The litter tray

New cat owners have a long list of items that they must buy. Near the top of the list of things you will need to do will be buying a litter box. 
If you plan to bring a cat into your home, this should happen BEFORE you bring the cat home.

Most of the time, cats are going to start exploring their new space. One thing that they will be searching for is the most suitable bathroom. If the litter box is not yet in the house, they may choose a plant or some other space instead. It is easier to teach a cat to use the litter box than it is to teach them to STOP using some other spot.

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for this most important piece of cat gear.
  • Space - The amount of space that you plan to dedicate the cat and his gear will have an impact on the decision that you make when making a selection. For example, if you only have a tiny space for the cat, you will not want to purchase a huge electric litter box. Litter boxes are available in a variety of sizes. Keep your space in mind when choosing one.
  • Number of Cats - The number of cats that you have or plan to have must also be considered when buying a litter box. A good rule of thumb is no more than two cats per box. Of course, it is ideal to have one box per cat, but this is not always possible due to space constraints.
    If you have more than one cat, you will need to go with a larger size. If you purchase the smallest litter box for more than one cat, it might get dirty faster than you can clean it, causing the cats to look for other places.
  • Size of Cat(s) - The size of the cat or cats is yet another consideration when choosing a box.
    If you have a tiny kitten, you will need to purchase a litter box that he can climb into easily. The average size box will have sides that may be too tall for him to scale. Therefore, you will have buy a small box for the kitten and replace it as he grows.
    If you have a particularly large cat, you will need to buy a box that the cat fits into comfortably. If the cat feels too crowded, they may look for an alternate location.

There are several types of litter box. Here are some brief descriptions of some of the most popular.
  • Open  - The open litter box is the most economical and most common choice. This is a simple plastic pan that comes in a variety of sizes. While it is the least expensive you will have to see and smell the contents of the litter box anytime that you go near it.
  • Domed - Dome or covered litter boxes are another option to consider when buying a litter box. Covered litter boxes are slightly more expensive than open boxes, but are still quite affordable. This type of box gives the cat more privacy and keeps the content of the box hidden from view.
  • Filter - Many domed and covered litter boxes also come with a charcoal filter. While these filters may make the smell slightly more tolerable between scooping, they do not eliminate the smells altogether. The filters must be replaced every couple of months, but they are very inexpensive.
  • Disposable - For some cat owners, the idea of a disposable box might be very tempting. The idea is that when the box is dirty, you throw the whole thing into the bin and put down a new box. However you will need a new box at least once a week, and more often in you have more than one cat. This can get quite expensive to keep up. There will also be the extra expense of using brand new litter each time instead of scooping out the waste and adding a bit more litter to the box.
    A disposable litter box is a good idea if you plan to travel with your cat
  • Electric - Electric litter boxes are another type of item that promises to reduce the amount of work that a cat owner must do - they are however quite expensive to buy and maintain. Some pet owners find that their cats are frightened by the sound of the motor and refuse to use the box.
    If you don’t mind spending a lot of money on a litter box, this is an option, but it really isn’t that much of a time saver as you will still have to empty the tray into which the litter box scoops the waste.
  • Furniture - One of the newest options is litter box furniture. These are attractive pieces of furniture in which the litter pan is housed. They make a great choice for those who have limited space or who do not want to deal with an unsightly litter box.
    You will simply open the front, which has a door cut out for the cat to enter, and pull out the pan for cleaning.

There are many choices available when buying a litter box. A bit of research and some thought into the amount of space you have and other factors will help you determine which one is the best choice for you.

One problem that causes more upset between cats and owners than perhaps any other is the dreaded litter box issue; or, more specifically, the issue of what to do if your cat is not using the litter box. This is a topic that always comes up, and always causes distress to people.
But it need not. There are things that can be done to understand what is going on and to get the problem fixed while keeping your cat with you and making both your lives calmer, happier and easier.

Until your cat is reliably house trained, they should not have free run of your home. If your cat continually makes mistakes, the behaviour can simply become a habit. Punishing a cat after the fact teaches them to be afraid of you. Scolding and then taking the cat to their litter box after they have already eliminated teaches them to associate the litter box with punishment. Basically, punishment doesn't work with cats: prevention and praise for getting it right are the keys to training.

Until your cat is trained to use the litter box when you leave the house for any length of time, your cat should be confined to a single room, preferably one with non-porous floors, such as a kitchen, bathroom, utility room, basement or garage.

The first step is always to rule out health issues. It may not be health related at all, but whenever a cat's bathroom habits become unusual, it's always good to just have a vet check-up and make sure there is nothing unseen at work (urinary tract infection, bladder problems, kidney stones, etc.).

The second step is to be sure the litter box is clean enough. No one likes a dirty box – especially a cat. Your cat does not simply need a litter box - they need a clean litter box with fresh litter. Your cat will be inhibited from using the litter box if it smells of urine. Think about it from the cat's viewpoint. When they soil your dining room carpet, the area is immediately and thoroughly cleaned. Given the choice between a regularly cleaned place and a litter box that gets changed only once or twice a week, your cat will naturally prefer the carpet. Some cats dislike certain types of litter and won't use it.