How to Use Your Cat’s Behavior (AND OTHER WAYS) To Find The Best Litter Boxes

A lot of things factor into proper use and type of a cat litter box:

  • Your cat’s personality
  • The type of box
  • The type of litter
  • The location and more.

Having a litter box is a necessary evil if you want to have a happy indoor cat and when it comes to talking about litter boxes or even litter… it’s a never-ending conversation (a black-hole of cat litter, if you will).

Well…

Consider this your deliverance, friends.

We’re diving into this world of cat litter boxes and a bit of litter too! [You can read my low down on litter here.]

My Current Litter Box Set-up:

my two purina breeze litter boxes custom set up

The system consists of:

  1. Breeze Litter System – this is the box
  2. Dog Training Pads XL 28in. by 34in. – you’ll remove the bottom piece like the video shows and lay the box on top
  3. PetMate Large Litter Pan – this is what the box above will be put into with the dog pad
  4. Feline Pine Non Clumping Litterthis is the 40 lb. bag

Looks messy but it’s the best for me and my cats and no more clay based litter! No more tracking that all over the house.

Are There Different Types Of Litter Boxes?

Yes!

And your cat can tell you a lot about what you need to know when deciding which one is best for your home!

Keeping an indoor cat first became popular back in the 1940s.

Back then, you were pretty limited in your choice of what to use for a litter pan.

Most people just used a cardboard box or large baking pan.

There are so many types of litter boxes on the market today that it can get overwhelming trying to choose one.

Cats can be very picky about their litter box.

It’s important to pick one your cat likes or he may not use it. It may take some experimenting to figure out which type is your cat likes best.

If you follow some guidelines when setting up litter boxes in your home, you can prevent a lot of the unpleasantness for you and for your cat.

And the first question is what type of litter box will suit my cat best! 

Basic Litter Pan

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
      Most cats. Preferably small to medium-sized cats or kittens who love to dig may do well with this litter box because of the models that have high sides and back.

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
      Large, adult and/or heavy set cats may not do well with this box because the box may not be large enough for them.

basic cat litter pan cat veteran

The most economical type of litter box is the basic litter pan.

Most cats will like this type of litter box.

If your cat tends to kick the litter out of the box look for one with high sides and back.

This basic litter pan comes in small or medium sizes.

If you’re starting out litter training a small kitten, the small size pan would be a perfect choice.

The low sides will make it easy for your kitten to get in and out of the box. Users of this litter pan have stated that the highly polished finish makes it easy to clean.

The small size of this litter box makes it a great choice for use in a crate.

However…

It is probably too small to use as the primary litter box in the house for an adult cat.

A high-back litter pan like this one is ideal for messy cats who prefer an open litter box, and it’s roomy enough for large cats.

Users of this litter box say that their cats prefer this litter box over others because of its jumbo size.

The high back is also great for preventing their larger or overweight cats from pooping or peeing over the sides of the litter box.

For another option, consider this basic litter pan with high sides all the way around.

If your cat loves to dig in the litter box, this may be the litter box for you.

The high sides prevent litter from being kicked out of the box, and the finish of this box makes it easy to clean and odor resistant.

Covered Or Hooded Litter Box

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
Cats who won’t do their business without some privacy will love this box. 
This is also a great pick if you have other pets (like dogs) in the home because it keeps them out of the box. 

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
Cats who are nervous (or bigger cats) may not like this box because they may find it to be too closed in and may get scared or feel they don’t have enough room.

The Catit hooded litter box has to be one of the most intriguing ones to me on this list.

Giovanni uses it for his Maine Coon cat – so you know it’s nice and spacious! Watch his review for this covered litter box below!

 

This is a huge upgrade from the basic litter pan…welcome to the world of covered or hooded litter boxes!

Some cats will like these and some won’t.

Some cats may like the privacy this box gives, while others may find them to be too closed in and refuse to use them.

Odors may build up inside the box, too, which may also make your cat refuse to use it.

Frequent scooping is key with this type of litter box!

This flip-top, hooded litter box has a flip up front that makes it easier to clean.

