Urinating and defecating outside of the
litter box, also known as “inappropriate elimination,” is one of the
most common reasons for a cat to be relinquished to a shelter or, in
some cases, abused.
in most cases it is the fault of the human in charge of the
litter box duties making this an 'appropriate
elimination' issue because who would want to
walk in their own urine and feces?
usually involves a dirty box or one that is
too small and it is perfectly 'appropriate'
for a cat to seek out a cleaner place to do
his or her elimination. Wouldn't you
consider doing the same thing if you were
not offered a clean bathroom?
these cats is not only
but is ineffective and will often make
When someone is asked how often they flush
their toilet, the
answer is usually, "every time it is used, of course!" We all know how repulsive 'porta-potties' are and we are not even asked
to walk around in our own waste like humans often ask of
So why do we
expect our cats to use dirty litter boxes instead of just going some
Humans seem to forget that a cat’s sense of smell is
infinitely more sensitive than our own. Add to this the instinctive
nature of the cat to be clean and it is easy to see how a dirty litter box
Think about how a wild cat would handle his bathroom
duties. He would not be confined to a 1’ x 2’ 'bathroom.’ He would
not choose to walk around in his own waste. He would simply choose
another plot of land and that “plot of land” could be behind your sofa
or in another area of your home.
Please click on the links below to read
more about the key issues concerning litter boxes.
frequently receive requests for help from people who have a cat that is not
using the litter box. They often state that they have "tried
everything" but most of these desperate people have not
thoroughly read this webpage and implemented
all the suggestions - including
the use of Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract which is discussed/linked to
at the bottom of this page.
Please do not
consider yourself having "tried everything"
until you have tried Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract
as discussed below. Will it solve all elimination problems?
No, it won't but it has helped bring many
cats back to the litter box so it is always
worth a try.
If you need more help past what is on this
extensive webpage, I am available for
advice can be given via email otherwise I would have to type my
fingers to bloody stubs. There are a
lot of variables to consider when dealing
with this problem.
bottom of this page for my email address.)
Poor choice of
litter form (using pellets/crystals/non-clumping litter which are
uncomfortable to walk on and do not
allow for complete urine removal)
Poor location of
Blocked from the box
by a dominant feline housemate
relax and get to the box, or use it, due
to fear of a strange human, dog, active
child, loud noise, etc., in the house
Box size is too
Too few boxes
- This should always be a serious consideration.
Many medical issues such
as diabetes, cystitis (painful bladder inflammation), bladder stones,
and a partial urethral blockage (always
an emergency!) can cause a cat to stop
using his litter box. Please see
Urinary Tract Health for more
Please also note that most urinary tract
problems can be avoided by feeding canned food
- not dry food. The increased water
content and the decreased carbohydrate content of canned food
are healthier for your cat than dry food. Please see my
Feeding Your Cat and
Feline Diabetes articles on this
Use clumping litter
- except for kittens younger than 6 - 7 weeks of age.
Keep the litter deep
Use large litter boxes.
Have enough litter boxes
Have litter boxes placed
in a quiet area.
Use a litter mat that is
comfortable for your cat to walk on.
veterinary attention if your cat stops using the litter box.
Use litters that do not
clump - except for kittens younger than 6 - 7 weeks of age.
Use pelleted (pine or
newspaper) or crystal/white pearl litters.
Use scented litters or
Use hooded litter boxes
if your intent is to prevent odors from reaching your nose.
Use plastic 'grass' mats.
Punish your cat for not
using the litter box.
Put a child in charge of
litter box maintenance.
Scoop litter boxes
removing both feces and urine.
It is critical to be able to remove both the feces and
the urine each time the box is cleaned.
litter is the only type of litter that allows for this to be done
completely. Complete removal of the urine is not possible with the
non-clumping clay litters, the white pearl litters and any type of
pelleted litters such as newspaper or pine.
Remember, even a small
amount of urine smells strong to a cat! With non-clumping litters, only
the feces are removed and possibly a small amount of the urine, thus
only ‘flushing’ half of the cat’s toilet.
EXCEPTION TO ABOVE:
Kittens (younger than 6 - 7 weeks of age) often have temporary bouts of
diarrhea for various reasons. They are also more apt to step in
their feces and then end up with messy cement boots. Very small kittens may even attempt to eat the litter.
For this reason, I advise using a NONclumping litter for small
kittens. This is the only time I will use a pelleted litter (I
prefer newspaper pellets over the pine pellets) or the non-clumping clay litter
- always UNscented. To maintain strict
cleanliness, discard the entire amount of litter as necessary (2-3 times
daily) and wash the litter box before re-filling. Do NOT just
simply remove the feces - the urine MUST be discarded also.
It seems as if more and more products are coming out on the market to
allow humans to avoid maintaining a litter box properly.
Here is an example of a
product that a lazy human may try to use to avoid keeping a
litter box clean.
is a venting system to remove foul odors from a litter
box but what is wrong with this picture (product)? If there is
enough waste material in your cat's litter box to generate a foul odor -
enough to necessitate setting up an exhaust system to remove the air
from the box - just what are you expecting your cat to walk
another example of a product that is, once again, catering to a person
who is not taking the time to keep their cat's litter box clean and/or
who is not using a
clumping litter that allows for removal of all of the urine.
This product claims to be "eco-friendly because it eliminates the
formation of ammonia gases" and to "help dry all waste material faster".
Now why would we want to "dry" the waste matter when *removing* it makes
so much more sense? No matter if it is dry or not, your cat will
still have to walk through it until it is removed and it will still
smell like urine and feces!
