Reviewed by Amy Flowers on November 12, 2012


Ingrid Johnson, CCBC Certified Cat Behavior Consultant Stephanie Golderman, DVM Feline Veterinarian

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Video Transcript

Preventing litter box issues is a top priority for many cat owners. Ingrid Johnson and husband Jake have found some solutions…

…despite sharing their 1200 square foot home with a 98 pound Burnese mountain dog and a brood of rescued cats.

Well, there's Peaches, Zinnia, Asia, Aimon, Fraya, Wickas, Leftie, Charcol, there's lot of cats!

So… we have a very multi cat household and we have to creatively meet their needs in our very small space. This one being the first of the boxes…

A certified cat behavior consultant, Ingrid uses her training to maximize space.

Right next to our toilet, is their toilet, perfectly appropriate place to have a box…

But even with nine litter boxes strategically placed around the house, there's no smell and few accidents. How does she do it?

You want to set the cats up to succeed.

Ingrid's first tip for litter box success: always have one more box than the number of cats.

So if you have two cats, you should have three separate litter box locations. That does not mean three litter boxes lined up in a row in one room.

To the human, there are three individual pans, but to the cat, there is only one place to mark and communicate.

Under the desk in the office is another great place for a litter box…you spend a lot of time there…

Placement is one of the keys to success.

They want to mark where the humans spend time. We tend to stick them in the basement where no one ever goes. Cats don't want to mark there.

They want to mark your scent. You're they're favorite human. You're -- you're -- their whole world.

Another tip: use large, clear, high walled boxes, ideally without hoods.

Cats don't use caves to go to the bathroom, it's completely unnatural.

If we give them the high walls, the human has the mess that's kept inside, the cat that's digging doesn't spill the litter over the side of the pan,

they don't accidentally pee or poop over the side of the pan….

They should be about one and a half times the length of your cats body so they have lots of room to dig and turn around without touching the sides of the box….

The boxes need to be clear so that they can see who's approaching while they're eliminating so they can feel safe and secure.

Litter boxes should be scooped every day. Period. End of story. Scoop all boxes once a day at a minimum, twice a day is ideal …

Cleanliness is key, so also dump, clean and sanitize all containers at least once every 6 weeks. And don't use a citrus scent.

Cats hate the smell of citrus. It's actually a deterrent.

And cats actually find the smells of lavender and honey suckle calming and appealing,

so those are perfect fragrances to use when you're scrubbing out your litter box.

What if you've followed all these tips and your cat suddenly starts avoiding the box?

First and foremost they should always visit the veterinarian….To make sure that theres not a medical problem

If they're trying to communicate pain, discomfort, illness….trying to hide illness from other cats in the household or they don't like their box,

they don't like where it's located, they don't like the litter. You have a perpetual two-year-old on your hands and they are trying to communicate something.

Learning to listen… yet another key to litter box success.