A great feature of this litter box is the built-in odor neutralizers and a nonstick surface that help prevent odor build up on the surface of the box.

Cat owners state that their cats love this box because of its larger entryway and its roomy interior.

An added bonus is that the hood is great for helping to keep their dogs out of the litter box.

If you have a dog that enjoys eating cat poo, you’ll get where they’re coming from!

If you have a very large cat, you can make a very large covered litter box for him out of a plastic storage tote by cutting a door in the front.

Larger cats will be more likely to use a covered litter box that is spacious inside.

Sifting Litter Box – Mining for gold!

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
This may be ideal if you have one cat (if there are too many cats having access to this box, sifting may become difficult).
This is also a great pick if you are using cat litter that clumps.

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
If your cat is picky and wants their litter cleaned daily or multiple times a day, this might not be the box for you as it’s a bit of a sifting process to do it more than once a day.

Check out one of the coolest sifting litter boxes I came across in the video below!

 

Some think sifter litter boxes are easier, I personally think it seems easier because it’s different.

It may not be easier if you’re doing this sifting process multiple times a day to appease picky cats who won’t go into the box if there’s even one clump (yes, I’m talking from experience with my youngest little rascal). 

These come with a sifting tray that you just lift out and two regular pans. All solids are left behind in the sifting tray for easy disposal. These are a great option if you are using clumping litter.

Users of this sifting litter box love it because the litter doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan, thanks to the sifter tray.

They find that this pan also extends the life of the cat litter because it is sifted so thoroughly each time.

One of the downsides to having this kind of box is that it really limits your choice in the litter, and if you have a picky cat who needs certain litter, this could be a problem.

When using sifting boxes, you should be sticking with easy to clump litter that has small enough granules that they can sift. 

Self Cleaning (Rolling) Litter Box – Is this really clean though?

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
If you have a cat who needs her privacy to do her business, your cat will likely enjoy using this box.

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
If you have cats who spray while they pee (or pee on the side of the box), this sifting box is not for you, as the litter then gets stuck to the side when the box rolls to clean.

Another option for sifting litter boxes is the rolling, self-cleaning litter box.
One of the highest reviewed ones is the Omega Paw – check out the video below for more information on it!

 

These are a covered litter box with a round top. You roll the box to filter the waste and it is collected in a pull-out tray for disposal.

Clumping litter works great in this type of litter box. If your cat likes a covered litter box these are a great, affordable option because they are so easy to clean.

This self-cleaning, rolling litter box takes it up a notch with a built-in litter step at the entrance to the box that catches litter as the cat exits the box.

Cat owners love that they don’t have to use a scoop to clean this box, and some cats love the privacy this box offers.

It is important to note, however, that the litter must be deep enough in the box so that it clumps before urine reaches the bottom of the box.

Once it gets to the bottom of the box, it will stick and you will end up having to break out the scoop to scrape it off the bottom.

Disposable Litter Box – I can throw it away?

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
If you’re a family who travels frequently with your pets or if you’re often fostering or boarding cats for short periods of time, disposable litter boxes may be for you!
They are also great for the “kitten” stage when your cat is just learning to use the box.

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
The sides of these disposable boxes usually aren’t very high, so they aren’t great for messy cats or bigger cats, as there’s a big risk for mess outside the box.


For travel, or if you just plain hate scrubbing out the litter box, consider using disposable litter pans.

They are made from recycled paper and are biodegradable. You can use just about any type of litter in them and scoop as you normally would.

This brand of disposable litter box even has baking soda built in for extra odor protection and is available in multiple sizes.

Users love that you can just throw the whole tray out when you’re done with it, so there’s no more scrubbing out the litter box! They are said to stay clean and dry for weeks at a time.

So, what’s the downside?

An important note from users of this litter box is that the sides aren’t very high.

For messy cats, they recommend placing the litter box inside a large plastic tote with a door cut into the front.

Automatic Litter Box – I’d rather do this myself.

