Updated: Jul 21, 2020
The following will help maximize good litter box habits and make the litter box experience a good one for both you and your cat.
A terrific rule of thumb for litter boxes is to have one per cat plus one! That is, one cat gets two litter boxes. Two cats get three. If you have a two-story home keep at least one litter box on each floor. While most cats are great about going about the house to find their box, it certainly makes them less likely to have an accident if there are a few around!
The litter box should be roomy enough for your cat to turn around in. If the box is too small, your cat simply won't use it and will eliminate elsewhere. But if the litter box is too big, you may also have a problem, especially if you have a very small kitten. Don't buy a huge box and expect your kitten to scale it every time they need to potty. Boxes for kittens should have a lower entry point so they have no reason to go next to it. If you can’t find, one like this- improvise and cut it down, but be sure to smooth out rough edges.
Boxes certainly don’t need to be fancy or expensive- for most cats a potty is a potty! Our cat generally love to kick litter all around so we love the very high sided and enclosed boxes for those ones, but also keep short open boxes around just in case.
To cover or not to cover?
That is the question. There are covered litter boxes as well as open ones. If you use a covered box, make sure your cat can get in and out easily (especially those with a flap door). The best types of covered box also have overlapping seams so that sprayed urine will not leak out. Some kitties don’t enjoy an enclosed box and feeling ‘trapped’, but most won’t mind. Just don’t forget to continue to clean regularly!
Location, location, location.
A cardinal rule of cat ownership is to never put your cat's litter box next to her food bowl or bed. Cats do not like to eliminate where they eat or sleep. If you place a litter box too close to a cat's nesting area, she may well pick a more comfortable spot, such as behind the couch. Put the litter box in a quiet low-traffic area, such as in a spare bathroom. A corner location is better than out in the open because a cat needs to feel secure. If your cat has only got two directions to watch instead of four – and feels she has an escape route – they'll be more relaxed.
If you have more than one cat, remember that cats are hierarchical.
So, put their boxes far enough apart to be sure that territorial issues don't come into play if one invades the other's space.
What kind of litter?
Your kitten will come accustomed to wood pellet cat litter.
We choose this litter for many reasons including cost efficiency (as we full change our boxes at least every other day), eco-friendly (renewable, compostable, and biodegradable), less dust and tracking, and super absorbent which usually means less odor!
If for whatever reason you cannot use wood pellets (maybe a fellow household cat refuses and you don’t want to buy 2 types of litter), try to transition kitty slowly if possible to avoid accidents or confusion.
Once you find a litter your cats like, stick with it. Don't buy whatever is on sale this week as many cats are very particular and litter changes can lead to unwelcome modifications in bathroom habits.
How often should I change litter?
Try to remove feces and moistened litter daily. Regular scooping will keep the box from becoming an odor source for your home and maintain it as an attractive place for your cat. Depending on the buildup of soiled litter and odors, completely clean out the box and replenish it with fresh litter every so often. When changing the litter, you should wash the box with warm, soapy water, but remember to rinse and dry it thoroughly before refilling it with litter. Avoid harsh chemicals that may leave a smell that your cat will avoid.
Using pine pellets, sifting litter boxes often work great, otherwise we only put a shallow amount of litter and change often. For only one of two cat households, a full change is likely only needed weekly, but that will be based on your discretion!
Litter Box Problems and Spraying Behavior
If your cat is having problems using the litter box, praise your cat and/or give the cat a treat when it uses the litter box appropriately.
Soft, fluffy bedding such as quilts and duvets may be an attractive alternative to the litter box in the early weeks of settling in for a new cat who may be nervous. Scattered dirty laundry or laundry piles may also invite your cat to urinate/eliminate inappropriately. Remove and store these items or prevent access.
Remember, new cats may be nervous or unfamiliar with their surroundings and kittens may simply forget the location or not have the bladder and/or bowel control to make it to the box.
New animals such as puppies/dogs, other cats, birds or any other species may cause territorial marking.
Previously sprayed/marked furniture can also attract new cats to spray (and leave their mark). The smell often remains for years. Always aim for an enzymatic cleaner to effectively remove leftover urine odor.
Illnesses and health conditions such as urinary tract infections may also lead to inappropriate bathroom habits. Please consult your veterinarian if you’ve already tried to rule out all behavioral causes.