Now that your new family member is home, litter box, litter and location selection are key elements to ensuring a long, happy relationship. Remember – when it comes to elimination choices, your cat's opinion is the only one that really matters.
A kitten that doesn't like its box, the litter, or location will take its business elsewhere — perhaps in your houseplants, closet or even on your bed. It might take a little imagination and a lot of experimentation before you hit the magic combination but once you do, stick with it for as long as it works, because cats don't react well to change.
Choosing the Right Litter Box
When choosing a litter box, keep the size of your cat in mind. Small boxes with short sides work well for a young kitten and bigger boxes work well for a full-size large adult cat. Sometimes a 9-by-13 baking pan is the only thing a tiny kitten can climb into. Kittens will not use a litter box if they can't physically climb into it. On the flip side, a large cat may have difficulty accommodating to a tiny litter pan and choose instead a larger area elsewhere in your house.
When it comes to cat litter pans, you have plenty of options. Here are a few:
- Simple plastic pans — Relatively inexpensive and widely available, these pans come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Some have special rims to keep more litter in the box. Make sure the one you choose is easy to scrub clean.
- Covered pans — Manufacturers say covered pans keep down odors and prevent dogs and children from getting into the litter. Most cats don't like these covered pans. And some owners neglect to clean these pans regularly. If you choose this kind of pan, you must clean it the same as you would any other pan. Don't blame your cat if you don't keep the litter box clean and it goes elsewhere in the house. One caution: cats with asthma should not use a covered litter pan. They need the increased ventilation that an open-air pan offers.
- Self-cleaning pans — No one likes to clean the litter box, but some cats are so fussy that if you let this important chore wait, your cat may go elsewhere in the house. Self-cleaning pans make litter box cleaning a nearly hands-off affair, thanks to the easy-clean properties of clumping cat-box litter and lift-and-sift inserts, rolling boxes that run litter through a collector as they are rolled, and the electric self-cleaning litter boxes. Some large cats may not fit into the electric self-cleaning litter boxes and a skittish cat may be afraid of the noise.
Choosing the Right Litter
Just like with litter boxes, you have many choices regarding cat litter. Keep in mind just who the real customer is here — your cat. It doesn't matter how much you like a litter for its no-tracking, low-dust or odor-control properties. If your cat doesn't like it, you'll be finding "presents" in places you neither anticipated nor wanted.
So how do you choose the right cat litter? Each variety has its benefits and its faithful users. Clay litters have been popular for a long time and many behaviorists feel cats prefer it. However, there are cats whose homes (and probably lives) have been saved by the use of an alternative litter when nothing else could get them to use their boxes.
Here are your choices when it comes to thinking about what's inside the box:
- Clay — This filler is one of the most popular and least expensive options in terms of price per pound, but you need to use more of it because the litter needs to be completely replaced weekly to combat bacteria and odors. Clay litters now include those with the addition of deodorizers, dust-reducers and more. Cats may track this litter out of the box around the house and sometimes it's dusty and odorous and its bulk can fill up your trash can.
- Clump — Clumping or "scoopable" litter is also popular. This litter dissolves around the moisture in urine or feces and forms clumps which can then be easily scooped, raked or sifted out. Because clumped litter is scooped out each time, odor problems are minimized.
Although clumping litters are more expensive per pound, you use less of it than clay litters because all you need do is replace the clumped litter. Eventually clumping litter does need to be replaced routinely in its entirety, but that chore doesn't need to be done as often as with clay litters.
The drawback to clumping litter is tracking problems, because the material sticks to moisture on your cat's paws. A mat around the edge of the box will help knock granules off your kitten's paws before they end up tracked all over the house.
- Alternative litters — There are litter products made from wood fiber, corn cobs or kernels, and pelleted newsprint and other materials (some of them recycled from other uses.) Because the range of product material is so varied, it's hard to generalize them. Some of these products — such as the corn-based "World's Best Cat Litter" — have a dedicated following, while others come and go quickly because of cost or odor or feline avoidance.
Choosing the Right Location
Now that you know your choices for the right litter and litter box for your kitten, the next step is location, location, location! Many cats prefer their litter box in a quiet, private area of the house. The mudroom near the noisy washing machine or the front hallway where people come and go are not the best choices. Your kitten can be easily disturbed, distracted or scared by noise and commotion in busy areas of the house. If your cat feels anxious in the litter box, your cat will quickly stop using it.
Choose an out-of-the-way spot that is quiet and undisturbed but is still easy to physically access. Don't hide the box in the back of closet or in a room where closed doors can deny your cat easy access. Most cats don't like to eliminate in the same room where they are fed. We can't say it enough — the only opinion that really matters when it comes to the placement of the litter box is your cat's.
The best thing you can do to ensure that your kitten happily uses its box is to keep it clean. Most cats won't use a dirty litter box, no matter how much thought you put into choosing the "right" box, litter and location.
Please call us at (978) 453-1784 if you have any questions or concerns. We not only have professional knowledge, but many of us have cats of our own and we would be happy to share with you our medical, professional and personal experiences.