How To Set Up Your Cat’s Litter Box For Success

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Even if your cat has access to outdoor space, you still need to provide them with a litter box as an alternative option. A litter box can help reduce the risk of accidents around the house, as well as reduce the risk of stress and bladder or bowel problems. But setting up a litter box in your home comes with a few rules and recommendations to ensure that it’s just right for your cat.

Quick Overview

01

The right location helps cats feel safe and able to see what’s around them when they use the litter box.

02

Ensure you have enough litter boxes for the number of cats in your house—at least one per cat, plus one more.

03

Keeping your cat's litter box very clean and will encourage your cat to use it.

Cats go to the toilet an average of three to five times each day, and they have a natural instinct to dig and bury their waste. Generally, cats choose to eliminate in a safe and secluded spot somewhere on the edge of their territory.

Most of the time, cats choose to go outside if they have access to it, but if the weather is bad, it’s nighttime, or they simply don’t want to go outside, they will choose to use an indoor litter box. To ensure your cat actually uses the box, you’ll need to get it set up correctly.

Do I Need A Litter Tray If My Cat Goes Outdoors?

cat living outdoors

Even cats that spend time outdoors need their own litter box indoors.

Lots of cat owners assume that if their cat has free access to outdoor space, they don’t need to provide a litter box. But this is not the case, as there can be several reasons your cat might want to go to the toilet inside.

Cats might be having problems with a neighboring cat on their territory, or it might be raining, cold, or dark outside. Always give your cat the choice. Providing a litter box gives them the option to go indoors in a safe place if they don’t want to or can’t get outdoors.

Also Read: Should I Let My Cat Outside?

Choosing A Litter Box

cat sitting in the litter box

Kittens can use a smaller litter box, but adult cats need larger boxes so they have space to do their business.

Cats are very choosy when it comes to litter boxes, and most other things, too. You’ll need to choose the right type of box for your cat, but with a whole range on the market, which one is best?

Also Read: 11 Best Cat Litter Boxes In 2023 – We Tried Them All

What Type Of Litter Tray Should I Get?

cat coming outside after using covered litter box

Litter boxes come in many different sizes and styles, and cats have individual likes and dislikes.

Every cat is different, and they all have their preferences. But most cats prefer a litter box that is easy to get in and out of, large enough to turn around easily, and provides some feeling of safety or privacy. Elderly cats and kittens might need a box with lower sides so they can get in and out easily.

Some litter trays have a cover or lid; others are open. Generally, cats actually like to be able to see what’s going on around them when they go to the toilet. It depends on how many cats you have and where you put the litter box.

Most cats adapt to using a covered litter box, but others feel too trapped. An uncovered litter box might be more suitable if you have more than one cat—that way your cat will be able to see if another cat is approaching or if the box is already occupied.

Automatic and self-cleaning litter boxes are growing in popularity because they are cleaner, more hygienic, and save us from having to clean them as frequently. But the motors can actually be quite noisy, and if it disturbs your cat while they’re going to the toilet, it could put them off using the box next time.

When it comes to choosing the right size litter box—we recommend that it’s one and a half times the length of your cat from nose to tail. Cats need space to turn and dig without restriction. Kittens can have smaller litter boxes but remember they will grow out of smaller boxes quickly.

Also Read: The 7 Best Litter Boxes For Large Cats

What Type Of Litter Should I Use?

cat coming out after using litter box

In general, most cats prefer a soft, fine-textured and unscented clumping litter.

It might seem like there’s an overwhelming amount of choice when it comes to litter boxes and litter, but it all comes back to cats being picky and their individual preferences. You’ll soon get to know what your cat does and doesn’t like, because if they don’t like the litter or the box itself, they simply won’t use it. Cats develop their preferences as young kittens, so keep a mental note of which litter they liked best.

Litter can be made of anything from paper to wood, plastic, silica, soda, and even recycled materials. Most cats prefer something that resembles sand, and they definitely prefer unscented as many cats find strong scents offensive to their sensitive noses.

Clumping litter makes it much easier for us to clean out, as the litter clumps together once wet with urine. This means you don’t need to change the whole box as often.

