Top tips for cat litter trays
Choosing the right litter tray for your cat is so important. From size, shape, location and substrate material, all of these things should be considered when choosing a tray. Read more about the correct usage of litter trays here.
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Size and type of litter trays for cats
Pick the correct litter tray size - the cat should have enough room to get in and move about easily without feeling cramped - large breed cats will need much larger trays. The ideal size of the tray should be at least 1.5 times the length of the cat.
Some cats dislike hooded trays whilst others prefer them. To check, a cat should be provided with both to start with to see which one they 'choose' to use. This is called a preference test and can help you know which tray your cat truly prefers to use. Some cats also prefer to have the cat flap type entrance to hooded trays removed.
Ensure the sides of the tray are low enough for older arthritic cats to easily get in and out without causing pain.
Litter trays with top entrances are not advisable as it requires the cat to jump into the tray - this will be difficult for cats with reduced mobility. Most cats also prefer to not dive face first into their toilet.
Self cleaning/flushing litter trays may startle the cat with any noise/movement and may create a negative experience around using the tray. These types of trays are not recommended.
Location of litter trays for cats
Litter trays should be in a quiet, low traffic area of the house which is easily accessible to the cat. Do not place a tray in a room where the door is often shut. Avoid placing the tray next to noisy appliances such as the washing machine or tumble dryer. Ideally place the tray away from windows and glass doors. The view of another cat outside when your cat is toileting can cause them distress. Finally, place litter trays away from other important resources such as food and water bowls - cats prefer to toilet away from their feeding and watering areas.
Types of litter for cat litter trays
- The most natural type of cat litter is a soft sand type of clumping litter - it is more gentle on the paws than a harder wood based type of litter. However some cats are accustomed to a certain type of litter from a young age so changing litter may not be the best idea for them. If you do wish to change the type of cat litter, a preference test can be performed by placing two types of litter next to each other in 2 different trays, and seeing which one the cat chooses.
Avoid fragranced cat litter - fragrances are added to provide benefits for us humans, however they can really irritate your very sensitive cat’s nose! The same goes for litter that is very dusty.
Avoid plastic tray liners - this is another benefit for humans to make it easier to dispose of used litter, however many cats dislike the liners when they are trying to dig and accidentally snag their claws on the plastic. Plus it adds to plastic pollution.
The litter should be at least 5cm deep to give your cat a lot of digging material.
How to clean cat litter trays
The litter tray should be scooped at least twice a day to remove any clumps of urine and faeces. Thoroughly disinfect litter trays with an appropriate litter tray cleaner at least once a week. Boiling water or washing up liquid can be used. Avoid the use of bleach or human disinfectants in the tray as they leave an overpowering smell, which cats dislike. Finally, ensure the tray is thoroughly dried before adding litter.
Litter trays for multi-cat households
If you have more than one cat in the house you should have one litter tray per cat plus an extra tray. If there is not room for a large number of trays, you can identify “social groups” within the house. These are cats who groom each other (allogrooming) and sleep curled up together or touching whilst sleeping. These cats should be able to share litter trays. Cats not belonging to their social group should have a separate tray.
Ensure the trays are not located next to each other or with their entrances facing each other. Ideally there should be a litter tray on each level of the house.
Cats should not be expected or forced to share litter trays - in fact some cats refuse to toilet in a tray that already has been used.
Outdoor cats should be provided with a clean litter tray indoors in case of bad weather outside.
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This article was written by Amy Everden RVN, CSQP, ISFM CertFN. Amy is a registered veterinary nurse (RVN) who has worked in a variety of first opinion and 24 hour veterinary hospitals. In 2019 she completed her certificate in Feline Nursing with distinction.