Litter Box Basics

Indoor domestic cats usually urinate twice per day and defecate once per day.  In my experience, there are two golden rules when it comes to litter boxes.  First, it is important to have at least one box per cat.  More is better, but one box per cat is the absolute minimum.    Ideally, it is best to have one box more than the number of cats in the house.  Second, cleanliness is next to Godliness.  Some fastidious cats consider a box dirty after one use.  It is important to recognize that each cat will have their own litter box standards just like people do with rest rooms.  It does not matter if you think the box is clean enough.  It is the cat’s opinion that counts (isn’t that always the way with cats).  Remember they have a much better sense of smell than we do.

After the two golden rules, everything else is based upon the cat’s and owner’s preferences.  Here are a few other points to consider:

1)  In general, I recommend a soft clumping unscented litter.  In my experience, this type of litter satisfies the needs and desires of most of my patients.  Having said that, I know some cats who prefer the traditional clay litter and others who like the pelleted variety made out of recycled newspaper.  If your cat seems unhappy with their existing litter, experiment to see what they truly want.  
2)  For older cats or one with an orthopedic problem keep one side of the box low to make it easy to enter and exit. 
3)  Shy cats seem to prefer covered litter boxes or a box tucked out of sight. 
4)  Make sure the box is the right size for the cat.  Some cats walk straight in and go.  If the box is too short, the feces or urine end up on the rug in front of the box.
5)  Use an unscented, dust-free litter for cats who suffer from allergies or asthma.
6)  If your home has multiple levels, keep a box on each level for easy access. 
7)  Following declaws, use shredded paper until the incisions are well healed.  This is usually two full weeks.   

Published by kristennelsondvm

Dr. Kristen Nelson grew up on a farm in Watertown, Minn., where she developed a deep love for animals of all kinds. She received a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine. Kris then completed a small-animal internship at the prestigious Animal Medical Center in New York City. In addition to writing and speaking, she cares for small and exotic animals in Scottsdale, Az. Dr. Nelson is widely quoted in the media. Her credits include Ladies’ Home Journal, USA TODAY, the Los Angeles Times and numerous radio and television interviews. Dr. Nelson has written two books, Coated With Fur: A Vet’s Life and Coated With Fur: A Blind Cat’s Love. Kris and her husband Steve share their home with rescued cats, birds and a dog.

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