Cats are finicky creatures. If they aren’t happy with the cleanliness of their litter box, they can quickly develop an aversion to it. This often leads to inappropriate urination, or urinating outside of the litter box. Here are some tips for good litter box hygiene.

Scoop solid waste at least twice a day.

Remove urine clumps and feces at least twice a day, or more frequently if you’re home. If you can scoop as soon as your cat has finished doing his business, that’s great, but be aware that with some types of clumping litter, the clumps may be firmer after they’ve sat a while, so if you scoop too soon, it’s going to be harder to get the clumps without them breaking apart.

Refill litter as needed.

Refill your litter box with fresh litter to maintain a height of two to three inches at all times.

Clean the entire box once a month.

Once a month, dump out any remaining litter and thoroughly clean the litter box. Use hot water and a mild, unscented soap (such as a dish detergent) and scrub thoroughly. Do not use harsh, scented chemical cleaners or ammonia. Cats are very sensitive to scent, and any lingering detergent smells may deter them from using the box.

Replace litter boxes every six months to a year.

No matter how well you clean, the porous plastic will start to break down and eventually absorb bacteria. Plan on replacing litter boxes completely after 6 months to a year. The frequency of replacement will depend on the type of plastic, quality of the litter box, and how many cats you have, and how frequently they use the box.

Litter additives.

While litter additives can help keep your box clean longer, be careful about which ones you choose so you don’t inadvertently create a litter box aversion. Use enzyme or probiotic-based products with no added scent. Baking soda is an inexpensive litter additive that provides good odor control.

Liners and litter mats

Even though litter box liners make clean up easier, most cats don’t like them. Be careful about using litter mats. These mats are designed to trap litter so it doesn’t track, but the rough surface of some of these mats are hard on soft kitty paws and can lead to litter box avoidance for some cats.