Litter Box Tips by Gus Bennett
What Every Cat
to know about
Authors, Gus Bennett and Dorinne Whynott,
Owner of Professional Pet Sitting Etc.
Hi, I am Gus Bennett,
Anyway, I am here to help you understand all things cat!
Here is some general cat information
We are highly trainable…did you know that? Many people think that if a cat has bad traits they just have to live with it.….but that is simply not true. Here is an article about training cats by the ASPCA and Understanding & Training Your Cat (lots of other training tips here too).
My Mom has taught me where I can go and where I can’t. I am definitely not allowed on tables or counters. We learn differently from dogs for the most part, meaning we learn with lots of routine, consistency and praise. We have long memories, which is good for when we were wild. If something scared us or was life threatening, we remembered that for survival, however if we learn bad habits that memory takes a bit to re-train. So, be patient with us. If you yell or spank us, it will only make us afraid, anxious and avoid you. If we are constantly in fear or have anxiety/stress, bad habits form. Each cat is completely, unique and different as snowflakes and people. One cat may find a particular cat toy fun and enjoyable, while another cat may find the same toy boring and walk away. Can you imagine that there are some cats who do not even like Catnip?? They must be ill, that is the best stuff in the world!!
More interesting things:
- We already knows how to use a Litterbox
- Cats are very clean and prefer to find a place to bury their elimination.
- I did not need to be taught by my feline Mom, I just know what to do.
- Know what is normal for us
- If you see accidents outside the litterbox, something is wrong and we are trying to tell you something
From the time I was 4 weeks old, it was normal for me to seek an area that is easy for me to cover my, you know what (unless you are like my brother, Ricky, who hops in, goes and hops out. Ugggh, it smells and we get sick and tired of covering it for him!!)
Most cats prefer loose sandy material but you can set up 3-4 litterboxes with a different type of litter to find what works best for you AND your cat. Your cat will obviously use what they like best the most. If you are lucky, your cat won’t be so picky. It is important for most cats to have just the right stuff in the right location.
Good Litterbox choices and cleanliness will prevent most problems.
Here are a few steps to help.
Step One – Choosing a box
- Please make sure the litter box is large enough
Many litterboxes out in the market are just too small, especially if you buy them when we are kittens. Many cats get all four feet in the litterbox, but their butt is hanging out!! How embarrassing is that!!
Litterboxes should be twice as big as we are, minimum, in my Mom’s opinion. My Mom likes to use the Rubbermaid type storage containers, minimum 2 feet long by 18 inches wide by 12 inches high. My Mom and I prefer larger boxes. That way we can get in, move around for just the right spot.
- Why so high, do you ask….
Some cats (me, me, me) like to dig, dig, dig. This size gives us the best opportunity without getting litter all outside the container. Older cats may have a hard time squatting and these higher sides keep everything inside. Also, some cats like to shake litter off of their paws. It won’t stop all the litter flying around but does help a lot. Mom also has rugs right next to our litterboxes to catch most of the litter still on our paws (these rugs are what most people use at your front door to catch the dirt when people come in).
- As we age, you may need an adjustment
Even though high sides really do help keep everything inside the litterbox, as we age, these high sides may make it hard for us to get in. We may have a hard time jumping and climbing due to arthritis, you may need to make an adjustment so we can get in and out. A small step stool may help. Just make sure it is VERY sturdy, if I jump and it moves and scares me, I may not go back. Some people like to cut a “u” shape in the plastic on one side, giving easier access to get in and out. Just be careful, the cut plastic edges can be sharp. Cover the cut plastic with duct tape or something sturdy so no sharp edges are exposed. You may need to replace the tape covering as time goes on. Mom just uses a step stool because it is easy to clean and move around but still sturdy. She thinks cutting the plastic makes it weak.
- To cover or not to cover, that is the question
Most cats prefer litterboxes WITHOUT any covers. If you have a cat that uses a covered litterbox, consider yourself lucky. Covered litterboxes trap odors inside, making it very unpleasant for our sensitive noses. If you notice any accidents outside of a covered litterbox, uncover it. If that doesn’t help and you are still seeing accidents, your cat is trying to tell you something. Keep in mind, that covering the litterbox makes it pleasant for you so you do not have to see anything. However, covering the box makes it unpleasant for us and may make us go elsewhere. Remember, the litterbox and litter are for us. You want to make it so we WANT to go there.
