Is your cat avoiding the litterbox?

Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common complaints of cat owners. There are a number of simple management steps owners can take to increase the cat’s and the owner’s satisfaction with the toileting process.

Implement good litter box hygiene habits:
1. Boxes should be scooped at least once daily — no matter the type of litter being used or the number of cats.
2. Litter preference tests consistently indicate that the majority of cats prefer soft fine grain clumping litters over other types. In general, they also prefer deeper litter (at least 1.5 to 2 inches deep) as compared to shallow litter.
3. Use unscented litter. A recent abstract presentation (AVSAB, 2008) showed that cats preferred a carbon based litter to a baking-soda based litter.
4. Clean the box (and completely change out the litter) at least once per month using warm water and dish soap or some other mild detergent. Avoid bleach, pine based cleaners or cleaners that leave behind a strong smell. If the litterbox itself has an odor, it can be soaked with an enzymatic odor neutralizer. Alternatively this may be a sign that a new litterbox is in order!
5. Automatic litterboxes are a mixed blessing. Some cats find them too small or too noisy. The litters used are often a course grain and therefore less appealing. Additionally, some cats seem to object to the odor from the reservoir. Some cats do very well with automatic boxes.

Make the boxes and the location appealing and accessible to the cat(s):
1. Use large boxes! Large or fat cat + small litterbox = presents outside the box! Clear sweater boxes work well and are economical. There is no such thing as too large of a bathroom.
2. The general rule is to have at least one litterbox for each cat in the house. The more cats there are, the more extra boxes there should be.
3. In multi-story homes, there must be at least one litterbox on each floor of the house irrespective of the number of cats in the home! (No sane person would ever buy a 2 or 3 story home with only one bathroom; in fact we wouldn’t be likely to buy a ONE story home with just one bathroom!) 
4. In multi-cat households, boxes should be spread throughout the house — multiple rooms. Ideally rooms with litterboxes should have two entrances so one cat cannot be trapped in the room by another cat. For the same reason, closed boxes may be unappealing because the victim cat does not get adequate warning of the approach of a more aggressive cat. Some cats do feel safer in covered boxes, so the cats should be given different options, particularly in a multicat home.
4. Litterboxes ideally should not be placed near other animals or appliances that might frighten the cat (e.g. washers/dryers, dog cages, garage doors).

Alice Tong Dote