About 86.4 million cats are owned in the United States. Cats provide companionship, love and enjoyment for their families. Cat owners have several responsibilities as adoptive “parents” to their feline friends. Providing a litter box is an important part of cat ownership. Following basic litter box etiquette can help your cat’s litter box usage and behavior.
The Animal Humane Society recommends one litter box per cat plus one more—two cats in the home need three litter boxes.
Location. Most cats enjoy some privacy when using the litter box. Therefore, choose a location that’s semi-private away from high-traffic areas. Avoid areas near loud appliances such as the washer or dryer. Also avoid placing the litter box next to the cats’ food and water bowls. If your cat doesn’t like the box’s location, he or she may urinate somewhere else in the home.
Choosing the litter box. Litter boxes are available in many sizes and styles. Some feature covers, while others have open tops and low sidewalls for easy entrance and exit. Kittens need a litter box with lower sides or low entrance area. Elderly cats may appreciate a litter box with a ramp entrance or low sides as well. Larger cats need a bigger box, or the cat will not fit comfortably and may refuse to use the box.
Automatic litter boxes. Automatic litter boxes often need more space than traditional litter boxes and require electrical access. Most have battery back-up. If power is lost, the box still works. The automatic litter box is designed to keep the litter scooped even when you are not there. Sensors recognize when the cat uses the box and automatically run tines (looks like a wide rake) after a delay (usually about eight to 10 minutes.) The automatic tines rake through the litter, scooping waste and depositing it into a covered receptacle that opens mechanically. Premium scoop litter is needed for automatic boxes.
Litter. Three types of basic litter include clay-based, crystals and biodegradable litters. Clay-based may be clumping or non-clumping. Clumping absorbs liquid waste better and may reduce odors more than non-clumping.
Crystal litter generally has no dust, but does not form easily scooped clumps—it can be found in non-toxic varieties. Biodegradable or natural litters are made from wheat, corn or paper. Many are flushable, but often their odor-control is not as capable as clay-based or crystal litter. However, biodegradable litters may be best for cats suffering from illness or sensitivities. Once your cat likes a litter, refrain from changing it because another is on sale. Some cats will refuse to use the new litter, urinating on the floor outside of the box.
Litter box cleaning tips. Scoop litter boxes daily. Empty the box of its litter and wash weekly. Wash with warm water and mild liquid dish detergent. Never clean a litter box with harsh chemicals or cleaners—cats are sensitive to strong odors and may refuse to use the box if it smells strange. Thoroughly dry the box before new litter is added. Fill the box with about a 2-inch layer of litter. Most cats prefer clean litter. Dirty litter can anger the cat, and the result often is urinating or defecating outside of the box.