Please do not use products
like these in lieu of keeping the litter box clean.
Keep in mind how much better your cat's sense of smell is when
compared to yours. They have incredibly keen noses and just
because your nose cannot detect an odor, this does not mean that your
cat's nose cannot smell the waste products.
clean the litter box and do not try to use
gimmicks to allow you to do otherwise.
First of all, there is no
perfect litter. I think that I would give my right arm if there
was but they all have their drawbacks. Some of the problems
associated with the various types of litters are inconveniences for the
human and some are strong negatives from the cat's point of view.
Given how common inappropriate (appropriate??) elimination (IE) problems are,
I will always choose the litter that will be the most inviting
to my cats.
I spend a great deal of my
behavioral-consulting time dealing with the nightmare of IE.
'Inappropriate elimination' is a fancy term for a cat that is urinating
and/or defecating outside of the litter box. Given the fact that
these problems are man-made (illogical litters like pellets being
use, dirty litter boxes, non-clumping litters, small or enclosed boxes
that are scary or stinky, etc.), I do whatever I
can to provide my cats with the most natural and inviting litter
available and that happens to be an UNscented clumping litter.
***Note that I said that "most" of these problems are man-made but I
want to reiterate - if your cat suddenly stops using the litter box,
please consult with your veterinarian immediately. There are
plenty of medical reasons for a cat to stop using his or her box - some
can be life-threatening - so please start with a veterinary exam.
Do I get frustrated with the
negatives of clumping litter? You bet that I do! I get very tired of
stepping on it and seeing the dust on my furniture. I would rather
not have a Swiffer Max
in my hands so often. I worry about
the dust in my cats' lungs. I keep thinking that there *must* be a
better system but, in the end, I always stick with what I have written
on this webpage.
I will continue to complain
when doing housework but I will keep in mind how much worse it would be
if my cats went on strike - urinating and defecating elsewhere - all because I tried to force them to use a litter
and litter box system that was not to their liking. I love my cats
and a bit of housework is simply the price that I have to pay to give
them a very inviting litter box set-up.
Now that I have voiced my
very strong opinion that a clumping litter is the only sanitary
way to maintain a litter box, what are the options in the clumping
Clumping litter comes in
several forms - (examples in parentheses):
1) clay (Dr. Elsey's Precious
Cat Ultra, or the loose litter in the big bin at Pet Co.)
2) corn (World's Best Cat
3) wheat (SweatScoop)
4) pine (Feline Pine - not
the pellets but the clumping version)
For the past
20 years, I have used Dr. Elsey's which is a
clumping clay litter but I recently tried
SmartCat a clumping litter made out of grass
and have decided to switch from Dr. Elsey's
Dr. Elsey's clumping clay with
SmartCat clumping grass:
is lighter than Dr. Elsey's and I am
getting too old to carry 40 lbs of
litter. I would rather carry the
20 lbs bags of SmartCat.
track equally so no improvement there.
control - I don't pay attention to this
because to control odor, CLEAN THE DARN
BOX! Do not look to litter as a
way of controlling odor. That said, both
are equal in odor control. A clay
urine ball does not smell any different
than a grass urine ball.
is about twice as expensive.
SmartCat costs $30 for 20 lbs and I can
get Dr. Elsey's for ~$15 for 40 lbs.
20 lbs of
SmartCat will give me about the same depth
as 40 lbs of Dr. Elsey's so it costs me $30
to fill a box with SmartCat and only $15 to
fill the box to the same depth with Dr.
Elsey's. The urine balls are the same
size so the volume of litter being removed
is slightly less dusty than some batches
of Dr. Elsey's and more dusty than other
batches. Do not believe any
company's claim that their litter is
"99% dust free." 99% of what?
Believe me, they are all dusty.
Note that the
dust situation is not just important from a
house cleaning standpoint. It is also
important in terms of causing an allergic
response in whatever living being is
breathing it in. We know that corn and
wheat litters are more hyperallergenic than
clay which is relatively inert.
(We see more
feline asthma with the corn and wheat
litters when compared to the clay litters.)
I am going to
assume that grass is not much better than
corn or wheat litters for a cat's lungs.
This is what is giving me pause with respect
to continuing to use this litter.
elsewhere on this page, I do not favor
the use of covered boxes - no matter what
litter is being used - because they
force the cat to inhale more dust.
If you do try
this litter, monitor your cat for any signs
of respiratory problems (coughing or
increased respiration rate or effort).
found World's Best Cat Litter to be much
dustier than SmartCat.
is 'renewable' so is more
where a heavier litter like clay wins
out is that it is more firm to walk on.
A couple of my cats had serious
reservations about walking in 3" of
SmartCat because it gave way easily and
they sunk down pretty far.
However, even at this relatively shallow
depth (compared to how I have always
kept the Dr. Elsey's at 3.5-4") the
urine reached the bottom of the box.
That is a problem.
on #7, if you read further down this
Cleaning section), you will
understand why it defeats the purpose of
a clumping litter when urine can reach
the bottom of the litter box.
The point of
clumping litter is to allow for the urine
to clump *before* it reaches the bottom of
happens, the bottom of the box does not come
in contact with the urine (plastic is porous
and will absorb urine odor) and you won't
have to be scraping urine clumps off the
bottom of the box which can break up leading
to contamination of the litter with small
With a very
light litter like SmartCat, the urine
percolates down to the bottom of the box
rather quickly. If I keep the litter
4" deep, the urine is less likely to reach
the bottom which I definitely want to avoid.
