Peeing outside the box. It’s the most common litter box problem veterinarians and behaviorists encounter, but one that easily can be avoided.
To keep your cat’s litter box behavior problem-free, follow these 10 litter box tips.
1. Keep it clean
No one — especially cats with their ultra-sensitive sense of smell — likes a dirty, stinky bathroom. Scoop out your cat’s litter box daily, and change the litter weekly.
2. But not too clean
Stay away from harsh cleaning chemicals like bleach, pine or citrus cleaners, which can leave a scent in the box your cat won’t like. Simply wash the litter box with hot, soapy water and rinse well.
3. If it works, don’t fix it
A sale on cat litter is a common reason to switch litter brands. Unfortunately, this can trigger litter box problems. Cats want litter that smells and feels familiar. Thus, if your cat likes his litter, don’t change it.
4. Something old, something new
Some cats don’t like new litter because it doesn’t have their smell. For these finicky felines, sprinkle some old litter on top of the new. This reassures your cat that the bathroom is indeed his.
5. One for each cat, plus one
Another common mistake is having too few litter boxes. Experts recommend one litter box per cat, plus one more. That means a household with three cats needs four litter boxes.
6. Spread ‘em
To a cat, two litter boxes next to each other equals one big box. Put litter boxes in different areas of the house, with at least one on each floor.
7. Peace and quiet
If your cat gets startled by a thumping washing machine or rambunctious kids while using the litter box, she will quickly find a more peaceful place to go. Give your cat quiet bathrooms away from noisy, high traffic areas.
8. Privacy, please
Cats like their privacy, but that doesn’t mean you should hide their litter boxes. Choosing a location where kitty can see who is approaching is important, especially in multicat homes where a dominant cat might try to ambush another cat using the box. This is also a prime example of why cats sharing a home need extra boxes.
9. Ditch the hood
Although you might like to keep it covered, most cats don’t care for hooded litter boxes. Covers keep odors in and don’t allow kitty to keep an eye on the surroundings while taking care of business.
10. Plain and simple
Whether you use clay litter or a natural product like wheat, corn or recycled newspaper, stay away from perfumes and fragrances. These unnatural scents are added to make litter appealing to people, not to cats.
“Cats are attracted to areas where there’s some residual odor of urine or feces,” says Benjamin Hart, a veterinary behaviorist. “They go back to that area because it smells like a toilet area, so it’s kind of an attractive place.”
If you follow these guidelines, your cat’s litter box will be that attractive place. You’ll say goodbye to litter box problems and hello to a happy, well-trained cat.