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6 Myths About Cat Litter

6 Myths About Cat Litter

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.



10 Ways to Help Cats That Dont Like the Litter Box
4 Creative Litter Box Solutions


Read more: Behavior & Communication, Cats, Everyday Pet Care, Pet Health, Pets

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Diana Vilibert

Diana Vilibert is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn. You can be blog-friends with her at, or tweet her at @dianavilibert.


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2:31AM PDT on Aug 28, 2014

I did not realize that a standard litter box is not large enough for most cats.

About 6 years ago, one of our litter boxes had cracked. We happened to be in a GFS store. I saw some of those tubs restaurants collect dirty dishes in and told my husband that they would make nice littler boxes. We have been using them ever since!

9:06AM PDT on Aug 20, 2014


3:21PM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

thanks, we hae had to learn all these by experience.....

10:36AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

Thanks Diana.

10:24AM PDT on Aug 8, 2014

We took a huge tub with a lid and cut a hole on one end for the cats to enter and leave. The lid stays on, there's plenty of room and it helps to control odors. I've had cats my entire life and this is the best litter box of all.

7:42AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

I keep a pretty clean house, although I'm not a fanatical germ-O-phobe, and I do keep two litter boxes clean at all times. One of my two inside cats will often urinate elsewhere just because she decides she doesn't like something where it the throw rug I have next to the Jacuzzi in the master bath. If it's there, she uses it, so I have to keep it folded on the edge of the Jacuzzi and only put it down on the floor if I want to use it to stand on. She often gets on the kitchen stove and she's pee'd in a frying pan that my grandson tends to leave there. I guess she doesn't think it should be there, period!

7:24AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

Sandra, I disagree with you about cats not needing "discipline". Of course they do, same as dogs, children and yes, adults. Cats need limits and boundaries, not that they RESPECT them, and most cats are inclined to ignore them, but they still need to have them set up. When they obviously know the limits and ignore them, they DO need to be disciplined, but not dropped out a window from a height! I keep aluminum foil on the backs of my sofa and overstuffed chair that are very expensive leather. The cats do not like the sound of it under their feet or the feel, so they tend to stay off. Having aluminum foil all over the counters and kitchens stove is more difficult, and I've tried that but it tends to slide off. I catch one of the cats on the counter and if she sees me, she immediately jumps off (now if she didn't know it was a NO NO, she'd likely ignore my presence, wouldn't she?) but a quick squirt with a bottle of water & vinegar or lemon juice in it tends to work wonders.

I also disagree about cats only urinating outside the litter box if it's not clean. I've had a cat in the past and have one now that will urinate in other areas just because she is annoyed at something. Both were/are spayed females and dominant cats. The first one would even urinate on top of someone in their bed (specifically if my son had a girlfriend that she (the cat) didn't like. She also pee'd on my grandson's wife's duffle bag and suitcase when they stayed here for a couple of weeks

5:33AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

Maureen's story upsets me also. Whoever said dropping cats or throwing them is a way to discipline them is a jerk.
Cats respond to positive reinforcement. If they do something good, tell them good. If they scratch, you rub their paws and say soft paws, or put them on something to scratch. If they bite, say "no" firmly and stop engaging them, or give them a toy to bite. I've often found when my cats start getting wild, if I just give them a toy to scratch or bite, they work the animal energy out on the toy and I don't have problems with their behaviour. Cats are simple. They like their bowls and litter and bedding to be clean. They need love and affection. They need toys and playing. If possible, they need a safe, enclosed space outdoors. They need to look out a window. They need companionship. They don't need discipline. Treat them well and with respect and it will be reciprocated.

5:26AM PDT on Jul 22, 2014

When one of my cats pees outside the litter box, I know it's because I'm remiss in cleaning them. I empty them of waste (urine soaked litter and feces at least once a day and definitely whenever i notice they've been used) and put in new litter, but I frequently empty them totally, wash them with soap, and fill them with new litter. As long as they are kept relatively clean, I have no problems... can't say I blame them ;)
One more tip that the vet told me which helps -- you have to have the same number of litter boxes per cat plus an additional litter box for each additional cat. So we have 3 cats, we have 5 litter boxes. If you have 2 cats, you'll need 3 boxes. If you have one cat, I would still recommend 2 boxes - most cats don't like to pee where they poop.

1:42PM PDT on Jul 21, 2014

Thanks for sharing.

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