Making a Stink: Litter Box Basics

Probably the most daunting task of cat owners everywhere is the dreaded litter box. Whether your cat is a master user or you are getting your new kitty accustomed to the box, sometimes they need a little push in the right direction.


Number of Boxes
As the golden rule, cat owners should have one box per cat plus one. Cats are naturally territorial creatures, and having an insufficient number of litter boxes can lead to the worst kinds of accidents in the worst places. Also, you’ll have to scoop way more often, and nobody wants to do that.

Location of the Box
Cats are fairly private creatures, and they can be easily intimidated if they do not feel safe while relieving themselves. As such, you will want to put the litter boxes in a quiet corner of the home where they can do their business in peace and away from any of the other furry residents or human visitors.

Types of Boxes
There is a multitude of litter boxes on the market so you may have to do some trial and error to decide which type of box is best for your cat and your home.

Photo by Laura LaRose

The Basic Box
For most kittens, it is easier to begin them with the simple tray-type litter boxes. Not only are these boxes pretty easy to clean, but their short sides allow baby cats to vault over them quite easily. The downfall of these falls into the smell and the mess. Since it is not a covered box, the smells seem to be more pungent, especially if you have a kitty who has trouble covering their poo. They are also shallow enough that cats tend to scatter litter throughout the surrounding area.

Photo by Tom Thai

Covered Litter Boxes
The basic box’s fancier cousin, a covered litter box offers the ease of the classic box with the privacy of a quiet, covered area for felines to do their business. These boxes are great for cats who tend to make messes in the pan-type boxes as well as cats who have trouble feeling secure in open areas. The only downfall of these is the amount of space they take up as well as the fact that you’ll have to remove the top to clean it.
modkat_cat_litter_box_white_by_modkoTop-Entry Litter Boxes
These type of litter boxes are honestly my personal favorite. With four cats, my kitties tend to make messes when using the box, so the top entry boxes keep the area mess-free. It also prohibits by huge dogs from sticking their heads in for a ‘snack’. Top entry boxes add a sense of privacy while still allowing cats to watch their surroundings. The downfall of these is that they aren’t great for small kittens who may have trouble getting into them, and you’ll have to remove the top to clean them. However, you can make a cheap version of the top entry boxes with a simple storage container.

Photo by Ewen Roberts

Self-Cleaning Litter Boxes
For some of us who have busy schedules, cleaning a litter box twice a day is definitely a chore, especially if you have multiple cats. One way to avoid putting in the work is to get a self-cleaning litter box. These boxes use motors to sift the soiled litter out, making it to where cat owners will only have to change the litter every so often. However, these boxes are expensive and the motorized movement can sometimes scare skittish cats, so make sure you hang onto your receipt if you want to give these a go.

Sifting Boxes
A sifting box is comprised of three different ‘layers’ of the litter box. The bottom box is a clean pan, the middle part is a colander-type box, and the top is where the cats poop. You’ll need to use non-clumping litter for these boxes. When the cats use the box, the poo collects on the top layer. When you go to clean it, you simply lift up the top layer. The poo stays on the top, and the clean litter drops through the colander layer into the bottom pan. Then, voila! You have a clean litter box. Simply rinse out the dirty pan and stick it on the bottom to repeat. This is also how litter boxes such as the Breeze system work, as you can put puppy pads in the bottom pan to soak up urine.

Choosing Your Litter Type
All cats are different, and so are their tastes in their litter. From clay to pellets and everything in between, the task of choosing a litter can be daunting. The important thing is to let your cat choose which type he likes best, so don’t be afraid to try new types. If you adopt from a shelter, an easy option is to use the type of litter that the animal is already used to. There are two main types of litter.

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Photo by Mike Mozart

Clay Litter
Clay litter is a basic option that works well for most cats. This is typically what famous brands such as Tidy Cats and Fresh Step are made of. For those with allergies or asthma, though, these dust-forming litters can be rough. Sometimes, as well, cats can become sensitive to litters with additives like baking soda and Glade, so keep an eye out and make sure that your cat doesn’t have any aversions to these types of litters.

5641433926_6f91b8dc34_b.jpgPellet Litter
Pellet litter is a great option for those who have allergies. It is also the best option for cats who are declawed, as the pellets cannot get stuck into their incisions. You can typically find pellets made of different types of things such as newspaper.

Cleaning and Maintenance 
Keeping the litter box clean is the best way to get your cat to faithfully use it. Just as humans keep the toilet flushed and scrubbed, cats don’t want to use a dirty potty either. Help out your furry friends by scooping their boxes daily, changing the litter as needed, and cleaning their boxes with Dawn and warm water weekly to bi-weekly as needed. Not only does a clean litter box smell nice and help your cat smell good, but it’s the easiest way to ensure that your kitty uses the box like he should.

Photo by ghost of anja

Keep an Eye Out for Problems
If your cat begins to display odd problems with using the litter box, make sure that he gets checked out by the vet. Aversion to using the litter box can indicate health problems such as UTIs and other bladder problems.

With these tips and tricks, you can ensure that yours (and your cat’s) lives are less smelly. Choose the right box and litter, clean it frequently, and keep an eye out for any problems, and your kitty is bound to be a litter box champ!


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