Cat Litter Basics
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Cat Litter Basics

When you get your first cat, one of the least pleasant areas of the new experience is cat litter. Yet if it isn’t handled correctly, the litter tray can be anything from a major smell issue to a serious behavioural problem and can even lead to people giving up their pet. So here, we are looking at the basics of the cat litter tray and associated elements.

The litter tray

If you are adopting a mature cat, the best choice of litter tray is one the same as they are used to. It is possible to try a new system at a later time, but when they are adapting to a new home, trying out new products isn’t the best idea. If you are bringing home a kitten, then you can try whatever litter box you like but be prepared to change quickly if they don’t use it.

There are three main types of cat litter trays on the market at the moment and hundreds of different products within them. These are open, closed and automatic litter trays. Open trays are like half a box, often with a lower front to enter and exit from and higher walls around the other three sides to retain as much litter as possible. Closed trays are like a pet carrier with a single entrance into an enclosed box. Automatic trays use various different ways to self-clean when the tray has been used.

The main problems with each are simple; mess or fear. With open trays, there is little chance that a cat will get frightened by them but a greater chance than enthusiastic scratching in the tray will send litter across the room. Closed tray stop this problem but can be frightening to some cats who have a well-honed instinct from their ancestors that leads them to fear enclosed spaces. If your cat is this kind, it will be afraid of entering the tray for fear what may lurk inside and will find alternative places to deposit their mess. Finally, automatic trays can frighten cats due to the sound of the mechanism used to clean itself. When cats come to associate something with fear, they will avoid it and again leads to unpleasant surprises.

How much and where?

Most people have one or two litter trays when they have a single cat; one in use and one in cleaning. The placement of the litter tray is as important as the type of tray selected because if you put it in a place where the cat doesn't feel comfortable using it, they will make other arrangements. Avoid high traffic areas unless your cat is an extremely confident puss so somewhere like a downstairs toilet is ideal. It can be a good idea to have it somewhere that is easy to clean up any accidents when they are young so not a carpeted area.

The cat litter you choose can be based on either what the cat is used to or what you think you prefer. Like the tray, some cats won’t like some litters so you may need to use trial and error. There are plenty to choose from including clumping litter that are easy to clean, flushable litters that can go down the toilet and scented litter to help disguise the inevitable smells.

How much litter to add to the tray depends on how much the cat likes to dig. A minimum of around 3 inches is advisable but if they seem to scratch away forever, then you may need to add more for them to be comfortable. Cleaning it at least once a day is vital and if there has been a lot of use, more often is best. This is because a cat won’t use a dirty litter tray any more than we would use a dirty toilet and their sense of smell is far superior to ours.

Extras

There are various products available to help with the cat litter and also with it tracking around the house. Which of the products you select is a matter of personal preference but included in the category are items such as litter scoops, litter liners and cat litter mats.

Litter scoops are small trowels that have slats in them so that lumps of litter are lifted out while loose litter falls back into the tray. This makes cleaning easier and wastes less litter. Some people find they still need a solid trowel to remove build-ups of wet litter in corners and other spots but this depends on the cat.

Litter liners are a bit like bin liners and often have a gentle scent to them. Again, some cats will take to them and others won’t because they don’t like the sensation of scratching in their tray and coming into contact with the plastic bag. If they do take to the liners, they can mean cleaning the tray wholesale is easier but between cleaning will still be needed.

Cat litter mats are an ever-developing area, with some clever products now available. They are placed at the edge of the litter tray or at the doorway of the room where the tray stands. Cats walk over them and the mat retains the loose cat litter from their paws instead of scattering it around the house.

Conclusion

Picking the right litter tray is a little bit of a lottery but careful observation of your cat will quickly let you know if you have made the wrong choice and allow you to try something else before things get out of hand. Always remember that cats have an amazing sense of smell, are very fussy about their personal areas and have their own likes and dislikes just like humans do.


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