Also Read: 11 Best Cat Litters Of 2023

Setting Up The Litter Box

cat litter box near the toilet

When setting up the litter box, choose a quiet location away from your cat’s eating and sleeping areas.

Once you’ve chosen a litter box and litter, you’ll need to get it set up appropriately. It all comes down to location, location, location.

How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?

How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have Per Cat-compressed

Provide at least one more litter box than the number of cats in your home.

The number of litter boxes you have in your home depends on how many cats you have, and this is extremely important. As a rule, we recommend having one litter box per cat plus one additional litter box.

So if you have two cats, you’ll need three litter boxes. It might sound excessive, but cats like to go to the toilet in their own private spaces, and not having enough boxes can lead to some serious problems in multi-cat households.

Not enough litter boxes cause cats to feel stressed and can trigger episodes of feline lower urinary tract disease, urinary tract infection, and behavioral problems, including inappropriate elimination.

Also Read: How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have Per Cat?

Where Should I Put My Cat’s Litter Box?

cat litter box near the cabinet

It’s best to spread litter boxes out in different rooms, placing at least one litter box on each floor of your home.

Placing litter boxes in the right place is very important as they need to be in areas where your cat feels safe. Generally, discreet corners or adjacent to the wall is a good idea—your cat should have a 180-degree view of the surrounding area but still have some protection.

Don’t put your cat’s litter box anywhere near where they eat or sleep and make sure it’s always accessible. Don’t put the box in a bathroom or laundry room with a door that gets closed often. Also avoid placing the box in high-traffic areas like hallways where cats can easily be disturbed. Consider the space that best fits these criteria within your home.

Also Read: How Do Cats Know To Use A Litter Box?

Maintaining Your Cat’s Litter Box

owner cleaning the litter box

Cats strongly prefer a clean litter box to those with “stuff” already in them.

Getting the right setup and choosing the right litter box is the first step to ensuring your cat uses it and likes using it. But maintaining good litter box habits is what will ensure your cat returns to the litter box.

Also Read: How Often Should You Change Cat Litter?

Keep It Clean

cat inside the litter box

Scooping both urine and stool out of your cat’s litter box at least once daily truly cannot be overstated.

Litter boxes must be cleaned regularly. Cats are meticulously clean creatures, and they will refuse to use a dirty litter box and choose instead to go to the toilet elsewhere in the house. Remove feces and clumped wet litter as soon as you know it’s there. Keeping a scoop nearby makes this easier.

Ideally, you should clean out the whole box daily. Empty it and clean it with warm water and a pet-safe disinfectant, then dry and refill with fresh litter. If your cat doesn’t use it very frequently, you can get away with less cleaning. Litter box liners can help make the cleaning process easier.

Also Read: How To Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box

How Much Litter?

low-sided open litter box

Fill the litter box with 1 to 2 inches of litter so your cat has enough to dig and bury.

Make sure you fill your cat’s litter box with the right amount of litter to allow them to dig and bury their waste. We recommend a depth of 1 to 2 inches of litter, but some cats might prefer more or less than that.

Final Thoughts

cat using litter box

Consider your litter box setup carefully to avoid common litter box problems in the future.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to setting up your cat’s litter box. Litter box aversion can be difficult to manage and lead to stress, urinary and bowel problems, and behavior problems.

It’s important to set things up right from the start. Get to know your cat’s preferences, and you might need to try a couple of different litters or locations before you get it right. If you follow our simple guide, including choosing the right box and location, you’ll be ready for success!

Also Read: Why Do Cats Bury Toys In The Litter Box?

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to set up a litter box? 

Choose a litter box that is the right size for your cat and choose a litter you know they like. Make sure the litter box is in a quiet and accessible part of the house, either in a corner or against a wall where they can see most of the room.

How do you attract a cat to a litter box?

Litter box placement is most important. To make it more attractive to them, it should be in a safe and quiet place, contain enough of the litter they like, and always be clean.

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About Dr. Joanna Woodnutt, MRCVS

Dr. Joanna Woodnutt (MRCVS) is a small animal veterinarian and writer who is passionate about helping owners to learn more about their pets in order to improve animal welfare. She loves to write and wants to empower owners to make the best decisions for their pets by giving them all the information they need. In her spare time, she takes consultations on the small island of Guernsey.

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