Litter box advice that will keep kitty happy (opinion) |

Litter box advice that will keep kitty happy (opinion)

Niki Congero
Tribune Opinion Columnist
My name is Troy. I am around 3 years old. I would prefer to be an only cat. I have been an indoor/outdoor cat, but I got lost and my owners never looked for me. Maybe it would be better to keep me inside at my new home. Come visit Troy at The El Dorado County Animal Services, 530-573-7925. For spay-neuter services and other support, call the Lake Tahoe Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at 530-542-2857. Bear, last week’s pet of the week, found his forever home.
Courtesy Photo |

One of the most common questions I get is, “How do I keep the cat using its litter box?”

First, the number and location of the litter boxes are very important issues. Many cats will not use a litter box if it has been used by another cat. In addition, some cats prefer to urinate in one box and defecate in another. Also, a common cause of a kitty not using its litter box stems from a more dominant cat blocking the pathway to the litter box. The more passive, timid cat is forced to look elsewhere for a bathroom. In this situation it is critical to have enough boxes in “safe” areas to minimize this issue.

Don’t put all of the litter boxes in the same spot if you have a bully cat that may be blocking a timid cat from the box. Place the boxes in quiet, low-traffic areas. The laundry room is often not a suitable place due to the noise from the washer and dryer. Also, do not place litter boxes near the cat’s eating area.

Another common problem arises when people allow young kittens or frightened adult cats that have recently been adopted to have access to too large of an environment without enough litter boxes close by. Often the scared cat or kitten is hiding in one part of the house while his/her litter box is in another part of the house. Keep in mind that these animals are not going to suddenly become brave when their bladder gets full and venture out to look for a litter box in a strange environment. Humans often expect far too much from a young or scared kitten or a scared adult cat.

In the case of a recently adopted kitten or cat, keep its world small (a single room) until you know that it is using the litter box and is comfortable in his room. Depending on the kitten or cat, this may take several days or a couple of weeks. Only when the cat is comfortable in one room should you open up the door and let it venture out. Do not carry it to another part of the house. Instead, let it pick his own path so it will know how to get back to the litter box.

Even if a new kitten is brave and sociable, do not just turn this kitten loose in a large area and expect it to know or remember where its litter box is if it is playing at a distance from that box, or if something scares the cat and it ends up hiding in a part of the house far from the litter box. When a kitten has to go, it has to go now. Please remember that human children take a long time to potty train and be thankful that kittens are much easier to train. However, even though kittens are much better than human babies when it comes to being litter-box trained, don’t push your luck. Otherwise, you will end up fostering bad habits in the kitten if it gets used to urinating and defecating in areas other than the litter box.

The other thing that is extremely important is to keep the litter box clean. How often does a human flush their own toilet? Please keep the answer to this question in mind as it pertains to just how clean you should be keeping your cat’s litter box.

Cats should not have to dig around in their own waste — or that of their housemates — looking for a clean spot. Please do not let the litter box get more than three items in it. If you cannot stick to the three-item rule because of your work schedule, then please add more boxes.


It’s time again to submit your furry family member’s photos to Lake Tahoe Humane Society’s Calendar/Card photo contest. Visit and click on the calendar link, scroll to bottom of the page, fill out the form and submit your image. It’s a fun way to support Lake Tahoe Humane Society and help them assist local animals in need.

Hopeful Henry is a column managed by Niki Congero, executive director of Lake Tahoe Humane Society & S.P.C.A. Submit questions or letters via e-mail to or by mail to P.O. Box PET South Lake Tahoe, CA 96158. For more information, visit SocietySPCA, or

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