Yesterday was my day to thoroughly clean my cats’ litter boxes. Though I love my two kitties dearly, cleaning their litter boxes is one of my least favorite chores to do. I’m convinced it’s why most people refuse to own cats. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve heard say, “I would just love to have a cat, but I don’t do litter boxes.” Since there’s nothing more disgusting in my opinion than a stinky soiled litter box, I clean the litter boxes in this house faithfully, even when I really, really don’t feel like it. I do it for my cats and also because I sure don’t want company coming into my home and smelling a dirty litter box. Have your ever walked into someone’s house and the first thing you notice is the smell of a dirty litter box? I have and it’s a big turn off. My cat Nugget has Feline Interstitial Cystitis and so keeping a clean litter box is of paramount importance.
So just how often should litter boxes be cleaned? And how many litter boxes should one have for their feline friend?
The feline experts I’ve heard lecture at conferences over the years seem to be in agreement over these litter box recommendations:
- Cats prefer large litter boxes. The larger the better! Unfortunately, most commercial litter boxes are too small.
- Avoid highly scented litter or deodorizers. Fine, unscented clumping litter seems to be preferred by most cats.
- Don’t use strong disinfectants or scented cleansers like Pine Sol or Clorox bleach.
- The general rule is to have one litter box per cat plus an extra, i.e., if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes, two cats, three litter boxes, etc.
- Multiple litter boxes should be spread out in different rooms. Some people make the mistake of lining multiple boxes up along a basement wall. To the cat, that’s one giant litter box or one big latrine!
- Scoop litter boxes daily.
- All litter boxes should be thoroughly emptied and washed out with mild soap and water once weekly.
- Keep litter boxes in a safe, quiet place and make it easy to access. If litter boxes aren’t easily accessible, cats won’t use them!
- Sometimes the plastic in litter boxes absorbs odors that don’t seem to come out. Replace them when that happens. Periodically, I wash mine out in the hose outside, let the soapy suds sit awhile, then I rinse them well and let them dry in the sun for a while. That seems to help.
I am constantly amazed at how entire seminars can be devoted to feline elimination habits. And yes, there are entire textbooks devoted to this issue. I loved the story one of the lecturers told about a client she had who had 10 cats, all indoors. The client was complaining that some of the cats weren’t using the litter boxes. The veterinarian asked her how many litter boxes she had. The client replied very proudly that she had plenty of boxes and that wasn’t the problem. Turns out she had only 6 boxes for her 10 cats (not enough) and she also proudly stated that they were lined up in a single row against her basement wall. She was told she needed at least 11 boxes and they needed to be spread out in multiple rooms. Yes, that’s a lot of daily scooping and a lot of work to thoroughly empty and clean that many boxes weekly.
Since I have two cats, I need at least three boxes. I actually have four– two on the main floor of the house, one in the basement, and one in the screened in porch. They prefer the box in the screened in porch except in really cold or really hot weather when they’re not spending much time out there. They don’t go in the basement much, so that box rarely gets used. But it’s there if they need it!
Most feline books will tell you that the average cats poops on average one time daily. I wish. Just like in humans, all are different and how much they poop is going to depend on how much they eat and what they eat. My cats obviously didn’t read the book because they each poop on average 2-3 times a day (and always have). Part of that may be due to the fact that I give them pumpkin frequently as it’s high in fiber and helps with hairballs. High fiber diet = more pooping. I scoop my boxes one and sometimes two times daily.
My cats have hooded litter boxes which many of the feline experts dis but I think it gives them a little more privacy. I only wish they were bigger.
Actually, of my four boxes, two are hooded (just like the one shown above with the flapping door) and two are just litter pans. They use both equally. If truth be told, I have big cats (about 12 pounders) and probably need larger litter boxes which means I would need to make homemade boxes and I just haven’t gotten around to doing that. You can make nice larger boxes by just getting a plastic storage box and cutting one of the narrow sides down to make it easier for them to enter and exit. If you want some ideas, google homemade litter boxes in google images and you’ll see some nice ones made from Rubbermaid storage boxes. I think I remember hearing the litter boxes should be 1 1/2 times the length of the cat. They need to be big enough that the cat can climb in comfortably, be able to turn around easily inside the box and scratch in the litter.
So yesterday, I cleaned the three main boxes and barely had them set back down on the litter mats when Nugget climbed in one and urinated. Oh, how he just can’t wait to inoculate that clean box! Then he got out of that box, and walked in another room where the other box is and climbed into that box and pooped. I thanked him. THEN, he asked to go out on the porch so he could hit that box up too. So I let him outside and he had saved some urine to mark that box too. He loves to do that and does it just about every single time I clean the boxes. God love his little heart.