Litter box issues can be frustrating for both pet parents and cats alike. There are many things to consider when setting up a great “bathroom” experience for your feline friend. With hard work can come great rewards! Here’s a brief guide with tips on how to get the best setup for your cat.
How many litter boxes?
A good rule of thumb is to have at least one more litter box than the number of cats you have. For example, if you have one cat, there should be at least two litter boxes. Three cats would get four boxes. Having more than one litter box allows your cat to choose which to use, and can help avoid out-of-box accidents.
Where should litter boxes be placed in the house?
Cats like their privacy when using the litter box, and placing it in a noisy or high traffic area of the house can cause a cat to seek other places to go. An ideal location for a litter box would be one without sudden noises (avoid places like next to a furnace or washing machine). Also, try to pick a place that’s somewhat secluded. Examples of prime locations include: a bathroom, a corner of a bedroom, or an unfinished basement.
Make sure your cat has easy access to the location at all times. Consider the distance to the box, as well as the number of stairs up or down to get there. Older cats and small kittens may have difficulty navigating long distances or flights of stairs. Remember that some cats will kick litter out of the box after use, so be sure to protect the floor under the litter box as needed.
What kind of litter box?
There are many different sizes, shapes, and styles of litter boxes. Generally, boxes are uncovered or covered, regardless of shape. Which to pick really depends on your cat’s preference. To determine the best choice, let your cat choose! Place an uncovered and covered litter box next to each other and see over a week which one is used more. Some cats will use a combination of both covered and uncovered boxes, while others have a strong preference for one or the other. Make sure the size of the box, covered or not, is large enough for your cat to turn around and stand in. A large cat can accidentally urinate out of a box that’s too small!
If you have an older cat or a cat with mobility issues, remember to pick a litter box that is easy for them to get into. A box with lower sides or a lower opening facilitates easy entering and leaving. Automatic cleaning litter boxes can be a big convenience, but may also be frightening for some cats. If adding a self-cleaning box, be sure to offer a regular, familiar box as well.
What type of litter?
There are many different types of cat litter-- clay, beads, paper based, clumping, and non-clumping. It can be overwhelming! Each litter type has its own pros and cons. Clay litter is the most affordable and common type of litter. Clumping clay litter allows you to scoop out urine clumps and conserve the amount of litter used. Paper litter is often environmentally friendly, as most are created from recycled paper and are biodegradable. Corn, pine, and beaded litter offer interesting textures and scent profiles.
The type of litter you use will ultimately depend on your cat’s preference. Some cats prefer the texture of soft paper litters, while others would rather scratch through clay. If you are adopting a cat, it will be important to offer the litter type that it is used to using.
Change is hard!
Cats are creatures of habit, and abrupt changes in box type, location, or litter type can cause them to avoid using the litter box. If a change is to be made, it needs to be gradual. For example, if you want to move the location of the litter box, move the box 6-12 inches in the direction you want every day until you reach the desired spot.
For litter type changes, offer a second litter box with the new litter next to your current box. After a week, start adding small amounts of the new litter to the current box with the old litter. Over the course of 7-14 days, gradually mix more of the new litter and less of the old in the box until it is all new litter. With any litter box change, always give your cat the option to use a familiar box, and slow the transition if there are any accidents, or if your cat stops using the changing box.
Accidents happen, but is it something more?
If your cat stops using the litter box or starts urinating or defecating in other spots in the house, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian. Illnesses such as bladder infections, bladder stones or crystals, kidney disease, and diabetes can sometimes cause these signs. A cat straining to urinate in the litter box without producing anything could have a urinary blockage and needs emergency medical attention right away!
As always, if you have any concerns about your pet’s health, be sure to visit your regular veterinarian.