Cat Litter and Litter Boxes
In 1990, Dr. Peter Borchelt, an applied animal behaviorist, ran three 10-day
tests to determine feline litter preference using a comparison of 14 types of
commercial litter as well as topsoil mixed with clay litter and playbox sand.
Each cat had 6 boxes to choose from; midway through the testing, the boxes were
moved to prevent placement preference from overriding litter type preference.
In test after test, fine-grained clumping litter was used more than twice as
often as its nearest competitor, with boxes of wood chips, grain litter and
recycled paper litter going completely unused. Borchelt concludes, “These data
support the clinical observation that an important factor in cats’ preference
for litter material is its texture, granularity or coarseness. Everclean, a
finely textured clay, was preferred to clay with larger particle sizes. But
playbox sand, which is also finely textured, was not preferred much more than
coarse clay, perhaps because of the weight of the particles.”
What to choose? You control the purse strings, but the ultimate choice is up
to your feline friend. For if he does not like the smell and feel of the
litter, he will take his business elsewhere.
This article was written by Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion
Animal Programs Adviser, ASPCA National Shelter Outreach. It originally
appeared in the Spring 1997 issue ofASPCA Animal Watch, and was updated
in November 2006.
Did You Know?
Many scoopable cat litters are processed in such a way to
remove as much of the fine dust as possible. If you find that you or your cat
is particularly sensitive to airborne dust particles, you may wish to consider
using an alternate form of litter.
One in every 10 cats will have a litterbox lapse in his or her
lifetime. The 20 most common reasons are:
1. The cat is suffering from a medical problem involving the urinary
2. The cat experiences a bout of geriatric constipation.
3. The caretaker does not keep the box as clean as the cat wants it to
4. The owner changes the brand or type of litter.
5. The owner changes the location of the litterbox.
6. The owner switches to deodorized or perfumed litter.
7. The owner buys a new box and throws out the old one.
8. The owner cleans the litterbox with too harsh a cleaning
9. The location of the litterbox is too busy or not private enough for the
10. The home is too large for just one litterbox.
11. The cat inadvertently gets locked out of reach of the
12. The cat is kept from using the litterbox by another animal in the
13. There are too many cats and not enough litterboxes.
14. There are too many cats and not enough territory.
15. Stray cats can be seen/smelled near the cat’s territory.
16. The unneutered male cat has come of age and is marking his
17. The unspayed female is in heat and advertising for suitors.
18. Over time, the cat has developed an aversion to the texture of the
19. The cat was never properly trained to use the litterbox in the first
20. The cat is stressed by a change in routine or environment, including a new
baby, new furniture, work schedule changes, vacations, overnight guests or a