But, it is a catch-22 in that some cats will
not be happy about walking in deep litter
that gives way.
all but one of my cats have gotten used to
'wading through' deep litter and it does not
seem to bother them now but one of my cats
is not fond SmartCat and prefers the firm
If you decide to switch litters, do not
remove your old litter until you are sure
that your cat has accepted the change.
If SmartCat does not work out for you or
your cat, all of the members of our rescue group have been very satisfied with Dr. Elsey's
Precious Cat Ultra clumping litter for the past ~20 years.
(I have been told by a company representative that the Classic version
is pretty much the same as their Ultra product. Also, see
for information on Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract products for inappropriate
However, please be aware that all litters vary from batch-to-batch in
terms of dust levels. Sometimes I get a great bag of Dr. Elsey's
with very little dust and sometimes I get a bag that contains more dust.
This is the nature of a natural product. It will vary.
Another litter that I have
used on occasion is the
clumping clay litter that can be found in the free-standing bins at Pet Co.
I think that it used to be called "Pet Gold"
but I am not sure what it is called now.
I have found this Pet Co
litter to be fairly low in dust and it clumps very well. You
need to purchase an original container of the product and then return
with that empty container for (cheaper) re-fills.
(July 2012) had the opportunity to try a
This litter is completely UNscented and is
very low in dust - comparable to Dr. Elsey's.
However, it did not clump as well as Dr.
Elsey's which is a significant issue for me.
Dr. Elsey's clumps so strongly resulting in
the removal of every speck of waste, whereas
Boxiecat litter breaks up a bit.
You will note
under the "Cleaning" section below that I
never completely empty my litter boxes.
I simply add to the boxes to maintain a 3.5"
- 4" depth. Therefore, it is
imperative that I use a litter that forms
litter is available only as a home-delivery
product making it a very expensive choice
due to shipping costs. That said, if
cost is not an issue for you and you prefer
the convenience of not having to schlep
heavy litter home from the store, Boxiecat
is a very good choice. I love the fact
that it is completely unscented and low in
Prior to our
rescue group's discovery of Dr. Elsey's litter, we had good luck with 3 litters made
by the Clorox company but a few years ago, their "unscented" litters
were anything but unscented!
Their EverClean, EverFresh, and
ScoopAway litters started carrying a heavy perfume smell despite the word "unscented"
on the containers. Added perfume is simply a way for lazy
people to not clean the litter box frequently and I refuse to use any litter with perfume.
I have had someone report to me as recently as November, 2007 that these
products still contain a perfumey smell and so, for this reason, I
cannot recommend their use.
Always use unscented
litters and do not add any deodorizers to the litter or around the
litter box. Cats, because of their extremely keen sense of smell, are
often put off by scented litters and perfumed environments. In
addition, they do not need to be grooming perfume chemicals from their
coat. There is
absolutely NO need for special perfumes or additives if a cat box is
maintained correctly. The best way to keep the box odor free is to clean it!
Odors should be
removed, not attempts made to cover them up.
I highly recommend not using plastic liners. Liners are very annoying to the cat when
they get their claws stuck in them and do not work with the best system
to use for clumping litter as outlined
2007 I decided to give
World's Best Cat Litter (WBCL) Extra Strength
another try even though I do worry about the hyperallergenic nature of
corn dust. I had tried
this corn-based product several years prior and found it to be quite
dusty. I had it in a room with dark paneling and it was not too
long before I could write my name on the walls. It was no
better than the Dr. Elsey's litter in terms of dust and there was also
NO improvement with regard to the tracking issue. In fact, I found
it to be a bit worse in the tracking department.
decided to give WBCL one more try.
I took a
bucket of Dr. Elsey's Ultra litter (the very-dusty product that was
coming from the company at that time) and a bucket of WBCL out into my yard.
I took handfuls of both and let the litter run from my hands about a
foot above the bucket. They were about equal in the dust
When I compared WBCL to Dr. Elsey's, I
found WBCL to be dustier.
Here is where
they do differ: I attended a seminar on feline respiratory
diseases a couple of years ago. The speaker noted that they see
more asthma in cats on corn and wheat-based litters than they do on the
more inert clay litters. I did not find this surprising given that corn and wheat are hyperallergens.
For this reason, I am very reluctant to use WBCL.
this claim on their webpage which I strongly disagree with:
"With WORLD’S BEST CAT
LITTER™ there is no need to worry about a cat or its owner inhaling
I don't see
how they can make the claim that breathing in corn (or wheat in the case
of SweatScoop) dust is not
That said, do
I want my cat breathing in ANY dust no matter the source? Of
course not but I have chosen to use a clay-based litter over WBCL or a
product like SweatScoop which is wheat-based.
I recently had to cage one of
my new foster cats for 2 days. I used WBCL in her very large cage.
This is the amount of dust and litter that she tracked into her bed in
just 48 hours. When I shook her bed out, there was a considerable
amount of dust in the air. I just do not see how anybody can refer
to this litter as "low in dust and tracking".