Step Two – What about Litter
- How much litter should be in a box?
My Mom uses one 40# tub of litter in one litterbox. Did I mention, we, errrr……I really like to dig!! But I have two housemates that prefer just about an inch or two, so there are a few litterboxes in our house like that. You will need to find out what your cat prefers. Just keep in mind, using more litter in a box does NOT mean scoop less. Scoop a minimum of once a day for all litterboxes in your house. If you can scoop twice, even better. Like many cats, my sister, Desilu, will not use any box if there is one tiny anything in it. We call her the Clean Queen!!
- What kind of litter
My Mom uses a clumping sandy type of litter for multiple cats. It is a little dusty but try to find one that is not too dusty, it is really not good for humans or cats to breathe too much. Some litter companies have added baking soda to market it as better odor control – these are VERY dusty, scooping daily is better and more healthy for your cat. Most cats prefer soft fine litter but you can experiment with 3-4 litterboxes filled with 3-4 different litters. The most important part is what YOUR cat prefers, not you. The more they love their litter, the more they will use it and not go elsewhere.
- Scented or not scented
We have a keen sense of smell and would prefer to not have it smell like flowers or anything else. If you are worried about litterbox smelling your home, scented litter, room fresheners and strong cleaners will not help and usually drive us to go elsewhere. Keeping the litterbox clean is all we need and is your best bet to keeping us from forming bad litterbox habits.
Step Three – All things litterbox
- My litterbox should be so clean, you wouldn’t mind using it!!
A clean litterbox is cat heaven!! Cats are really very clean creatures. If my litterbox is dirty, you are asking for a problem. Dirty litterboxes are one of the main reasons cats go elsewhere. Scooping all feces and urine at least once a day is essential, twice would even be better. I know, I know, I said that before. It really is one of the most important factors. Change the entire box by dumping all litter once a month or once every other month. If there is a mild odor after you scoop, it is time to change it entirely.
My Mom has 10 litterboxes for 9 cats. She has found the fastest and easiest way to scoop a large box, is to tip it up on one side so all the litter goes to one side, then sift through little by little. It literally takes less than 15 minutes to do all TEN huge litterboxes around the house. Not everyone has that many litterboxes, so it should only take you a few minutes each day to keep 2-3 litterboxes clean. My Mom has found that if litterboxes are scooped 1-2 times per day, it is so much quicker. If you skip just one day, it really does take much longer because dirty litter really gets stuck and you end up doing a lot of needless scraping to get all the dirty litter.
To make life easy, get the right tool for the job. So many people think slotted spoons make good litter scoops – NOT. A good litter scoop is made of a very sturdy plastic or metal, has a flat bottom for scraping. The holes should be large enough for litter to go through but not urine balls, or feces. The scoop part should be 6-8 inches wide. A great litter scoop will make scooping large litterboxes a snap.
- What to scoop into
My Mom uses a small wastebasket that grocery bags fit into nicely. One bag per scooping expedition!! Recycle those bags!
- Where to put all the dirty litter
Once bagged up, my Mom throws in the trash for pickup. Working in the animal field for a long time, she has seen people flush cat waste down toilets, also litter that claims to be flushable and have seen both cause plumbing problems. So, no flushing ANY litter here.
- Washing litterboxes
Don’t make your cat go in a litterbox with dried on feces or urine all over the sides and bottom, would you like that on your toilet? Every time you dump the dirty litter, before replacing with clean litter, wash the box and dry completely so that the new litter does not absorb any water. You can use just very hot water and a scrub brush or use a mild detergent like Dawn and rinse completely. Do not use any harsh chemicals that can be harmful to your cat ( Lysol is very harmful and should never be used). My Mom washes our Litterboxes in the tub during the winter months and out in the yard to dry in the sun in the warmer months. She suggests placing a wire mesh drain catcher in the tub drain so nothing goes down the tub drain (never let litter down your drain, remember we talked about plumbing problems with flushing litter). Never use ammonia. Urine is ammonia based and it will just amplify the smell to a cat.
