IF YOU THINK CATS ARE EASY YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG – THE LITTER BOX
In no way am I suggesting that cats are difficult. My goal is to banish assumptions, old myths, and misconceptions while sharing information about how to help your kitty be happy and healthy.
One of the most common misconceptions about cats is that they are easier than dogs because they can pee and poop in a box. Unfortunately, litter box trauma is real.
LITTER BOX ASSUMPTIONS
· Litter Boxes should be hidden
· The size doesn’t matter
· Litter is all the same
· Scooping once a day is enough
It is certainly convenient that most cats can instinctively relieve themselves in a box. While this is simpler than house training a dog, providing the appropriate litterbox and litter, and situating them in the right places is very important.
As cat behavior consultant Daniel Quagliozzi (DQ) of Go, Cat, Go Cat Behavior Consulting says, “people put litterboxes in places that are convenient for them, not necessarily socially significant for the cat.”
What does this mean? Most people place boxes where they cannot be seen.
“As a consultant that troubleshoots litterbox avoidance problems in your home, I often see well-intentioned cat guardians making choices for their cats that are based solely on their own preferences and not so much in the best interest of their finicky friends. It seems some folks just don’t want to live with certain cat accommodations creeping into their personal space. Some guardians even find out the hard way that their decision to tuck litterboxes away in backrooms, garages, under stairs, in cabinets, or hidden in a designer – “camouflaged” litterbox set up, may ultimately backfire from the back end of their cat,” explained DQ.
In the wild, a cat will look for a place to relieve themselves that is private but also gives a good vantage point. They want to see what is coming. In a multiple-cat home, hiding the boxes can lead to a great deal of anxiety for a less than confident cat. This, in turn, can lead to litter box avoidance.
“Sometimes the litter box needs to be in a bedroom or living room, someplace the cat needs to feel ownership. Over time, you can slowly move it to a place you and the cat can both agree on.” offered DQ.
The size of a litter box matters, too. A cat should be able to turn around easily. Most experts recommend a box that is one and a half times the length of the cat.
It is equally important to provide enough boxes for the number of cats in the house. The rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one. They should be in different rooms. If the home is more than one story, boxes should be located on each level. In smaller spaces, this isn’t always possible.
A covered box is also one of those things that are made for humans. Sure, less litter makes its way out of the box, however, odors stay trapped inside. Do you like going in a porta-potty? Guess what - neither does your cat.
In the end, covered boxes are actually not very convenient for people, either. It means having to clean two pieces instead of one!
The next issue is litter. Scented litter is often used, but unfortunately, this is an assault on a cat’s nose. For cats with respiratory issues, such as asthma, scented litters are incredibly irritating and can cause difficulty breathing.
Unscented litter, preferably made from natural materials such as corn, walnut, grasses, soy, or wheat, is a healthier option for cats. Some great brands include World’s Best Cat Litter, SmartCat, sWheat Scoop, Sustainably Yours, Dofu Cat, Weruva, and Naturally Fresh. These natural clumping litters are an excellent, convenient option. In addition, many are flushable (approved for sewers and septic tanks). Please note: in certain states, like California, it is illegal to flush cat waste down the toilet.
It is best to avoid clay litter. Not only is clay not environmentally friendly, but it is also dusty, messy, and when eaten (think cleaning the paws), clay can build up in the digestive tract and cause a blockage.
Everyone likes a clean bowl. Keeping the litter box clean is really important. Boxes should be scooped a minimum of two times per day, more often if possible. The entire box should be emptied and thoroughly cleaned monthly. This prevents bacteria from building up. Simply empty and wash boxes with a mild soap, like castile soap. Be sure to rinse well and dry completely before refilling the box.