The litter box is a very important part of your cat’s life, yet we often don’t do our part when it comes to making sure the set-up is appropriate and the box is clean and appealing. Cleaning and maintaining the litter box may not be your favorite thing to do when it comes to being a cat owner, but it’s vital to your cat’s health, comfort and happiness. Here’s a list of 10 tips to help you maximize litter box appeal:
1. Right Type of Litter
Typically cat prefer a soft, sandy litter. Soft, unscented or minimally scented scoopable litters generally fall into this category. Texture is important to cats and the feel of a soft substrate on their paws is generally more comfortable. Also, with a cat’s excellent sense of smell, the highly scented litters can be offensive. If you’re keeping the litter clean then you shouldn’t need to use a highly scented litter. Keep in mind how close a kitty’s nose gets to the litter so imagine how offensive a litter with a strong perfumed scent must smell.
2. Don’t Cover the Box
Use an uncovered box to allow for maximum comfort and to increase escape potential. Cats, especially in a multicat environment, need to feel they can easily escape from the box in order to prevent being ambushed by a companion cat. With a covered box there’s only one way in and out. Even in a household where the cats are friendly, it can only take one time of being suddenly surprised in the litter box to convince a cat that safer elimination places need to be found. When it comes to litter boxes, owners tend to think too much in terms of privacy but for a cat, privacy takes a back seat to safety.
3. Right Amount of Litter
Keep the litter level inside the box at about three inches. As you scoop soiled litter, be sure to top off the box to maintain a consistent level. Too little litter will result in urine pooling on the bottom of the box and creating a major odor problem.
4. Scoop Often
5. Clean the Box
Thoroughly dump used litter and completely scrub the box once or twice a month. If you’re not using a scoopable clumping litter then the box will need to be scrubbed more often. Boxes with non-clumping litter will need to be scrubbed at least once a week and have the litter totally changed out. If the box still smells after being thoroughly scrubbed then it’s time for a new one. Odor-causing bacteria can get trapped in lacerations in the plastic caused by the cat’s nails.
6. Right-Sized Box
The box should be the appropriate size for your cat. Don’t ask a large cat to squeeze into a small box. You shouldn’t pick a litter box because of how well it will fit wedge between the toilet and the tub or tucked inside a closet. The box size should be based on the size of your cat.
7. Provide Enough Boxes
In multicat households you should have the same number of boxes as cats. Some cats don’t want to share the litter box and if you have more than one you can potentially ease tension.
8. Make it Convenient
Don’t place litter boxes all in one area. Scatter the boxes throughout the house so lower-ranking cats don’t have to pass a higher-ranking cat’s area and risk conflict.
9. The Right Location
Don’t locate the litter box near the cat’s feeding station. Cats don’t eat where they eliminate. This is a survival instinct that even the most pampered indoor cat still follows.
10. No Liners
Don’t use litter box liners. The cat’s nails can cause holes in them which will allow urine to leak between the liner and the plastic bottom of the litter box. This creates a major odor problem. Poorly fitting covers can also cause urine to pool in the folds. Many cats don’t like the liners because they get their nails caught on them and can’t dig or cover comfortably.
Need More Information?
For more specific help in creating the ideal litter box set-up or for help in dealing with litter box problems, refer to any of Pam’s books including Think Like a Cat.
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is 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. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.