Helping veterinary clients understand and treat cats with elimination disorders - DVM
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Helping veterinary clients understand and treat cats with elimination disorders


5 Make litter boxes appealing. Here are some tips:

  • Get multiple litter boxes—generally you should have one more than there are cats in the house. If you have more than five cats, see how many boxes the cats are willing to use and adjust your household to accommodate this number. Given the chance, the cats will tell you what they need.
  • Place the litter boxes in a variety of locations. You should be guided in this by the choices your cat has already made. The places your cat chooses contain information about what it needs. Meet these needs. If the box is in a particularly awkward spot from your viewpoint, you can gradually move it (1 cm/day) to a more preferable location once your cat has routinely used it for weeks. If you need to move the box for a party, both the cat and the box can be temporarily placed in a room in the house in which the cat is comfortable.
  • Choose litter boxes of a style your cat likes. While you may like covered and small litter boxes because they keep down dust and odor, this is not what cats like. Cats prefer larger boxes—research shows that cats prefer a box that is 1.5 times the length of the cat. Additionally, only very shy cats may prefer closed boxes—most cats don't like them because they enclose smells. Also consider the depth of the box. Cats that are small or arthritic need easy access, so large, shallow boxes may be the best overall choice. Few, if any, commercial litter boxes meet these needs, so consider using unlidded sweater boxes as litter boxes.
  • Throw out the box and get a new one as soon as there are scratches in the bottom of the box. These scratches are hiding holes for odor. Cats have reputations for being fastidious. They don't want to use a smelly litter box any more than you would want to use a smelly toilet.
  • Wash the litter boxes at least weekly in very hot water. If you wish, you can use a mild detergent if you rinse well. If you choose to use a disinfectant such as bleach you must rinse and rinse and rinse. Cats dislike strong chemical smells, and given their sense of smell, even a small odor will smell strong.
  • Choose a litter that your cat likes. How do you know what it will like? Mimic the texture of the objects chosen. If the cat is choosing soft fabrics, use a litter that feels soft (e.g., potting soil; No. 3 blasting sand; soft, clumpable litters; litters made from puffed up, recycled paper or wood; plant-based litters). Some cats will use the commercially available chucks, or soft paper fabric pads that are lined in plastic. These have the advantage over litters of not having any components that can adhere to a cat's fur, which may be very important for long-haired cats. However, if your cat is choosing smooth, cool, well-drained substrates that reflect light, either put a small amount of litter in the box, use a cookie sheet or gardening tray as a box or line the box with ceramic tiles and use no litter. If the cat restricts elimination to a shower or sink, you may just decide to clean these multiple times a day rather than have the cat sample and learn about areas that are not so easy to clean. In the wild, cats prefer open, well-drained, reflective surfaces such as clear sand, and they may not cover their urine or feces. Not covering elimination products is often a normal behavior. You should only be concerned if there has been a dramatic change.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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