Litter Box Etiquette

This is for you, the owner.

Many cats have particulars as to what he or she wants in a box, and some cats have no real particulars at all; this is the rare, however lucky, owner! The number one reason cats are surrendered to shelters and rescues is inappropriate urination and/or defecation.

Understanding litter box management, may play into the success of having a cat for a pet.

The following has been taken from a series of professional studies.

Rule of thumb is one box plus one PER cat (i.e. if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 boxes )

  • A box should be located on every floor of the home
  • Opt for the largest box you can find, cats prefer them
  • Unlined
  • Uncovered
  • Simple basic clay litter- unscented
  • An inch to an inch and a half of litter
  • No self cleaning boxes
  • Food and water kept in different area
  • Boxes should be washed in soapy water with cold water (does not set the odor in the plastic) and all litter replaced often
  • Scooping needs to be done TWICE a day, both solids and liquid

Out of sight/smell out of mind; keeping boxes where they will offend YOU, is a powerful way to remember to scoop.

  • Keep a scoop with every box
  • Save your plastic bags to collect from box
  • Find something that you do twice a day at home and make scooping routine (make it very matter-of-fact, no ick)
  • Add additional litter if the box gets low
  • Keep the box placed on ‘chucks” or towel with plastic under will help with any unintentional “overshoot”
  • Tend to accidents immediately. Use products specifically designed to break down pet odors.

IF inappropriate behavior is occurring, remember this very important thing. Medical must be ruled out before behavior can be considered. Many medical conditions can occur that will cause cats not to use their boxes. (i.e. urinary tract infections, crystals in the urine, diabetes, anal gland problems, constipation………)

It is important to quickly contact CHCC when you FIRST become aware of the problem. Choosing to ignore the problem, will not help the situation.

Should medical problems be ruled out; behavior must be looked at. Consider these few things

1 .Urine or stool or both

2. What is being hit? Plastics (school bags, luggage, and plastic backed mats)? Soft items (beds, couches, laundry) Shiny objects (top of appliances), Carpeting (typically corners), Basement floors (normally unfinished and under steps)

3. Do you ever see the cat while engaging in inappropriate behavior? (Catch in the act?)

You must be proactive; set limits on where in the home the misbehaving animal is allowed. Placing obstacles in areas that the cat has used is as simple as using upturned carpet runners or dollar-store door mats (Astroturf).  Be honest..if the boxes are not tended as we have listed above, address this with everyone in the home.

If the cat is spraying, (cat backs up to an object and twitches his tail and lets loose urine, amounts can vary) be mindful of some things that you might be doing to worsen the problem.

  • If you are feeding the birds- don’t it will draw other cats into the yard
  • If you are feeding homeless cats in your yard- don’t
  • If you dispose of your cat’s litter right outside your door- don’t, the smell will draw other cats

Deliberately chase other cats off your property. There are many products on the market. A motion sensing sprinkler, developed against deer is very effective. There are also chemical deterrents that can be bought in hardware/feed stores.

You may have to block your cat’s ability to view the outdoor cats. (close the bottom slats on your blinds or cover the windows with paper)

If you have cats spraying in your yard, remove exterior clothing prior to coming into the home after garden work. Periodically hose down the doors and bushes near your doors. Certain plants and shrubs encourage cats to mark them, be careful with what you plant in your garden.

Be sensitive to changes in your cat’s life/environment.  Work to minimize the stress.  Read the book, Your Home, Their Territory by Tony Buffington DVM PHD.

Remember that cats respond better to high praise than negative discipline. There are times when behavior can be so severe that the use of medication is in order. This is always a last resort. Setting good litter box management routines in place from the beginning can help avoid any behavior problems in the future. Remember by nature- cats are very clean animals.

Do not hesitate to contact CHCC for any concerns or questions.

Litter Box Related Products

NVRMiss Litter Box is a great product.  Developed by a husband whose wife was frustrated by the cat’s “misses”.  This Canadian small business approached us about their boxes.  They were looking for a handful of practices in the states to promote their product.  People buy one to try, and then comeback to replace every box in the house.

Anti-Icky-Poo An enzymatic odor eliminator that works very well.  Made in California, we carry it at Chestnut Hill Cat Clinic.

Nature’s Miracle An enzymatic cleaner that was originally used in preschool cleanups. Effectiveness in pet cleanup was discovered by accident!

Scare Crow will humanely and safely chase strays away from areas in your yard where you have it positioned.  Often the presence of these cats are the cause for undesirable behavior (spraying) from your own.  Available at Primex Garden Center in Glenside.

Meow Space can help you manage multiple pet feeding or litter box issues with dogs in the home.

  • Personal PetCast by the Weather Channel Enter a few bits of information about your cat and location, and you get a comfort index, care guide, and local pet friendly events, based on temperature, mosquito index, and precipitation.
  • Sofas and Sectionals Tips for keeping pets off furniture, preventing damage, removing fur, and anything else pet-and-sofa related
  • SoftPaws An alternative to declawing, SoftPaws nail caps are smooth plastic applied directly to your cat’s claws.
  • Sticky Paws Instead of declawing, put Sticky Paws on your furniture or favorite carpet scratching places.  Kitties don’t like the sticky feel of it, and will keep their paws off.  They are as sticky as a post-it note, and are easily removable (by humans).
  •  Neeko Feeder will help you manage the cat with food allergies, prescription diet or weight control issues.


Choosing to have a cat for a pet is easy, what is not to love?

What the people at Ohio State are teaching us, are wonderful ways to enrich the lives of these felines so their lives are richer and more fulfilled.