What Goes In Must Come Out
From a young age, cats of all types learn to dig and bury evidence of their toileting. In the wild, cats will generally toilet well away from their safe zone, and their eating and drinking areas – typically on the edge of their territories.
This is also the case for indoor cats. Despite being domesticated, indoor cats have a natural instinct to dig a hole for their pee or poop so that it can’t been seen, which is where litter and litter boxes come in to play!
Choosing The Right Litter Box For Your Cat
At Hepper, we use the Modko Flip Litter Box.
There are important factors to consider when picking a litter box for your cat.
The litter box needs to be big enough for your cat to get into and turn around in comfortably. Don’t forget that your kitty will be digging around a bit, so he or she will need sufficient room in the litter box itself to do this properly, without creating too much of a mess.
Some cats are more amenable to open litter boxes rather than closed-in ones, since many felines do not feel safe or comfortable toileting in enclosed spaces — especially if there are other cats or pets in your household.
Ensure the litter box is deep enough to avoid litter flying all over the room, but also ensure it isn’t too high, as young cats, and older cats with arthritis, can find it hard to get into these.
The Best Litter
The litter itself is even more important than the litter box, as cats typically have a preference for a number of different types of litter or ‘substrate’.
There are many types of litter available including:
- Clumping vs. non clumping
- Paper litters
- Pine litters
- Crystal litters
- Clay litters
- Charcoal litters
- Wood-based clumping litters
- Litter with fragrance
- While it may potentially smell nice for a little while, it is generally best to avoid litters with a fragrance wherever possible.
From the owner’s point of view, the best litters are the clumping wood-based ones, as they are easy to clean up, with little to no mess or fuss.
The litter your cat prefers and wants to use may be completely different from one of your cats to another. If you already have a litter type and box for your cat and he or she is happy to use it, it is best not to change anything.
If you are just starting out with a kitten, then getting a couple of types of litter for two different litter boxes in different areas of your home will help you and your new pet decide on a litter preference going forward.
How many litter boxes and where to put them?
The next point to consider is the number of litter boxes to have in your home. The general rule is to have one litter box per cat in the house, plus a spare one. This means, if you have one cat, then you should have 2 litter boxes around your home in different areas. If you have 3 cats, then you should ideally have 4 litter boxes around your home.
As with the habits of cats in the wild, these litter boxes for domesticated felines need to be kept well away from their eating and drinking areas. Each litter box also needs to be in a completely separate area of your home from the others. Having 3 litter boxes lined up in a row in one room defeats the purpose of having multiple boxes available for your cats!
Deciding the locations for each litter box is very important, as incorrect placement is one of the most common causes of inappropriate toileting in the home. Each litter box needs to be in a quiet and low traffic area of your home.
Rooms that are typically ideal for litter boxes include:
- The bathroom
- Laundry room
- Spare rooms
However the rooms you decide on will be dependent on the layout of your home. In general, areas to avoid include:
- Entrances to the home
- High traffic areas of the home – e.g. dining room and lounge
- Areas right next to full-length windows or glass doors/ranch sliders
The bottom line is that the areas you decide to put the litter boxes ought to be quiet and stress free. Having litter boxes in stressful, loud or high traffic areas customarily leads to the boxes being abandoned by your pet, or to inappropriate toileting next to the box or elsewhere in your home.
Keeping things clean
Having clean litter boxes is just as important as the type of litter and box location. Each litter box needs to be scooped out as often as possible.
As a rule of thumb, frequency of scooping should be at least once to twice per day, although more is better. Try not to overfill each litter box with litter. Too much litter can make cleaning and scooping quite difficult and usually results in litter flying all around the room when your cat attempts to bury their pee or poop. Generally around 2 inches of litter per litter box is about right.
Once a week, be sure to completely empty and discard the litter from each box, wash the litter box and dry it, before filling it back up with around 2 inches full of litter.
Keeping the litter boxes clean in this fashion will ensure that your cats will continue to use them joyfully. Having dirty or unkempt litter boxes is a common source for a cat’s inappropriate toileting around the home.
This is chapter 4 of the 12 chapter series.
About the Author
Dr. Mark Edwards is a small animal veterinarian and veterinary consultant in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Dr. Edwards created the Happy Cats Guide for Hepper.