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The Fine Art of Litter Box Care

By: J. Anne Helgren

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It is important to know how to care for your cats litterbox to help insure that your cat uses the box. We will give you our best tips to care for your cats box to prevent or fix behavioral problems in your cats.

As you may realize, one of the cat's most attractive features is that she comes with an automatic waste disposal system. Cats need no daily walks in the blinding snow or blistering heat, no long and sometimes unsuccessful house-training.

Just show kitty the litter box, and in most cases she'll instinctively do her business and considerately cover up the results, too.

However, buying the appropriate litter box and filler is important to your kitty. Not every litter box and filler is right for every cat, and what works for one may not work for another. Cats, as we know, are individuals with distinct personalities and preferences.

Fortunately, today's cat lover has myriad choices, and one of them will keep kitty purring. Here are some tips on how to choose the right litter box and litter and how to care for the litter box.

The Right Stuff

If your cat isn't happy with the litter he may avoid the box, so finding the right kind is important. Litters can be separated into seven basic categories:



  • Regular clay. These litters absorb fluids very well, control odors and are inexpensive and economical. Some are formulated with antibacterial agents and many have additives that absorb, neutralize or mask odors. However, clay litter is often quite heavy, a problem if you have trouble hefting weighty containers. If solid wastes aren't scooped daily and the litter isn't completely replaced regularly, odor and box avoidance can become a problem, particularly if you have multiple cats. But a highly scented litter often isn't the answer – some cats dislike the added fragrances even more than the litter box odors themselves.

    Tracking and dust can be problems as well. The finer the grade, the more a litter will track, creating a beach effect around the house. Fine clay dust billows up when some clay litters are poured into the box. Litters formulated to be dust-free can help, but few clay litters truly live up to that claim. If you or your cat has asthma or other respiratory conditions, consult your doctor or veterinarian before using clay litters.

  • Clumping clay. Most of these litters contain sodium bentonite, a clay that swells and forms hard clumps when it encounters fluid. Clumping litters are popular because they cement the cat's urine into easily removable clumps that can be scooped out when solid wastes are removed. They help control odors and, because the entire contents of the litter box needn't be dumped as often, clumping litters are economical and useful in multi-cat households. Unless you enjoy plumbing problems, don't flush these litters. Dust can be major concern with clumping litters, too, and because of the smaller granules tracking is often a problem.

    According to some sources, clumping clay litters containing sodium bentonite can cause feline health problems, although this has not been conclusively proven. When a cat finishes using the litter box, he typically washes his feet, and any litter left on the paws is ingested. It's not hard to believe that a product that stops up plumbing might stop up kitty plumbing as well. Reportedly, once inside your cat the litter swells and clumps, causing blockages in cat's digestive tract, particularly dangerous in young cats and kittens.

    To be on the safe side, use clumping litters for adult cats only, and buy a dust free variety. Clumping clay litters made without sodium bentonite are now available, and may be a safer choice. Read more about the issue at www.sonic.net/~marina/articles/hornfeldt.html and www.thelighthouseonline.com/marina/articles/moredata.html.

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