All of the above said, I really do not have a
huge problem with people using WBCL. At least it is a clumping
litter and it is a second to my first choice of an unscented
clumping clay litter. However, if a cat has asthma, this is not a
litter that I would be using and, given the dust issue, I would not be
using it in any hooded litter boxes. It is bad enough that they
are going to breathe in the corn dust even when digging in an unhooded
box but a hooded box will increase the amount of corn dust that will end
up in their lungs. Of course, the same can be said for clay litter
dust and hooded boxes.
that I do like about WBCL is that it is light. As I get older,
those 40 pound bags of Dr. Elsey's get heavier and heavier and so I may
be switching over to WBCL in the future. However, if I do switch
from clumping clay to WBCL, I will do it gradually and make sure that my
cats are willing to use it since right now, only 1 of my cats will use a
box with WBCL in it. (I set up a box with WBCL in it a year
ago as an experiment. Only 1 cat would use it. A few months later,
I started using 1/2 WBCL and 1/2 Green Tea Leaves clumping litter in
that box and....still.... only 1 cat in my herd will use it.) I
don't think that they even recognize either the WBCL or the Green Tea
Leaves as litter and obviously prefer a more normal substrate like clay
WBCL has a strong corn smell that puts
some cats off or confuses them. I have consulted with clients who
have switched to WBCL or SweatScoop only to have their cats refuse to
use the litter box. Some cats may not
view corn or wheat as litter and some cats will even eat it! This
latter problem is not surprising since many cats are being fed a
terribly species-inappropriate diet of corn- and wheat-laden dry foods.
Please see Feeding Your Cat - Know the Basics of
Feline Nutrition for reasons why you are not doing your cat any
favors if you are feeding any dry food.
The next litter that I tried
during my Great 2007 Litter Search was the Feline Pine Scoopable litter. I did not even put
this in a litter box. The minute I opened the bag I decided
that this litter would never be used for my cats. The pine smell
was terribly strong and it was very dusty. People talk about how
wonderful that pine smell is but *my* nose is not what is important
here. Considering how sensitive a cat's nose is, I do not
recommend this litter.
Several years ago I tried
SweatScoop and was not satisfied with the clumping ability or the dust
levels of this litter. Others have commented on the fact that once
it is stuck to the litter pan, it is like trying to remove hardened
cement. This is also a litter that I cannot recommend.
In November, 2007, I stumbled
onto a litter called
Leaves. This was supposed to be a clumping litter but it really
does not clump well at all. If you had one cat that was not a
digger/mixer in the litter box but, instead, tip-toed in and did
their business and left, this litter may end up being reasonable.
As mentioned above, for the past year, I have had 1 box that is half WBCL and half Green Tea Leaves and
it is clumping, albeit not in a very sturdy form. The clump
would be very easy to break up if a cat dug at it or walked on it
(unlike Dr. Elsey's which produces a very firm clump).
As of now, I
will continue to use Dr. Elsey's Ultra clumping litter as I still feel
that it is the most sanitary litter to use.
The sizeof the litter
box is very important. It is very common for people to pick out a litter box that
is too small which can result in the cat stepping in his own waste.
This can result in a litter box aversion
causing the cat to urinate and defecate
The bigger the box, the more inviting it will be to
your cat. The more inviting the
litter box is to the cat, the more apt he will be to use it instead of
soiling your home.
Keep in mind
that conventional litter boxes are not your
only options. Storage containers
often make much better choices since they are
larger and often less expensive.
If you go to
Sterilite website, look at the 30 gallon
Basic Tote (my preference) or the 18 gallon
Basic Tote. Always look for a storage
container with the smoothest sides.
I need a very tall (17"
- 19") box because a couple of my cats stand up to
pee. They are what I not-so-affectionately refer to as "elevator
keep my litter 3.5 - 4 inches deep so I need
another ~14 inches of height to keep the
urine contained in the box.
Here is a
picture of the Sterilite storage container (litter
box) that I use in my home ($15 from
The internal dimensions of the container are 19.5" wide x 29.5" long x 19" high.
My cats LOVE their new roomy bathroom!
Of course, you do not
have to use bins this big but this size works for my home and my cats
and actually takes up less room than the two hooded boxes that I used to
Pick the size that works for you keeping in mind that the bigger the
bathroom, the more inviting it will be for your cat.
If your cat
does not stand up to urinate, then sweater boxes
work well for litter boxes
The one linked here is 12" tall so I would
suggest cutting a section in the side of the
box so that the cat can comfortably step
into it. This will be especially
important for an older cat that may not be
comfortable jumping in and out of it.
I would cut the door in the long side and
not the short side (the end)....hoping that
this would entice the cat to turn left or
right to get his body parallel with the long
axis of the box and not urinate out the
The storage bins that I use would not exactly make it into 'Better Homes & Gardens' but
I love my cats and I will do anything to make them love their litter box. I am deathly afraid of any
inappropriate elimination issues and my cats have always been perfect
with their litter boxes and I want to keep it that way.
To me, this
less-than-aesthetically-pleasing litter box is a very small price to pay
for a home that does not smell like cat urine.
If you have a cat that stands up to urinate
or have one that really likes to dig to
China and fling litter around, I urge you to
consider a deep storage container that is at
least 17" wide and 22" long and 17" - 19"
deep. The height will be determined by
you and your cat - depending on how high his
or her rear end goes when they urinate. I
want my boxes to be 19" high but you may get
away with using one that is 17" high.
Thedepth of the litter is maintained at
3.5" - 4". ~68 pounds of
litter ends up giving a 3.5" depth. ~80 pounds of litter gives a
4" depth. Obviously you will not be dumping this litter on a
regular basis so you must be careful how you clean the box.
bottom of the door is 8" from the floor.
The door is 9" x 9" and I used a utility
knife (aka "box cutter") to cut the door.
