2851 W. IRVING PARK RD  CHICAGO, ILLINOIS  60618     PHONE  (773) 539-9080   FAX  (773) 478-0605

Litter Box Recommendations




The Litter Box
Litter Box Location
Types of Kitty Litter
Cleaning the Litter Box

One of the big advantages of owning a cat is that almost all cats come litter box trained. By nature, they will urinate and defecate in a soil-like substance if it is provided.

The Litter Box
back to the top

The number one behavioral problem of cats is urinating out of the litter box (inappropriate urination). There are several things that cause this frustrating problem, some of them related to the litter box. The following comments are included to prevent problems later because cats are often particular about their litter boxes, the litter, and the location.

Multiple litter boxes can significantly improve or completely resolve inappropriate urination. Behavioral experts recommend one box per cat plus one. This gives cats more options, especially if they prefer a clean litter box or like to urinate in one box and defecate in another.

Choose a litter box that is large enough for your cat to fit in comfortably. Your cat needs to be able to turn around freely. An 18 X 14 inch box with 4-inch sides is appropriate for most adult cats. Kittens may need a box with shorter sides so they can get in and out easily. If your cat is large or overweight, you may want to consider a large plastic tote instead of a standard or "jumbo" litter box.

We do not recommend a box with a top (hood) for most cats. Although hooded litter boxes are more private and better contain the litter, they also trap odors inside. Because cats are so fastidious, these odors often cause them to seek other places to urinate. Many cats exhibiting inappropriate urination will return to their litter boxes when the lid is removed.

We also do not recommend plastic liners. Many cats find the texture and noise that these create unpleasant. "Self-scooping" boxes (those that scoop the litter after the cat exits the box), are intimidating to some cats. Others like these boxes, readily use them, and may even be fascinated by them!

Litter Box Location
back to the top

The location of the litter box is important. It should be on an easily cleaned surface, as some cats don't always aim well. Litter is also scratched out or tracked out of the litter box frequently. It is very important that the litter box be placed in a quiet, non-threatening location. Many cats need their privacy and will avoid a litter box that is in a high traffic area or a location accessible to dogs. We've had many owners tell us that their cat likes to eliminate "where they do," in this case, a litter box in the bathroom is ideal.

If your home is on multiple levels, it is recommended that litter boxes be available on all levels.

Types of Kitty Litter
back to the top

There are several types of litter: clay, clumpable, crystal, and organic are the main types. We recommend unscented litter no matter what type is used, cats tend not to like the scent in scented litter. In preference tests, cats often prefer clumping or scoopable litter.

Clumping litter is also called scoopable litter. It absorbs urine and swells to about 15 times its original volume. Therefore you can remove both urine and stool. The box should be scooped (urine & stool) 1 to 2 times daily, and even more often if multiple cats. Because both the urine and stool are able to be removed, this type of litter doesn't need to be changed as often as clay litter. We recommend completely changing the litter every 1 to 2 weeks. "Top off" with fresh litter in the interim as soiled litter is removed. Overall clumping litter tends to control urine and stool odors better than clay litter.

Clay litter absorbs 75-100% of its weight in moisture. This is good but not adequate to keep urine from being absorbed throughout a widespread area of litter. Solid matter and wet litter should be removed 1-2 times per day, but the entire litter box should be changed every 2 to 3 days. As with clumping litter, "top off" with fresh litter in the interim as soiled litter is removed. Clay litter is also quite dusty. Cats with allergies can have increased problems when breathing the litter dust.

Crystal litter is fairly new. The crystals absorb urine, sometimes for a week without needing to be changed, depending on the number of cats using the litter and the volume of urine they produce. The stool must still be removed daily. Some cats may not like the texture of this litter.

Organic litters are made of pine, alfalfa, newspaper, peanut hulls, corn cobs, or recycled, biodegradable materials. They appeal to some cats, but they are also not received well by others. These types of litter require the same type of maintenance as clay litter.

Cleaning the Litter Box
back to the top
Use a mild detergent and hot water to clean the boxes, avoiding bleach, ammonia, and citrus scented cleaners. If you are using a litter box or boxes with a hood, and especially if you have a cat who "sprays" the inside of the hood when urinating, it is very important that you clean the inside of the hood daily with mild detergent. This applies as well to the grooves into which the hood fits onto the base of the litter box. Alternatively, as mentioned above, a large plastic tote with high sides can be used in those homes with cats who like to "spray" in the box - cleaning the sides of the box is easier and usually more effective with the plastic tote versus the hooded box.



« Return to Library

Cat Friendly Practice         AAHA Accredited