How Deep Should Cat Litter Be

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Replacing the litter in your pet’s potty is a great way to clean it. But the question is: ‘how deep should cat litter be?’ You face the issue of wasting money if you add too many particles to the box. If they can only form a thin layer, you and your pet have to deal with the smells.

We will share some tips to figure out the ideal depth of cat litter. Let’s join us and learn to give your pets a nice treat!

How Deep Should Cat Litter Be?

Key Takeaway

  1. The rule of thumb is one cat needs a three-inch-deep litter.
  2. When using a non-clumping cat litter like crystal litter, start with 2-3 inches depth for each cat.
  3. When using clumping cat litter, start with 4-5 inches deep for one cat if you use them.

General Rules For Cat Litter

How deep does cat litter need to be? The answer depends on the main factors: the number of cats, the kind of litter, and how often you can clean the box.

#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

In general, one cat needs two litter boxes. If your pet can’t access one box because you unintentionally close the door to the room, he still has an extra one.

If you live in a small space, you can cut down the number of boxes so that one pet has only one sandbox. The rule of thumb is one cat needs a three-inch-deep litter. If you raise more than one in the same box, the debris should be deeper.

Please note that the more cats you have, the more urine and feces you will deal with. Hence, the depth of litter can help prevent your pet’s waste from digging too deep and touching the bottom of the tray. As a result, with more cats, remember to add more inches of sand to handle all the fecal and urine matter.

#2: What kind of cat litter are you using?

Litters come in different types, and the most popular choices are non-clumping vs. clumping litter. To answer the question of how deep should my cat litter be, you’d better determine the products you use first.

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 you plan to clean it out be set at an every other week type of schedule, and on the lower end if you plan to clear it out a lot sooner.

Using Non-clumping Cat Litter


Non-clumping is the traditional form of litter. The depth of this substance in a box should be two to three inches/ one cat. This product doesn’t have chemical or natural properties to make the clump glue together. Instead, it allows the urine to sink into particles.

Take a quick look at some tips for using this product and how often to clean the litter box:

  • Kittens prefer non-clumping litter.
  • If you raise long-haired cats, give them less litter.
  • It would be best to start with two inches first and adjust the number of particles to fit your pet.
  • Try to scoop the potty every day. If you can’t, add one inch of litter.
  • Maintain the constant depth of the box.
  • Do not leave the particles untreated for more than four days. You can add two to three inches of litter to the tray. Hence, 20 pounds will suffice for six to nine weeks.

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:

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:

Kitten using OurPets Switchgrass Natural Cat Litter with Biochar

If you have a kitten, they should be able to use the litter box at around 3 weeks old. Maintaining about 2 inches of 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 their 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 20 lb 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!

Using Clumping Cat Litter


These litters can form themselves into clumps. Dig about four to five inches deep for one cat if you use them. The litter clings to the waste rapidly, clamping together to form a barrier. It prevents waste from spreading throughout the box and keeps it cleaner for a long time.

If you prefer this product, take a quick look at these pointers and discover how often to clean the litter box:

  • Start with at least four inches deep and adjust gradually.
  • Since the clumps may form, always make sure that the litter doesn’t stick to the bottom of the box.
  • It’s necessary to change out all the kitty litter every two to three weeks.
  • Every time you clean the potty, add four to five inches of litter. So, you can use 20 pounds in eight to nine weeks.

How often should you change out all of the clumping litter?

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 20 lb 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?

Cat using Dr Elsey crystal litter

Cats love a litter box with just the right amount of litter. You’ll need enough litter to conceal your pet’s waste, but it is a common mistake to overdo it. Fortunately, your pet can tell if you’re using too much litter and showing some behaviors. Here are some examples you may see from your annoyed cat.

Here are a few ways to know if the litter you’re using is too much:

  1. Your cat slips and slides in the litter box
  2. Your cat only goes halfway in
  3. Your cat flings litter outside in the box

If you notice your cats exhibiting this behavior, then know for sure that you’re using too much cat litter.

Your cat slides into the box

Your cat may appear comfortable and calm. You could be using too much litter, causing the dirt to move under his feet. Hence, he can be off-balance.

When walking on loose and deep sand, we can’t balance our bodies and then slide instead of walking. This case is the same for cats walking on too much litter.

Your cat can just go halfway in the box

If your pet doesn’t feel safe in his potty box, he may only go partly inside. You might see him digging in the container with only the front part of his body inside. Your cat may try to do his job in the box.

However, if the litter is too much and your pet is not that patient, he will quit the box and go somewhere else.

Your cat spreads litter outside

Although many cats love digging, you may have too much waste in the box if yours gets overly enthusiastic. When this animal digs, he may find it challenging to get in the box because of excessive litter. The outcome is furious digging, which frequently leads to litter being thrown about the room.

You don’t want to clean the box

Observing your pet isn’t the only way to tell that you are overdoing it. You can also rethink your behaviors. A new litter layer can make the tray look tidy. If you add the particles to extend the time between routine maintenance, you may be creating more problems.

This habit will develop more if you have clay litter, which can form thick, heavy clumps. However, the new layer makes your cleaning task much harder.

How to tell if you’re using not enough cat litter?


Here are a few behaviors you’ll notice from your cat if you use less cat litter:

  • Your cats scratch at the sides constantly. This may be because the litter is not deep enough, and the litter box is a smaller size compared to your cat’s size.
  • You also notice that your cats don’t bury their waste as they do
  • Smelling odor due to an inadequate level of litter
  • Litter sits on the bottom of the litter box
  • Less inviting for your cat to go in and take care of personal business

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 its 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.

​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.

Remember our valuable tips on how deep should cat litter be.

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