Correctly Maintaining The Cat’s Litter Box Environment At Home
If you have a cat at home, you most likely also have at least one litter box. Litter boxes are an essential and central part of every domestic cat’s life, and it’s important to know how to maintain them adequately to avoid causing stress to our furry companions and keep them mentally and physically healthy.
There are a few ground rules and following them will help you keep your cat healthy while maintaining a clean and pleasant living environment for both you and your cat.
Where should I place the litter box?
Most cat owners prefer to place the litter box out of sight. This usually goes against the natural needs of the cat. It’s recommended to place the litter box in an area where the cat has as many escape routes as possible. For cats, bathroom time is the time when they are most exposed to danger, and cats may choose to do their business somewhere else if they don’t feel safe, especially if there is more than one animal in the house.
How many litter boxes do I need?
Even though it’s easy to think that one litter box is enough, a general rule of thumb is to have one more box than the number of cats you have. This allows the cat to choose the litter box which is located in the ideal place, is clean enough, and has the least amount of odor from other cats. However, placing litter boxes next to each other is almost the same as having one litter box, so it’s recommended to spread the litter boxes around the house in different locations/rooms.
What kind of litter box do I need?
Litter boxes can be open (no lid or door) or closed (covered from all sides allowing the cat to enter from one entrance only).
Closed litter boxes will create a sense of cleanliness as it is easier not to notice the state of the litter in the box when it’s out of sight. However, for the cat a closed litter box means less escape routes which could be especially problematic in a house with more than one cat. A closed litter box doesn’t allow for proper air circulation and traps odors inside while harming your cat’s health.
Open litter boxes will provide your cat with a sense of confidence, convenience, and proper air circulation, and that is why it’s recommended to use open litter boxes.
Which type of litter should I use?
It’s no surprise that different cats prefer different types of litter, texture, and smell. A cat that feels uncomfortable using the litter you chose could develop a preference to different textures around the house such as fabrics. A good way to test what your cats prefer is letting them choose. Try creating a “litter box buffet” – a series of temporary boxes where each one contains a different type of litter.
Even though most of us prefer scented litter, most cats are actually quite sensitive to strong smells and would prefer non-scented litter. Using Moodify Pet will neutralize the scent of the litter box for us without adding any strong smells that could deter cats from using the litter box or make them feel uncomfortable (please note, this is not a substitute for frequent cleaning of the litter box).
How often should I clean/replace my litter box?
It’s important to clean the litter box at least twice a day. Whenever the litter level drops you should make sure to refill the required amount. You should replace the litter every 3 weeks (or sooner if you deem it necessary). When replacing the litter, make sure to clean the litter box with enzymatic cleaning materials (there are dedicated products for dealing with urine stains and smells) and never with ordinary cleaning materials as they don’t dismantle the urine molecules and your cat whose sense of smell is superb will still smell the urine.
A topic less frequently discussed is the need to replace the litter boxes themselves. Litter boxes, especially the plastic ones, wear out with time, and the scratches made by the cat leave cracks in the boxes where germs which are dangerous to the cat’s health accumulate and are impossible to clean. Therefore it’s recommended to replace the litter box once a year.
I’ve followed every step and my cat still defecates outside of the litter box, what now?
It’s important to understand your cats will never defecate (or pee) outside of the litter box on purpose. This is usually done to communicate something that is causing them stress. If you followed all the steps mentioned in this article and the behavior persists, it’s recommended to do a veterinarian diagnosis and consult a cat behavior specialist to diagnose the issue in depth.
Written by Dekel Eden-Tsalik, a certified feline behavioral consultant.
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