One of the (very few!) downsides of owning a cat is dealing with a litter box. Besides scooping the box and refilling it with litter, cat owners have to find ways to eliminate odor, keep the floor clean, and make sure their cats actually use the litter box (rather than the floor or furniture). Read on for eight tips for keeping your cat's box tidy, fresh, and welcoming.
1. PUT THE BOX SOMEWHERE QUIET YET ACCESSIBLE.
Although it might be tempting to stash your cat’s litter box out of sight, placement is important for a cat’s sense of security. “Your cat’s box should be in a quiet place that is easy for your cat to access, and should not be close to his food and water bowls; cats instinctively do not like to eliminate where they eat,” cat behavior consultant Rita Reimers tells mental_floss. Even if you live in a tiny apartment, try to put the box far away from a loud heater or washer/dryer. And because privacy and convenience matter to your cat, you should have more than one litter box if you have more than one cat.
2. STICK WITH UNSCENTED LITTER.
You can buy a bunch of different types and textures of litter, from clay to silica gel to biodegradable and beyond. If your cat isn’t using his litter box, try gradually changing the type of cat litter until your cat finds one he likes. If you still have no luck, try sand.
According to cat behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett, cats have 67 million scent receptors, while humans have only 5 million, so sticking to unscented litters is considerate of your cat’s strong sense of smell. “It is best to avoid overly scented and perfumed cat litters that not only may be unappealing to your cat, but may actually make him sick when he cleans his paws after using the box,” says Reimers.
3. PUT BAKING SODA IN THE BOX.
Because your cat probably won’t love scented litter, you can try keeping the area around the litter box smelling fresh by sprinkling a little baking soda on the bottom of the box, under the litter. Experiment to find a good balance between using enough baking soda to cut down on bad odors, but not so much that you offend your cat’s sense of smell and discourage him from using the box.
4. WASH THE BOX TO ELIMINATE ODORS.
Feline behavior consultant Anita Kelsey tells mental_floss that to cut down on odor, you should scoop out your cat’s waste material from the litter box twice a day. Additionally, simple washing can help improve the smell. You should “thoroughly wash the tray once a week [to get it] ready for a complete batch of fresh litter. This should keep the litter tray and area smelling clean,” says Kelsey.
5. GET A NEW BOX EVERY YEAR…
No matter how well you maintain your cat’s litter box, it’s bound to get worn down from daily use. Your cat’s nails and the scooper can scrape the plastic, creating tiny grooves that are a breeding ground for bacteria. You should buy a new litter box every year, but try to get one that is similar in size and appearance to what your cat is accustomed to using.
6. …OR MAKE A SIMPLE DIY ONE.
If you’d rather not purchase a litter box every year, consider DIY-ing a box. Use a large plastic rectangular storage tray that is the right depth and has "the length and space for a cat to maneuver naturally,” says Kelsey. The box should be big enough for your cat to dig, cover her waste by scraping litter back, and circle. “Many commercial litter boxes are too small for the average domestic cat and especially for the larger breeds,” says Kelsey.
7. AVOID COVERED BOXES.
A litter box with a hood does a better job of keeping odors confined and stray pieces of litter off your floor, but your cat probably prefers an open, uncovered litter box. Because cats turn around and dig inside their boxes, a cover can restrict your cat’s movement, and cats need to feel that they can easily escape, lest potential predators box them in.
8. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
According to Johnson-Bennett, electronic litter boxes create more hassle than they’re worth. Some of these self-cleaning boxes have loud motors, clog easily, and don’t have enough space for your cat to move. Additionally, you won’t be able to monitor your cat’s waste for clues about his overall health. “When you clean the box, it’s an opportunity to check on your cat’s health. It’s during cleaning time that you may notice constipation, diarrhea, a larger-than-normal urine clump, or no urine clump at all,” writes Johnson-Bennett.