A happy cat-friendly home starts with a happy litter box experience. Get it right following these steps, and you’ll be that much closer to happy purry heaven.
While a cat might, arguably, be man’s actual best friend, the basis of a good human-cat relationship starts in the bathroom. The cat’s bathroom, that is. Nothing will put as much stress on your relationship as an unfortunate litter box experience.
In other words, the key to a happy cat and a happy cat owner is proper litter box use and maintenance. While getting the perfect litter box and litter will require some testing, you will enjoy your feline friend all the more once you get it right.
Why Proper Litter Box Maintenance Is Important
Ask anyone, and they will tell you that “cat odour” is high up on the list of “most horrible smells known to mankind.” No one wants to live or visit a home that smells of cat urine or faeces. It smells bad. Bad.
Felines are quite finicky about their bathrooms. They hate stinky, dirty litter boxes and may opt for alternatives when “the need strikes,” looking instead for clean, comfy places like your laundry basket or carpet.
Proper litter box maintenance habits will keep you from contracting Toxoplasmosis, a disease contracted by humans through contact with contaminated meat or cat feces.
Litterbox issues are frustrating for the cat and owner. In fact, a significant number of cats returned to shelters end up there because of “house soiling” issues. Give yourself and your cat a fighting chance by maintaining a litter box schedule that works for you both.
How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?
It is recommended that you have one litter box per cat, plus an additional one just in case. If you have only one cat, you might get away with just one litter box, but invest in extra litter boxes if you have more than one cat. Cats don’t like to share.
Also, don’t assume cats will have personalized litter boxes; they will use the closest litter box and cleanest. Having extra litter boxes will ensure that your cats will find an unoccupied and clean litter box when they need it.
What Type Of Box Should I Get?
While automated self-cleaning litter boxes are gaining more momentum, they are by no means the holy grail of litter boxes. Many cats will avoid these boxes because they are noisy. Also, you do still have to clean out the self-cleaning litter box regularly.
Covered Litter Boxes seem like a great option; the cover “contains” a lot of the odors while providing a safe and private environment for your cat’s bathroom break. However, these might also be its drawbacks. Because the odors are more contained, you might be less inclined to clean the little as often as you should.
Remember that a cat’s sense of smell is 14 times stronger than ours. The litter box might smell reasonably clean to you but might stink to high heaven for your furry darling. Also, covered litter boxes are more cumbersome to clean, increasing the chances of skipping the cleaning more often.
For starting, it’s recommended you use a simple, uncovered litter box. These are rectangular plastic boxes. Make sure the size is correct, they should be one and a half lengths of your cat, and the sides need to be tall enough to contain the litter but short enough that your cat can comfortably step in and out.
A quick stroll down the cat litter aisle will introduce you to the overwhelming array of litter available. The number of choices can be overwhelming. If you consider that each cat has his or her preferences concerning litter as well, you might feel like pulling out your hair. The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to litter.
The best litter is the one that works for you and your cat. It might take a couple of tests and tries to get the right one, so be prepared for this when first starting. But don’t worry, your cat will let you know in no uncertain terms if the litter “just isn’t right.“ Here are a few tips to get you started.
Cats prefer natural smelling litter. While citrus-odour litter might sound tempting to you, cats tend to prefer odorless litter.
Clumping litter is easier to scoop and clean, so try these types first.
Most cats prefer finely granulated litter; this is less coarse on their sensitive paws.
Test and experiment until you find the right litter, and then stick to it. Cats are animals of habit, after all.
Pour litter into the box so the bottom is covered with an even layer of 2 to 3 inches of litter. If your cat is a “digger,” he might prefer a deeper litter cover, and you could go up to 4 or 5 inches. Again, experiment until you reach the right height.
Make sure to place the litter box in a private and quiet but easily accessible area. Cats can get quite nervous about noises in their surrounding while relieving themselves. Also, do not place the little box near heating elements (like the dryer), as the heat will “activate” the odour.
The type of scoop you’re going to use depends on the litter. Ensure the holes are big enough to let clean litter particles through while still holding the soiled litter.
The good idea is to get a cat litter mat that you will place under the litter box, which will help you with containing the mess.
It would be best if you scooped out the litter box twice daily, at the very least. Preferably twice a day. In fact, the best time to scoop the litter is right after your kitty uses it.
This might be unpractical, though; no one wants to be a slave to the litter. So set up a routine for yourself, scoop out the litter box in the morning and the evening. Feel free to scoop during the day, when possible. Remember, the cleaner the box, the higher the chances your cat will use it.
Wash your hands thoroughly every time you come in contact with your cat’s litter. You are dealing with poop. So wash your hands.
You will have to clean out and replace all the litter regularly. How often you need to do this depends on the type of litter and how clean you can keep it with the daily scooping. The general rule of thumb is to remove all the litter as soon as it is discolored and starts smelling.
This may be as often as every week or as long as every four weeks. This is also a good time to wash the litter box itself.
Empty the entire contents of the litter box into a sturdy plastic bag and tie it off well. Dispose of as soon as possible. You should never try to flush all this litter, even if you have the flushable litter kind. Wash the litter box with dishwashing soap, hot water, and a dedicated sponge. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry or pat down with paper towels.
Wash your hands! Pour in a new layer of litter and watch your excited cat “inaugurate” the clean litter within seconds.