How deep should a cat litter be?
I have suffered enough from the constant overestimating or under-estimating of how much litter I should put in.
This is why I am writing for you, a few rules and pro-tips to follow to avoid all those mistakes and difficulties that I went through.
Knowing how much cat litter is just right will save you from a lot of trouble, and give your kitty more comfort as well.
The depth of your cat litter will depend on three things:
The Rules for Our Kitty
Before I go ahead and give you a specific measurement to follow, there are a few basics we need to cover. I want to be sure that this caters to all types of cat owners. Whether you have one small kitten or you’re the auntie with over 20 cats at home, this is for you.
#1: How many cats do you have?
A general rule to follow would be:
L = C+1
- L is the number of litter boxes in your home
- C is the number of cats
- Plus 1 extra litter box
Now, if you’re telling me that you have over 5 cats in a small 2-bedroom or so apartment, you don’t necessarily have to follow this rule.
But, you should have 1 litter box for each cat. Multi-cat households should have litter boxes for each cat since your feline pets are not the sharing type and can get territorial. Simply put, they don’t like sharing.
Avoid putting litter boxes together because your cats will identify the set as a single litter box.
#2: What kind of cat litter are you using?
There is such a wide variety of products and ingredients, ranging from clay, silica, or biodegradable materials.
The type of cat litter, it’s granular size and texture, and whether it is clumping or non-clumping, will be a few factors that you have to take into account when you start setting a “Fill up to here” line on your litter box. We’ll get into the specifics later on.
#3: How often do you plan on cleaning the litter box?
Depending on the type of cat litter you use and the number of cats you have, you might wonder how often to change cat litter.
Here’s a valuable pro-tip:
You should take those plans into account when you replace cat litter.
When you find out a good depth range for your litter box, you might want to fill it up on the higher end of your range if your plan to clean it out is set at an every other week type of schedule, and on the lower end if you plan to clear it out a lot sooner.
1. Using a Non-Clumping Cat Litter
When using a non-clumping cat litter like crystal litter, a recommended range to start with is a 2-3 inch depth for each cat. You can add in a bit more over time to experiment and see what your cat prefers.
Some cats tend to really dig into their litter box before doing their business and they would prefer a deeper litter box.
If you have a long-haired cat, they’d prefer shallower levels of cat litter.
Advice for Older Cats:
What you really need to be careful about is never to go overboard with this. Do not make the litter too deep because having a deep litter for your cat is like having a human walking through soft sand at the beach.
This will cause some difficulty in their joints, especially in older cats.
Advice for Kittens:
If you have a kitten, they should be able to use the litter box at around 3 weeks old. Maintaining about 2 inches depth for your kitten is recommended.
Using a non-clumping cat litter is also a must since kittens may end up eating the clumps that form when you use a clumping cat litter. If you prefer using a clumping product, you can slowly transition into that when your kitten is 4 months old.
How often should you change out all of the Non-Clumping Litter?
You don’t necessarily have to wait until you start to smell it, for a single litter box catering to 1 cat, you should schedule to clear it completely at a maximum of 4 days intervals.
If you truly want to avoid having a home smelling like a cat’s pee, add an inch of cat litter to the litter box for each day that you aren’t cleaning it out.
The main component that you can find in most non-clumping cat litter is calcium bentonites which are capable of absorbing fluids, such as urine, up to its saturation point.
When it reaches that point, which you can tell because the litter is no longer able to absorb the urine or fluid excrement, you’ll definitely be alerted by a smell that will start to waft around your home.
How long should Non-Clumping Litter last?
Different brands have their own claims, but a regular 20lb bag should last your cat for about 6-8 weeks if you follow the 4 days rules I set. Remember to maintain a depth of 2-3 inches!
2. Using a Clumping Cat Litter
A lot of cat owners are now opting to use clumping cat litter because it requires less maintenance. You should definitely know the difference between these cat litter variants because the depth differs whether you use non-clumping or clumping litter.
How deep should clumping cat litter be? I advise maintaining at least a 4-inch depth.
Keeping the litter at 4-5 inches for 1 cat is sure to prevent the fluids from reaching the bottom and forming clumps that will end up sticking to the bottom of the cat litter box - keep that in mind if you don’t want to spend an hour scraping those clumps off.
How often should you change out all of the clumping litter?
Here’s why a lot of people are using clumping cat litters: You only have to change it every 2-3 weeks! You do have to scoop out cat poop and the clumps that have formed on a daily basis - twice a day if you really want to keep it clean.
How long should Clumping Litter last?
With a clumping brand, you don’t have to change it as much, so a 20lb bag should be able to last your cat for more than 2 months, even though you’re maintaining 4-5 inches of cat litter. This estimate is based on the 2-3 week changing rule I set earlier but this will definitely differ from brand to brand.
How to tell if you’re using too much cat litter?
Here a few ways to know if the litter you're using is too much:
If you notice your cats exhibiting this behavior, then know for sure that you're using too much cat litter.
How to tell if you're using not enough cat litter?
Here a few behaviors you'll notice from your cat if you use less cat litter:
If you notice this, then ensure you follow our specified 2-3 inch litter depth, and see how your cat relates to it.
It’s easy to tell when your cat isn’t comfortable with their litter box. While there are a bunch of other factors that you should look out for, the depth of their cat litter is a major contributing factor to your kitty’s litter box comfort level. Remember our valuable tips on how deep should cat litter be.
I hope you make good use of this guide and make your life as a cat owner a bit easier. If you have your own pro-tips to add to this guide, or if you have any questions, please let me know by commenting down below.
Marian P. McClure is a cat trainer who toilet trained her first cat while in college. Since that time, she has been using the best litter box, cat litter, best litter scooping method to give her cats the best experience. Her love of felines continues to grow, and she strolls out always with her cats, having so much fun in every chance she gets.