🐾 Cats Who Will Love This Box?
If you have multiple cats, this may be the box for them – because the box is cleaned regularly without much hassle on your part. 
This box is also great if you have limited space in your home and can really only have one litter box.

🐾 Cats Who May Not Use This Box Well?
Messy cats or anxious cats who need space and quiet to use the box may not adapt well to this model because they are usually fairly small and do make noise when being cleaned.

 

For those willing to invest a little money, consider an automatic litter box.

These electric litter boxes do the sifting for you.

All you need to do is empty the little tray where the waste is collected.

These are a great option if you have a cat that won’t use a dirty litter box because the sifter is triggered at regularly timed intervals or by a motion from the cat in the box, ensuring that the box is always clean.

With some experimenting, you may be able to find a clumping litter that works well with this system, but from personal experience, silica litter is the best choice for this type of litter box because it doesn’t become sticky.

While this is the most expensive litter box option, it is also the lowest maintenance.

This may be the best option for multi-cat households with room for only one litter box since the box is always kept clean.

Purchasers of this automatic litter box love that they can go away for a few days without having to pay someone to come clean out the litter box.

For messy cats, one user recommended placing this litter pan inside of a large Rubbermaid tote.

Lining the tote with a trash bag makes for easy clean-up of any spilled litter. Simply cut a door in the front and leave the top on or off depending on your cat’s preference.

You may also want to cut a hole in the tote to run the electrical cord through.

What’s the Deal With Toilet Training Your Cat?

If you are looking for an alternative to the litter box for your indoor cat, you might consider attempting to toilet train your cat.

How do I toilet train my cat?

Well… this kit for toilet training your cat is one way, but it’s received very mixed reviews.

The process involves placing a litter box ring inside the toilet. The kit comes with various sizes that step down to a smaller size as your cat gets used to the idea of using the toilet.

You can watch a video of the stages being done over the course of a few months below:

 

This system will require the use of flushable cat litter.

Be careful not to use too much litter though.

Although the litter is flushable, using too much at once could lead to a septic tank or clogging problems.

A helpful tip:

Successful users of this system recommend waiting 2-3 weeks before stepping down in ring size, rather than the one week recommended by the company.

It can be difficult to use this system if you have only one bathroom in your home because you will need to remove the litter box ring every time you need to use the toilet.

Be prepared to deal with a bit of a mess as your cat gets used to this system as he will probably kick litter everywhere at first, but in the end, it may be worth it not to have to deal with a litter box ever again once the cat is trained.

Note that the rings on this system are meant to be a little flimsy to help your cat get used to the idea of balancing on the toilet seat.

Some cats will take to this system right away, while other cats may be hesitant or refuse to use it at all. In the end, success or failure will come down to patience on the part of you and your cat.

Are there ways to toilet train a cat without buying a toilet training kit?

Yes, you could DIY the same kind of idea like in the video below. 

However…

The fact is, using a training kit like the Litter Kwitter or CitiKity kit is generally the most effective way of toilet training your kitty and this will likely give you the best results.
Comes with instructions and properly sized rings to adjust as you go. 

I am all for DIY projects, but if you’re interested in potty training your kitty – a kit is the way to go!

Placement of the Litter Box

Placement of the litter box can be very important to some cats.

It’s best to put the litter box in a low traffic area. Many cats are shy and don’t want a lot of noise or activity around their litter box.

Your cat should feel safe when he’s in the litter box, especially if you have multiple cats.

Be aware of ambush sights where another cat might hide to pounce on its housemate as he comes out of the litter box. Your cat prefers to have an unobstructed view of the whole room from the litter box.

Here is a mistake you might be making with your litter box…

Placing the litter box in a cabinet or other small area may seem like a good idea for containing odors, but that may also deter your cat from using the litter box!

Cats have very sensitive noses and odor build up in the small space may cause them to look for a different spot to go to the bathroom.

Make sure your cat doesn’t have to travel too far to use the bathroom.

Placing the litter box in out of the way places like basements, garages or attics may prevent your cat from making it to the litter box in time. This is especially true for kittens and elderly cats.

