How much do you know about Mr. Whiskers’ bathroom habits? Read up to separate cat litter fact from fiction.
CAT LITTER MYTH 1: If your cat urinates or defecates outside of its litter box, you can teach it not to by rubbing its nose in the mess.
Rubbing a cat’s nose into its waste won’t teach it to use the litter box—your cat will merely form a negative association with your touch, not the behavior you’re trying to discourage. Instead, try praising your cat or giving it a treat immediately after it uses the litter box correctly, so that it associates proper litter box use with a positive experience.
CAT LITTER MYTH 2: Cats instinctively know how to use litter boxes.
While most cats do instinctively prefer substrates that are granular and allow them to cover their feces, some need a little help. Encourage a cat to use its litter box, by placing it in its litter box after meals, after it drinks water, or after it wakes up from a long sleep.
CAT LITTER MYTH 3: Cats don’t care what kind of litter they use.
Some cats don’t have a litter preference, but others are sensitive to litter texture and smell. If you have a discerning kitty, you may need to experiment with a few different types of litter before finding one that works for your cat. Try to stick to litter that doesn’t produce a lot of dust and doesn’t have a strong scent—both can be allergy triggers for sensitive cats and can lead to conjunctivitis and asthma.
CAT LITTER MYTH 4: A standard litter box is large enough for most cats.
Experts recommend that a litter box should be 1 to 1.5 times the length of your cat’s body, so it’s likely the standard size you got at the pet store is too small. Feline hospital Paws, Whiskers & Claws recommends a large plastic storage bin instead of a commercial litter box, so that your cat has room to move around without stepping in soiled litter.
CAT LITTER MYTH 5: A hooded or covered litter box is always better.
While a litter box with a cover may provide some much-desired privacy for shy cats, it’s not for every feline. A cover can trap offensive odors inside—plus, if you have more than one cat at home, a cover can create an opportunity for an aggressive cat to ambush the other one using the box.
CAT LITTER MYTH 6: Cats sometimes eliminate outside of the litter box when they’re mad at you.
Cats don’t eliminate outside of their boxes because they’re mad that you forgot to buy more catnip. Rather, the behavior is usually indicative of a bigger problem—the cat could be unhappy with the litter or number of boxes in the home, or it could be due to stress or a medical problem like a urinary tract infection or a bladder blockage. Rule out medical issues by bringing Fluffy McFluffins to the vet as soon as you notice this behavior.