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

The amount of time a litter box will last is drastically affected by the material it’s made of.

Plastic litter boxes, for example, should be replaced at least once a year, while stainless steel boxes often last indefinitely.

How often should you replace a plastic litter box?

Plastic is by far the most common type of litter box and, unfortunately, also the most likely type to be used well beyond the point in which they should be replaced.

Plastic absorbs odor 

Plastic is a porous material, meaning it can absorb odor over time. 

You may not be able to notice but your cat certainly will. Remember, a cat’s sense of smell is about 14 times more keen than that of a human.

An unpleasant litter box can lead to a smelly house and unwanted behaviors, like your cat finding a more pleasant place to ‘go’. 

Old plastic can harbor bacteria 

While new plastic is pretty good at managing bacteria, well-used plastic isn’t nearly as effective.

Surface scratches, especially those deeper scratches and gouges that develop with extended use, can provide a place for bacteria to hide. 

And because cat urine is naturally acidic, the floor of plastic litter boxes often corrodes, allowing bacteria and pathogens additional areas to nestle.  

The older your plastic litter box gets, the less hygienic it becomes for both you and your cat. 

Small cat sitting in red plastic litter box

Replace at least once a year 

A plastic litter box should be replaced at least once a year, sometimes as often as every six months.

Get in the habit of replacing your plastic litter box routinely once a year and pay attention to signs that it may need to be replaced even sooner.

Surface scratches and unpleasant odors that remain even after cleaning are sure signs that it’s time for a replacement.

How long do disposable litter boxes last?

Disposable litter boxes and liners made of cardboard or recycled paper typically last between two and six weeks.

Because the range varies so much between brands, it’s best to simply follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. 

Just keep in mind, based on reviews, many of those recommendations appear to be much closer to the maximum lifespan than the minimum.

If multiple cats are using the box or any of your cats have a medical condition that makes them pee more often, it can shorten the lifespan of the box significantly.

And as always, if it stinks, it’s time for a new box.

Tabby cat hiding under rug

Stainless steel litter boxes can last indefinitely

Stainless steel litter boxes, when cared for properly, will last indefinitely. 

I switched to stainless steel a few years back and haven’t looked back (and my cats seem to like them too!).

Aside from lasting for what seems like forever, stainless steel litter boxes have several other big advantages. 

  • Easier to clean. Cleaning a stainless steel litter box is a breeze. No more scraping stuck on poop. No more scrubbing to get the stink out. Simply dump the old litter, wipe it down with a disinfectant cleaner, wait for it to dry, and add the new litter.
  • My house smells better. I’m always very on top of cleaning my cat’s litter boxes. But even so, before switching I’d occasionally come home and get a little whiff of the dreaded ‘litter box smell’. Since swapping to stainless steel, I haven’t had any issues.
  • Saves money over time. Stainless steel litter boxes cost more upfront than standard plastic boxes but, because they rarely need to be replaced, will actually save you a pretty substantial amount of money over time.
  • Better for the environment. Because you’re no longer sending giant hunks of plastic to the landfill every year, stainless steel litter boxes are significantly better for the environment. When they do finally need to be replaced, they can be cleaned and recycled at a scrap metal facility. 

Final thoughts

Plastic litter boxes should be replaced at least once a year, sometimes even sooner. Stainless steel litter boxes, on the other hand, will last indefinitely with proper care. 

Swapping to a stainless steel litter box is better for the environment, easier to use, and more hygienic for both you and your cat.

About Matthew Alexander

Matthew lives in Maryland with his two cats, Puff and Pancho. He’s been caring for and fostering cats with various special needs for more than fifteen years. He hopes to pass some of the insight and knowledge that he’s gained on to the readers of Pawmore.