Cats are Naturally Clean
Healthy cats spend a significant amount of their time grooming. The drive to groom is very strong. Cats are predators so they need to be in good condition to hunt and also to be as undetectable as possible, so maintenance is important. Grooming helps to remove parasites and anything that may degrade and smell on the coat. The hairs in the coat and especially the whiskers are also highly sensitive to movement and so help to give the cat information about its surroundings including wind direction. Cats will groom poisonous substances off the coat that they would never directly eat or drink. Grooming is also involved in maintaining social relationships and is likely to serve as a comfort behavior.
While urine and feces can be used as markers and messages for other cats, cats may also wish to conceal their whereabouts by burying them. For humans the cat is usually an exceptionally pleasant animal to have around in that it does not smell to us and will usually use a litter box very successfully if it is maintained properly.
Cats will often naturally bury their urine and feces, and prefer approximately 1.5 inches of litter, however preferences may vary. A poorly maintained box or litter that is undesirable to the cat are reasons that a cat will chose another substrate or location to use. Cats prefer soft, easy to rake substrates so sand or clay based litter is preferred.
As a general rule it’s advisable to provide one litter box per cat in the household, plus one extra, all located in different areas. Litter boxes should be easily accessible. Placing boxes in different locations can prevent conflict and avoid anxiety created by cats interacting around this important resource. Boxes must be scooped once or twice daily, and changed and cleaned regularly.
Take Home Message
- For cats a comfortable place to use for urination or defecation means somewhere that they can easily dig. If it’s unfamiliar or has the wrong consistency or smell for a cat, it just might choose another location or substrate.
- Litter boxes should be 1.5 times the length of the cat, from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail. This allows sufficient room for the cat to walk in and turn around, and also to dig and bury eliminations if they so choose. Attention to basic litter box care can help prevent problems from arising in the first place.
- Litter deodorizers, fragrant litters and strong disinfectants are often undesirable for cats.
- The placing of a litter box is also important to avoid conflict with other cats and to improve acceptance.
- The number of litter boxes available to multi-cat households may not be adequate.