It is recommended to have one litter box per cat in the household, plus one extra. If you have multiple floors, there should be a litter box on each floor of the house, even if you only have one cat.

And one more mistake you could be making with your litter box placement…

Don’t put all of the litter boxes in the same location. Spread them around the house as much as you can because some cats will prefer one spot over another.

Be observant.

Watch your cat to see if he feels comfortable in his litterbox…it can tell you a lot. If your cat seems nervous, stressed, or rushed when he uses his litter box, try experimenting with some different locations around the home.

Check out more of these litter box location tips on the video below!

Litter Box Maintenance

Litter boxes should be scooped out each day, and maybe two or three times a day in multi-cat households.

A slotted plastic scoop is fine for removing waste, but a metal one is even better for getting stubborn clumps that are stuck to the bottom of the box (caused by the litter not being deep enough). Wearing disposable gloves and a face mask can make this process a little more bearable.

With most types of litter, you will need to completely empty the box, scrub it out, and replace the litter once every week or so, depending on how many cats you have that are using it.

Be sure to use a mild detergent that won’t leave a scent behind.
Mild dish soap is great.

For a natural option, try scrubbing with baking soda and then disinfecting the box with white vinegar.

Remember that your cat may not use the litter box if it has a harsh or chemical smell, so be sure to rinse it thoroughly.

Be sure to let the box dry completely before adding litter back in.

When filling the litter box, be sure to put in enough litter for the cat to dig a hole to go to the bathroom in.

They like to be able to dig a hole and then cover it up when they’re done.

With clumping litter, it is especially important to make sure the litter is deep enough because you want it to clump before the urine reaches the bottom of the litter box.

Sprinkling some baking soda in the bottom of the litter box before adding the litter can provide some extra odor protection.

The Evolution Of Cat Litter

There are as many choices in cat litter today as there are in litter boxes, but did you know that most cats had to live outside until after WWII?

Until the invention of Kitty Litter™ in 1947, people didn’t have many good options for litter box filler.

Things like sawdust, shredded newspaper, fireplace ashes, sand, and even plain old dirt were used.

Can you imagine using fireplace ashes in your cat’s litter box?

There would be sooty little paw prints everywhere!

What a mess.

kitty litter paw collar icon cat veteran

 

The story of kitty litter goes like this…

In January of 1947, a lady named Kay Draper was snowed in and couldn’t get to the sand pile to fill her beloved kitty’s litter box.
She went next door to her neighbor, Ed Lowe, to see if she could purchase some sand from him.

Ed had several sacks of kiln-dried clay granules that he had been trying to sell to chicken farmers for nesting box material.

Since he couldn’t get to his sand pile through the snow either, he suggested Mrs. Draper try the clay instead.

As it turned out, the clay worked beautifully and Mrs. Draper began bringing her cat loving friends to Mr. Lowe to purchase the clay for their kitties.

Mr. Lowe was delighted with their enthusiasm and decided to try selling the litter in 5-pound sacks through the local pet store.

The sacks were sold for 69 cents each!

The test sacks sold out quickly and the shop owner was ordering more sacks from Mr. Lowe within a few weeks.

Mr. Lowe’s accidental invention of Kitty Litter™ made him a millionaire. Kitty Litter™, now sold under the name Tidy Cats™, became widely available in pet stores by the early 1950’s.

In 1984, clumping litter was invented by a biochemist named Thomas Nelson.

Mr. Nelson was studying the molecular structure of clay.

He discovered that the clay prevented urea from breaking down, which prevented ammonia odor.

He did a little experimenting and found that if the clay was baked instead of kiln-dried, it would form clumps that could easily be scooped out of the litter box.

Cat lovers everywhere owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr. Lowe and Mr. Nelson for their wonderful inventions!

cat stinky cat litter cartoon cat veteran (1)

What Are the Most Common Types Of Cat Litter?

Cats are finicky creatures, and each cat is likely to prefer one type of litter over another.

There are pros and cons to each type for you and for your cat.

#1. Clay Litter

Clay litter is generally the most economical.

It’s readily available, and most cats prefer it.

