Feline Healthcare · Life with Cats

Litter Box Blues

Your eyes are not deceiving you.  That is a real-life, honest to God picture of cat litter on the header of my page.  If you’re going to write about cats, litter box talk is a must.  Strange as it may seem, cats are very particular about their bathrooms.  Litter box size, placement, and number of boxes are all important.  Not to mention the type of litter you use.  Scented or unscented?  Clay or clumping?  And then there are natural products made of corn, walnut shells, and recycled newspaper.  Finding the right combination ensures that everyone, including you, is happy.

For years I used traditional plastic litter pans/trays.  But when Smudge developed arthritis in his hips and neck, squatting in the pan became more difficult.  So he often stood up to urinate, leaving little puddles beside the box.  We bought a couple Rubbermaid storage totes and cut entry holes in them.  Smudge’s spray now ends up on the wall of the box, which is much easier to clean.

Urinating and defacating outside the litter box is never normal.  So if your furry friend is leaving little treasures around the house, a trip to your veterinarian is in order.  Medical problems like infection, urinary stones, or blockage should be ruled out first.  However, behavioral issues like stress caused by changes in environment, lifestyle, and housemates may also be contributing factors.

Is the litter box and surrounding area clean and accessible?  Do you regularly scrub the pan with hot soapy water to eliminate germs and odors?  Do you scoop or change the litter often?  Is the pan placed in a pet-friendly location?  If your four cats have to traverse a flight of stairs and mountains of junk in your basement to use one tiny unslightly litter box, they have good cause to make a deposit elsewhere.

Let me guess, you tried to save a few bucks by buying the cheap litter.  Or maybe you really like the lavender/honeysuckle/baby powder scented pricey brand, but your cat doesn’t.  Remember that cats can be particular about their substrate.  So if it feels or smells different, they may avoid the litter box.

When it comes to their bathrooms, cats have needs and preferences, just like you.  And every cat is different, so don’t get discouraged if it takes some trial and error to figure out what works for everyone.  BTW, my troop and I prefer Arm & Hammer brand.  No bells, no whistles, no hype, no fields of lavender — just plain old boring unscented scoopable cat litter.


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