- Keep to a routine, If you go on vacation, make sure the caretaker scoops as often as you do
Whoever you have take care of your kitties while you are away, make sure that they scoop the litterboxes once daily or your kitty may choose to go elsewhere. This is how a habit starts. Always make sure of consistent reliable caretakers. The worst thing you could do, is go away for 2-3 days and leave enough food and water with no one checking and scooping litterboxes. I won’t even go into all the things that could happen to us curious cats. Many people will say, they leave their cats all the time and they are fine. My Mom says, “Yes, they are fine, until they are not!!” I agree.
Check out our blog article – Does my Cat Really Need a Cat Sitter?
- How many Litterboxes should there be?
The rule is one litterbox per cat in your house plus one. So, if you have 2 cats, you should have a minimum of 3 litterboxes. If you have more litterboxes, better. Even if you have one cat, have at least two litterboxes. Especially, if you have multiple floors. Many cats, like to use one box for urine, one for feces and the other for both. Each time they are cleaned, we may mix it up a bit!! Yes, we have to make it interesting, after all we are cats!!
Okay, I have to tell you my litterbox dance…..it is so much fun. While my Mom is getting our food ready, we all take turns going to the litterbox and go because we all eat in our crates (more about this in a future blog). In our cat room (yes, we have our own room, aren’t we the luckiest), we have two huge litterboxes in the closet, doors always open. The litterboxes are big enough for at least two cats each at a time. Well, while someone is in each litterbox, I like to jump from one to the other, back and forth, back and forth. My Mom thinks I am a nut, but it is fun and no one else seems to mind. Then when the others are done, I hunker down in one then “Boing”, I spring straight up and jump into the other. Then after a few times of this, I do finally go. But I have so much fun in the mean time!! My Mom wants to get this on video!!
- If I am a cat that goes out do I still need a litterbox
Of course, we are talking about cats that only go out in a safe enclosure or on a harness and leash with supervision for safety.
The answer to that question is – Yes. My Mom has trained all of us to be fence trained and we go out in our HUGE yard to run and play. None of us fo out much in the cold winter. Even though I go out and stay out for a long time, I prefer to come in and use my litterbox. Sometimes, I cry at the door to come in and as soon as she opens it, I run right to the litterbox!! Litterboxes are especially needed at night when everyone is inside.
- Can I catch Toxoplasmosis from cleaning a litterbox
If your cat is an inside cat, chances are unlikely. Toxoplasmosis is an organism that is transmitted through infected raw meat. It can live in adult humans and cats all their lives without any symptoms. However, the problem occurs when that adult human becomes pregnant. These organisms can be harmful to fetuses. My Mom worked for years in animal welfare, shelters, rescuing cats and dogs and tested negative. So, it is not very prevalent but if you ever plan to have children, keep these things in mind:
Your inside cat must eat infected raw meat, so if you have never fed them infected raw meat and they have never been outside eating infected mice, etc. chances are very slim to none, you will get it from your cat.
You and your cat can be tested.
Wear gloves when cleaning the litterbox or have someone else do it for you (Professional Pet Sitting Etc. offers this service).
If you garden, wear gloves, these organisms can be in your soil from animals defecating there in the past (chances are you will never know).
Cooking dinner, especially pork, wear gloves whenever handling raw meat.
Back to litterboxes –
Electric or Self Cleaning Litterboxes
These are litterboxes that have an electric eye and when it detects motion and then it detects no motion, it is programmed to rake the litter and put any deposits in a container. Another one, Cat Genie, can be hooked up to your plumbing and actually flush cat waste (this uses a special washable litter, that hopefully your cat will like). My Mom has clients who absolutely love these contraptions. However, if a speck of litter or dirt gets on the electronic eye, these motors can run and run until they burn themselves out. Also, if they malfunction and start to work while the cat is still in them, not only can it possibly hurt the cat but it could scare the cat into never using it again. THat would scare the heck out of me!!
