Bigger is Better and a Lid Doesn’t Matter When it Comes to Cat Bathrooms

December 10, 2014

kitten in litter boxWho among us doesn’t covet a nice bathroom? Our homes today have more bathrooms and larger, more elaborate bathrooms than ever before. According to, the average bathroom remodel in New York City costs $32,000, and features granite counter tops, porcelain tile and high end fixtures. Our feline companions are no different. They express definite likes and dislikes when it comes to their litter box. Provide them with a substandard bathroom and they will refuse to use it and instead will use the corner of your dining room rug as their new and more spacious bathroom! In the feline world, this problem is so serious that a 2001 research study reported inappropriate elimination as a top reason cats are relinquished to animal shelters.

What cats care about in their litter box
Bigger boxes are better
In a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, cats were offered the choice of using a standard size litter box or a large plastic box greater than 33 inches in length. The number of urine and fecal “deposits” in each box were recorded and compared. Results determined cats like litter boxes larger than the standard ones available in pet stores.

More boxes are preferable 
Litter box issues are more common in multi-cat households. To avoid competition and territorial behavior towards litter boxes, which leads to inappropriate urination, provide your cats with multiple litter boxes.

Stinky boxes are bad
Even if you scoop daily and completely change the litter weekly, that box can get stinky. Veterinarians tested cats use of litter sprayed with a commercially available litter box odor eliminator. Cats clearly found the sprayed boxes more attractive an preferred their use over unsprayed boxes.

What cats don’t care about in their litter box
Our mothers admonished us to close the lid of the toilet during their attempts to teach us manners. Cats don’t care about a lid on their litter box. A 2013 study of cats to determine their preference for a covered or uncovered litter box found no preference in the style of box in most cats, although as any cat owner will attest to, some persnickety cats did choose an uncovered box over a lidded one or vice versa.

Seems to me that cats should care about the type of litter in their box, but I couldn’t find any research to support that theory. One study did show, the longer cats scratched in the litter box, the less likely they were to inappropriately eliminate. Scientists interpreted that finding to mean lots of scratching at the litter means a cat likes the litter in their box and they will be less likely to eliminate on the dining room rug.

Cat bathroom remodeling tips
Thankfully, remodeling a feline bathroom is much less costly than remodeling your bathroom. First, feline behavior experts believe in simple math when it comes to the number of litter boxes: number of cats + 1 = the number of litter boxes you should have. You don’t like to wait in line to use the restroom, and clearly cats feel the same way. Second, when purchasing additional litter boxes, consider upgrading to a larger box, such as an under-the-bed box or gift wrap storage box without its lid.

Finally, cats fully believe that they are gods and that “cleanliness is next to godliness.” Research has shown that daily scooping of cat waste from the litter box and weekly litter changes can resolve urine spray behavior in cats.

Remember: inappropriate elimination may be a sign of illness, so check with your veterinarian if your cat suddenly stops using her litter box.

Thinking Outside the (Litter)box

July 3, 2012

Recently, The Animal Medical Center hosted Dr. Bonnie Beaver, an internationally recognized expert in animal behavior. The focus of her seminars was feline behavior issues and my favorite presentation was about the number one behavior problem in cats – inappropriate elimination. Dr. Beaver had some great suggestions for cat owners and I hope readers of Fur the Love of Pets find them helpful.

1. Location, location, location

Cats prefer a litter box near, but not in the midst of, household activity. Make sure not to place the box in the back bedroom on the second floor, or in the furthest corner of the basement. You may live in a house or apartment with multiple bathrooms in convenient locations; your cat needs the same arrangement. Cats prefer a quiet spot with privacy, but also with easy access. The litter box should not be near your cat’s food bowl. A good rule regarding the number of litter boxes is one box for every cat and one extra.

2. Cleanliness is next to feline godliness

A clean, odor-free litter box is critical. When my recent litter of six foster kittens started using a litter box, I was quickly reminded how fastidious cats are. The minute I changed just one of the boxes, six kittens and their mother were racing to be the first into the pristine box. With so many cats, I was on continuous scooping patrol and I changed the entire box every other day. If I was late coming home from work or slow to change the box, the kittens would empty a nearby trash can and go on the scattered papers. Who knew six-week-old kittens could be so fussy?

3. A sign of illness?

Illness may cause inappropriate elimination. If your cat stops using the box, your cat needs to visit her veterinarian. Medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection, pain when defecating, or a systemic disorder known as interstitial cystitis may cause your cat to associate discomfort with her litter box. If untreated, she may stop using the box and use the corner of your dining room rug instead.

4. Beaver’s best tips

  • If your cat has a favorite out-of-the box location, prevent access to that area using an upside down plastic carpet runner. The little prongs on the bottom of the runner will not hurt your cat, but will serve as a deterrent to bad behavior.
  • To clean up cat accidents, use enzyme- or bacteria-based products that break down smelly urine molecules.
  • If the box is covered, remove the cover. If it doesn’t have a cover, try one and see if your cat just wants more privacy.
  • Make sure the box is big enough for your cat. Sometimes out of the box really means just can’t fit in the box.

New Year’s Resolutions for Pets and Pet Lovers

December 29, 2011

New Year’s resolutions seem to always have a common theme: self-improvement. Everyone wants to lose weight, stop smoking, or eat healthier foods. While these are all worthy resolutions, my 2012 list of resolutions for pets and their owners focuses on others instead of on ourselves.

