General Litter Box Considerations

Litter boxes should be provided in different locations that are easily accessible throughout the house to the extent possible, particularly in multicat households. The rule of thumb is one litter box for each cat plus one additional box, or one litter box for each social group plus one additional box, if the number of social groups is known. Placing litter boxes in multiple quiet locations that are convenient for the cat, and provide an escape route if necessary, could help facilitate conditions for normal elimination behaviors.

If different litters are offered, it may be preferable to test the cat’s preferences by providing choices in separate boxes, because individual preferences for litter type have been documented.33,58 For cats with a history of urinary problems, unscented clumping litter may be preferred.55,60 Litter boxes should be cleaned regularly and replaced, as well as scooped daily. Soap or strong chemicals should be avoided; hot water is best. Some cats seem quite sensitive to dirty litter boxes.74 Litter box size and whether the box is open or covered may also be important to some cats.75,76 It is recommended that the litter box be at least one and a half times in size based on the length of the cat from nose to tip of the tail, which means most manufactured boxes are not large enough. Using items such as larger storage containers is likely to achieve proper litter box size.

The litter box edges should not be too high in order for a kitten or senior cat to enter and exit easily. For kittens, discuss appropriate litter box management and locations with the client to assure proper use by the cat. Litter box rejection can stem froma variety of causes, and choices can be offered for the kitten to express their preference. If house-soiling is noted by the owner, the kitten should be evaluated for underlying conditions such as congenital abnormalities of the lower urinary or GI tract, GI parasites, or other infectious diseases. Mature adult and senior cats may house-soil secondarily to medical or behavioral conditions. Clients should be encouraged to seek veterinary assistance promptly, in order to diagnose life-threatening conditions such as urinary tract blockage, and to avoid having the behavior become entrenched.

Cats should never be reprimanded for toileting in undesired locations and should never be taken to a litter box punitively.

Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health USA Inc., CareCredit, Dechra Veterinary Products, Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc., IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., Merck Animal Health, and Zoetis Petcare supported the development of the 2021 AAHA/AAFP Feline Life Stage Guidelines and resources through an educational grant to AAHA