Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

Why Multiple Cats Need Multiple Litter Boxes

 

 

Purrfect and Tigress have adapted to sharing things and people in their multi-cat household. They both stand at their food bowl and take turns dipping their faces in; they assume opposite sides when drinking from their water bowl; they play “keep away” when they want the same toy; and they recognized early on that their owners have two hands for petting both of them at the same time. With all this accommodation, why can’t they also share the same litter box? The reasons cover a wide range, from their origins in the wild, the hierarchy they have established among themselves, and their individual personalities and characteristics, to how they express their feelings and maintain their territory.

 

Give 'Em Some Space

 

Cats, unlike dogs, are not pack animals. Even if they are siblings from the same litter, there will be times when each kitty wants her own space. And when they are doing something as private as elimination, sharing the same litter box can be stressful for some cats. Ideally, a multi-cat household should have the same number of litter boxes as the number of cats, plus one extra box; in other words, for two cats, there should be three litter boxes.

 

Places, Everyone

 

Cats that are territorial tend to carve out their path of travel throughout the house and, if the alpha cat is aggressive toward the beta cat, the bully can block the litter box entry. Denied access can lead to elimination elsewhere — like your favorite couch. But if two of the litter boxes are placed at opposite ends of the house, stalking is cut off at the pass. It’s impossible for Tigress, for example, to guard both boxes at the same time. The third box, meanwhile, can be placed somewhere between the opposite two, or on the second level of a two-story house.

 

Keeping It Clean

 

The golden rule of litter boxes is to keep them clean but, unless you are in the vicinity every single time one of your cats goes potty, it’s impossible to remove waste as soon as it’s deposited. Since cats tend to be territorial, most often each cat will claim her preferred litter box and other cats will seldom use it. Having multiple boxes prevents overcrowding into one, where your cat has to step on others’ waste and may feel like there’s not a spot clean enough to “go.” Not finding what she needs in her litter box, she’ll choose another spot where no stepping over waste is required.

 

Providing multiple litter boxes for multiple cats can also save your furniture and carpet, ensure your kitties are happy and feel safe, and avoid needless confrontation over not having enough facilities. The bonus is the encouragement of good behavior and avoiding inappropriate adaptations to accommodate their basic needs. That is their owner’s job.

 

Image: Tracie / via Flickr

 

Sign up for the Cat Care Journal

Monthly expert tips and stage-by-stage advice to help care for your cat.

By subscribing you agree to receive special offers from Pet360 Inc and Church & Dwight Co., Inc., the makers of ARM & HAMMERTM.

Cat Care Questions
Answered By

Q. Why do kittens meow?

A. The truth of the matter is there isn't one answer, but many experts agree that they...

Read More
Q. Why do kittens purr?

A. A kitten's purr is another complex emotional signal that is designed to communicate...

Read More
Q. Should I speak to my kitten?

A. Yes, by all means, please do. The happiest kittens are those that feel like part...

Read More
View All the Questions

Featured Breed

Alya

Savannah Cat

Featuring Alya
The Savannah is an unusual, exotic breed of domestic cat that looks much like its ancestor, the African Serval, but is smaller in size. One of the features that make this breed so unique...

LEARN MORE