How Much Cat Litter To Put In a Cat Litter Box or Tray?

In this article I take a much closer look at how much litter should you put into a cat litter box or a cat litter tray. This is a question that I am asked a great deal, especially from new cat owners. It is an important one to answer as otherwise you can have a lot of unnecessary waste.

The quick answer as to how much cat litter you should put in a litter box or tray is about three to  four inches of  litter in each cat litter box or tray, that you own. The reason for this, is that it will give your cat enough litter for digging and covering, but it will not be so deep, that it gets kicked out of the box and on to your floor.

That is a general rule of guidance. The key though is really about getting the right balance to suit your cat or cats. You want to find a balance between not wasting cat litter, avoiding any litter tracking issues and also having enough litter inside the box to keep your individual cat or cats happy.

Cat Digging Behavior When Using a Cat Litter Box

Long before litter boxes were invented cats would do their business in grit, clay or sand. That texture allowed them to achieve one very important thing. That is to eliminate, or at least cover up their scent and odor.

That was an instinct that all types of cats developed that would help them to survive in the wild.

The scent could not be easily tracked by other animals who had the potential to kill them.

This natural and genetic instinct prevails in all cats, and to varying level of degrees across the entire cat range.

cat litter


The important thing to understand though is that cats are very fussy, and they like to do their business somewhere clean each time, and also be able to cover it up easily and quickly. They seldom poop or pee in the exact same spot as cats do not like to get dirty.

That is why it is always vitally important to keep a cat litter box clean, and to remove poop a couple of times a day.

Now the actual degree to which they take this digging instinct to, will vary depending on the exact and precise nature of the individual cat. Some like to do what is called surface scratching, whereas others like to dig a lot deeper.

That is something that you always have to observe to get a better understanding, of how little or how much they dig and bury their poop. For some cats is is almost like a token gesture, and for others they will dig pretty deep.

If you have multiple cats then you will notice a difference, and it also makes it harder to find the right depth to suit all of them. I will explain later in this article a good way of dealing with this specific problem.

General Guidelines for the Amount and Depth of Litter

If in doubt try putting in around 3" of litter as that is a good starting point for most cats. Now as you observe their individual behavior you can adjust the litter depth. If your cat is a surface scratcher or does not dig that deep, then by all means reduce the amount of litter to around two inches.

What Depth of Litter For Multiple Cats?

cat litter for multiple cats

This does become a little more tricky to figure out. Many cat owners have more than one cat, and if that is the case there should be, according to the experts a litter box for each cat, plus one extra box. In other words if you had 3 cats, then ideally you should have 4 litter boxes.

There are very good reasons for doing this, and the main one is that cats are private and prefer their own place to do their business. I appreciate though that by doing this preferred practise, it can get quite expensive. The key though is to make sure that all the litter boxes are regularly cleaned, at least once a day.

With multiple cats, you simply go through the same process that I have outlined above. By observation of their individual behavior, you will quickly discover which litter box they prefer to use. Then observe their particular digging habit, and adjust the level to suit the cat.

As before and if in doubt, start with a 3" depth and see how that goes. Furious diggers will tend to scoop out more litter than other cats. That is why an enclosed litter box is almost always a better option than an open tray.

Controlling Litter Scatter

There are a few ways to help control the litter from being scattered all around your home. This is often known as tracking. Below I have listed a few methods to help control the amount of litter that can get kicked out of a box, or tracked through your home.

Just before looking at those it is worth a minute or so to understand what tracking really is.

Understanding Tracking

You will here this term referred to a lot by cat owners. They are of course referring to cat litter being tracked around the floors of your home. This happens for a number of reasons. The main one though is the nature of your cat.

With tracking the litter usually sticks to the cat's paws and then gets walked all around the home. Likewise when litter gets kicked out of the litter tray or box, that can also easily get tracked around the home.

Some cats, and especially those with a thick coat, can get litter caught in the hairs of their coat. That again can easily get tracked and dropped around your home. Below I have included a few tips and methods to help reduce litter spills and tracking.

Method 1 - Pan/Tray vs Cat Litter Box

Some cat owners use a cat litter tray. These are cheap and cheerful, easy to clean and still popular with many cat owners. They don't have a lid though so everything is visible to the eye. When a cat digs then there is a good chance that some litter will come over the sides of the box.

Some cat owners have to use these as their cats will not used an enclosed box. The box with a lid is a better option as it really helps contain the litter inside the box. For those of you who have to use a tray, or simply prefer to use a tray, then I recommend getting one with high sides.

That will help reduce the amount of litter that gets kicked over the sides. It is not a foolproof method, but the high sides do help quite a lot, and the top of the box still remains open.

You can read about the best cat litter tray/pans by clicking here.

Method 2 - Using a Cat Litter Mat

To help reduce the amount of litter that gets kicked out, and also to reduce tracking of litter, many cat owners use a cat litter mat. These mats are placed under the tray or box, and capture any litter that gets kicked out. They are specially designed to work in a way that contains the litter in the mat.

You can then give them a quick shake and return the litter to the box. Over time they will help save you a little money on litter, but more importantly help keep your floor clean. Click on this link to read about the best cat litter mats.

Some cat owners place these at the front of the litter box where the cat comes out. Any litter stuck to their paws then gets caught by the mat. Typically these are smaller mats that don't take up a lot of floor space.

Other cat owners buy a bigger mat and place the litter box on top of it. That allows any litter that is kicked out of the box to be caught in the mat. Like the smaller mats, this larger mat also catches any litter from the cat's paws.

They are at a decent price and if you haven't tried one before, then these are worth a try.

Method 3 - Switching to a Top Entry Litter Box

The vast majority of litter boxes sold are what are termed front entry or side entry boxes. Some cat owners have changed to using a top entry box. Their main reason for doing that is to stop dogs getting into the litter box.

However almost any cat owner who has done this has also stated that this type of box greatly reduces the amount of litter that gets scattered or tracked. There are a couple of reasons for that:

  1. The hole in the top of the box is circular and that is the only open part of the box. The cat goes in and comes out of that hole (typically 9" in diameter) That means very little litter can get kicked out by the cat.
  2. The top of the box usually has some form of grooves to help catch any litter on the cat's paws, and that does help prevent tracking

It is worth mentioning though that not all cats will like a top entry box. These are also not suitable for disabled, old or very large and heavy cats.

Enda
 

I was blessed growing up surrounded by cats, forming a strong connection to these amazing and intriguing creatures that I could never shake. After dedicating many years to learning the science and theory behind feline behavior, I completed my studies and was finally able to understand a great deal about cats and their strange ways. If you’re struggling with a cat who has an issue with litters, or not using a litter, then you’re in luck because that's my specialty. I believe your kitty deserves to be helped with compassion and determination. My mission isn't just to help you though, it's to empower YOU to control and connect with even the most unruly of cats (don’t worry, there’s no such thing as a cat that can't be helped.

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