Litter Boxes are for Cats

When I met Rose she had one cat, Sneakers, who had a typical litter box. Later, when we added more cats, we added a couple more standard litter boxes. These boxes came with a cover that is designed control odors and keep more of the litter in the box. It is a great idea for humans, but what about for cats?

I never liked the covers and either threw them out or bought the box without the cover. I tried to look at it from the cat’s point of view. Would I like to crawl into a small cave to do my business? That is essentially what an outhouse or Port-O-Potty is and I never like using those and only do so when left with no choice.

The idea that those covers control odors, in my opinion, is a fallacy. They may somewhat contain the odors inside the box, in concentrated levels, that the cat then has to endure every time they use it. In addition, all those smells are released all at once when you remove the cover to scoop. I have seen my cats use the litter box without the cover and they will almost always have their head in a position outside where a cover would be, indicating to me that the cover interferes with what is comfortable for them.

We eventually switched to larger boxes, in part because we had too many cats, but also because I felt the standard litter box was too small and confining. Cats like to choose a good spot to go in and I felt the cats would feel better if there were more room to find that spot.

At first, we bought big storage boxes. These worked well but when Chris came along and started pooping outside the box, I spent many years refining our litter boxes, and the litter itself, to get him to poop where he should.

I tried very hard to think like a cat so I could understand why Chris would not always use the box. I started scooping the boxes every time I noticed one had been used. Chris had a very loose stool and would sometimes poop in the box and then five minutes later poop again on the floor, presumably because the box was “used.”

Another thought had been that the boxes were a bit too tall and climbing into a box is probably not natural for a cat. With that in mind, I replaced the boxes with ones that were a little shorter. I also bought an actual litter box that was short enough so Chris could just step into it. These changes helped but they were not enough.

Just recently we purchased two litter boxes. One was fairly big with a low front for easy entry. Our most recent purchase was a huge litter box called the Giant Litter Pan that is also lower in the front and it has two pockets for the scoop, bags and whatever else you need there.


Chris using our new Giant Litter Pan

Chris using our new Giant Litter Pan

Of course, the right box is only part of the solution. The other thing to consider is litter. Litters that are dusty are not good for humans or cats. I tried many litters and, at least for a while, settled on Tidy Cats because it had a relatively low dust. The Tidy Cats worked well enough but it did not stop Chris from pooping on the floor.

What helped that was a litter called Dr. Elseys Cat Attract. This litter has an attractant that somehow makes the cats want to use it. The drawback to this product is the cost, at about $30 a bag. It also did not work 100 percent of the time, however, the number of poops I had to clean off the floor was reduced by at least 80% which made this well worth the extra cost. It is also even less dusty than the Tidy Cats.

Chris’s pooping problem was eventually eliminated when we moved to our current home and put our three litter boxes (now two) in the same room. We had them in different rooms so Chris would always be close to a box but I see now that was a mistake. If one box was not perfectly clean in the old house, Chris was not going to go to another room to check out the next box. He simply pooped on the floor. Now if a box is dirty he can just step over into the other box to do his business.

Now that the litter box issues are behind us we switched the litter to Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat litter. It is the same as the Cat Attract but without the attractant (which is called
Precious Cat Ultra Litter Attractant and can be purchased separately) and the higher cost. It is still not cheap but it is very low dust and is also unscented, which I think is good because the perfumes added to litter is just one more thing intended for humans that a cat does not need.

Now I spend a little more time scooping and sweeping litter but I consider that time well spent. It is way better than cleaning poop off the floor.


27 thoughts on “Litter Boxes are for Cats

  1. onespoiledcat

    Sam comes to find me in the house (wherever I may be!) to “tell” me when he’s used the litterbox… I can clean it IMMEDIATELY (if not sooner). He likes that box clean all the time (fine with me) but I’ve always thought it was interesting that he’d come to tell me. At least he waits until I’m AWAKE in the morning if he’s done his business when I’m not “available” at night!


  2. Sparkle

    My human’s at BlogPaws, and yesterday she was at a session where the speaker (Steve Dale) talked at length about cats and litter box habits. Thankfully, he too talked about covers being a bad idea for litterboxes – I mean, really, can you imagine being stuck going to the bathroom in a stinky outhouse your whole life? That is what it’s like for us kitties, using a covered litter box.