If they are plugged in for electricity or are battery powered, you must make sure they are working in a power outage or battery failure. Another problem, is the tiny rake like part that combs through the litter sometimes breaks up the urine ball, caking and sticking to the tines, eventually making it one solid bar, raking all the litter in the container. Those tines are very hard to clean. One thing I don’t like is only an inch or so of litter can be put in the box!! If the litter is any higher, the electronic eye thinks it has to clean and clean and clean….. That means I can’t get in there and dig, dig, dig. That’s not fun…..
Step Four – Location, Location, Location
- Litterboxes should not be all together in one place
Make sure that litterboxes are in different locations. Most cats like privacy, so if another cat is staring them down or if one cat has decided that his area includes all litterboxes, the second cat will go find a better place to go that you may not like.
Place litterboxes in convenient places. At least one litterbox on each floor of your home. If I have to go and I am upstairs sleeping and the only litterbox is way down in the scary basement……if I am old or very young, I really may not make it. Also, if I have to go through an obstacle course, sneak through a small opening, wiggle behind a tower of boxes, I may go elsewhere, more convenient.
Cats do like privacy when going to the bathroom just like my human Mom (but we do like to visit her)!! If there is a lot of hustle and bustle, kids running, dogs checking us out, I am probably going to find a more quiet place to go.
Also, keep dogs and children from coming at me while I am in the litterbox, baby gates may be needed. If I keep getting interrupted, I may just stop going there all together. As a side note – I think it is hilarious that dogs like to eat our poop!!! Dogs really are the weirdest, however, this habit could result in a trip to the vet, not only can litter cause plumbing problems in a house, if you know what I mean….
- Don’t put litterboxes where I might get scared
If I am in my litterbox and a really loud noise scares me, I may never use that box again. Cats have long memories when it comes to things like that. It is one of our survival instincts to keep us safe. Find a place away from washers, dryers, water heaters, furnaces, or anything that may suddenly go on and startle us.
Also, if litterboxes are near lots of boxes in a storage area, if one of those boxes ever falls down and scares me, or worse, if I am in my litterbox and one falls down and scares me, I will remember that area is dangerous and I may avoid it.
- It is important that I can see who is coming when I am in the litterbox
If I am in the litterbox and all of a sudden get pounced on by the other cat in the house, that can be quite unnerving. It is good to have litterboxes against a wall so I can have my back covered but can see all around me in case of pesky cats, or nosey dogs or curious kids, who think it is funny to sneak up on me. If I have to go inside a small opening to go to the bathroom and there is a bully cat who is at the front preventing me from getting out, I may never use that litterbox again in fear of being held hostage again. The same goes for pesky dogs or children that bother me while I am in my litterbox. We like our quiet solitude and must feel safe when we go, don’t you?
- Quick Escape can be important
As stated above, a litterbox located in an area where I can see what is coming and go in the opposite direction for a quick escape is essential. Having more than one way out makes cats feel in control rather than trapped.
- Never place litterboxes near food or water
Ugggh, Who wants to eat and drink in the bathroom. If you must keep them close, keep litterboxes at least 6 feet away from food and water, different rooms are best.
Hopefully, this gives you great insight into making the right choices for you and your cat. When it comes to our litterboxes, we really like to be clean, quiet and safe. We really do want to do the right thing. If we are not going in our litterbox, something is wrong and we are trying to tell you something is wrong. We will try very hard to tell you what is wrong but sometimes we fall short on human speak. It is a very hard language, you know. Once you figure out why we are doing something wrong and you fix it, we should be back on the right track, but that is a whole different story….here is a link to my blog article, Litter box Problems and Solutions by Gus Bennett.
Bye for now, hugs,
About the Owner/Author
Dorinne Whynott, is a long time animal professional. She is a successful business owner establishing one of the largest pet sitting companies in New Hampshire since 1990. Click to Read her complete History.
Professional Pet Sitting Etc. is a leading business in the pet care field and continues to grow since 1990. It boasts 30+ amazing pet sitters on staff, over 3000 clients in 38 cities from Nashua to Concord, NH. Hundreds of satisfied client testimonials can be found on their website and more 5 star reviews on their Facebook page, Google+ page and more. They have sustained an A+ rating with the BBB and are unmatched in the Pet Sitting Industry in New Hampshire.
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