It is easy to scoop out the solids with a slotted scoop. However, urine will generally collect in the bottom of the litter box, causing odor and making it necessary to change the litter more often. It can also be a bit dusty, and can sometimes stick to the cat’s feet.

This litter is generally preferred for kittens because the large granules prevent them from attempting to eat it.

#2. Clumping Litter

Clumping clay litter is a step up from regular clay litter.

It is a little pricier than regular clay litter.

Clumping ability varies by brand, but generally, this type of litter forms a solid clump when wet.

The clumping action allows cat owners to easily scoop out both solid and wet materials.

This keeps the litter box drier and controls odor much better. It is not a good choice for kittens, however, because of the tiny granules. Also, because of the tiny granules, this litter tends to track outside of the litter box on the cat’s feet.

Placing a matt in front of the litter box may help to prevent the litter from being tracked through the house.

Breeze system grate for wood pellets to drop opt
Breeze Cat Litter Grate (wood pellet cat litter)

#3. Silica Litter

Another option is silica, or crystal, cat litter.

Silica litter can be expensive, but it is very absorbent.

Generally, you need to scoop out only the solid waste because the granules completely absorb the moisture. You don’t have to change out the litter nearly as often.

Since these granules absorb the moisture so completely and the solid waste doesn’t clump together, this type of litter is the best one for use in automatic litter boxes.

The texture of this litter may be a drawback for this litter, though. The granules can have sharp edges and they are noisy, making a crunchy sound when the cat walks on them.

Some cats will not like the noise.

#4. Natural Litters

If you prefer a biodegradable, more ecologically friendly, cat litter you might want to consider one made from pine, wheat, corn, or recycled paper.

These natural litters are great for absorbing odors and many of them are flushable. They are low on dust and they don’t track like clay litters can.

What’s the catch?

A drawback with these types of litters is that they must be changed more often, and they can be messy.

If you choose one made of pine, your cat may be put off by the pine smell. You can try mixing it with his regular litter at first to make it smell more familiar.

Most of these litters are available in a wide variety of scents.

However, it is best to avoid scented litters altogether and only purchase the unscented types.

Cats have sensitive noses and the scent may turn them off from wanting to use the litter box. Odor neutralizers, like baking soda or enzymes, are great to have in your cat’s litter and the cat won’t ever know they are there.

It’s also important to note that cats can be very picky about their litter and may retaliate if you decide to change the type of litter you are using.

It’s best to change gradually by mixing in some of the old litter with the new one until your cat adjusts.

For a breakdown on some of the more common forms of cat litter (plus what to look for when buying cat litter), watch the video below!

Common Litter Box Problems (AND 10 SOLUTIONS!)

Cats have a natural desire to dig and then bury their waste, and by following the guidelines in this article you should be able to prevent litter box problems before they start.

Once a cat starts to avoid the litter box for whatever reason, it can be difficult to break the habit.

Be observant of your cat to identify problems before they start.

If you are having issues with your cat pooping or peeing outside of the litter box, here are some key points to keep in mind:

1. A dirty litter box is the most common cause of a cat not using their litter box.
When the litter box is dirty and unappealing to your cat, he will look for another place to go.

If your cat is going to the bathroom in the bathtub, sink, or out of the way places like a corner of the room or behind the couch, there’s a good chance scooping and cleaning the litter box more often will solve your problem.

2. Make sure the litter box is accessible to your cat.
Sometimes another dominant cat in the household can prevent a timid cat from using the litter box.

Being sure to have enough litter boxes will usually solve this problem.

3. Don’t put the litter box near something that might scare your cat, such as a noisy washing machine.
Choose a quiet, out of the way spot with low traffic.

For our lead Cat Veteran, Toki – her cats have this private and functional set up going…a nice quiet place, not too much traffic – but not too cramped! It’s the perfect combination! 

breeze litter boxes with sun craft stinky face opt
Breeze Litter Boxes

4. Cats can be easily stressed by change.
If you have a new pet in the house, have moved recently, had a new baby, or even rearranged the furniture, give your cat extra attention and time to adjust.

