Hello! Nigel, here! Today I would like to take the opportunity to talk to you humans about litter boxes—what is proper, and what is not. It is important to remember that not everything I am going to tell you may be appropriate for your particular cat. We cats are unique individuals, and as such, have different preferences when it comes to our toileting habits. However, certain generalizations can be made that are helpful to humans in most cases, so I am going to talk about these generalizations here.
For most cats, the litter box can be a touchy subject. We like it….well…..we like it, the way that we like it! And the way that we like it might change from time to time, and we do not feel that we need to give you any notice when we change our minds. We will change our minds when we want to, and you humans will adjust accordingly…or we will pee on your clean laundry.
The first thing I would like to address is number. Many of us cats do not like to pee and poop in the same location. Therefore, we like to have two separate boxes provided for these two separate needs. If you have more than one cat presiding over your home, than you should generally aim for having one box per cat plus one. So, if you have three cats, that means you should have four boxes. And four boxes means four completely separate locations. Two boxes next to each other is really just one large box in our minds. If you have multiple levels of living space (i.e.–an upstairs and a downstairs) then you should make sure you have at least one box on each level of your home. This is especially true for homes where older cats reside. Many older, arthritic kitties will choose not to go up or go down a flight of stairs to use a box, and will therefore just find somewhere to do their business on the floor level they are currently on.
Next we will discuss litter type. There are many different varieties of litter available for purchase, and we know that you humans can find all of these choices very overwhelming. Most kitties, when scientifically polled by behaviorists, prefer an unscented clumping clay-based litter of fine granules. The litter that was found to be most off-putting was pearled or crystal litter. We like our litter to be 3 to 4 inches deep at all times so that we have plenty to scratch at and dig the holes that we need while still ensuring there will be enough to kick out of the box and spread all over the floor the way that humans like it. Although you humans seem to like the litter that comes scented with flowery perfumes, most of us cats really find these smells offensive. The best way to control the odor in our boxes is not with fragrance, but rather with frequent scooping. Scooping at least once a day is an absolute must, but more is better. I mean really, who doesn’t like a clean potty? When you humans are in public places and need to use the toilet, do you go in to a stall that has an unflushed toilet full of excrement….or do you move on to the next stall? See my point?
And speaking of smell, most of us cats really prefer not to have a box with a cover on it. Those covers do a great job of trapping odors inside of the box (which is probably why you humans like them so much). When we go inside one of these little gas chambers, the stench of ammonia hits us so hard that it’s amazing we make it back out alive! Really….would you want to go to the bathroom in a room that smelled that bad?
Size is also an issue. Cats come in different sizes, and so should litter boxes. Being inside of a tiny bathroom stall can be very uncomfortable as we are sure you know…and we cats feel the same way. We like our litter boxes to be at least 1.5 times the length of our bodies (minus our tails). We need room to maneuver in to the position we like while still keeping all of the production inside of the box. If your local pet store does not have a box that meets this size requirement, you can purchase a large heavy duty plastic bin used for storage and we will happily use that instead.
And finally…please, please, please stay away from those boxes with the automatic cleaning attachment. They are quite frankly, freakish and frightening. Some patients that come to For Cats Only have told me about the nightmarish trauma of being in the box just doing their business, and suddenly the box itself comes to life and makes all kinds of scary sounds and movements. That’s enough to scare a cat out of using the litter box for good!
So…there it is. I hope all of this was helpful. Dr. S wants me to let you know that many cats who have stopped using their boxes are usually doing so because one of their preferences are not being met. If there is nothing medically wrong, than addressing all of the items above and making sure that you humans are following our kitty guidelines for proper litter box etiquette, will often solve your problem straight away!
Until next time, this is Nigel, signing off. Meow!