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Litter Box Basics for Any Cat

June 8, 2012

Let’s face it. Cat’s are extremely clean animals, but their “bathrooms” can be anything but.

Photo courtesy Great Beyond

Before you take a side glance at your favorite feline, consider this — he’s obviously doing his job. Are you doing yours?

Just think about it: Several times a day your cat walks into a small, (possibly) smelly box that may not only contain their waste, but other cats too. As one website put it:

“When someone is asked how often they flush their toilet, the answer is usually, “every time it is used, of course!” We all know how repulsive “porta-potties” are and we are not even asked to walk around in our own waste like humans often ask of their cats!”

Once of you think of it like that, it can be quite a surprise that cats use litter boxes at all!

But using the litter box doesn’t need to be an unpleasant experience for your cat.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind to make the litter box a great experience for you and your cat:

Clean the litter box. Repeat. 

This can’t be said enough. The visual above (of the porta-potty) should get your rear into gear if you tend to be somewhat lackadaisical in your litter box cleaning responsibilities. That said, clean the litter box once, or even better, twice daily, if not more. This is especially important if your cat is having digestive issues or goes to the bathroom while laying on her side. And remember, the more you clean the box, the less “disgusting” it will be each time you clean it.

But don’t only scoop. Also give it a good cleaning now and again. Empty it of all litter and use bleach, if necessary, to make sure it’s clean. Let it dry throughly, and be mindful of any lingering scents. Note: Make sure your cat has a spare litter box while you’re doing all of this.

Photo courtesy amyshojai

The litter box should be big enough for your cat.

What does that mean exactly? The box should be about 1.5 times the length of your cat. This is especially important for larger or heavier cats so they don’t have to squeeze into a tiny box. Odds are if your cat can’t maneuver in the pan easily, he may start looking for other places to go to the bathroom.

Have plenty of litter boxes.

Experts say you should have at least one litter box per cat — if not an extra one, too. Some suggest a ratio of 1.5 litter boxes for every cat: If you have one cat, have two litter boxes. Two cats, three litter boxes, and so on. This ensures that your cat can always find an “open” box.

The litter box should accommodate your cat’s abilities.

If your cat has CH or arthritis, he may have more trouble getting into a pan with a high entry. While pans with a low entry may be difficult to find, they’re not impossible. You can also consider other alternatives, like transforming a plastic storage box into a litter pan by cutting in a doorway at the right height.

Give the hooded litter box a second thought.

Litter pan hoods are a funny topic because some people use them for good, and others for evil. Most people have hoods on their cats’ litter boxes because it keeps in the smell. I hope you can see the many problems with that logic. Not only does that mean that those cat parents likely don’t clean the boxes as often as they should, but it’s discourteous to your cats, especially since they have an incredible sense of smell.

That said, hoods can also be very helpful for CH cats — they provide the high walls many CH cats need to balance against while going to the bathroom, plus they help contain flying litter thrown around by a less-than-coordinated cat.

Either way, opt for a door-less pan. That way, the litter box will be somewhat ventilated.

Photo courtesy aloha orangeneko

Consider your litter choice carefully.

The litter debate is also a hot topic in the cat community. While clumping litter allows you to easily remove the waste, clay litter is better for young kittens, or cats who somehow tend to swallow litter. (Been there!) Still, others prefer other materials entirely. This is definitely an entire topic for another day!

Either way, I think most folks agree that while scented litter smells nice to humans, it’s really unnecessary, if not a bother to/too fragrant for our felines.

Place the box in a quiet area. 

Just like you, cats like a nice, quiet place to do their business. Find an out-of-the-way spot for the litter box so your cat can use it in peace. If there are too many distractions or interruptions (people walking around, doors opening and closing, loud noises, etc), your cat may be hesitant to use it.

While I’m sure most of us put sufficient thought into these concerns, it never hurts being reminded!

Did I miss any key issues? Please share in the comments and let me know!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 8, 2012 10:24 am

    I would just add that if you also have a dog, you might want to put the litter box where the dog can’t access it. We have 3 litter boxes. One without a lid and two with. The one without a lid has recently become more popular, so we may be going lidless.

  2. June 9, 2012 8:31 am

    I had not thought about most of these issues. Although I don’t currently have cats, my daughter does, so I will send her a link to this post.

    • June 9, 2012 9:06 am

      Thanks Anita! I hope it’ll be helpful to her 🙂

  3. JakesFosterMom permalink
    August 26, 2013 11:00 pm

    My 5-week-old foster kitten Jake seems to have moderate CH. Something I’m worried about is that he seems to have trouble holding himself still enough in the box to go. In fact, I don’t think he’s pooped in 3 days, and that might be why (though he has urinated). He wobbles and falls forward onto his face, getting litter in his mouth, which at the very least totally distracts him from his primary purpose in there. I will ask my vet about this tomorrow, but if you have any tips, please share. Thank you.

  4. Penny Dellojoio permalink
    April 28, 2017 8:30 am

    Jakes I too have a ch cat. Make sure the sides are high, they can then lean against them and the opening low so they can get in and out you may
    have to widen it a bit too .Im finding if you put very wash able cotton throw
    rugs in the front of the box, it really helps .If you modify the opening put duct tape on the opening to make it smooth. A rubber mat helps too. Be patient, they are smart, he will get it.

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