Litter Box Science: The Art of Choosing The Right One


Dr Reeja
Nothing can be sweeter than a little furry bundle of joy! It is indeed quite difficult not to fall in love with these adorable little gems. But before you decide to get a cat or a kitten, you will have to think over many things, among which stands out a consideration of whether your home is really suitable for this furry delight and choosing a right litter box!
Early learning – best way to train your kitty
Keeping your pet clean and getting her restroom business in full swing is of course one of the most important parts of ensuring a hassle free daily routine. For that, the important entrant into your pet’s routine will be the litter box or the litter tray as it is also referred to and its accompaniments, a scoop and a bag of cat litter. The entry of the litter box always precedes the entry of the new cat. You should always ensure that you have the litter tray or box in place by the time you bring home a new cat or kitten and that you show it to her as well. This is important because if you don’t have one ready, she may find a suitable place for her business and it will be quite difficult for you to break her habit once it is formed.
It’s always a good idea to have a litter box inside the house, even though you may have a backyard. This is good to avoid any kitty emergencies and sometimes the weather may be wet or cold and she may not like to go out. She may also be intimidated by other animals outside. The general rule is to have one box or tray for each cat plus one more. It’s always good to have an extra one.
Taking baby steps forward
Cats are born with a normal instinct to bury after they relieve themselves. This behaviour is usually exhibited around seven weeks of age. Generally, your new kitten will relive herself in a material where she can dig and bury and if a litter tray is kept nearby, it is quite natural for her to use it. There are some things that you could however do, to make the learning process easier and less stressful for the little one. After she has had her meal, you could just rub on her stomach lightly as you attempt to replicate the mother cat, and after this place her in the litter box. You can also place her in the litter box immediately after she wakes up in the morning and later in the day after a short nap.
Types of litter boxes and trays
Litter boxes and trays are usually made up of plastic. These days the disposable cardboard ones have also become quite popular. Trays can be the open or covered ones that are also called boxes. There are automatic litter that may cost more but come with easy cleaning options and carbon filters to minimise odours. The litter box or tray can be considered perfect only when the cat or kitten has accepted it as being comfortable. Though all cats generally have normal tendency to bury, some are even more adamant on this aspect and keep on scratching to have a deeper cover.

  • Size does matter – pick the right match: The litter tray or litter box is a simple container filled with some loose granular material called cat litter. Cats can be very specific with regard to their personal preferences. This being the case, most cats would like a tray or a box that can be used with ease and has enough space to allow her to turn around without difficulty. As a rule, it’s ideal to have a tray or box that is one and a half times the length of your cat. The smallest recommended tray size is 49×38 cm, which is popularly called Jumbo Trays. For larger breeds you may have to improvise with a garden tray.


  • Colour therapy: You may also have a wide choice of colours to choose from and this rainbow of hues may be rather perplexing! Generally dark colours, especially for covered boxes, may appear unfriendly to most cats. Cats like to look around and ensure that they are not being attacked as they relieve themselves. In the natural condition, they never opt for dark covered spots like caves; they prefer areas that are lighted. Lighter colours for boxes may do the trick here as they appear less intimidating, appear friendlier and are generally better accepted by cats.

Box or tray, open or closed—what’s best?
Generally small litter trays with low sides are ideal for kittens. They do grow quite fast during the first year of their life and you may have to replace the tray a few times. For older cats, things will be more fixed. Coming to the issue of open or closed boxes, one must remember that generally cats in their wild habitat never prefer closed dark areas for relieving themselves.
(Dr Reeja George P is Associate Professor at Department of Veterinary and AH Extension, College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, Thrissur, Kerala.)