Friday, January 13, 2012

Protect the Hearts of Your Children! Keep the Litter Boxes Clean.

I’m going to start off here with something near and dear to my heart. That is… the litter box.

Me; holding Bootsie, and my little bro; holding Fluffy.

As a little, little girl (we’re talking about three here) I got a cat named Bootsie. When I was five, my parents decided that Bootsie would no longer be a member of our household. Even now, approximately 23 years later, thinking about my goodbye to her brings tears to my eyes.

Imagine me, a tiny girl with big ol’ dimples, hugging her cat while lying in her brother’s race car bed, sobbing and explaining to her that she had to go to the Humane Society because she was a bad cat and begging her to behave better at her new house, assuming she got one.

That day was my first step down the road to Crazy Cat Lady-dom. (Also, it was primer for later adolescent rage at my father, but that’s beside the point.)
Why did my parents decide to give Bootsie the boot, you ask? Well, mostly because she peed, daily, on my dad’s work clothes. My dad got sick of smelling like piss, and since she was a “bad cat” for not using the litter box, that was the end of it, on to the next one.  

Cat peeing all over your house? Would you like some help with that? Chances are, the first thing that needs to change is your own behavior.*

Litter Box Etiquette 
(try to think of it from your cat’s point of view)

Minimum, you should be cleaning your litter boxes once daily. If you think the box stinks, your cat most definitely does, seeing as how it can smell better than you. If there’s poop smeared down the sides and they have to dig through stinky, wet litter to do their business (wet litter which, mind you, they then have to lick out of their paws), well, that pile of clothes just gets more inviting.  

          Make it part of your routine. I clean mine right before I feed my crew their evening meal. Even with eight cats, done daily, it takes less than five minutes. When I had my crazy retail schedule, I cleaned them right before bed.

Another added benefit of daily cleanings is that you look at their waste everyday. I know that doesn't seem like a benefit, but it means you will notice any changes or abnormalities right away.
First, start with a clean, dry, empty litter box. Then get some clumping cat litter. Fill the box deep enough that pee and poo piles won’t touch the bottom. Next, scoop daily. If a clump is stuck to the side or bottom, pick up the box and tap it forcefully against the ground to dislodge it without breaking it with your scoop. Keep clumping litter on hand to top off the litter when it gets too low. Keep your scoop and the sides of the box clean. The chore of cleaning boxes gets way less nasty and time consuming like this. I promise. Keep in mind that filthy litter boxes are more likely to spread toxoplasmosis ( and nobody wants that!

Keep food and water away from the litter boxes, in another room preferably. Nobody likes eating food while their nostrils are filled with the scent of their own waste.

Make sure your cat feels safe while using the litter box. Something as simple as your washing machine being loud or another cat harassing them can send them running to their favorite not-deemed-appropriate-by-people potty spot. Situate your litter boxes so nothing (your other cat, your dog, your child, whatever it may be) makes kitty feel cornered. Always give them an out. 

Golden Rule for multi-cat households; have as many litter boxes as you do cats, plus one. (Example: 3 cats, 4 litter boxes) Spread your litter boxes out in your household, otherwise you may be putting every box you have in one cat’s territory.

The goal is to make the litter box a lovely and inviting place for your cat. You may like that covered litter box because it keeps the smell in, but that’s exactly why your cat hates it. Keep things simple, clean, and unscented. Finally, remember that if you give your cat an option that it views as better, it will go there, so buy a hamper with a lid and pick up the stuff on the floor!

*Health issues, such as UTI’s, can cause litter box aversion problems, make sure your cats have a clean bill of health.

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