Ah yes, the litter box. For some, it is the best thing that’s ever been invented since sliced bread. For others, it is the source of chaos, pungent smells, and bad memories.
Many cat owners will tell you harrowing tales of their experiences with their cats and their litter box. And let’s face it, cat urine smells. Oh my God is it terrible. It’s intrusive, it’s pungent, and it will scar you.
It’s unfortunate that there are many great cat-human relationships broken due to the misunderstanding of cat bathroom behavior. Many cats could even find themselves back in their shelters or out on the streets due to litter box problems. However, once we learn how to approach the litter box, understand cat bathroom behavior, and enrich our cat’s lives, we will find those litter box problems will be a thing of the past.
You will soon find that with the right mindset and proper maintenance of your cat’s litter box, cleaning up after your cat will be easy and effortless. I mean, for dogs, you got to walk them, wait for them to do their business every three seconds at each and every tree and pole and hydrant, pick up their poop, and even walk in bad weather! Cats are so much easier to manage in that sense! I love dogs but they do require more than cats do.
Why Do Cats Need Litter?
Cats are aliens, I swear. They are such strange little creatures! Yet so endearing and adorable! Cats are also life’s perfect killing machines, but they are in a very strange and awkward situation when out in the wild. Kind of like those prepubescent teenage years of our lives.
Cats are both predator and prey. They hunt to live and they are hunted as well. It truly is a dog-eat-dog world out there… or cat-eat-cat? Anyways… cats always need to protect their butts and ensure that they live to see another day. That’s why they have this instinctual need to cover up their poop and urine.
It’s not that cats really need litter, but rather cats need something to cover up when they are done using the bathroom. During the time I was trying to adopt my feral cat, Diba, I have seen her use dirt, sand, and even rocks to cover up her waste products. Cats know that predators could use various smells to track their next prey. Being the ninjas they are, cats are masters of stealth and concealment!
If you don’t provide a place where a cat could dig, scratch, and just go ham… it will make your cat feel extremely awkward. She will try to hold it in! Your cat won’t want to but will ultimately end up relieving herself in places that may want you to rip your hair out. That is why a litter box is essential for any cat household and there really is no substitute.
How To Train Your Cat To Use The Litter Box
So how exactly do you train your cat to use the litter box correctly?
You don’t. Haha! Just put your cat in the litter box and she will know what to do!
Diba is a feral cat that I decided to kidnap one day. During her transitional phase of becoming more accustomed to an indoor lifestyle, I had to “teach” her how to use a litter box. It really wasn’t difficult at all. For the first few days Diba was in my home, I kept her in a cage with a litter box. She didn’t know what a litter box was at first, so she ended up soiling herself.
I cleaned up her urine with a paper towel and placed it into the litter box. The next time she had to use the litter box, I quickly placed her in there and she knew exactly what to do. With a little bit of sniffing and a little scratching, she used the litter box for the first time and has yet to have an accident. I reassure you that cats will never relieve themselves outside of their litter boxes as long as their bathrooms are properly maintained.
The Requirements For A Litter Box
So we’ve learned that training your cat isn’t really what the problem is when there are litter box problems in your household. Your cat knows exactly what litter is used for and will know exactly what to do with it. We must first discuss some of the requirements that cats and humans have in their choice of a litter box in order to better understand the source of our problem.
What cats need: clean, odorless, convenient, safe, comfortable
What humans need: clean, odorless, convenient, AND out of the way, simple and quick, sanitary, aesthetically pleasing
Interestingly enough, humans tend to have more needs to when it comes to litter boxes. Sometimes we don’t want to scoop so we get automated ones, or maybe we want covered litter boxes, or maybe ones that are hidden away in interesting designs. Whatever your taste may be, it is good to understand what a cat exactly needs and find a middle ground.
All a cat really needs a nice large box where they could do their business, easily turn and move in, scratch and dig excessively. In the wild, cats have a tremendous amount of space and will often find different spots to relieve themselves. With this in mind, we have two pre-requisites for our choice of litter boxes: they must be spacious and they must be placed strategically around the household to mimic nature.
There are many humans out there that place their cat’s litter box in secluded places such as the basement or closet. This is a bad move. This does not make these litter boxes easily accessible for your cats. You want to place these litter boxes in areas where your cat could scan the entire room if it is an open litter box or in places where it is safe and comfortable.
Some cat owners even leave their litter box in their bathroom so that whenever they use the bathrooms themselves, they could do a courtesy scoop for their feline companion. Maintaining and keeping your cat’s litter box clean is essential if you want them to continuously use the bathroom appropriately. Cats are known for their cleanliness and they absolutely do not like stepping in their own waste materials. As such, it is recommended that you clean the litter boxes often as to not offend your cat and have them use the bathroom somewhere else.
Cats tend to be a little mischevious towards each other and may try to pounce on your cat when they are getting out of the litter box. It is recommended that you have one litter box for each cat in your household, plus one more. This way, there are always enough litter boxes to go around and your cats won’t be competing over their bathroom spots.
As you can see, as long as you have enough litter boxes for all your cats, clean them often and effectively, and place them in nice locations, you will find that your cat litter problems will all be solved! Cats are amazingly clean creatures. I mean, they spend a good chunk everyday grooming and cleaning themselves! Their bathroom behavior is no different.
Since your cat is unable to flush his own toilet, it is your responsibility to do it for her. Keep the litter boxes clean! Refill litter as necessary and change the entire litter load once every month or two. This will ensure that your cat will never have accidents outside of the litter box.
Be sure to read up on my article about the Best Cat Litter Box of 2018 for your feline friend!
If by chance you do all the above and your cat is still having litter box problems, I would consult with your veterinarian. If a cat is not using the litter box even though it is clean, it could mean that there is something medically wrong that needs to be checked out right away. As always, I wish you and your feline friends all the best!