Kitty Litter and Alternatives by Dr. Cini

It is unfortunately all too common for owners to give up their cats because of inappropriate bathroom habits. Many of these cases are due to the cat developing an aversion to their litter box. This can easily be avoided by paying more attention to your cat’s litter box.

Keeping the litter box clean is the most important thing you can do to keep your cat happy with their box. A picky cat will often go to their litter, find it dirty and decide to pee somewhere else that is more to their liking. I prefer clumping litter that can be scooped daily, keeping it clean and free of odour. The entire box should be dumped after about 2 weeks.

Using an uncovered box is ideal. A cover keeps the smell away from our nose but intensifies the smell for the cat. This can easily cause a litter box aversion. Also, a lid can interfered with the cat’s ability to posture naturally when going to the bathroom. This is especially true of senior, arthritic kitties.

The litter box should be as large as possible so the cat can dig and bury their feces with lots of space. Plastic containers used for storage under a bed make great litter boxes. These large roomy boxes are appreciated by larger cats.

The magic number of boxes is the number of cats in the house plus one, so a two cat household should have three boxes. This allows the cat to have choice, if one of the boxes is occupied or dirty they can use the next box. Boxes should be placed in a quiet, private area of the house. Aversions can develop if a cat is startled by a loud noise when using the box e.g. a washing machine on spin cycle or a noisy furnace.

There are many types of litter available; the key is finding one your cat prefers. The most common type of litter is a gravel clumping litter. Unscented litter is always preferred, scented litters are more for human benefit. Cats may find flowery smells offensive. I really like the brand “The world’s best cat litter” which is a corn based litter. It clumps very well and has great odour control with minimal dust. Also available are wheat and walnut based litters. Your cat may prefer a crystal litter that absorbs urine with only the feces being scooped. I recommend clients try multiple litter types to see which the cat likes best. The key with testing something new is to leave the old litter in place and offer the new choice along side. Cats can easily be stressed by change.

Litter can play an important role in strengthening the human animal bond by allowing us to live happily with our cats under the same roof. If your cat has a litter box aversion it is always advisable to have them examined by a veterinarian to rule-out a medical cause, but often if caught early a few simple changes can make a huge difference in convincing your cat it’s litter is the best place to got to the bathroom!