It was very easy to do. I just drew my
lines and then scored the lines with the
utility knife several times and it cut right
through it. If you get a clear plastic
box, however, the material is brittle and
may crack so be careful.
a door in the box and don't ask your cats to
jump in and out of it. Jumping into it is easy for young cats but pushing off of
sand that gives way is not going to be a good thing for the joints in
their hind legs or their back - no matter the age of the cat.
An older, arthritic cat would probably end
up refusing to use the box if forced to jump
in and out of it.
regarding door placement: I have had
reports that some cats will walk into their litter boxes and then
urinate out the door. If you put the door on the *end* of the long
side, versus in the middle like I did, then your cat will be more apt to go
into the box and make a 90 degree turn and....hopefully....not urinate
out the door.
put the door on the end (short side) of the
box and hope that your cat walks into the
box far enough from the door to not urinate
out the door. (The Kat Kave shown
below has the door on the end of the box
versus on the long side like my box.)
Here is a
picture of a light that I recently added to
The light is a
$10 'under cabinet' light from Home Depot
that takes 8 AA batteries. In the
interest of staying 'green', I use
rechargeable batteries but regular alkaline
batteries are fine and will probably last a
couple of years considering that the light
will only be used for a few minutes each day
for scooping the box.
negative about these boxes is that I can't use my
method shown in the movie below so I have to be careful as I scoop so as not to break
up any urine or fecal balls. I am very fastidious about the cleanliness of the
boxes and breaking up the 'waste' balls would not make for a very
clean litter box.
I imagine that WBCL
would be easier to use in this situation because it is lighter and easier
to move around with the scooper but I still want to continue to use a
clumping clay litter.
Other than not
being able to tip the box as shown in the
video, I clean the box in the same manner -
being careful to always clean any urine or
fecal residue from the sides of the box.
I do this at each scooping versus letting it
build up and then scrubbing the box once a
If you have an
elevator butt pee'er and cannot find a
suitable storage container in a store near
Kat Kave is a great (albeit, more
The Kat Kave
is a bit smaller (without the lid = L 27.75"
x W 18.5" x H 17.5") than my storage
container but has plenty of room even for
the largest cat.
would not use the lid that comes with the
Kat Kave for 3 reasons:
1) I clean my
litter boxes 2-3 times each day and it would
drive me nuts to have to remove the lid each
2) I am not a
fan of covered boxes due to the fact that
there is less ventilation and light.
3) People tend
to not clean them as often due to the 'out
of sight; out of mind' issue.
I realize that
the Kat Kave is a bit on the 'pricey' side
but I really like the size of it and, if
properly cleaned and maintained as I discuss
below, litter boxes can last for a very long
time so I consider it to be a very good
The Kat Kave
discusses having a smooth floor but as noted
many times on this webpage, you should be
keeping the litter deep enough so that no
urine balls get stuck to the bottom - making
a smooth floor a non-issue.
As mentioned above, I strongly prefer
UNcovered litter boxes.
Update December, 2007:
The covered box shown above is no longer being made. It was Petmate's old 'Jumbo' - internal dimensions = 20.5"L x 15"W x 19"H.
Petmate changed the design of the box and the new version of the Jumbo
is not as big as the old one. (Despite the measurements they give
on their website, the new pan is not as large as the old pan.)
the Petmate covered box shown above for many years but then got tired of seeing my
cats scrunched up in it - especially as they were getting older
and possibly arthritic. Also, the fact
that the litter dust is contained in these
covered boxes - adding more insult to their lungs
- started to bother me more.
you want to use a covered litter box, I urge
you to consider purchasing the
Kat Kave due to its nice, roomy size.
You will have the option to leave the lid on
or take it off and it has the convenience of
already having a door cut in it.
Of course, you
can also use a storage container with its
lid if you want a cheap, large, covered
The decision to use a covered
versus uncovered litter box involves issues from both the human's and the
cat's perspective. I would encourage you to always consider
your cat's wishes first and foremost since if a cat is not pleased
with his bathroom accommodations, the human will usually suffer for it
in the form of inappropriate elimination behaviors from their cat.
Covered boxes -
When comparing covered and uncovered boxes
of equal size, a covered litter box takes up
the same amount of floor space that an uncovered box does but is
effectively much smaller for your cat since his head cannot extend
beyond the perimeter of the pan.
Some cats become very
claustrophobic in covered boxes which
causes a sense of
feeling trapped - especially if there are 'bully' feline
housemates waiting to pounce on the cat after he leaves the litter box.
Often the scratching in the litter box will entice the other cats in the
house to come over to see what the noise is. Then...the poor cat
in the box may not feel comfortable exiting the litter box because the
other cats are too close. Soon, the more timid cat will start
doing his business elsewhere.
Covered boxes are also just
too small for most cats - forcing them to contort their body to
urinate/defecate and dig/bury without stepping in their waste.
Often they do not succeed in missing their waste (especially as they get
older or have medical problems such as diabetes or kidney disease) and
end up stepping in it which results in them tracking urine/feces around
your house and upsetting the cat. And remember - if your cat is
upset with his litter box experience, he may just decide to go
Booda Clean Step box because the actual
size of the usable space for the cat to 'do
his business in' is very, very small.
Covered litter boxes can also
present a problem of 'out of sight; out of mind' in that some
people are less apt to scoop the litter box frequently enough when the
box is covered.
