What’s up with kitty litter?


So you think your kitty is not using the litter box correctly. There could be multiple reasons why, we will try to pinpoint some of the common issues here.

This litter stinks!litter

There are as many types of litter boxes and litter as there are breeds of cats. That’s a LOT, and there’s a reason for it. Cats have individual preferences in food, toys, and yes even in their litter boxes and litter. Some will prefer wide open boxes while others may choose to have a bit more privacy with a covered box. Some cats will prefer pelletized litter while others may like a more sand-like texture.

If you get your cat as a young kitten she will more than likely adapt to whatever you provide. She knows you as her keeper and protector and will trust your judgment. That means it is up to you to do what is in your kitty’s best interest.

A cat adopted later in life may or may not have developed a preference, which you will find out by trial and error. I suggest putting a washable towel or rug under the litter boxes. Kitties who don’t like their litter will sometimes hang over the side of the box instead of staying within its confines.

Some kitties will leave their deposits right on top and walk away, others will attempt a world-class excavation. If the sides of the box are too low, or the box is too small this could cause a major indoor sandstorm!

Sand and clay, paper and pine

With multiple kitties you need the same number of boxes as cats PLUS one. So for 2 cats you should have 3 litter boxes. If you have a multi-story home there should be a litter box on more than one level. For single story homes the boxes should be accessible in different areas of the home as opposed to all in one room. For just one kitty the boxes may be kept together.

There are many types of litter and each has it benefits and it is drawbacks. I’ll go through a few of them here to get you acquainted with the differences in each.

Clay based kitty litter, which is the same product used as an industrial oil absorbent, was the most common type of litter until the advent of the addition of bentonite and/or silica (sand). These minerals were found to cause the formation of clumps when moisture was introduced, which made it easier for pet parents to clean up after their kitties. While both are still widely used today the major drawback with any clay based litter is dust. The amount of dust will vary from brand to brand but if you suffer from any respiratory problems it may be advisable to wear a dust mask for protection or see if your kitty will tolerate another type of litter. The small granule size also causes more litter to be caught in a kitty’s paws and tracked elsewhere, another drawback.

There are some very good pellet litters now available which are made from the sawdust of different types of wood, often pine, then formed by very high pressure into pellets. The pellets are vacuumed to remove dust which makes them healthier for both you and kitty, and are so absorbent they are often used in horse stalls. The pellets litters are also less likely to be tracked due to the larger pellet size which is not as easily retained in the paws. However, this technology also comes with a price. These are among the priciest litters on the market, so if a tight budget is a consideration these may not be the answer for your household.

Some of the newest litters are made from other ingredients like newsprint, corn and walnut shells. Varieties of these can be either pellet or granule. They also vary greatly in price so you may be able to find a budget friendly yet natural litter made with these healthier ingredients. The most common complaint about some of these is the smell. Some pet parents have reported that the litter smells bad even before kitty makes her “deposits” to the litter box. This is an extremely personal determination to make so I will only say that you may have to try several until you hit on the combination that works best for you and your kitty.

Cleanliness is next to, well NOT the litter box

Until you hit on a litter that is satisfactory to both you and kitty you may have some messes to clean up. If you decide on a clumping litter it could result in the need for breaking out the “dust buster” vacuum for the area leading away from the box after kitty is done with her “business”. My own solution is to put down a small machine washable throw rug. Most weeks I can just take it outside and shake it out. When it needs washing I have another to put down in it is place. I don’t have much furniture in the spare rooms where the litter boxes are kept, so I don’t feel the need to dust in there too often anyway. (My apologies Good Housekeeping!)

Some of the pellet litters which don’t track quite as badly also state they can be flushed (although not recommended for septic systems) since the ingredients are natural. For some people that may be a big plus. For me, since my bathrooms are too small for a litter box, it’s not much help. I have to scoop out the waste anyway, and if I’m going to be carrying it through the house I’d rather take it all the way out to the trash. Again a matter of personal preference.

 

Why is my dog eating cat litter?

If you are the pet parent to both cats and dogs you may face the unthinkable…your dog grazing for a snack in the litter box. While repulsive to us, this behavior is not uncommon in some dogs, especially puppies. The good news is they generally outgrow the habit on their own. The bad news is if they don’t you will need to intervene on their behalf, since clumping litter could potentially cause a blockage in the pup’s intestine.