  3. peacelovenwhiskers

    Yay! It’s the promised poop post! 🙂 I’ve got a giant litter box for my four and a smaller round one that came with a dome but didn’t like it. I use pet supply plus litter, I can’t afford the good stuff, we did arm & hammer, tidy cats, non clumping.. I really want to try worlds best cat litter but holy cow its pricey. I doubt I can train all four to use the toilet…

    1. Charles Huss Post author

      The “poop post.” I like that. The Precious Cat is about $18 for 40 pounds, which is a little high but isn’t terrible. There is usually coupons in the bag too but I always forget I have them.

  4. fozziemum

    The great litter conundrum..we have found the solution for the girls ..they do have the outside but prefer to come in to go to the toilet….unless I have freshly planted something which requires immediate digging up…just sayin 😉 anyway we have their trays in the big bathroom in the bathtub…due to the dogs penchant of nugget surfing…gross…and we use chicken layer and very good for no tracking..and absorbency rates..but as yet they have laid no eggs!! hugs Fozziemum xxx

    1. Charles Huss Post author

      Dogs will eat anything. I guess it’s a survival instinct. You are lucky you can use something cheap. We can’t with Chris around. Years ago we used Feline Pine with a special bucket. I thought it was a good idea because it was non-tracking and the pee would break up the pellets which would fall to the bottom and come out through small holes to the second layer of the bucket. The cats were not as impressed as I was. 😦

  5. hungryhungryhippo404

    I never realised how complex a thing deciding on the right kitty litter and kitty litter boxes would be before getting Oscar :-/ I hadn’t even heard of covers for kitty litter boxes until I saw them on a few blogs. They don’t seem to be particularly widespread in Australia and from what I’ve read this seems to be a really good thing. I use a box without any sort of cover or lid around it, and luckily Oscar has no problem using it, much to my eternal surprise.

  6. The Island Cats

    We’re glad you found a litter solution that seems to work for you. Someone suggested buying the Rubbermaid sweater boxes to use as litter pans…same thing…but cheaper. We also use the Dr. Elsey Precious Cat litter and love it for the reasons you mention…less dust and no scent. But if someone could invent a dust-free, no tracking litter, they would make millions!

    You asked about our stacking cubes that we won at BlogPaws. They’re called Catty Stacks…and there is a website for them, but you can purchase them from many pet sites and Amazon. They’re pretty sturdy considering they’re made from cardboard.

    1. Charles Huss Post author

      Thanks, I will look into the Catty Stacks. The sweater box is a good idea. It is low enough but also big. My only issue with Rubbermaid type boxes is that we have had a few crack after a while which causes urine to get on the floor under the box.

  7. jansfunnyfarmj

    A good post on litter boxes. We have big, tall ones because a certain one among us has to pee from bottom to top and over the side. Jan has used the covered boxes in years past but the cat’s head was always sticking out the opening to get fresh air, so she stopped using them. She would love a dustless litter she could afford – an find in the store.

    1. Charles Huss Post author

      We sometimes have to deal with pee over the top too. It is difficult to choose which sacrifice you should make. The litter can be a difficult choice too because some cats won’t use certain kinds of litter. Maybe you could try Fozziemum’s suggestion in the comments. I don’t want to switch now but if I did I would change one box to see if the will use it.

  8. Rusty's Mom

    I had two cats and didn’t have area for two litter boxes and, while the kitties were very close and raised from kittens together, they just needed a bit more space, even though they didn’t mind using the same box. A friend of mine who had more cats than I could count got mud/mixing pans. They’re used for mixing concrete and mortar. You get them from anywhere that sells construction supplies, they’re nice and big and work wonderfully. My boys loved it.

  9. Cathy Keisha

    I recently reviewed the Cat Attract and got to try it. I really liked it. One of the things Dr. Elsey mentioned was the locations of the boxes. They should be in a quiet area without a lot of foot traffic or noise. He also mentioned feeding only stinky goodness to keep cats from getting bladder infections and stuff. He said to use an open box too but I like a hooded box cos my peeps like to take embarrassing pictures of me.

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