How Much Litter to Put in the Litter Box

You can get the best litter money can buy but if you put too much or too little in the box, it can create problems for your cat.

Too Much Litter

If you use too much litter it’ll end up getting kicked out over the box and you’ll end up with it getting tracked everywhere. Even if you have a covered litter box, if there’s just too much litter in there it’ll easily find its way onto your floor or carpet.

Using too much litter is also very wasteful because you’ll still have to completely empty the litter and scrub out the box on a regular basis. Filling the box with too much litter isn’t the easy way to get out of scooping or cleaning the much litter

Not Enough Litter

Not using enough litter is a litter box aversion problem just waiting to happen. An inadequate level of litter will create an odor problem as urine will have no place to be absorbed and will sit on the bottom of the litter box. If the box smells dirty, it will be far less inviting for your cat to want to go there to take care of personal business.

It’s a natural behavior for a cat to dig in a substrate, eliminate and then cover her elimination with more of the substrate. This is a survival instinct even the most pampered indoor cat retains. If there isn’t enough litter, the cat will have a difficult time finding a clean spot in the box and will be reluctant to attempt to cover. The last thing you want to do is create a stressful environment for the cat in the litter box. Don’t give her a reason to use your living room carpet instead.

How Much Litter to Use

A general guideline is to spread about a four-inch layer of litter in the box. This gives your cat enough litter for digging and adequate covering afterward. Every cat is an individual so pay attention to your cat’s litter box habits to see whether you need to adjust that level up or down.

If you have more than one cat, don’t try to get by with one litter box simply by filling it with more litter. What you need is to increase the number of boxes.litter box

Maintain a Consistent Litter Level

As you do your daily scooping of the litter box, you’ll have to periodically top off the box with some fresh litter to keep the level consistent.

Keep the Litter Box Clean

Scoop at least twice a day in order to keep the litter box as appealing as possible to your cat, and then toss out the litter and thoroughly scrub the box on a regular basis. If you’re using scoopable litter you should scrub the box at least monthly. If you can smell the litter box then it’s overdue for a cleaning.

Need More Information?

For specific information on how to set up the ideal litter box or how to address litter box problems, refer to any of Pam’s books, including  Think like a Cat.

Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennett


Pam is unable to respond to questions or remarks posted in the comment section. If you have a question about cat behavior, you can find many answers in the articles Pam writes for the website as well as in her best-selling books.








Cat Behavior Comments


About Pam Johnson-Bennett

Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of the international hit TV series "PSYCHO KITTY" airing in the UK on Animal Planet and in Canada on Nat Geo Wild. She is award-winning author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.


  1. Lately my cat’s litter box has smelled terrible. I clean it once a night, and I clean out the whole thing every week but nothing helps. I think I should use more litter, but I don’t want to use too much. What should I do?

    • Are you using scoopable litter or traditional clay? Scoopable will make it easier to control odor because you can remove the entire urine clump. Also, be sure there is at least about 3 inches of litter in the box and that the box is big enough for the size of your cat.

      If the odor in the litter box is a sudden change, there may be an underlying medical cause so be sure to have your cat checked by the veterinarian

  2. mrs. marty carver

    I have 3 cat children. I also have 5 litter boxes. My oldest cat about 12 years old is a main coon and is huge. He has urinated and done his do do’s outside the boxes for a long time. I spread a clean towel over the area he uses every day. He goes on this towel. In the last month, my youngest cat, a stray, has started doing the same thing. He idolizes the big cat and does everything he does. I am worn out with this and think my house may smell although I’m very careful and clean every spot I find. They are all 3 healthy. Please tell me what to do.

    • I was just reading that some larger cats, especially males, may need a deeper, larger litter box to use so that they don’t go outside of it. They often like to stand up and pee, so they need more room (depth-wise) to do this. I’m not sure how big the current box you have is, but there is one on amazon that is “extra large” and only about $14.