One of the most common complaints vets hear from cat parents is about the litter box. From physical issues, like bladder infections, to behavioral problems, like not using the box at all, there is frequently much ado about cats and their litter boxes.
Over and over, you will read that cats don't need special training to learn the mechanics of litter boxes. It's the humans, they say, that need to understand the hows and whys of bathroom behavior of cats. So here's a quick guide to catch you up on what momma cat teaches her babies:
Litter Box 101 is all about keeping the box clean. Would you want to use a filthy bathroom? No matter what kind or size of box you provide, cats do not like dirty litter boxes and have a few unpleasant ways to tell you so. It would be best if you kept your cat's litter box clean. And that doesn't mean dumping the litter and hosing out the box occasionally. Care.com provides some great advice to help you know how to make your kitty happy with his facilities:
Every day: If you use the clumping-type litter, scoop out the clumps. If your litter isn't the clumping type, remove any waste daily.
Once a week: Empty the scoopable, clumping litter and replace it with fresh litter. And make that twice a week if you're using clay litter.
Once a month: Wash out the entire litter box with warm water. Use only warm water. Using soaps or disinfectants can be toxic to cats. Plus, the odor may linger and cause your cat to avoid the box altogether!
The ASPCA recommends regularly cleaning any "accidents" or soiled areas outside the litter box with an enzymatic cleanser to "break down the soils at a neutral pH."
Experiment with types and sizes of litter and litter boxes to find one that will make your cat happy. According to the Humane Society of Missouri, "kittens develop a preference for types of litter by the time they are three weeks old." They recommend offering your cat a choice of types of litter. Most cats prefer clumping over other types and like soft, fine grain litter.
When cleaning soiled areas in the house, never use anomia-based cleaners. Cat urine already contains ammonia, and cleaning with more ammonia will entice the cat to go to the same spot again.
You should have at least three litter boxes if you have more than one cat. This will help eliminate rivalry issues if one (or both) cats snub a box used by the other cat.
The litter box's location can significantly impact a cat's desire to use it. Do not place the box in a busy part of the house. If your cat gets distracted while trying to use the litter box, avoid placing his box in rooms with dishwashers, washing machines, and dryers. And once you choose the litter box(s) location, don't move them.
Experts say no matter how clean you keep your cat's litter box, consider his strong sense of smell. Please don't place the litter box near his food, water, favorite sleeping spots, or room deodorizers. In fact, in an amazing example of reverse psychology, the Humane Society of Missouri notes, "a good way to discourage a cat from soiling in an unwanted area is to place his food bowls, toys, and beds in the soiled areas."
Kitty litter box basics for cat owners
Litter Box Etiquette
Humane Society of Misourri
Cats and Litter Boxes