Let’s face it. Litter boxes are kind of a drag, a necessary evil cat lovers put up with for the greater good of cat ownership. But what if you can make your cat’s potty more enjoyable? Instead of hiding the litter box, embrace it and make it more pleasant for both you and your cat. The more she likes it, the more she will use it. No one wants to deal with a cat going outside the litter box.
“If a cat doesn’t like the litter or the area the litter box is in, they will likely urinate, defecate or both outside of the box,” says Megan Allred, foster coordinator at Salt Lake County Animal Services in Salt Lake City, Utah. “They will find a place more appealing to them.” It goes without saying that this is not likely going be a place that is more appealing to you!
Speaking of appealing, what YOU find appealing about litter or litter boxes is not necessarily what your cat will find appealing.
“Cats still retain many of their wild instincts,” says cat expert Samantha Bell of Los Angeles, celebrity and entertainment relations coordinator for Best Friends Animal Society. “We have taken these wild creatures and forced them to live in our world. Everything you do for a cat should be about what makes them feel more comfortable, not us. Owning a cat is a wonderful display of selflessness.”
Let’s go over some important litter box tips that can make all the difference.
Where’s My Box?
It’s tempting to banish your cat’s litter boxes to the far reaches of the house. After all, out of sight, out of mind (and nose). But don’t make your cat embark on a journey every time she needs to pee. Senior cats especially can find it hard to travel far distances or go up and down stairs. Some cats are simply lazy and might look for closer places to go.
“Most cats are social creatures and like to be a part of the action, even when pooping,” says Samantha, who keeps two litter boxes in the living room and one in the bathroom. “When I’m in the living room, my cats use that one. When I’m in the bathroom, my cats use that one.”
What’s That Smell?
Although humans might spruce up their own powder rooms with flowers, scented candles or potpourri, heavy fragrances are the last thing your cat finds appealing. Her sense of smell is much stronger than yours. What to you smells like a slight whiff of flowers will smell like the overpowering reek of a department store perfume counter to your cat.
What’s This Stuff?
Cats can be picky about litter, especially how it smells and how it feels on their paws.
Pick litter your cat actually likes. If she doesn’t find the litter appealing, she might not use the box. Cat litter comes in many different forms. Unscented, soft litter is appealing to many cats, so try that first. If your cat isn’t a fan, try different types until you land on one that works.
If your cat is one of the very fussy ones, don’t be afraid to think outside the box, so to speak. “A few times we had a cat that wasn’t fond of any type of litter we tried,” Megan says. “As a last resort we tried dirt … and it worked!”
Is This Thing Clean?
Just like humans like a clean toilet, cats enjoy a clean litter box. Unless you’ve taught your cat to use the human toilet or own one of those fancy self-washing contraptions, you’ll need to stay on top of things to keep your cat’s box clean.
“Clean litter boxes daily,” Megan says. “This will help keep the smell down for both you and your cat.”
Time for Some Fun
Once you know your cat’s litter boxes, litter and bathroom area are to her liking, it’s time to dress it up. Hang funny or creative artwork on the walls. If the litter box is in a bathroom, add some cute cat-themed hand towels, whimsical cat rug, cat soap dispenser or cat-shaped toilet brush holder. Store litter supplies in a decorative basket or box. Litter boxes are a fact of life with cats, but who says they have to be boring? Just go with it!
Litter Box Rules
Cat expert Samantha Bell, celebrity and entertainment relations coordinator for Best Friends Animal Society, shares the basic litter box rules of thumb:
- Use an open-top box, not covered
- Have one box per cat plus one extra box — if you have two cats, you should have three boxes
- Space out boxes in different areas of the home — from a cat’s perspective, two boxes side by side are basically just one box
- Buy a large enough box — at least 1½ times the length of the cat
- Clean all boxes at least once a day, preferably more often