The old saying in real estate, “location, location, location,” applies to litter boxes, too.
Where you put the litter box can mean the difference between harmony and hostility between you and your pets. If you want your felines to feel comfortable doing their business and minimize the likelihood of soiling around the home, it’s wise to put some thought into where you place the litter boxes, says Blair de Jong, an ASPCA feline behavior counselor.
“In the cat world, one of the biggest problems we hear about is litter box training and inappropriate elimination,” de Jong says. “Once they start, litter box problems are a pain to manage.”
Table of Contents
- 1 Where to Put Your Cat’s Litter Box
- 2 Litter Boxes in Multi-Cat Households
- 3 Solving Litter Box Problems
- 4 Is the Litter Box in the Right Place?
- 5 A Litter Box That’s too Close to Food
- 6 A Litter Box That’s too Inconvenient
- 7 A Litter Box too Private
- 8 A Litter Box That’s too Uncomfortable
- 9 A Litter Box That’s too Noisy
- 10 A Litter Box That’s Not Safe
- 11 The Lowdown on Your Cat’s Litter Box Location
- 12 Setting Up the Cat Litter Box
- 13 Choose Litter Box Location Wisely
Where to Put Your Cat’s Litter Box
The best places for litter boxes are usually quiet, easy-to-reach corners that offer privacy, de Jong says.
“Check out where your cat spends the most time,” de Jong says. “If your cat never goes up to that weird attic room, don’t put the litter box up there.”
As a rule, cat owners don’t want to see or smell litter boxes, so they may tuck them in places that are out of the way for the pet, says Paula Garber, a cat behavior specialist from Westchester County, New York.
Instead, place the box someplace that the cat can easily get to, preferably a low-traffic area away from food and water bowls, Garber recommends. Cats usually like to hang out with their humans, so one of those favorite spots may be perfect for a litter box.
Think about the aspects you look for in a bathroom, Garber adds. Choose a spot with sufficient light since cats want to be able to see when they go to the bathroom, she says. If possible, use nightlights to brighten an area. “If you lived in a home where the only toilet you could use was in a dark corner, you would not want to go there,” Garber says.
Your cat’s personality, age, physical condition, and the layout of the home are factors to keep in mind, she says. For instance, a senior cat with limited mobility cannot be expected to travel far when nature calls, so make sure her litter box is nearby, Garber says.
Litter Boxes in Multi-Cat Households
Litter box placement can get complicated when multiple cats live under one roof, Garber says. What works for one feline may not be acceptable to the other kitty.
A client of Garber’s placed litter boxes in the garage for his two cats. One cat uses the boxes, the other one doesn’t, despite the cat door on the garage door. “The garage is probably dark and probably gets cold in the winter time,” Garber says. “It’s not convenient to the cat.”
Since not all cats will share their litter boxes with housemates, it’s important to have enough boxes to take care of all your pets, she says. “In multi-cat households, you definitely don’t want to put litter boxes right next to each other,” since cats will see the two as one litter box, Garber says. “You want to spread the litter boxes around the home.”
And because some kitties prefer to urinate and defecate in separate boxes, Garber recommends maintaining two litter boxes for each feline in the family.
Kitties feel vulnerable when they’re going to the bathroom, especially when there are other cats in the home, Garber notes. In her own home, she keeps a litter box right at the top of the staircase leading to the bedrooms. Hallways “are open areas,” Garber says. “Cats feel safe. They can see other cats coming.”
While an upstairs hallway can be peaceful, busy foyers are not ideal for a litter box, she says.
Solving Litter Box Problems
Cats like to hang out in comfortable rooms. If your kitty likes a particular bedroom, and you don’t object, place a litter box in the room, Garber says. Make sure to keep the bedroom door open.
Your cat’s toilet can also be placed near your toilet, if it’s just you and your pet living in the home and the room is large enough for a litter box, de Jong says. However, if someone in the home shuts out the cat by closing the bathroom door, it may prompt the animal to do her business somewhere else.
“The other issue is if you don’t have a confident cat,” de Jong says. “Let’s say you’re showering. The sound of showering may scare the cat.”
