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Checking All the Boxes: Tips for Keeping Your Cat in Love with the Litter Box

Prevent problems before they start

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Chad Thompson

by Arna Cohen

For the best chance of litter box success, consider what your cat wants, not what’s most convenient for you, recommends certified animal behavior consultant Amy Shojai. 

DON’T BOX ME IN: The bigger the box, the better. It should be large enough and the sides high enough that your kitty’s rear end doesn’t hang out. Kittens and arthritic or disabled cats do best with low-sided boxes or one with an opening cut into the end for easy access. Since cats feel vulnerable in the box and prefer an unobstructed view to watch for threats, your kitty may refuse to use an enclosed box. Hoods also keep in odor, which can offend a cat’s sensitive olfactory system.

LITTER LAW: Use a litter that your cat likes. Many prefer the finer texture of clumping litter over pellet or “pearl” litters, and clumping litter helps keep the box clean, but if your cat prefers something else, go with it. Keep in mind that while you may appreciate a perfumed litter, some cats dislike it.

CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO CATLINESS: Scoop the box every day or your cat may avoid it entirely. Replace nonclumping litter completely at least once a week and clumping litter about every two weeks. Wash boxes with hot water and mild dish detergent (bleach and ammonia can leave a kitty-repelling scent).

MAGIC NUMBER: Provide one box for every cat in your household plus one extra. This helps keep each box cleaner and reduces competition. Prevent territorial behavior by placing the boxes in different rooms.

PLEASE DON’T DISTURB: Give kitty privacy by placing litter boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas. The laundry room isn’t ideal, since the noises frighten some cats and heat intensifies litter box odors.

BE UNDERSTANDING: Never punish your cat by hitting, yelling, or “rubbing his nose in it.” You’ll only teach him to fear you and the litter box.

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