LitterBox 101 - Things You are Doing Wrong & How to Get them Right
Are you cool with how you deal with your litter box and with your cat’s #1’s and #2’s? I didn’t think so! Whenever I ask someone what’s the thing you like the most about having a cat, I never know what they are going to tell me: snuggle time, playing sessions, walking them on a leash... but I’m 99.9% certain that if I ask you what’s the thing you like the least about sharing your life with a cat, your answer is going to be “dealing with the litter box”.
Deposition of urine and/or feces in inappropriate locations in the home continues to be one of the most common behavioral problems for which cat owners seek our professional counsel. I would like to share with you the formula for a successful litter-box experience that will, as well, prevent you from facing most litter box accidents.
Why Do Cats Poop in Litter Boxes?
Every relationship is a compromise which, according to the urban dictionary means "To agree with both parts giving in a little", by mutual concession. The litter box is a compromise we made with cats. We deal with their poop and in return, they choose to attend the nature calls, on a litter box instead of elsewhere.
Cats like to do their things in the dirt. Hiding their waste (both food and feces) is a natural feline instinct. Cats are both predators and prey and the rest of the food and feces have a high concentration of protein and amino acids that could attract predators giving up the cat's location. So, the act of meticulously burying their waste stems from cats' surviving history. L.C. Corbett found that there are different intra-specific variations in the pattern of feces deposition. For instance, dominant cats would leave their depositions uncovered along good hunting areas whereas subordinate cats buried them.
On the other hand, we have cats using urine to mark their territory. Cat urine has pheromones that only cats can smell, and this is why it's their favorite marking method. Most male cats (even neutered ones) will mark territory using urine. Ten percent of all cats spray in adulthood.
Is Litter Training a Cat Difficult?
Because using litter or dirt to mark and hide their depositions, litter training a cat can go from very easy (in cats with no anxiety or territorial issues) to difficult (in cats that are territorial or have anxiety problems).
Additional stress is added to the cat when we push the compromise we made with them too far in an attempt to deal with this necessary evil in a way that’s more convenient for us, “forcing” them to do their things in ways that are unnatural and are uncomfortable for them and might be affecting your bond and their wellbeing (using the toilet, not having enough litterboxes, not cleaning the litterbox often enough...) more on this later in the article.
Optimizing the Cat-Human Litter Box Compromise
I’m going to share with you some tips to make the compromise optimal for both parties. In the case that you are experiencing litter-box difficulties, meaning that your cat is pooping or peeing outside the litter box, there’s one of these 3 creating it:
Often this behavior can be corrected by fixing the basics, but discarding health problems should come first. A quick visit to the vet will ensure your cat is safe and you can focus on dealing with the problem at home, where it originated.
If Your Cat is Having Litter Box Problems, My #1 Recommendation is to Go to the Vet.
Some things that will help you and the vets diagnose what’s causing these issues:
- Has something changed in your home?
- Is there a new cat in the neighborhood?
- Have you changed the litter brand?
- Have you changed the food?
- Where are the accidents happening? If you want to find the spots where your cat has urinated, use a blacklight.
Marking, urinating, and defecating outside the box are among the main reasons why cats are given surrendered or rehomed, so I can understand your frustration and how serious of a problem this can be.
I’d like to share with you some tips, considerations, and products that will make the litter experience better for both you and your cat.
Where's the Best Area to Place a Litter Box:
Cats use their pee and poo to mark the limits of their territory. It’s like a kitty Facebook.
Mia was here. Mia likes this. Mia thinks this is safe.
If we stuff the litter box in the garage or the laundry room, we are limiting their instinct to mark their territory and might be a source of frustration and accidents.
The general rule is that you need one litter box per cat + 1. So, if you have:
- 2 cats, you need 3 litter boxes
- 1 cat, 2 litter boxes
- 10 cats, 11 litter boxes
There are usually 2 things keeping us from placing the litter box in a social area: the smell and the look.
I’m pretty sure that you’ve heard about certification before, we’ve talked about this on this channel. Catification is (according to Jackson Galaxy):
The art of making changes and adjustments to your home that meet the needs of both you and your cat (aesthetically and spatially)
Learn more about catification in this video:
Choosing a pretty Litter Box
Before I had a cat, I could not understand how cat owners have all the floors filled with toys and ugly furniture in their homes. Then, I got Mia and I realized how demanding and energetic cats can be and I found myself surrounded by cat toys and ugly furniture.
