People love their cats. But people generally don’t love litterboxes. And that’s understandable – they can be dusty, smelly, sticky, and just unpleasant to deal with. Which means that litterboxes are often relegated to areas in the home where humans don’t have to go very often – out of sight, out of mind, right?
Today’s Litterbox Lesson focuses on the litterbox location. One of the reasons why cats choose to abandon litterboxes and opt for something else (like your living room carpet, or a pile of clean clothes, or any other place) is because they don’t like the litterbox location. Humans want one thing, the cat wants another. But if you want to keep your cat’s urine and feces in the box, you’ll have to find a location that works for both of you! Contrary to popular belief, cats don’t need privacy when using the litterbox – the concept of privacy when toileting is a human desire, not a cat’s. Cats do, however, want quiet, low-traffic areas in which to eliminate. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Is the litterbox easy to access? Make sure that there are no barriers to your cat’s litterboxes. I’ve seen litterboxes blocked off by baby-gates or behind closed doors that humans have to open to let their cats through. Your cat needs to be able to access her litterbox without barriers! If she has to jump over something or cry to be let out, a change needs to be made.
- Is the litterbox in a quiet location? Be aware of the noises that may occur where your cat’s litterbox is. Put your cat’s litterbox in a place where there won’t be sudden, loud noises. Putting the litterbox next to washing machines and dryers, or a water heater, is probably not a good idea. It only takes one time for a cat to be startled off of a litterbox for her to decide it’s not a safe spot!
- Does the litterbox have a safe vantage point? In the wild, urinating or defecating is a very vulnerable position for a cat to be in. You’ll want to make sure that, from the litterbox, your cat can see the rest of the room and that there are no overhead perching places where an enemy or predator could be hiding, ready to ambush. Even if there are no other cats in your home, it’s all about “perceived vulnerability”, which is built into your cat’s survival instincts. And another tip: cats can’t see in complete darkness. Your kitty will be thankful for an automatic night-light near her litterbox!
- Is the litterbox near socially significant areas of the home? Your cat does not want to travel out of her normal territory to access a litterbox that has been placed too far from the social areas of your home. If you have all of her litterboxes stashed in a dark corner of the basement, you might want to rethink that location. Elimination areas have social significance for cats and are a part of their territories, so don’t take that component of your cat’s life away by placing the litterbox too far from “home”.
- Keep litterboxes away from food and water. In the wild, your cat knows not to eat where she eliminates – there’s risk of contamination. And further, you cat probably doesn’t enjoy it! How would you feel about eating dinner in the bathroom sitting next to your toilet? Cats have super-sensitive noses and don’t want to smell their litterbox while they are eating any more than you do. So, try to spread out your cat’s resources, which include separating the food and water from her litterboxes.
I hope that you and your kitty can find a nice litterbox location that everyone will agree on. And, don’t forget that there are creative solutions to putting litterboxes in your home that aren’t in plain sight! If you want some ideas, check out my Pinterest board that has some clever solutions for hiding litterboxes.
Did you miss my Litterbox Lesson about providing multiple access routes in a multi-cat home? Go check it out right meow!
What are some litterbox lessons that you have learned in your own home? I’d like to read your thoughts in a comment below!