Some people have actually commented that
they like covered litter boxes because there
is "less odor"! This is very dangerous
thinking, not to mention inconsiderate for
the cat's comfort. Covered boxes will trap odors which can lead to the cat’s refusal to use
it. If you are using a covered litter box
to minimize odor for yourself, you must re-evaluate your thinking and
consider the fact that your cat's sense of smell is MUCH more sensitive
than yours. Stick your head inside
the box and take a deep breath. If you are unwilling to do this, why
would your cat want to use the box? And even if it smells ok to
you, that does not mean that it smells clean
to your cat.
Dust is also trapped in covered boxes instead of being dissipated a bit more as it will
be in an uncovered box. This can be very hard on your cat's lungs.
Of course, cats do breathe in dust in any type of box since their noses
are very close to the litter as they are digging but the problem is
accentuated in a hooded box.
highly suggest that you remove any filter
from the top of a commercially made covered litter box for better ventilation of odors and
Filters are useless gimmicks that the manufacturers claim "trap
odors". Odors should be removed - not "trapped".
boxes are not well-constructed with respect
to how the lid fits on the box. This
can result in urine leaking out and onto the
floor if the cat stands up to urinate.
This also leads to urine collecting in the
seam which causes a lingering urine odor.
never be a problem with a tall storage
container or the Kat Kave.
boxes - positive issues:
Covered boxes offer
to a timid cat but you will have to watch him carefully to make sure
that he is not being stalked by other cats in the household.
Otherwise, he may start to feel trapped.
Covered boxes are neater –
keeping the litter inside the box and also the
urine if your
cat tends to stand up to urinate. However, a tall-sided storage
container - with or without the lid - works
better for these issues since there is no
seam for urine to gather between the lid and
As I outline below in the
Cleaning the Litter Box
section, you are defeating the purpose
of clumping litter if you keep the litter
shallow enough for the urine to reach the
bottom. So, to prevent this problem,
you need to have your litter at least 3.5"
deep and if your cat digs to China, you may
need 4" like I keep in my boxes. A
covered box does contain the litter better
than a shallow, uncovered box.
The Biddy Box shown below has the
right idea in terms of size but I do not
like the design. The sloping ends make the litter very shallow in that area.
Because of this, the urine balls get stuck to the bottom of the litter
box. See the Cleaning section below for why this defeats
the purpose of clumping litter. (The litter should always be deep
enough so as to prevent urine balls from sticking to the bottom of the
problem can occur with cement mixing
containers which are cheap options for large
Please note that I
with the dialog in the movie that you can view on Biddy Cat's website.
In fact, this is a great example of how not to maintain a litter
box as it pertains to litter depth. The movie discusses "scraping
the waste off of the bottom of the litter box". If you allow
the litter to get so shallow that the urine and feces stick to the
bottom, you will be defeating the purpose of clumping litter which is to
remove the waste in total. The litter should be deep enough so
that the waste is suspended in the litter - and not reach the bottom of
the box. More on this issue in the
Cleaning the Litter Box section
Miscellaneous litter boxes:
I really dislike the
Clevercat Top Entry litter box and I strongly urge people to stay
away from it. This box is an example of Man inventing a product
that is very clearly not made with the cat's best interest in
This box has a hole in the
top of it and the cat has to jump down into the box. This box is too
small and too confining especially for an older cat and, because they
have to jump up at an acute angle and push off of a surface that gives
way, it is very hard on their joints, tendons and ligaments.
I also wonder what happens
when one cat in the household does not bury his waste and now the
housemate has to jump down through this hole and try to miss any
uncovered urine or feces. Please do not use this litter box.
There are much better options for your cat.
Number of Boxes and Location:
The number and location of
the litter boxes are very important issues. Many cats will not use a
litter box if it has been used by another cat. In addition, some cats
prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another. Also, a common
cause of inappropriate elimination stems from a more dominant cat
blocking the pathway to the litter box. The more passive/timid cat is
forced to look elsewhere for a bathroom. In this situation it is
critical to have enough boxes in ‘safe’ areas to minimize the potential
Don't put all of the litter boxes in the same spot
if you have a bully cat that may be blocking a timid cat from the box. Place the boxes in quiet, low traffic areas. The laundry
room is often not a suitable place due to the noise from
the washer and dryer and has led to many litter box aversion cases.
Also, it is best to not place litter boxes near the cat’s eating area.
A very common problem arises
when people allow young kittensor
frightened adult cats that have recently been adopted to have access
to too large of an environment without enough litter boxes close by.
Often the scared cat or kitten is hiding in one part of the house while
his litter box is in another part of the house.
mind that these animals are not going to suddenly become brave when
their bladder gets full and venture out to look for a litter box in a
often expect far too much from a young or scared kitten or a scared
In the case of a recently
adopted kitten or cat, keep his world small (a single room) until you
know that he is using the litter box and is comfortable in his room.
Depending on the kitten or cat, this may take several days or a couple
of weeks. Only when he is comfortable in one room should you open
up the door and let him venture out. Do not carry him to another
part of the house. Instead, let him pick his own path so that he
will know how to get back to his litter box.
Even if a new kitten is brave
and sociable, please do not just turn this kitten loose in a large area
and expect him to know or remember where his litter box is if he gets to
playing at a distance from that box - or if something does scare him and
he ends up hiding in a part of the house far from his litter box.
They should not be expect to
remember that their bathroom is 'down the hall...second door on the
right'. When a kitten has to go....he has to go now and they often
will not hold it while they go and search for their litter box.
