Cat Litter Box Problems: Answers To Common Questions

Cat litter box questions

Cat litter box odor can be hard to put up with and extremely embarrassing if you have company. Cats are known to be fussy about their restroom routines and so it is important to keep the litter box in top condition unless you are okay to put up with a mess at home.

Below are answers to some of the common cat litter box questions:

How big does a litter box need to be?


The larger the better but as a rule of thumb it should be 1.5 times longer than your cat and the width should be equal to the length of the cat.

Ensure that the sides of the litter box are low to allow your cat to step over conveniently. If it is too high your cat may choose to do its business somewhere else in the house.

How deep should a litter box be?

The recommended depth is two to three inches of litter but if your cat is prone to dig, you can use three to four inches. You can experiment with two inches and depending on your cat, you can increase the depth.

Do cats prefer covered or uncovered litter boxes?


Pet owners may prefer a covered litter box as its often more effective in keeping the odor locked in. A covered box may provide more privacy and prevent litter from flying out of the box when your cat does its business. However, some cats may feel safer using open boxes.

As a closed box is covered and traps odour and dirt out of sight, there is a chance you may forget to clean it and a dirty litter box is a very good excuse for your cat to look for another place to do his business. Covered boxes may also restrict movement for larger cats.

How do you keep the litter box clean?


Use a scoop with closely set holes to scoop out feces from the litter box daily and remember to replace the litter removed during the cleaning. You can also add a bit of baking soda before adding the fresh litter.

Ideally, it is best to change the litter twice a week but if you use a clumping litter and follow a daily cleaning schedule, you might only need to change the litter every two to three weeks

In case there is an odor or if a large part of the litter is wet or clumped, it might indicate a need to change the litter.

Make sure to scrub the box with a mild detergent every time you change the litter; avoid ammonia-based cleaners as these can worsen the smell.

Where is the best place to put a litter box in an apartment?


Put the litter box in an area that affords a certain level of privacy to your pet. So it should be kept out of the way but in a place that is easily accessible to both your cat and yourself. Your pet should be able to access the litter box when it needs to go and you should be able to have easy access for cleaning it.

A bathroom is a great place as long as the cat has access to it. You can place it next to the toilet or under the sink. If you pick the closet or bathroom, ensure that the door is wedged open from both sides so that your cat’s access is not impeded.

If access to the bathroom is likely to be limited then consider a private area in one of the bedrooms, though this is not an ideal arrangement. However, with good litter box hygiene, you will be able to pull it off. You can also consider the closet or the basement, depending on what is available.

Places to avoid:

  • Don’t put the litter box in the kitchen or near areas where you feed the cat.
  • Don’t place litter boxes next to noisy or heat-emitting appliances, like the furnace or the washing machine as it can be unnerving to the cat.

Check out this video by Jackson Galaxy of “My Cat from Hell” fame on how to properly set-up a litter box.

Can two cats share the same litter box?


Maintain one litter box for each cat in addition to one extra box; so a home with two cats should have three litter boxes to reduce stress and aggression.

If its possible keep two litter boxes per cat as some prefer to urinate and defecate in separate boxes. However, don’t put the litter boxes next to each other as the cats may view the two litter boxes as one.

Sometimes, your cats may even choose to share a litter box and that’s fine as long as they are all happy.

Is it safe to clean the cat’s litter box with bleach?


Using bleach can be dangerous. Cat’s urine contains ammonia, mixing it with bleach can produce toxic chlorine, and chloramine vapors are produced. Use mild dishwashing detergent and warm water and leave it for 30 to 45 minutes. Then rinse it thoroughly and if the smell persists, scrub it with baking soda and water.

What can I put in cat litter to make it smell better?

Add baking soda or activated charcoal around the litter box or directly to the litter to reduce box odor. Baking soda is non-toxic and helps to absorb cat urine odors.

You will still need to scoop away waste from the litter daily and on a weekly basis, change the litter and wash the box. The litter box should be scooped a minimum of one to two times a day and its advisable to do this as soon as the cat has completed its business.

The litter box should be placed in a well-ventilated area and not in a small, dark and dingy space as it will allow the odour to disperse easily.

Once a week, make sure to change the litter completely and wipe the box with soap and water to keep everything fresh.

What is the best cat litter that controls odor?


Choosing the right litter for your cat can be a challenge given the fact that there are many types of litter out there including clumping, non-clumping, scented, unscented, silica gel crystals, recycled paper, corn, pine, wheat, grass and the list goes on.

With the multiple options available its important to choose one that is right for your cat as well as reasonably priced and appropriate for your lifestyle.

While cats tend to vary when it comes to litter preference, studies indicate certain aspects that are universal.

Soft litter

Studies indicate that most cats prefer soft litters and these are also easy for pet owners to clean. So go for fine particle litters in place of pellets or silica gel crystals.

Unscented litter

Cats have a preference for unscented litter. As scented litter can sometimes disturb your cat’s sinuses and respiratory tract, it can deter a cat from using the litter box.

Clumping litter

Most cats prefer clumping litter as its more convenient for them to push aside. This can also work out well for the pet owner as clumping litter traps more odor and requires to be changed less often.

Once you figure out your cat’s preference, then make sure to stick with it.

Changing litter often could deter your cat from using the litter box.

In case your cat rejects all types of commercial litters, sand may be the last resort.

How to keep my cat from using my plants as a litter box?


Use fine particle litter (sand-like stuff) in the litter box and keep it clean. If your cat is using the plant as a litter box, try these tips:

  • Put a layer of stone over the surface of the soil or cover it with fabric, cardboard, foil
  • Use citrus oil on the rim of the pot
  • Mix some soil with your cat’s regular litter to make the litter box attractive
  • Move the pots to an area where it is difficult for the cats to reach.

How often to replace my cat’s litter box?


Its recommended to get a new litter box and scoop once a year. Your cat’s claws and the scooper can scratch the bottom and sides of the litter box and these can retain bacteria and cause odor.

Introduce your cat to the new litter box; make sure to keep it next to the old one for some time.

Make the new litter box more attractive by cleaning it more frequently and changing the litter. Once the cat starts using the new litter box, you can get rid of the old one.

Is a self-cleaning litter box worth it?


As a pet owner, you may find a self-cleaning litter box convenient but your cat may not take to it immediately. Cats are often wary of new and unknown items and the automated movement of the self-cleaning litter box can be alarming to cats.

If your cat is used to a conventional litter box, then it might be safer to continue with something that is tried and tested. However, if you are keen to try it out, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep the new litter box next to the old one and leave the auto-clean feature switched off initially. You can turn it on when your cat is accustomed to the box and has been using it for a couple of weeks.
  • Set a longer timeframe initially for the auto-cleaning feature to kick in and reduce it gradually as your cat gets familiar with the device.
  • Don’t change the litter type and the box at the same time. Many self-cleaning litter boxes require a specific type of litter. Initially mix the new litter with your existing brand of litter in the old litter box. Gradually switch to the new litter entirely and then introduce the new self-cleaning litter box.

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