We continue our series of recommendations for new cat owners. See the entire new cat shopping list here.
Cats can be just as finicky about their litter boxes as they can be about their food. The most important thing is that they choose to use it. Pick a box that's open on all sides, and is easy for your cat to get in and out of. Covered litter boxes appeal top humans but not so much to cats. Most cats prefer a simple box with more than one way out. The larger, the better.
If your new friend is a kitten, you may need to use a small cardboard box until they get bigger. The boxes that cases of canned food come in will do and you can just recycle them and replace them when they get soiled.
When your cat's big enough, you'll want a large, plastic box for ease of cleaning. Don't fall for the automated robot versions. The general rule is to add one to the number of cats you have in order to determine the number of litter boxes you need. Two cats? Three boxes. Three cats? Four boxes, etc. You'll also want to make sure that the litter boxes are far away from your cat's feeding area. Privacy isn't a big deal for cats. Not soiling where you eat, is.
Our current favorite litter box is from Arm and Hammer. It's available in several sizes but our cats prefer the jumbo version. It's easy to clean and easy to climb in and out of. Win-win.
If you have a senior kitty or any cat with mobility issues, you need to get creative. Since humans don't like having little scattered around, very few manufacturers make litter boxes with low sides, but that's exactly what your cat may need in order to gain access easily. You can use any low-sided Rubbermaid-style box. You can even cut down the opening of an existing litter pan if you like.
The best readily available products we've found so far have been dog training trays like the one below. The screen and post can be removed leaving a very nice, inexpensive tray with easy access.
A litter box with a low opening will produce more mess if your cat's a litter kicker, but we feel that it's worth it to help our seniors have less stress associated with their litter box habits. Less stress equals fewer litter box avoidance issues and that's a good thing for everyone.
The bottom line is to buy what your cat likes and will actually use. Cats are naturally attracted to sandy materials, so a grainy litter often works best. Avoid artificial products and those that are scented. Use 3"-4" of litter depending on the material used. If you use non-absorbent litter, shallower is better as you'll need to replace it more frequently.
We recommend corn-based cat litter that clumps but doesn't contain silica and other dangerous clumping agents that can wreak havoc with kitty's digestive tract. Your cats will ingest a certain amount of the litter that clings to their paws, so it's important that it be safe for them to pass. Corn litters are even safe for septic systems, unlike the silica-based clumpers. One favorite is called the World's Best Cat Litter, and many would say it lives up to its name.
If your cats are used to the silica litters. you may find them resistant to change. Try switching to a regular clay litter. At least it won't be gunking up their insides!
Whichever litter you choose, you'll want to clear the box of waste at least twice a day, and do a thorough cleaning, replacing all the litter at least once a month. Depending on the litter product you choose, you may need to clean more frequently. Avoid the litter box liners that are supposed to help with these chores. In our experience, the plastic liners usually get shredded by cats long before they're useful.
Oh, and don't forget a scoop. Any will do, but you'll probably be better off with a larger scoop that has holes just big enough for the granules of your litter of choice to slip through.
Does your cat have a preferred litter or litter box? Please leave a comment and tell us about it!