Please remember that human children take a long time to potty train and
be thankful that kittens are much easier to train! However,
even though kittens are much better than human babies when it comes to
being litter box trained, don't push your luck and stress the kitten by
allowing him access to a large environment without his litter box very
close by and easily accessible. Otherwise, you will end up
fostering very bad habits in the kitten if he gets used to urinating and
defecating in areas other than his litter box.
I will repeat the question
that I posed above: How often does a human flush their own toilet?
Please keep the answer to this question in mind as it pertains to just
how clean you should be keeping your cat's litter box.
Cats should not
have to dig around in their own waste - or that of their housemates - looking for a clean spot.
I am sure that people think I'm
nuts for making a
video about cleaning a litter box but this is the
method that I have found that works the best for cleaning a litter box
with clumping litter. This method results in the waste material
being removed in total without being broken up.
I purposely let the litter box get extra dirty (I actually consider it
to be unacceptably filthy) for the filming of this
great event. In my opinion, a litter box is plenty dirty once
there are 2-3 'items' in it.
PLEASE do NOT
let your litter box get as dirty as the one shown in this video!
If you cannot stick to the '2-3 item' rule because of your work schedule,
then please add more boxes.
The purpose of clumping litter is to be able to remove the urine
balls and feces intact and completely. This means that the litter needs to be
enough so that you can get the scooper under the waste material so that the urine balls
and feces do not stick to the bottom of the litter
box. You can’t remove the waste material intact and in total if you are scraping
it off of
the bottom of the box This is a Catch-22. People who discard
their litter on a regular basis tend to not keep the litter deep enough
and then the box is a mess to clean because litter is gummed up on the
bottom. This results in waste residue ending up stuck to the
bottom of the box for your cat to dig around in. This is not
sanitary and it defeats the purpose of clumping litter.
In my old
litter box like the one shown above, I used between 30-40 pounds of
litter to get it to a depth (3.5" - 4") where my cats could not reach the bottom.
In the storage containers that I am currently using, I keep 80 pounds of
litter in the box.
If using an unhooded box, you need to strike a balance between having
too much litter in the box so that you end up with beach-front property
surrounding the box, and not having enough litter so that your cat's
urine or feces ends up stuck to the bottom. If your cat is an aggressive
digger and is flinging litter over the edge, you will need to get a
deeper litter box.
f the urine balls get stuck to the side of the box,
move the litter away, remove the urine ball and then clean the area with
a dilute (1:30) bleach solution and a paper towel.
(The bottle below says 1:20 which is what I use....but this strength
will ruin most sprayers so stick to 1:30.)
Rather than using my scooper to scrape off the urine ball, I usually
just hit the side of the box and the urine ball dislodges and falls into
the scooper. That way, I don't have to clean the scooper when I am
Industrial-grade spray bottle for bleach solution
Also, clean any fecal material from the
side of the box. I prefer light colored boxes which
allow me to see the soiled areas easier. Don’t forget to clean the hood if soiled. Dry
the area and move the litter back. Keep a roll of paper towels and a
dilute bleach solution in a spray bottle next to each litter box. I
find that the Spraymaster, an industrial grade spray bottle from Home
Depot or Smart & Final, works the best for a bleach solution. The cheaper spray
bottles do not hold up well when used for bleach. Also, bleach
degrades when exposed to light so an opaque bottle is needed.
Many people choose to discard the litter
every week or two and start fresh but their litter box and litter are
often very dirty by the time they get around to dumping all of the
litter and scrubbing the box. There is a more sanitary alternative to this
method as shown in the
My feeling is that I want my
cats' bathroom to be very clean on a daily basis. I do not
allow the box or the litter to get to the point that it needs a
once-a-week or even once-every-two-weeks discard/scrubbing.
Throwing litter away on a frequent
expensive, time-consuming and hard on the back. There really is an
easier and cheaper way to maintain a clean litter box - but you must be thorough in your cleaning, and scoop frequently - which your cat
will appreciate. You also must use a litter that clumps very well.
Just recently (June, 2008) I tried out a new clumping clay litter that
really did not clump well at all...certainly not like Dr. Elsey's.
So I went right back to Dr. Elsey's so that I could remove all waste
method shown in the video, you will need a scooper made out of metal or
sturdy plastic. Some brands of plastic scoopers are
too brittle and often break. The
Van Ness brand, shown here is
Sturdy scoop and plastic waste container
Several members of our rescue group really love the
Magic-Scoop - formerly known
as the Litter-Lifter. It not only comes in bright, fun colors but
it gets rave reviews for picking up very small pieces of soiled litter.
However, keep in mind that if you keep the litter deep enough and use
the method shown on the video, your litter box should not become
contaminated with small pieces of soiled litter.
Clean the scooper as needed. Allowing a scooper to stay
soiled simply drags more bacteria through the litter. If a person is careful about
cleaning the box thoroughly
as shown in the
scooping carefully so as not to break up the urine
balls, it may be acceptable to forego regular discarding of the litter - saving you time, money and a backache. Instead, add to the litter to keep it at the proper depth
(3.5 - 4 inches).
if in doubt as to the
cleanliness of the litter, it is important to discard it on a regular
basis. If you do choose to discard the
litter on a regular basis, it is still advisable to spot clean
the sides of the box and hood with a dilute bleach solution daily rather than to let any
soiling build up for a once-a-week scrubbing. Your cat
will appreciate this regular freshening-up of his toilet.
If you have more than one cat, you should always have more than one box
so that if one cat defecates or urinates but does not bury it, the other
cat will have another litter box to use.
