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The Fine Art of Litter Box Care

By: J. Anne Helgren

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Location, Location, Location

Location, location, location, just like in real estate, is also vital to successful litter box training. If your cat doesn't like the litter box's placement, he may not use it. For example, if you place the litter box too close to the cat's food and water dishes, the cat may avoid the box. Cats don't like to eat and eliminate in the same area. If the box is inconveniently located – say, down in the basement or on the top floor – kitty may find it too much trouble to get there, or may not be able to reach it in time. If the box is located so kitty has to brave some stressor to get there, such as a loud appliance or a dominant cat's territory, he may find a safer place to eliminate.

Put the litter box in an area that allows the cat privacy, but is convenient for cleaning. Some folks prefer keeping the box in the bathroom, but in a multi-cat household that can get crowded. Consider using a closet in a spare bedroom, lined with plastic to make cleanup easier, or a ventilated porch with easy access. Some use a rarely used second bathroom or the bathtub. The confines of your home will guide your choice; just make sure kitty is content.

Litter Box Care

It's also important to take proper care of the box. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell and an instinctive desire for cleanliness. A dirty litter box can make the cat turn up her nose and look for a private corner to do her business.

Clean the box often. Scoop out the soiled litter and solid wastes daily or twice a day, depending upon your cat's preferences and the number of cats and boxes you have. Change the litter entirely and scrub the box with soapy water each week if you are using a non-clumping litter. Remember to clean the hoods, scoops, steps and other accessories as well. Clean under the box, too, since pools of urine can accumulate underneath. A layer of disposable plastic under the box can be a big help.

Some cats are more fussy and a weekly scrubbing won't be enough. If so, you might try a clumping litter. With clumping litters, the litter needs changing less frequently and still remains relatively odor free. By scooping out the clumps and solid wastes once or twice a day, depending upon the number of cats you have, you can make all but the most sensitive cats happy. Ultimately, you and your cat will have to reach an agreement on the cleaning frequency.

Plastic pans will eventually pick up odors that won't come out no matter how much you scrub them, so they should be replaced periodically. Try to find identical or similar replacements, since cats dislike change.

You also don't want a box that's too clean. Harsh, strong-smelling cleaning chemicals such as bleach or ammonia may offend your cat's delicate nose and cause her to avoid the box. Also, avoid any chemical that would leave a potentially toxic residue. Usually soap and water work fine, although special cleaners with enzymes to neutralize odors also work well.

If you have trouble remembering to clean the box, set up a regular cleaning schedule and stick to it. It will be easier for you to remember if you include it in your list of daily chores and do it at the same time every day. We humans, like cats, are creatures of habit. If you find that you hate cleaning the box and dread doing it, do it first thing in the morning. That gets it out of the way and you won't spend the day dreading it or feeling guilty about not doing it. Once it becomes part of your routine, you'll accept it as just another thing you have to do so you can enjoy the companionship of your precious pet.

We hope these tips help you care for your cats litter box and make it as appealing as possible. Choosing the right litter, the right litter box, cleaning the box properly and placing it in the right location are all critical components to making the box as appealing as possible.

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