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Bringing Home a New Cat: Litter Box Tips

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A new family member is an exciting time. Your first kitten? A second (or third) cat? Or perhaps you are adopting an older cat, maybe a rescue? Either way, it is important to prepare carefully for your new family member. One critically important step is establishing good litter box habits. It is much easier to prevent litter box issues and inappropriate elimination than it is to try to fix the problem. Remember, you are not really training your cat. Cats will choose where they eliminate based on a complex set of factors. You are providing your cat with a cat-friendly and cat-appropriate place to go with the expectation that they will choose the spot (the litter box) that you have chosen for them. Once their habit is formed, they are extremely likely to follow that habit for successful litter box use and a healthy, clean home.

The key to successful and continuous litter box use is to begin with a cat-friendly set up from the first day your new cat or kitten comes home. You need to visualize the litter box from the cat’s point of view.

  1. First, think numbers. A good rule of thumb is to provide two litter boxes for a single cat and add one litter box for each additional cat in your home. So, for two cats, you would want to have three boxes. For a new cat, this is especially critical. The goal is for to provide each cat with options and a safe space for elimination, as well as potentially a box to call their own.
  2. Second, consider where you place the litter boxes. Again, you need to provide options. There should be at least one box on each level of your home preferably in different areas. This helps to prevent anxiety and if you have multiple cats, turf wars. If you have a dog, keep in mind that your dog may be fascinated by your cat’s bathroom habits, but your cat may be too shy or anxious to use her litter box with the unwanted attention. You will encourage litter box use if you cater a bit to your new cat or kitten’s preference of location, privacy, and need for safe space.
  3. Other considerations include the type and size of box. Again, consider your cat. A larger cat will need a larger box. Some cats like the privacy of a covered box, while others may feel uneasy or trapped by the cover. You may also prefer a certain type of box but be sure to consider your cat’s preferences. If your cat is not happy with your choice of box, they may not want to use it.
  4. How easy it is to access the box? Kittens and older cats may need a box that has a lower cut-out for an entrance. Remember an older cat may have some arthritis or another condition that makes getting into a taller box difficult.
  5. The type of litter can also make a difference. Some cats are picky about the feel or the scent of their litter. They might not agree with your first choice! It is not a bad idea to provide a variety of set-up combinations until you discover which your cat will use the most.

Once your cat chooses a box or type of litter, you can stick with that, keeping in mind that you may need to adjust as your cat ages or as your family circumstances change. With some careful planning, you will find they will use their litter box routinely and preferentially. You can prevent a lot of trouble with a cat-friendly litter box set up that encourages its use and helps establish the habit of consistently using the litter box. Blue Lake Animal Hospital provides dedicated care for your cats, so call us to schedule a checkup.

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