Then I came across some great brands that sell cat products that are not only good for the cats but will blend with my decoration style. Some of these companies create beautiful furniture for cat households that I’m proud to show and Mia loves.
I have just gotten their most popular litter box to upgrade mine. It comes with a screen to make it more discrete and a scoop and a cleaning kit, so that having an immaculate corner it’s easy. You can buy this litterbox here with a 10% OFF. I couldn't be happier and it's nice enough so that it doesn't have to be hidden on a corner.
Regarding the odor, some solutions are good and solutions that affect our cat’s well-being, which takes me to the second point:
Choosing the Best Cat Litter
Finding the right cat litter is almost as important as finding the right food for our cats. Also, litter is the one thing that both our cats and we have to deal with, so we want to get it right.
On average, cat households spend $250 on cat litter per year and cat. And the difference between a good litter and an awful litter is about $50 a year. In my case, the price difference totally justifies the improved performance so I choose to use the litter that does the job best.
I use World’s Best Litter. While I might make a few cents if you buy from the link, they are not sponsoring this video but I like sharing with you the solutions and products that I love, regardless of being sponsored or not.
This cat litter clumps super well, it has outstanding odor control and because it’s made out of corn, it’s biodegradable and flushable, so if you have one of your litter boxes in the bathroom, it's almost hassle free to clean.
Why Buy Unscented Cat Litter for Your Cat
Cats' sense of smell is 14 times better than humans. Because they have a such acute sense of smell, using scented litter might be annoying to them. My personal preference is to not use scented litter but I could not find any studies proving or disproving the fact that scented litter is bad for cats. The same goes with bad odors coming from the litter box, it can be very bothering for them as well. The best is to scoop early and often, to limit the smell and keep the litter always ready for them.
When it comes to litter, my recommendation is that you let your cat choose. Set up a litter box cafeteria test. In a litter box cafeteria test, you set up several boxes side by side filled with different litters, scoop them all twice a day at the same time, and note which one your cat uses most often.
For this test to work, there can be only one variable—the litter. All other factors (location, size of box, frequency of cleaning) have to be the same.
There is some big no-no’s when it comes to litter-boxes to me, that improve our convenience in ways that affect our cat’s comfort beyond levels I consider acceptable. This is my personal opinion and some of you might be using some of the things I don’t recommend, feel free to agree or disagree, I’d be happy to get the conversation started in the comments section!
Things to Avoid to Make Your Cat Stress-Free
My first big no-no are automatic litter boxes
They are extremely convenient but they make it almost impossible to track what our cat’s stool looks like. You can learn a lot about your cat's health from their poop. Whether you’ve just adopted your first kitten or you’ve shared your home with cats for years, you should be looking for changes in consistency and color when you scoop out the litter box, and particularly if you have more than one cat, self-cleaning litter-boxes don’t allow it.
My second big no-no are closed litter boxes
Cats like to be secluded but not cornered, particularly not if there are other animals or little humans around the house. It can create trauma if a cat is ambushed while leaving the litter box making it difficult for them to use it again in the future. Open litter-boxes or litter-boxes with multiple exits are best.
Cat Litter and Litter Box 101
For a happy relationship with your cat’s litter and litter box, the following conditions must be in place before we try to upgrade our litter box or litter:
- Cats prefer clean litter boxes. Scoop early and often. Completely replace the litter once a week ideally or every other week tops.
- Find a letterbox of adequate size, where they fit comfortably.
- Choose to place the litter box in places where our cats would naturally mark the limits of their territory.
- Ensure an adequate number of litter boxes available (usually one more litter box than the number of cats in the household).
If you are going to change the litter, upgrade the litter box you are using or improve the placement, do it gradually. Your cat is used to the current setup and an abrupt change could cause accidents we don’t want!
Get the new litter box and place it next to the old one, and after a week or two, remove the old one. Also, if you are changing the placement of the litter box, move it 4 to 6ft at a time instead of directly moving it from one room to another.
Now that you know about the litter box do's and don'ts at home, you might be wondering... and what about when traveling? Well, you can learn all about traveling by plane with a cat in this article.
As always, stay wild and stay safe! See you outdoors!
Albert & Mia
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