Litter mats are often used outside of the opening of a
hooded box or storage container to decrease tracking of the litter. Do
the plastic 'grass' mats or the mats with raised bumps on them as they are very uncomfortable for your cat to
walk on, often leading to litter box avoidance. Some people use
carpet sections or towels but I prefer to use this
shown below. This mat allows the litter to fall into a lower tray
so that you only have to tend to it every couple of weeks and this
design also keeps your cat from walking on the litter. Also, the lower
tray will catch any urine if your cat accidentally aims out the door.
Unfortunately, the link that I had to this
litter mat is dead; I do not think that it
is being manufactured anymore.
Here is a picture of another
type of mat that is very useful. This particular brand is not made
anymore but the Booda Litter Mat is close to it in design. Whatever you choose to use, just
make sure that your cat
is comfortable when walking on it and is not reluctant to enter the
Please do not force your cat to suffer
with a dirty litter box because you’ve designated cleaning it as your
child’s responsibility. Children often cannot be trusted to maintain a
litter box properly and your cat will suffer for it and, in turn, so
will you when you are faced with an inappropriate elimination problem.
First of all
NOT PUNISH YOUR CAT. Punishment will NOT help the
situation and will often make matters worse. Few things upset me
more than when I hear about people actually rubbing their cat's (or
dog's) nose in the waste as if this will help the situation!
disease, cystitis (painful inflammation of the bladder), bladder or
kidney stones are some of the more common medical problems that can lead
to a litter box aversion.
If your cat is getting in and out of the litter box and is unable to
pass any urine or is looking like he is distressed and wanting to
urinate outside the box this is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY! A cat with a
blockage of the urinary tract can rupture his bladder within 24 hours
resulting in death. You may also notice a blocked cat or one with
cystitis licking the genital area frequently.
A cat with
cystitis will pass SMALL amounts of urine FREQUENTLY so also make note
of the size and number of the urine balls on a daily basis. A
100 percent canned food diet with its high water and low
carbohydrate content must be included in the treatment for any cat
with cystitis, diabetes, or bladder stones. In fact, all cats
should be on 100 percent canned food or a raw meat diet. Dry food
is an illogical food source for a cat and causes many health problems.
Dry food, with its species-inappropriate water content, is not a friend
of the urinary tract system - especially the bladder.
Once you have ruled out a
medical issue, you need to evaluate your cat's litter box system:
1) Are you using an
UNscented clumping litter?
2) Is his box kept
very clean? Less than 3-4 items at a maximum?
3) Is his litter box
4) Is it in a safe
location as far as he is concerned?
5) Are there any feline
housemates that may be tormenting him in the litter box - not allowing
him to enter or exit?
6) Are there enough boxes?
Some cats like to urinate in one and defecate in another one.
7) If you are using a
hooded box, have you tried taking the hood off?
8) Have you tried using
Dr. Elsey's Cat
Attractproduct? It comes as
a ready-to-use litter or as an
additive that you will need to add to an UNscented clumping clay
litter. It must be UNscented clumping clay since this type of
litter has absolutely no odor to it. Many people have had great
luck with the Cat Attract products. Fair warning.....many cats
love this litter so much that they will roll in it at first. I
have never heard of a cat that keeps rolling in it or that rolls in it
after the box is used. I actually consider it a good sign when
they roll in it since it is obviously very 'attractive' to them!
This behavior is usually temporary.
If you are having problems
transitioning an outdoor cat to an indoor cat and he is refusing to use
the litter box, or if your cat prefers using your potted plants instead of
his litter box, try using potting soil instead of clumping
litter. Once the cat has used the potting soil on a regular basis for
a couple of weeks, you can gradually add a small amount of clumping litter
to see if you can change him over. You will need to empty the box twice
daily when using potting soil and scrub the box each time. Also
please understand that by using this non-clumping substrate, the urine
will soak into the litter box (plastic is fairly porous and easily
impregnated with odors) with only a few urinations so I strongly suggest
that you get a new litter box when you switch over to using the clumping
litter and start with a fresh, clean box.
It is much easier to
prevent an inappropriate elimination problem with a proper diet and
sound litter box practices than it is to fix one once it starts. Not
all of the issues that cause cats to stop using the litter box are
within our control but many factors are as outlined in this essay.
As is evident by my website, cats are my
passion and my goal is to help as many as I
can before I depart this earth. To
this end, I have spent a tremendous amount
of time over the past 12 years reading and
responding to thousands of emails that have
been sent to me asking for help/advice and
"further explanation" of information on my
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a
significant sacrifice of my personal time
and I have reached a point where I can no
longer read or respond to the large volume
of emails that I receive.
On a very good
note, the emails make me smile because I
know that the message is being heard and
more cats are receiving better nutrition and
On the other
hand, the large volume of people asking for
my time has become overwhelming. Therefore,
this statement will appear throughout this
site as well as the bottom of every page:
No individual advice or further explanation, for any reason,
will be provided via email.
That said, if
you desire personalized help and would
like information regarding my phone/Skype consulting
service, please send your request to DrPierson (at) catinfo.org.
Make sure that you put "Consultation
Service" in the subject line which may
help prevent your request from ending up in
my spam folder and increase your chance of
hearing back from me.
Partial update (SmartCat
Information on this site is for general informational purposes only
and is provided without warranty or guarantee of any kind. This
site is not intended to replace professional advice from your own
veterinarian and nothing on this site is intended as a medical diagnosis
or treatment. Any questions about your animal's health should be
directed to your veterinarian.