5. If the problem is in just one area, eliminate access to that area for a while to see if the cat will get back into the habit of using his litter box.
 Keep the door to the room with the problem area closed.

If that’s not possible, try placing a plastic carpet runner with the pointy side up over the area.

6. Sometimes confining the cat to a smaller area, with his own litter box, will solve the problem. 
A bathroom or laundry room would work well for this.

Usually, just a few days of confinement will do the trick.

7. If you have a cat that uses the litter box regularly, but still sometimes urinates outside of the box, urine marking could be the cause.
Spaying or neutering the cat is the first step to solving this problem. In multi-cat households, be sure there are enough litter boxes available.

Closing the blinds or curtains can also help if outside cats are coming up to the windows making your cat feel like he has to mark his territory.

8. When attempting to train a new kitten to use the litter box, it is important to confine them to a small area like a crate, bathroom, or laundry room
The same goes for new adult cats coming into the home.

The smaller area ensures that they can find the litter box and that they don’t scare away from using it while they are adjusting to their new home.

9. If all else fails, it’s time for a trip to your veterinarian to be sure your cat doesn’t have an illness that is causing the problem.
If your cat has been great about using his litter box but then stops all of the sudden, issues like urinary tract infections, cystitis, or bladder stones could be causing your cat pain when urinating and your cat could be associating his litter box with that pain.

10. In the case of a senior cat who stops using his litter box, consider adding more litter boxes so your cat doesn’t have to travel so far to get to one.
Senior cats sometimes can’t hold it as long as they could when they were younger.

Incontinence can also be an issue for a senior cat, so consider talking to your vet about urination problems if your cat is older.

The vet can prescribe a medication that will help.

cat litter and box cartoon icon cat veteran

Frequently Asked Questions

⚙ Why does my cat urinate is his litter box, but sometimes poop in my bathtub?

  • A dirty litter box is the most likely cause.
  • He goes to the bathtub because it is always clean.
  • Try adding an extra litter box.

You may also have to keep an inch or so water in the tub to break him of his bad habit.

⚙ Why does my cat urinate right outside of the litter box?

There is something about the litter box that your cat doesn’t like.

Experiment with different locations and different types of boxes and litter to see what he prefers, and make sure litter is unscented.

⚙ Why does my cat use my potted plants as a litter box?

Cats love to dig and the dirt in the pot smells good to them.

Try placing a clean litter box next to the plant and keep the soil in the plant covered with aluminum foil or pointy gravel to make it less appealing.

⚙ How many litter boxes do I need if I have more than one cat?

There should be one litter box per cat, plus one extra.

Be sure to place them in multiple areas around the home.

⚙ How often do I need to empty out and clean my cat’s litter box?

This will vary depending on how many cats and litter boxes you have. A good rule of thumb is once a week with non-clumping litter.
With clumping litter, you can sometimes go 4-5 weeks between deep cleanings if you scoop regularly.

⚙ Are covered litter boxes bad for cats?

As long as the litter box is kept clean, a covered litter box is fine for your cat. Just make sure the litter box is large enough for your cat to move around comfortably inside it.

⚙ Why is my cat laying in his litter box?

Some cats feel safe in their litter box and may just consider it to be a good napping spot.

However, if this behavior is new for your cat there’s a chance the cat isn’t feeling well or is stressed.

If the behavior persists, or the cat acts off in other ways, a phone call to the vet could be needed.

⚙ Should I use a liner in my cat’s litter box?

The idea of using a liner is appealing to some owners, but in my experience cats really do not like them.

They tend to shred them up when they are digging around in their litter box, making them completely useless.

Liners are an unnecessary step that you can skip in you litter box maintenance routine.

⚙ Do litter box deodorizers work?

Regularly scooping and cleaning of the litter box is the best way to control odor.

Baking soda and natural enzymes are ok to use and may add some extra odor control, but don’t use anything with a perfumed or chemical scent in your cat’s litter box.

The litter box is certainly not the most appealing aspect of having an indoor cat, but once you find the right combination of litter, box and location, it’s not all that bad.