A variety of cat litters are available commercially, including those made of clay, plastic, wheat, sawdust, newspaper pellets and corn cobs. The choice depends on what matters most to you and your cat. You may have to try a few to see what you and your cat like.
Many cats readily accept unscented, scoopable litter because of its sandlike texture. Many owners prefer scoopable litters because they control odors and absorb liquid (clump) well, making it easy for owners to scoop out urine “balls.” This leaves the remaining litter dry and odor free.
Unscented litters are preferred by cats because they want to be able to identify some of their own scent in their litter. Perfume, fragrance or deodorizer may smell “too strongly” for cats. Scented litter is not usually necessary to prevent litterbox odor. If you scoop out the waste at least twice a day, the litterbox should be odor free.
If you require a completely dust-free litter, you might prefer newspaper pellets, which, although not sand like, readily absorb urine. Regular shredded newspaper is not recommended because it is messy, lacks preferred texture, and is not absorbent enough to hide odor.
Cats are usually easy to litter train because they are naturally clean and prefer to bury their waste, one reason they prefer litter that allows easy digging. However, cats may stop using the litterbox if something about it becomes unappealing.
If your cat will not use the litterbox, he or she may have a medical or behavior problem that requires veterinary advice. If there are no medical problems, try addressing the following bulleted list, but above all, do not punish your cat.
- The type of litter was changed too quickly. Cats can often adjust to a change in litter but, too sudden of a change can make them avoid using the box. If you have a new kitten or cat, provide the litter that he or she has been using. If you would like to start using a different litter, gradually start mixing it into the original litter so that your cat won’t reject it.
- The litterbox location was changed. Most cats prefer a quiet place with several escape routes. If the area becomes too "busy" or another animal "surprises" your cat at the current box location, he or she may stop using it.
- The litterbox is dirty. Scoop it out at least twice daily, add new litter as needed, and wash the box with baking soda or an unscented soap and fill it with clean litter at least once every 2 weeks.
- The litterbox is too small.
- The type of litterbox was changed.
- The litterbox has a liner or hood, which some cats dislike.
- The litterbox isn’t easily accessible.
- There aren’t enough litterboxes. Provide one litterbox per cat, plus one extra box.
- There’s too much litter in the litterbox. Most cats prefer the litter to be one to two inches deep.
- Your cat’s food dishes are too close to the litterbox.
If you continue to have litterbox issues with your cat, seek additional veterinary behavior advice.
This article originally appeared in PetsMatter January/February 2011, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2011 AAHA. Find out more.