Choosing a Litter Box and Location

Number of Litter Boxes

When going to the bathroom, cats like to be in open wide spaces and away from other cats so they can enter, turn around, dig, scratch, and void. The general rule of thumb is having the same number of boxes as cats, plus one, but even more important is placement of the boxes.

Choosing Litter Box Type and Placement

In the home, the boxes should be placed in quiet areas that are easily accessible at all times. Boxes should be placed in different areas around the home where cats spend most of their time.

Like humans, cats do not want their toilets next to each other (or their toilets next to food and water, either). Also, there should be access to the litter box from two different sides, not just the front.

According to a study, cats prefer litter boxes that are 27 inches long. Most cats prefer uncovered boxes. Cats also need to be able to posture correctly when in the box, so the box shouldn’t be placed under a surface where the cat cannot squat as well. It is hard to find a commercial litter box that is long and wide enough, so below are some suggestions. Certain cats may need a taller-sided box if they fling litter or eliminate by backing up to the edge of the box. Older cats may also need a box with a lower-lipped entrance that is easier to step into.

Litter Box Options

Store-bought litter box suggestions

My preferred commercial cat litter box is the PetFusion Large Litter Box. A cement mixing box will also function well as a litter box, like this Do it Best Mixing Tub. Plastic under-the-bed storage bins also work well.

DIY options

Another great option is to cut a hole into a larger storage box with taller sides. Cut the opening into a narrower side; the lip of the opening should be about two inches from the floor of the box. I like these for all cats, but this box is also great for cats that urine spray and are “high risers,” raising their bottoms while urinating so the urine goes outside most other boxes.

Choosing Litter

Cats have very sensitive senses of smell, so use an unscented litter. Most cats prefer low dust, sand/clay clumping litter. Good choices are Everclean Extra Strength Multi-Cat Unscented, Pestell Easy Clean Unscented, and Fresh Step Simply Unscented (not the lighter weight litters).

However, if your cat is using the litter box just fine and has a different type of litter, stay with whichever type your cat uses reliably.

Cleaning and Tidying

Cleaning the litter box

Scoop both urine and stool from clumping litter at least once daily. Litter boxes should be completely changed every one to three weeks (depending on how many cats, how many boxes, and if cats produce large amounts of urine). Use Palmolive Original or other unscented dish detergent to clean the boxes each time contents are completely changed (I have a backup box so that there is always a box in each area when one is being cleaned). Rinse thoroughly.

Cleaning around the litter box

Use an enzymatic cleaner to fully clean surfaces where urine or feces have been deposited outside the litter box. These areas need prompt cleaning with a pet-specific cleaner to enzymatically break down the scents of urine. Even if we cannot still smell the urine, our cats do, and they may return to the same area to urinate or defecate again. I recommend Mister Max Unscented Anti-Icky Poo. This can be used on all surfaces and in laundry. Please follow directions on the bottle and also test on a small area of furniture and flooring.

Many cats have underlying medical conditions leading to soiling outside the litter box. These recommendations are meant for cats that have received medical care, and where either medical causes have been ruled out or in conjunction with your veterinarian’s medical recommendations.

Kindly provided for Cat Care Clinic by:
Ilona Rodan, DVM, Feline Specialist and Behavior Consultant, Cat Behavior Solutions, CCBC
Julia Pinckney, MSc.
Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare

Madison East Side

Cat Care Clinic - East

1006 E. Washington Ave.

Madison, WI 53703

Directions to East Clinic

Madison West Side

Cat Care Clinic - West

6722 Odana Road

Madison, WI 53719

Directions to West Clinic
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COVID-19 Care Updates • Modified April 29, 2022