Cats are naturally clean and hate dirty, stinky litter boxes. If the box isn’t squeaky clean, your kitty might search for a substitute, and whether that’s a corner of the carpet or a basket of clean clothes, you don’t want it to happen.
If the litter box is squeaky clean and your cat still avoids it, consider seeing a vet – it might be a sign of a physical problem.
The box itself
Some cats are picky about the box itself. It needs to be large enough to scratch, dig, and turn around in – and it has to be easy to get in and out. Many cats don’t like covered litter boxes, because they trap the smell. Cats have 14 times the sense of scent we do, and they don’t want to smell their own waste any more than we do.
Many cats get along fine with automatic litter boxes, but others don’t like them at all. In that case, a large plastic box scooped manually a couple of days is the best choice, even though it requires work.
A box for each cat
Many multi-cat households only have one box, and this can also lead to problems. A rule of thumb is one box for each cat, and maybe one extra. It’s okay to have the boxes side by side.
Some people like to use a liner in the box. That’s a personal preference – the cats usually don’t care. Most litter manufacturers recommend using 2″ to 3″ of litter, but if you have a deep scratcher you might want to use up to 4″. It’s easiest to use clumping litter, because it’s easy to scoop.
Pick a scoop that fits your litter – large particle litter requires larger holes to sift the clean litter out, while fine-grained litter needs smaller holes.
The box should be scooped at least twice a day.
Clean the box
Regular scooping and replacing the litter will keep the box clean and smelling fresh for quite a while, but eventually you’ll need to empty it and clean it. Depending on the type of litter you use this might need to be done weekly, or monthly. If you don’t like the smell, you cats won’t like it either.
Wash the empty box thoroughly with hot water and detergent. Rinse well and spray with a mild bleach solution. Make sure you don’t use a cleaner with ammonia, because this smells a little like a cat’s pee, and might make them avoid the box.