Litter Boxes and How to Live With Them

By Patty Khuly, DVM on Sep. 1, 2011

It’s been about ten years since I have had to live with a litter box; plenty of time to have conveniently forgotten how annoying and repulsive they’re wont to be. I kind of liken it to the same sort of magical thinking that so frequently seems to befall women who give birth more than once.

In the latter case, I swear there’s an amnesia hormone to blame. Why else would anyone go through labor ever again? But so it is that nature finds a way, allowing us to forget the pain so that our species might carry on.

For feline litter boxes, however, there is no such excuse. By all rights I should have remembered exactly how trying — not to mention smelly and messy — a box of pent-up poop and pee can be.

But then, there’s something so special about cats that those of us who know, love, and keep them are consequently willing to live with their nasty digestive leavings. I mean, urine is bad enough, but the fecal material is quite another ball of … um … you know.

So it is that I dedicate this post to those of you who share my pain. But to be honest, this entry is less for you than it is for me. After all, seeing as I’ve forgotten so many of the unsavory details of keeping a cat box, I might as well be a newbie all over again.

Nonetheless, I’m happy to offer up some exciting new things I’ve learned about the practicalities of litter box maintenance, since two kitties came home to roost in my spare bedroom-slash-outdoor enclosure (here’s my post on this from a couple of months back):

1. If possible, play with foods to find the one that makes their poop smell the least. For example, I learned that one version of therapeutic urinary tract diet was much better than the others on this score. Wow, what a difference!!

2. Convince at least one cat that he really would prefer to use the toilet in the great outdoors. In my case, that means I have to do poop patrol in the outdoor enclosure — which is nowhere near as bad as managing a litter box.

3. Then there’s the kind of box to consider. I’m currently enjoying great success with a funky new top-loading litter box. This kind of box has the cover on the top and cats can jump in and out with relative ease. The mess is reasonably well contained since it’s so deep, and I really like the corrugated plastic top that acts as a litter-mat to catch the stray bits that might otherwise end up on the floor.

4. But there’s still some mess to contend with; which is why I keep the vacuum cleaner in the same room, right next to the box.

5. Composting is doable with kitty litter as long as you use a pine or other kind of natural fiber (with no additives) litter. I’ve been using pine shavings lately since it’s much cheaper than the brand name pine (thank you to whoever suggested this following my last post of the subject).


Now it’s your turn. What do you do to ensure your cats’ litter boxes don’t threaten your sanity?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: zen litter box by .hj barraza


Patty Khuly, DVM


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