Litter Box Basics Every Cat Owner Should Know

litter box up close

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Litter boxes are necessities for all indoor cats. They not only provide contained and predetermined locations for a cat to urinate and defecate, but they also allow the pet owner to easily clean up after their cat. Despite the obvious uses of litter boxes though, these receptacles are also very important to the mental well-being and overall health of a cat. Cat owners may help prevent several issues in their cats by following a few basics guidelines regarding litter boxes.

Choosing a Litter Box

A litter box should be large enough to provide a cat with ample room to eliminate its waste. Standard litter boxes that are sold at pet stores are usually far too small for an average size adult cat but most cat owners also don't have space for a kiddie pool sized litter box in their homes. Therefore, finding the largest sized litter box for your specific cat should be the goal when choosing one. For example, kittens may be fine with a smaller box to start but an adult Maine Coon will need a much larger box. Under-bed boxes and storage containers with cut out sides are popular large litter box options, while standard litter boxes sold at pet stores are good options for kittens. If a box is too small, a cat may leave its waste matter next to the box since its hind end hangs over the edge of the box during use.

Along with litter box size, your cat needs to be comfortable getting into and out if its litter box. Some boxes have very high sides that arthritic cats have difficulty climbing into. If you have an older cat or cat with joint issues that is suddenly not wanting to use the litter box, make sure it's not because it's too difficult for your cat to climb into it.

Finally, avoid enclosed litter boxes. Enclosed litter boxes are dark, hold in smells, and are not inviting for a cat to eliminate inside of. These qualities make a cat less likely to want to use a litter box and instead encourages them to go outside the box.

Choosing a Litter

If you're selecting a litter that would be best for your cat, consider unscented and low-dust options first and foremost. Fragrances and dusty litters can be offensive and irritating to cats and leave them more likely to avoid using the litter box or develop health issues.

Of course, you'll also want to choose a litter that makes the cleaning of the litter box easy, too. Most cat owners prefer clumping litter that make it easy to scoop waste, low-tracking litters that don't get all over the house, and absorbent litters that help control odors. Price, natural ingredients, weight, and other factors are also important things to consider when choosing a cat litter but make sure you don't change litter types too frequently or you may encourage litter box avoidance from your cat.

Useful Litter Box Supplies

Aside from the litter and the box itself, you'll want to purchase litter scoops, a litter catching mat, and bags to put the dirty litter in. Some cat owners also like to use baking soda sprinkled into the litter to help with odors.

Litter Box Location and Quantity

How many litter boxes a cat has and where they are located are very important things. Experts recommend having at least one litter box on each floor of your home that your cat has access to and one more box than you have cats. This means if you have one cat, you should have at least two litter boxes, and if you have a two-story home, one of those boxes should be on each floor. If you have more than one cat, make sure that you still have at least one box on each floor of your home, but also ensure that no litter box has a direct line of sight with another box. If one cat can see another cat in a litter box while it is doing its business, that box either needs to be moved to a different location or a barrier needs to be placed between the boxes. The quantity of litter boxes and their placement in your home can be critical to preventing behavioral issues among your cats.

Keeping Litter Boxes Clean

Litter boxes should be kept clean by scooping out waste daily. About two to three inches of litter should be placed in the litter box to allow ample depth for absorbing urine as well as facilitate digging behavior from your cat. But this depth doesn't mean you should wait until all the litter is used up before cleaning the box. If you wait until there is no clean litter in the box, your cat may choose a different item to urinate and defecate on, such as a couch or backpack sitting on the floor.