Despite the numerous litter box products on the market and varying human opinions about litter boxes, from a cat’s point of view, the litter box set-up is very simple. Use the checklist below to set your cat up for litter box success.

A few ideas to keep in mind:

  • Cats were originally desert animals, so think of your litter box as a small desert (that’s essentially what it is to your cat).
  • Cats have no concept of right or wrong. Instead, they think in terms of meeting their needs. When your cat is using the litter box, they’re never thinking, “I’m doing the right thing.” And if your cat is not using the litter box, they’re never thinking, “I’m doing the wrong thing.” If they are consistently using the litter box, it’s because it meets their needs. If they’re not using the litter box, it’s either because it doesn’t meet their needs or there is another area in your home that better meets their elimination needs.

What are cats’ needs when it comes to eliminating?

  • To feel safe. Specifically, they want to be able to see their surroundings and have a few different escape routes if needed. When cats eliminate, they are releasing scents that can lead to unwanted attention from other cats or potential predators. In other words, cats have no interest in privacy when using the bathroom. Privacy is a human thing.
  • To adequately bury their waste and to mask its scent.
  • To eliminate in a clean area. Instinctively, cats do not want to eliminate in areas that already have a strong smell.

The litter box set up that best meets your cat’s needs:

  • A large, open litter box. The box should be large enough for the cat to easily turn around in without touching the sides of the box. At least one side of the box should be low enough so the cat has no issue stepping into the box. (If you have a kitten, you will need a lower-sided box.)
  • Litter box is placed in a location that is easy for the cat to access, but not in a high traffic area of the home where they will be startled. Litter box is also away from any loud appliances that may startle them.
  • Litter box is located far from the cat’s food and water bowls.
  • Litter box is placed in a location that allows the cat to see the entire room and where they will not feel trapped.
  • Use of unscented, scoop-able (aka clumping) litter. This is the most sand-like litter and sand is cats’ natural litter. (Remember the desert.) Use 2 to 3 inches of litter, although amounts may vary depending on your cat’s preferences.
  • Do not use litter box liners. Cats often get their claws caught in these liners which can lead them to avoid using the box.
  • Litter box is scooped twice a day. This will not take very long as there will not be much accumulated waste, which is exactly as your cat likes it!
  • Litter box is thoroughly cleaned at least every two weeks.
  • In a multi-cat household there are preferably as many litter boxes as there are cats, and these boxes are placed in different locations. This placement ensures that if one cat is being bullied by another they will still feel safe using a litter box.
  • One box is placed on every floor of the home, even if you only have one cat. Litter box accessibility is very important in terms of meeting your cat’s needs.