Since cats like to relieve themselves in quiet places, Garber and de Jong advise owners not to place litter boxes near appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, or furnaces. The sounds from the appliances may spook some animals.
Don’t surprise your cat by moving the litter box all of a sudden. If you need to relocate the box, make sure to move it gradually, a few inches each day, until the box reaches its new destination, Garber says.
“You don’t want to make sudden changes with the litter box by moving it from a place where it was for a long time,” she says. “Cats are very sensitive to sudden changes to their environment. They may not take the time to look” for the box’s new location.
Some cat owners find innovative solutions to litter box problems. One owner with several kitties found the younger animals would gang up on the elderly arthritic cat when she needed to use the litter box in the living room, de Jong recalls. The owners resolved the problem with a sensor cat door collar, which gave the senior animal exclusive access to a room with a separate litter box.
“She’s the only cat with access to that room,” de Jong says. The owners “wanted to give the cat her own special place.”
Is the Litter Box in the Right Place?
When a cat stops using the litter box it’s a very stressful situation. It’s obviously extremely stressful for the poor cat but it’s also very stressful for the human family members. Nobody is happy when kitty pees on the carpet and not in her litter box.
There are many reasons for litter box aversion and we have several articles here on our website that cover this topic. As always though, the very first thing you should do when kitty stops using the box is to take her to the veterinarian in order to rule out any underlying medical issue. This step should never be skipped
One reason for elimination outside of the box that doesn’t always get the attention it deserves is location aversion. Where you place the box can play an important role in whether it gets successfully used, periodically used or never used. Here are a few potential triggers for litter box location aversion:
A Litter Box That’s too Close to Food
Their survival instinct tells cats not to eliminate where they eat. The last thing a cat wants is to have the scent of her waste attracting predators to where she is eating, sleeping or raising her young. The reason cats cover their waste in the litter box is rooted in that same survival instinct. Covering the waste makes it less able to be detected by predators. If you place the litter box close to the feeding station, the cat will often choose to eliminate somewhere else.
A Litter Box That’s too Inconvenient
The litter box isn’t the human family member’s favorite part of household décor. As a result, many cat parents place the litter box in the most out-of-the-way locations in the home. It gets hidden in basements, wedged in the corner of the garage or shoved into closets. Putting the litter box in the household equivalent of Siberia will often backfire on you. When your cat’s bladder is full, she’ll truly appreciate having a litter box conveniently located. This becomes even more important as she ages or has mobility problems. If you live in a three-story home would you like to have to travel down several sets of stairs to get to the one bathroom in the home? Probably not. Provide litter boxes that are conveniently located – and that includes providing an adequate number of boxes based on the size of your home and the number of cats in your family.
A Litter Box too Private
When it comes to taking care of personal business, humans definitely prefer privacy. Cats, however, don’t need as much privacy. Granted, you don’t want to place the litter box right smack in the center of the living room, but you also don’t want it so isolated that it becomes forgotten or difficult to access. Find the right balance between adequate privacy and convenience.
A Litter Box That’s too Uncomfortable
Does your cat have to squeeze through a pet door to get to the box? Does she have to wedge herself between the tub and the toilet to gain access to the small box you’ve tucked in there? Make sure the box is in a location that provides comfort and ease of use.
A Litter Box That’s too Noisy
Just as you don’t want to locate a box in an extremely remote area of the house, you also don’t want to go to the other extreme and put the box in a high-traffic area. Your cat doesn’t want to be in the middle of personal duties in the box while the children are running around just inches away or the family dog is barking at her. Just as in the paragraph on privacy, provide a healthy balance.
A Litter Box That’s Not Safe
I think of all the location aversion issues I help clients with, this is the biggest one. If a cat doesn’t feel safein the litter box, there is absolutely no reason for her to return there. If you have a multicat household and one cat ambushes another in the box, if the dog goes after her or there’s any other reason she might feel anxious about her safety in there, she will seek out other options. Make sure the litter box is located in an area that provides safety and that the set-up itself encourages security (an uncovered box, for example). Don’t put boxes in closets or other locations that limit the cat’s escape potential.
