Litter Box Acumen

Around the litter box, your influence
is stronger than you think.

  1. Understanding your cat’s natural bathroom behavior can benefit you both.

    Every time a cat goes to the bathroom, they leave a trail of scent that can serve as a means of communication.

    When cats in the wild are claiming territory, they want their presence to be known. Other times, they prefer to keep it hidden and will bury their waste.

    It's not uncommon to relieve themselves in different locations and reserve specific spots for specific duties. You may have already noticed these tendencies in your cat – for better or worse.  

    Since litter box behavior is one of the most common topics discussed with veterinarians, it’s important to help your cat form and sustain a routine built around good habits. Plus, they can offer clues into your cat's overall health. 

  2. Magic Number

    Utilize one litter box per cat plus an extra, or one on every level of your home even if you have only one cat.

    Why do this? It’s perfectly normal for a cat to urinate in one box and defecate in another. In multi-cat homes – one cat will usually be the “sanitation worker” and cover everyone else’s business.

    To Complete This Step

    Record the number of boxes you have available in your home along with the number of cats. Do you have one more box than you have cats? If not, make another one available and note any changes in behavior.

  3. Location Location

    Locate the litter boxes in peaceful parts of the home, away from areas frequented by a dog or potentially frightening objects like the washer & dryer or vacuum cleaner.

    Expert Tip: Make certain not to inadvertently block access to the litter box, such as with a closed door, boxes or a recurring pile of laundry.

    To Complete This Step

    Note where you currently have your litter box or boxes located. Are they in high-traffic areas or near potential distractions? Have you been seeing some unwanted litter box behavior? Make note of these details. Then relocate the box to a more strategic location and upload a shot of it.

  4. Sized Right

    Some litter boxes are open. Others have a canopy. If you choose one of these, select one that is tall enough for your cat to comfortably stand upright and turn around in when you have litter in.

    A good rule of thumb is a box that’s 1.5 times the length of your cat when measured from nose to the base of the tail. Also, it should be tall enough to provide adequate headroom for when your cat is squatting.

    To Complete This Step

    Evaluate the size of your current litter box or boxes. If they’re too small, put a right-sized box to use. If you’re good to go, make note of it and move on to the next step.

  5. Always Inviting

    Cover the bottom of the litter box with 3-4" of quality litter such as Tidy Cats and refill as necessary after scooping to maintain that level.

    To Complete This Step

    Do a quick analysis of the litter in your boxes. Is it too little, too deep or just right? Make a note, and empty of fill accordingly.

  6. Required Maintenance

    Some cats don’t like to return to a dirty box. Others don’t mind. Clean regularly and add fresh litter as necessary. If your cat uses right after you clean, they’re likely waiting for you.

    Our general guidelines: clean each box once per week. Have an extra on hand to rotate in if need be. Clean the box (and canopy) with mild soap and water and let it dry in the sun to kill off odor. Once a smell takes hold and lingers, the box will need to be replaced.

    Expert Tip: Use this time to monitor overall volume of urine and fecal form as it can give clues into your cat’s health. Frequent visits or banging around against the sides of the box? Take that as a sign of unhappiness.

    To Complete This Step

    Set up a schedule for cleaning your boxes and document it. If it’s been awhile, give one a good clean now.

  7. Transitioning to a New Box

    Optional - Changeover can be a bit tricky. So resist the urge to go cold turkey. Once you’re ready to proceed with a proper transition, here’s how our experts recommend you go about it.

    For starters, place the new litter box next to the existing one. If you have multiple boxes in your home, it’s wise to switch only one at a time.

    Leave both boxes in place for a week. This allows for enough to pass for you to know if your cat is using the new one reliably. Once it’s clear your cat is using the new litter box for both duties, pull the old one from circulation.

    If you feel like it’s slow going, try mixing some litter from the old box with the new one. This may provide the nudge your cat needs.

    To Complete This Activity

    Work through a successful introduction of a new box. Upload a shot of the old and new box side by side.

Community Progress