but with the Hepper Advanced Bio-Enzyme Pet Stain & Odor Eliminator Spray, you can permanently remove even the very worst pet stains and smells! Click here to learn more and get yourself a bottle.

At Pet Keen, we’ve admired Hepper for many years, and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding products of this cool cat company!

How to Quickly and Safely Clean a Litter Box

Image Credit: xamnesiacx84, Shutterstock

If you’re not using a liner, you’ll need to clean the box thoroughly to ensure that your cat stays healthy and happy.

1. Start by dumping out all the used litter into your trash can.

Be careful, as this will kick up a large amount of dust, so you may want to pass the job off to someone else if you have respiratory issues. You should also do it outside, unless you like having a thin layer of litter silt over all your stuff.

2. Next, rinse any lingering litter off the box, and scrub it with soap.

Choose a soap with no odor and that’s unlikely to leave residue, as a strong-smelling soap may cause your cat to want to avoid the litter box once it’s clean. You should scrub the scooper and lid as well.

3. Once you’re done scrubbing, rinse everything off outside with a garden hose or pressure washer.

You don’t want any dirty litter getting left in your kitchen sink or coming in contact with your loofah, after all.

4. You should take this opportunity to inspect the box for cracks, deep scratches, or other damage.

You don’t want litter (or something worse) to leak out, and scratches provide crevices for germs to hide in, making it hard to clean the box thoroughly even if you try.

5. Once all this is complete, you can either air-dry it or wipe it down.

You can air-dry your litter box if you have another box handy for your cat to use while it dries). If not, wipe it down with a paper towel or other cloth. Then, refill it with fresh litter and put it back where you found it!

Related Read: 5 Best Dog-Proof Litter Boxes – Reviews & Top Picks

Our Favorite Cat Litter Deal Right Now:

Cleanliness Is Next to Catliness

Nobody enjoys cleaning out their cat’s litter box, but it’s one of those things that just has to be done. Hopefully, this guide will make the entire process safer and easier the next time that you have to do it, and with any luck, it won’t be such a miserable task moving forward.

Featured Image Credit: Lightspruch, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets