When the Education Department talks about litter and cats we generally mean a litter of kittens. But today we're going to discuss that oh so important other type of litter associated with cats.
On Monday HAWS was lucky enough to host Victoria Pappa from Cats International as a speaker about cat behavior and resolving common problems. One of the most important topics Victoria covered was litter box issues.
Victoria talked about the fact that cats are picky and their litter boxes should not be near their food -- which makes sense; who wants to eat near a toilet area? Boxes need to be cleaned out several times a day since cats are extremely clean animals and will sometimes be unwilling to use a box that hasn't been scooped in a while, instead relieving themselves in a less desirable area.
What struck me the most was the importance of the boxes themselves. While we humans like the idea of not being able to see the litter box and so many cat owners purchase covered litter boxes, this isn't optimal for many cats. While in a very vulnerable situation, cats like to be able to keep an eye out for potential danger and prefer to have a good sightline of their surroundings, making a covered litter box a no no. This also applies to the placement of the box. The location shouldn't be behind furniture or in place that makes the cat feel as though he doesn't have an escape route.
The size of the box is also important. Victoria recommends that the box be one a half times the length of the cat from chest to base of the tail. This allows the cat plenty of room for their entire body and prevents the back end from hanging off the side of the box. Attendees noted that it's hard to find large sized boxes, but Victoria showed the audience how she had made a litter box out of a translucent storage container. Not only was it large enough for the cat to fit inside comfortably, but the sides were high enough so that if the cat dug in the litter or kicked back when exiting the box the litter was contained, rather than scattering on the floor outside the box. Victoria had cut a section out so that on one side the edge was low enough for the cat to enter without having to jump.
One more very important thing was having a variety of boxes available to your cat. Cats International recommends that there be a box on every level of the house, and that there is at least one box plus one per cat in the household. This prevents multi-cat households from experiencing territorial behavior, and allows picky cats options should they prefer to urinate in one area, and defecate in another.
This summery of what Victoria presented on is by no means complete. If you're experiencing problems with your cat not using the litter box reliably some of what I've written will be helpful. But I strongly urge you to check out the articles on house soiling located on the Cats International website since there is more detailed information there. And if you're experiencing other behavior issues with your cat check out their articles on behavior problems.