Litter Box Maintenance
By Susan Roraff (Susie’s Petpourri of Reedsburg, WI)
When choosing the right litter box and litter for your cat some questions can arise. I hope that I can answer some of those questions for you and make choosing less difficult.
It is recommended that you have one more litter box than cats. For example, if you are a 2 cat household, you should have at least 3 boxes. Now this is ideal but not always feasible especially if living in smaller quarters. If you can, it’s good to have at least one box per cat. If you can only have one box make sure it’s large enough to handle 2 cats, anymore cats and you will need to add a box. Some cats will urinate in one and defecate in another so adding another box may solve this problem.
Make sure your litter boxes are large enough to accommodate your cat. They need to move about without feeling cramped. You may need to invest in a larger box as your cat grows.
Covered litter boxes can be used but are not ideal, because they can trap odors inside and your cat may avoid a stinky box. It’s important to scoop out a covered box more frequently than an open one, usually 2-3 times daily. Covered boxes are nice if you have a cat that scratches litter out of the box or when you have a cat that doesn’t squat low enough and over-shoots the litter box.
Place your litter box in a quiet, low traffic area that’s easily accessible. Avoid placing near washing machines or noisy appliances. Don’t put near food or water dishes.
There are a variety of different litters on the market. Initially you may need to experiment with different types until you find one your cat likes. There are clumpable litters which have a sand-like texture and non-clumpable which are like small stones. These are both clay-based litters.
There are also biodegradable clumping litters made from natural products such as wheat, corn, soybeans, pine and paper. Many of these litters are flushable meaning the clumps can be flushed down the toilet. Never flush the entire box. Some, but not all, are septic system safe. Many of the biodegradable litters either have no scent or a light scent. They use plant enzymes to help control odors. One concern is if your cat has allergies to wheat or corn, then you may want to avoid these litters. Which ever type you choose, avoid overly dusty or strongly scented litters.
Keeping the litter box clean is very important. With non-clumping litter you can scoop solid waste daily. You will need to clean out the litter weekly, washing the box with a mild dish soap. Clumping litters should be scooped out twice a day, or more if needed. The box should be cleaned as recommended on the package. You may go a month or more before litter needs changing.
When introducing your cat or kitten to the litter box you may need to confine them to a room with the box along with food and water. When he/she has successfully used the box several times you’re ready to go.
As your cat ages it may be necessary to get a lower box or cut a door into a high box to make it easier to get in and out. Older cats may also exhibit arthritis in their back legs making squatting difficult. You may need to change the type of box as your cat ages.
Any changes in your cat’s litter box habits should be addressed with a veterinarian. It may signal a medical problem. Remember, that a cat does not urinate or defecate outside of the box to spite you.
It is usually related to a problem either with an unclean box, a change in litter that your cat doesn’t like, stress or an illness. These behaviors need to be evaluated and a solution found that considers your and your cat’s best interests. It is not a good reason to dump your cat off on the animal shelter doorstep!