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Litter Boxes and Cat Litter From a Cat’s Perspective

Hey, cat owners. Over here. Gather round. I’m going to share with you all the things your cat wants you to know about the litter box but is afraid to tell you. If you don’t get this stuff right, your cat might decide not to use the box. So this is critical stuff. Are you listening?

First, and maybe most importantly, we want our litter boxes clean. Now I know scooping isn’t a pleasant task for you but look at it from our perspective. Have you ever gone into a public bathroom that is filthy, smelly, with unflushed toilets and just generally disgusting? Did you want to use the facilities there? It’s no different with us cats. Who wants to use a dirty bathroom? So keep that scoop handy and use it frequently.

Next, where you place our litter box matters? We cats don’t want to be harassed or scared when we’re doing our business any more than you do. We need a little bit of privacy. But that doesn’t mean you can tuck our box away in an obscure and inaccessible spot in the attic or basement either. We need to be able to get to our litter box when we need it.

And those hoods over the top of the box? Many of us don’t care much for those. Unpleasant smalls can accumulate quickly under those hoods. Some of us don’t mind them but if your cat is avoiding the litter box, consider doing away with the hood.

While we’re on the subject, you should know that a lot of us don’t like to share our litter boxes either. If we live in a house with other cats, we each need our own box. It’s best to provide each of us with our own box and then add one extra, just in case.

Another thing – give us plenty of room to maneuver in the box. Most of us would rather have a big box than a little one. Skimp on the size and you might just find that an important part of our anatomy hangs over the side, so to speak, and creates a mess for you to clean up. Catch the drift?

What else? Oh yeah! The cat litter itself. Be careful of scented litters. Some of us don’t care for them very much. Changing to a unscented litter is something to consider if you find your cat is avoiding the litter box. Additives that control odor however, like activated carbon, will be appreciated. It’s that smelly cat box thing again. The texture of the litter is important too. Many of us like the texture of scoopable litter. But we’re all individuals with individual likes and dislikes.

I have one other point to make and this one is important. Listening? If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, it may be because of a medical issue. Of course, your cat should be receiving regular veterinary care anyway but you should always consult with your cat’s veterinarian if litter box issues arise. Not only can your veterinarian help you diagnose or rule out medical issues, she can also help you solve litter box problems of all types by offering tips and advice based on experience and evidence.

Speaking of evidence-based litter box decisions, here’s a great reference to get more recommendations based on evidence-based research: The latest scoop on litter; Jacqueline C. Neilson, DVM, DACVB; Veterinary Medicine; Mar 1, 2009.

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