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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

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • multiple litter boxes
    12/10/2015 08:15am

    This is so true. I have 8 rescued cats. There are times when I have had more. Multiple litter boxes is a must. Also, they should not all be real close to each other. I have also found that using two different kinds of litter works best. They all have their preference. I use clay clumping litter in some of the boxes and oko cat (a litter that looks like sawdust-also clumping) in some of the others. I have noticed that most of them will choose one or the other and stick with their choice. Most of my boxes are in our heated basement, but I have one upstairs. Wish I didn't have to, but sometimes, they just don't want to make the trip downstairs. For a while, I had a couple that would urinate upstairs. After ruling out medical problems and lots of reading, I found an article that said there should be at least one box on the main level of the house because that's where they hang out the most. Like magic, the urinating outside the box stopped. I hope this helps anyone out there that is experiencing a problem. Urinating outside the box isn't a pleasant thing to deal with. It must be cleaned up with an enzyme cleaner or vinegar. I also got feliway plug ins and spray to relieve any stress that may have been contributing to the problem. Thankfully, problem solved. I know some people get rid of their cats when this problem occurs. It's very sad because with patience, it can be solved. I love mine too much to ever give up on them and let them go. They are all mine until their last breath and I will deal with any problems that come along.

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