The Cat-Lover’s Guide to Litter Box Bliss

Estimated Reading Time 4 minutes
The Cat-Lover’s Guide to Litter Box Bliss

Should you get a covered or uncovered litter box? Deep or shallow? Do cats prefer clumping or clay litter? Natural or crystals? Deodorizing or unscented? When it comes to choosing a litter box and cat litter for your cat the choices can be overwhelming and confusing. Learn more here about choosing the right litter box and cat litter for your cat.

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The most common behavioral problem reported by cat owners is elimination outside the litter box. Therefore, learning to use the litter box is key for kittens and cats to integrate into a new home. Let us help you choose the right litter box and cat litter for your cat or kitten.

What do cats prefer and what do they need?

Cats by nature like to keep themselves clean, and they prefer their litter box to be clean and fresh. Cats need room to move around in the litter box. Studies have determined that the ideal length of a cat’s litter box is 1.5 times the length of the cat.

Tips for Choosing the Right Cat Litter and Litter Box

Consider these guidelines when purchasing your cat’s litter and litter box:

  • Use unscented, fine grit clumping style litter
  • A deep litter box with a minimum of 3 inches of diggable litter
  • A large, spacious area inside the box to provide:
  • Space to walk in and turn around without touching the sides or top
  • Space to eliminate and dig without touching the sides or clumped waste
  • Litter boxes should be placed in quiet areas that are easily accessible

What type of litter box is best?

Most cats prefer uncovered litter boxes, but some will tolerate a covered box. Rubber or plastic storage containers or large sweater boxes with an entry door cut out make ideal litter boxes. However, it’s important to note that kittens and senior cats need lower sides to enter and exit the litter box easily. Also, consider that some cats will stand while eliminating. These kitties require a litter box with high sides to keep urine and feces from falling outside the litter box.

How many litter boxes should I have?

If you live in a large home or have more than 1 cat, you’ll need several litter boxes, ideally placed in several locations throughout the home. The rule of thumb for the number of litter boxes is to have 1 additional litterbox for the number of cats (for example, 2 cats need 3 litter boxes).

How do I know what type of litter my cat will like?

Unsure which type of cat litter substrate your cat prefers? Set up a “Litter box Test” by putting several litter boxes side by side, each containing a different type of litter substrate. After a few days, you’ll notice which litter type your cat uses most often, and you can continue with that particular one for your cat’s litter box.

How often should you scoop and clean the litter box?

Cats hold themselves to a high standard when it comes to cleanliness and prefer using a clean, fresh litter box. The following guidelines will help you keep their litter box clean and help prevent your cat from eliminating outside the litter box.

  • Daily: scoop all clumps. Some cats prefer the litter box to be scooped even more frequently.
  • Weekly: empty all litter and any residue from the litter box and refill with clean, fresh litter.
  • Monthly: empty all litter, thoroughly clean and scrub the litter box with hot soapy water, rinse, dry, and refill with clean, fresh litter. Some cats prefer this to be done weekly.
  • Yearly: completely replace the litter box with a new one.

Training Your New Cat or Kitten to Use the Litter Box

Most cats and kittens will naturally use a litter box because they prefer the litter substrate for elimination, cleanliness, and odor control.

When you adopt your new cat or kitten, take them immediately to the room where the litter box is located. Close the door, stay with the cat and calmly interact, encouraging them to explore this small area. Once they have investigated the room, you can open the door and allow them to explore more areas with supervision.

If you notice the cat sniffing, pawing at the floor, circling, or looking for a private area, calmly carry or encourage them back to the room with the litter box to help them recall where it’s located.

Most importantly, make sure the litter box is located in a quiet, easily accessible area without having to pass other cats in the household, jump, go up/downstairs, etc.

When to call your veterinarian:

If you notice your cat making frequent trips to the litter box, standing or squatting in the litter for extended amounts of time, posturing or standing in the litter box, producing very little or no urine, and vocalizing/crying, your cat may have serious, urgent problems which require immediate veterinary care.

Read more:

House Training for Kittens and Cats

Adopting a New Kitten

Toys, Games, and Puzzles! How to Entertain Your Indoor Cat

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat's litter box or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 12/18/2020
Last updated: 11/1/2021
Dr. Denise Michanowicz, Veterinarian

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