Personally, I am resolving to be more aware of the environment and to give back more to my community. Some of my suggestions below might fit on your New Year’s resolution list for 2012.

Save the environment and the snow leopard too!

Honest Pet Products are made from sustainable fabrics, making them sturdy and very tactile for pets. Elvis, shown left with his mini Eco-Pouncer, loves to dig his claws and teeth into the all natural sheep’s wool covering and pretend he is a predator cat in the wild. The dog Eco-Fetcher is a woven hemp disc filled with wool, which is heavy duty for the chewers and floats for swimmers. These products are made by disabled adults. When you purchase the Eco-Pouncers, money is donated to help eliminate poverty and protect snow leopards in Mongolia.

Recycle and rest in an eco-friendly pet bed

Empty plastic water bottles and old clothes contribute to landfill accumulation at a rapid pace. We all know we should have reusable water bottles and should donate our unwanted clothes to charity, but it doesn’t always work out that way. P.L.A.Y. pet beds use recycled water bottles to create a Hi-Loft fill inside their comfortable fabric beds.

MollyMutt pet duvets use a mesh sack to create a “mattress” out of old textiles. The filled mesh sack fits inside a colorful duvet cover, creating an environmentally friendly cat or dog bed and keeping your old clothes out of the landfill.

Don’t litter

Clay cat litter may be one of the most environmentally unfriendly products in your local pet store. Clay is strip mined and once used, it sits in landfill for years. There are a number of cat litter products which offer biodegradable litter produced from natural materials.

Purr and Simple cat litter is made from a sustainable material – the fibrous portion of a nutshell. This litter contains a low level of dust, which is advantageous for cats with respiratory conditions like asthma. World’s Best Cat Litter™ was also developed to be environmentally friendly and is made from whole kernel corn, scented with lavender. Either of these products may be the ecofriendly solution for your cat’s litterbox.

Scratch your way to a healthier environment

The folks at Imperial Cat manufacture 100% recycled and 100% re-recyclable cat Scratch ‘n Shapes. These cardboard scratchers come in various sizes and shapes to fit with your cat’s taste. Cats love to scratch and giving them a scratcher will prevent your sofa from becoming part of the landfill problem. Imperial Cat also gives back to the community through their inexpensive line of scratchers developed for shelter cats called Scratch n’ Bits.

Giving back

You and your pet can give back to those in your community who are less fortunate by participating in a pet-assisted therapy program at your local hospital, senior center or rehabilitation facility. The Animal Medical Center’s partner in pet assisted therapy is Angel on a Leash, but you can give back through any of the wonderful organizations that support pet-assisted therapy in your neighborhood.

Finally, not-for-profit agencies continue to be underfunded due to worldwide economic volatility. If you can, give generously to your favorite animal not-for-profit.

Everyone at The AMC wishes you a happy and healthy 2012 and wishes you success in keeping your 2012 resolutions.

This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on

For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.

How to Make Your Cat “Green”

March 10, 2009

green-catWhen Cat Fancy magazine asked me about making a cat “green,” my first thought was, “How can these fluffy balls of fun contribute to our carbon footprint?”  Cats don’t operate motor vehicles and they don’t contribute to landfill much, except for the occasional sofa shredded beyond recognition.  And, those disgusting hairballs we end up stepping on in the middle of the night are totally organic and biodegradable.

What I didn’t know was that traditional clay cat litter is not biodegradable.  It is made from clay which is strip mined making it tough on the ecosystem both coming and going.  The dust from clay litter contains substances which contribute to the development of feline lung diseases.  Furthermore, cat feces, which end up in our costal waterways, may be harming wildlife such as sea otters (delightful creatures almost as cute as cats).  It seems that there is an epidemic of Toxoplasmosis in sea otters traced back to cat feces flushed down human toilets.

Below are some suggestions to make your cat “green.”   They range from simple to creative and I think there is something for everyone. They are divided into 4 major areas: 

Food and Treats
catnip200Purchase cat food in recyclable containers – bags or cans are most commonly recyclable.  Then recycle the containers.

Grow your own cat grass and cat nip – your cat will love you and you can erase a little of your carbon footprint.

Cat Litter and Litter Boxes
Litter box issues are tough and nothing causes more friction between a cat and its owner, so if you plan a switch do it slowly and be prepared to revert to your previous litter and litter box on a moment’s notice.

Toilet train your cat.  This is a no-no if you live in a coastal region.

cat-on-toilet200Use litter from recycled materials, such as recycled newspaper

Use a biodegradable litter:
• Pine based flushable litter – This litter is specially processed to make it safe for cats. Do not use pine chips for your garden as they may not be safe.

• Corn based flushable litter

• Wheat based flushable cat litter

Make your own litter from old newspapers

Disposable litterbox – Great for travel, but may not be great for the environment so be sure it is biodegradable; no plastics

This self washing litter box has reusable pellets instead of litter.  It looks like a very cool device, but it really needs a carbon audit

bamboo-scrathing-postProtect the delicate natural environment
Keep cats inside to protect native wild birds

Put cat feces in the garbage or compost it if you live in coastal areas to protect native water species. In Australia, keep cats inside to protect native small marsupials.

Environmentally friendly products
Environmentally friendly toys

Environmentally friendly grooming products

Book on making cat toys

Sustainable bamboo scratching posts/cat trees

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