The Lowdown on Your Cat’s Litter Box Location
Setting Up the Cat Litter Box
Where you decide to set up your cat’s litter box is a major consideration. Cat’s can be delightfully finicky about pretty much everything. And this includes where they go to the bathroom. However the litter box location is possibly one of your cat’s biggest concerns. If the litter box location is situated where your cat is not convinced to use it, your cat may just decide, either go outside the litter box or find alternate locations throughout your home to use as their own private litter box.
And that is the last thing you want to happen, as many cat owners know, cat urine is one of the hardest odors to eliminate. Therefore, it might be in your best interest to indulge your cat and situate the litter box according to your cats needs. I have noticed if my cat’s litter box is not in the ideal position, he will do a quickie and blast out of the area like a lightning bolt. So positioning the box so your cat is able to eliminate comfortably is imperative. For you and for your cat.
It is best to seek a location that is dry, easy access for your cat, quiet, and if possible a little bit roomy. Cats are not comfortable eliminating where people are coming and going, or making a lot of commotion or noise. Just as we humans, cats prefer some form of privacy when going to the bathroom. Construct the litter box location simple to reach, if it is in a closet or where stairs are present it might make your cat shy away because it is too much trouble to gain access.
If you are placing the litter box in a basement, choose a quiet corner that is easily accessible for your cat. Avoid placing the box near a washer, dryer or heating system. These kinds of noises can scare your cat, and once again they may choose inappropriate places to eliminate. If you do place the box in a closet of sorts, be sure the door is consistently open.
If you have an older cat you may want to steer clear of all stairs if possible. Lighting is considerably important as well for an elderly cat. If your cat cannot see the box, it will more than likely miss it altogether. At night, utilize a night-light to illuminate the litter box area so your cat doesn’t have to guess at the target spot. Cats have better night vision than human’s, but they cannot see in total darkness.
Placing doggie pads around the litter box can help with clean-up if your cat does misfire. It is never a good idea to put a litter box near your cat’s food or water dishes, that can definitely spell disaster. Wherever you place the box always make sure the doors are left open or ajar so your cat can reach the litter box with little difficulty.
Once you find the perfect place for your cat’s litter box, keep it fresh and clean as possible. Many cats are turned off by stinky kitty waste, and will often refuse to use the litter box if it is not free of waste. So if you are a using scoopable clumping brand of litter, cleaning the box several times a day is sufficient and highly recommended. Using pooper scooper baggies is an extremely convenient way to get rid of waste. If you are using a non-clumping litter changing and cleaning the box at least once a week is advised.
Using a separate trash can for the baggies can simplify the entire cleaning process. You may want to keep another container outside to avoid indoor odors. And simply empty regularly when full. Some cats are picky about their litter, so you may have to experiment with this a bit. I have two cats who will not use cheap non-clumping litter, so I choose to buy a clumping scoopable litter that my cats will use freely with contentment.
Some litters have built-in odor eaters and others are just a bag of powdery dust. So choose your cat litter wisely. There are numerous litters on the market today that will satisfy you and your cat. Sprinkling baking soda into the litter box will help absorb urine smells. But if in is in your budget, buying a better brand of litter is a wise and a simpler maintenance choice.
Choose Litter Box Location Wisely
This is frequently the most private and convenient location for the cat litter box. You can buy boxes with lids or screens to hide the litter box, yet allow enough room for your cat to do it’s eliminations privately.
Many people put the box at the end of a hallway. I personally am not keen on this placement, as it is far too out in the open, with foot traffic being much too high. If it is the only logical place for you, you might want to find creative ways to disguise the box. There are many options available for litter box housing.
At one time I lived in an apartment with a huge utility closet, the absolute perfect, most convenient place for a litter box. The water heater kept the space warm and cozy for the cat. Another very popular solution that is catching on quickly is litter box furniture. These are decorative designer boxes that blend in with your homes décor. Making it easy to hide the not so attractive litter box.
For more information on cat litter box furniture you can check out http://www.designerpetproducts.com/ for further details and cool ideas. These enclosure units can be very decorative and easily maintained while hiding the litter box in a more convenient spot that doesn’t create an eyesore for you and gives the kitty a little more privacy.