If you have a kitty or two at home, you know that one of the huge upsides to cats as pets is that they use a designated litter box. You probably also know that one of the biggest headaches of owning a cat is making sure that they actually use the box and that cleaning it stays manageable. Cats are high-strung, sensitive predators that definitely have opinions about where they prefer to urinate. As the home-owner, we also have very definite expectations for our kitties’ waste management. Unresolved litterbox issues are the number one cause of cats being surrendered or abandoned every year. Like every other aspect of pet care, having a system that works for you and your kitty is essential to establish to keep the kitty box from becoming a deal-breaker.
Preparation is Important
To set up a litter box system that will appeal to you and to kitty, take a moment to consider what your cat looks for in an ideal place to tinkle. The domestic cat is generally a ball of quirky adorableness, but at heart, they’re still a predator and when they use the litterbox they are also marking their territory. This instinct to mark causes most instances of urination outside the box. Cats will urinate in an attempt to establish their place within the house and so this issue usually occurs when new cats, pets, or people are introduced into their living space. This is especially common for unfixed male cats but any cat may urinate around the house if they feel that their territory is being threatened. Fortunately, this issue can be avoided or remedied a variety of ways. If you know that you are going to be introducing a new pet or person into your house, help your kitty avoid feeling stressed or displaced by making sure that they have safe places to retreat to where the new family member cannot bother them, like a separate room, enclosed bed space or cat tower. Natural pheromone or calming sprays can also be used in the home to reduce the tension. This allows your cat to feel that they still have a little bit of their own space and they can freely choose to interact with the new family member when they feel ready to. Make sure that their litter box is one of these secluded places! If a new person or pet is invading their marking spot, your cat will be forced to choose a new one in the house.
While some cats will choose to share a litter box once they become friends, it is recommended that you provide at least one box for each cat in the home. When cats establish dominance over other cats in the home, they will often not allow the submissive cats to use their box and these cats will have to defecate somewhere else.
If your cat suddenly begin urinating right next to the litterbox, this may be a health issue and not a behavioral issue. The most common medical problem that cats develop is urinary tract infections, often secondary to a buildup of mineral sediment or crystals. These infections often develop unnoticed by the owners and eventually the UTI can get to the point where it is painful for the cat to urinate. The cat will often associate the pain of urinating with the location of the box and will begin to avoid the box. By urinating right next to the box, your cat may be indicating that they still want to mark their usual spot but they are now afraid to use the box. If your cat displays this behavior, a pH indicator, like Monthly Monitor crystals, in their litter. If abnormal urinary pH is indicated it may be time for a visit to your veterinarian.
Older cats or very small kittens may have trouble going up stairs or jumping up into a high litterbox so make sure that your less-agile kitty can comfortably access the box. If the cat is being introduced to a covered litterbox for the first time, you may want to tape open the door flap so that they can get used to crawling in and out. While some cats do not bury their scat, other cats love to dig and will fling cat litter in every direction every time they use the box. If you’ve got a digger, a covered litterbox will save you a lot of cleanup. Placing a litter mat in front of your litter box can also keep litter granules from spreading to the rest of the house. No matter what consistency of litter you use, small amounts will be kicked out the door occasionally by your cat and a specially textured litter mat can grab those granules before they go any further.
Littered with Questions
We can all agree that cats should be seen, heard, cuddled, and felt, but NOT smelled. Even when kitty has used the litterbox faithfully, there’s not much like the smell of uncleaned litterbox. Fortunately, the production of cat litter has come a long way in the last few decades and cat owners can be choosey about what they prefer in a litter. This can make the litter aisle a little daunting but the types and functions of different litters can be broken down pretty simply.
The majority of cat litters are either clay-based or plant-based. Clay-based litters tend to have a firmer clump and faster odor control while plant-based litters tend to be lighter weight and have a stronger natural fragrance. A few alternative types include litters made entirely of silica crystals that do not clump but do quickly dehydrate any waste before bacteria and ammonia can form.
Clay-based litters are nearly all formulated from clay or sand with different additives to help control odor or bacteria growth. Most have been modified in recent years to be roughly 99% dust-free as nobody likes having clay dust settle all over their house and cats won’t tolerate it settling on their fur. Basic clay litters are generally just clay that clumps hard and fast but doesn’t contain any special additives for odor protection. Mid-grade clay litters add chemical perfumes and deodorizers, while premium clay-based litters use natural additives baking soda, zeolite to help reduce all types of litterbox odors.
Some plant-based cat litters utilize the natural properties of walnut shells to absorb moisture and dehydrate any bacteria growing in the box. Others, like Kahoots Nature’s Best litter are a light-weight alternative that uses the natural catechin compound in green tea leaves to absorb ammonia and other litterbox odor while still clumping like a clay litter. These litters usually have the natural fragrance of whatever plant base they contain, which some cat owners enjoy. However, if your cat decides it does not like a certain fragrance, you may have to switch litters. When introducing a new plant-based litter, slowly acclimatize them to the litter.
One of the latest solutions for Kitty waste management is the Kahoots Feline Amazing line of clay litter. This line of kitty litter is formulated out of pure Sodium Bentonite clay, an abundant natural American clay that has been shown to be more absorptive than any other type. This gives it the ability to clump fast and dry quickly, reducing the amount of odor causing microbes or bacteria that can form. The Feline Amazing line offers formulas for every cat- with Powerful pure clay, Advanced with zeolite- a natural mineral similar to carbon that captures ammonia and seals it in for an odor-free box, to Extreme which also adds patented probiotic strains that are dormant in the litter until the cat visits the box. At that point, the probiotics become active and rapidly consume all odor causing bacteria. This triple combination of absorptive clay, ammonia-blocking zeolite and bacteria-eating probiotics makes a fantastic new option for kitty owners who want a safe, natural option without any odor.
Kahooligan Tip - Whichever litter solution you choose, make sure you follow the recommended schedule for cleaning the box. Kitties don’t like a dirty box any more than we do and will sometimes go outside the box if waste builds up. Regularly deep-cleaning of the litter box and litter scoop can help you avoid potential bacteria growth in the plastic. It is recommended that you replace your box and scoop every year to keep your kitty’s restroom clean and safe. With a little insight into your cat’s litter box needs, it’s easy to set up a waste management system that works for you both.