Create the Ideal Litter Box Environment
If you could ask your cat what he thinks about his litter box, what would he tell you? One of the best ways to reduce your cat's stress level is to provide her with an ideal litter box environment that mimics the outdoors such as multiple sites to choose from, ideal litter scent and texture, and a safe location.
The number one reason cats are relinquished to shelters is for behavioral problems, specifically urinating or defecating outside of the litter box. Many owners try to dismiss the problem by explaining that the cat is misbehaving or is "trying to punish them." However, most behavioral elimination problems are caused by anxiety. You may not even realize that your cat is anxious.
Cats have evolved over time to conceal weakness or stress so they can avoid becoming someone's lunch! One of the best ways to reduce your cat's stress level is to provide her with an ideal litter box environment that mimics the outdoors such as multiple sites to choose from, ideal litter scent and texture, and a safe location.
How many litter boxes should I have?
A cat enjoys sharing its litter box with other cats about as much as we enjoy using public restrooms! Ask any feline behaviorist and they will tell you, you need "one litter box per cat plus one." This mantra means that if you have one cat, you need two litter boxes. If you have three cats, you need four litter boxes. Do they have to be in different rooms? Not necessarily... you can put several boxes in different corners of the same bathroom or laundry room. The goal is to provide the cat with multiple sites from which to choose. This mimics the outdoors for the animal because an outdoor cat is likely to eliminate in multiple sites around the perimeter of its territory.
What type of litter should I use?
Every cat has his or her own personal preference, but most cats prefer unscented, silky/soft, fine-grained sandy litter. This means that most cats don't want to walk barefoot on pebbles, pellets or crystals. If your litter doesn't feel luxurious enough for YOU to walk on barefoot, don't make your cat do it.
Can I use a covered box?
Don't even think about covering the box! Cats prefer to eliminate in locations with more than one escape route, meaning they feel vulnerable and trapped in a tiny box with one door. More importantly, cats prefer fresh air to the stagnant, ammonia-filled air under that hood. Imagine if you had to use an outhouse every day. That is what a covered box smells like to a cat.
How often do I have to scoop the litter boxes?
Your cat's sense of smell is much stronger than yours. Forcing a cat to use a box that is scooped weekly is like using a toilet over and over that is only flushed once per week! Each litter box should be scooped daily and the litter should be swapped out completely every few weeks. It is also important to discard all litter boxes every six months and start over with fresh ones. Ammonia accumulates over time in the tiny scratches in the box, making it unpleasant to your cat.
If your cat urinates or defecates outside of the box, consult your veterinarian immediately to rule out medical causes including urinary tract infections, arthritis or constipation. If the problem is behavioral, discuss your litter box environment with your veterinarian. It is much easier to prevent behavioral problems than to fix them once they have arisen.
Keep your cat stress-free and prevent future "accidents" now by providing the ideal litter environment today!