Reasons behind this attraction lie partly in the difference between cat foods and dog foods. Cats have a much more discerning palate, therefore their food is made more flavorful which translates to making cat poop a flavorful snack, at least in a dog’s mind. The other reason is that dogs are natural foragers, and will often eat twigs, leaves, garbage, you name it, simply out of instinct.

The easiest way to stop this habit is to place a barrier of some type between dog and litter box. If the dog is small placing the litter box higher on a stand or shelf may be all it takes. For a larger dog perhaps a baby gate on the doorway to the room in question would be a better solution.

It may be wise to have your pup checked by your veterinarian to make sure there is no underlying physical problem or dietary deficiency causing the behavior.

No butts about it

The subject of your kittie’s litter box needs and habits, and your dog’s fascination with poop may not be the most pleasant topic but their elimination behaviors are every bit as important as their intake behaviors. All good pet parents know what is normal for their own furry friends, and when in doubt to seek the opinion of a trusted veterinarian.


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18 thoughts on “What’s up with kitty litter?”

  1. Hi,
    You know, I never thought about my cat not liking the litter that I buy. I just kind of figure they use whatever is there and don’t care what it is. In thinking about it, the last batch of litter I bought was different from the usual and I had a lot more kitty poops on the floor than usual. Maybe that was their way of telling me they didn’t like it! Thanks for the enlightenment and the post!

    1. Hi Lynne!
      Yes kitties can be really particular about their litter and litter box. It could be either the litter or the placement of the box. You may want to try one of the pheromone sprays attractive to cats that will keep them them coming IN instead of OUT. Thanks for sharing your comments, and let me know what worked for you so I can share with others.
      All the best.
      Kyle Ann

  2. Interesting post. We moved to Florida from Texas and the litter we have used for years doesn’t stand up with the high humidity. Instead of little clumps (we scoop daily) we have giant masses. The last time we tried to change litter brands, Mr. Finicky (name changed for anonymity) was horrible. He did his business all around the box instead of in it. Do you have any tips or tricks for making the transition easier?

    1. Hi Susie!
      Sometimes a kitty will will stop using his litter box out of stress. The move may be part of the problem. I would suggest trying one of the pheromone sprays that attract cats to make the scent of the litter box more attractive to him. Also he may just not like its location. If there are other convenient places (for you) to locate a litter box you may try one of those and see if it’s more to his liking.
      Come back and let me know the results, I would like to share what worked for you with others.
      All the best.
      Kyle Ann

  3. Hi, another very informative article, and packed full of good ideas for keeping your cat happy and wanting to use the litter tray and not the corner behind grandpa’s armchair 🙂 There seems to be a much larger choice of litter available these days, so a little trial and error and you should find one that your cat is happy to use.
    Our cat is so fussy when it comes to his litter tray, we use a mineral type litter that he loves to scatter everywhere, but is very offended if he needs to use it and it is not spotless! 🙂

    1. Hi Jo!
      Yes there is a large variety of choices available. Most cats are very particular and once you find what they prefer they don’t like change. I’m glad you’ve found a product that pleases your cat, even if it means a quick vacuum more often for you!
      Thanks for your comments, keep watching for more tips!
      Kyle Ann

  4. Hey Kyle Ann,

    This is very helpful! I was wondering why my kittens have been pooping in the bathroom tub when we have a litter box in the garage.

    So my brother is in charge of taking care of the litter box and he’s been working long hours and forgot to clean it out, so the box was filled with you know what and the smell was unbearable.

    So I ended up cleaning it out myself and added some new sand and the kittens are now using it again.

    Cheers,
    Eric

    1. Hi Eric!
      Your comments made me smile! What considerate kitties to use the tub instead of your carpet, bed or other areas much less desirable. At least you figured out the problem, and both you and the kitties are happy again.
      Thanks for sharing, all the best.
      Kyle Ann

      1. Hey Kyle,
        I’m glad my comment made you smile haha! That’s the thing about having cats or pets in general. They add that extra spark in your life and that’s exactly what I look forward to when I’m at home.
        Cheers,
        Eric

  5. Man this was extremely helpful. My cat sometimes stops using it and goes on the carpet. Now I know why. I think its funny how picky cats can be, especially with smells.

    1. Hi AJ!
      Thanks for reading, and for your comments. Yes, cats can be especially picky with their litter box habits. Another thing you might try is a good anti-scent spray on the area all around the litter box so your cat isn’t attracted to that area again.
      There are also pheromone sprays that attract cats to an area, and those could be used directly in the litter box to insure it remains attractive to your cat.
      All the best to you and your furry companion.
      Kyle Ann

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