Cat Litter Basics


Cat Litter Basics

If your cat isn’t using his little box, it may be that he doesn’t like your choice of cat litters.

A cat litter box is an important waste disposal system when you have indoor cats. Cat owners may refer to the litter box as a sand box, a catbox, or a litter tray. Some owners of small dog breeds sometimes make use of a cat litter box when their dogs are restricted inside their homes and not allowed outside access.

What makes up the cat litter box?

Since the litter box is placed inside the house for a considerable period of time, it is filled with materials which can absorb moisture and odors.  The litter box contains an inch or two of loose granular material such as clay, paper pellets or silica crystals which can easily be dug by the cat. Some manufacturers add baking soda or charcoal to absorb undesirable odor associated with ammonia in feces. Natural dirt can also be used as litter material.

Types of Cat Litter

The first commercial cat litters were traditionally made of absorbent clay. Today there are still cat litters with clay (non-clumping litter) but there are new types which are made of clumping litter, so called because the litter form clumps in the presence of moisture.

Where the traditional clay litter box has to be scooped daily and replaced once a week, clumping litters offer ease and convenience to cat owners. Only the clumps are scooped out of the box and additional litter is added regularly. This type of cat litter only needs to be replaced every two to four weeks.

Aside from clay, silica crystals are also classified as non-clumping cat litter. Compared to clay, silica crystals are considered more earth-friendly but relatively more expensive.  Other non-clumping litters include plant-based materials such as wheat, wood shavings, pine, and beet pulp.

Litter Box designs

Litter box designs range from simple open dishpans to covered boxes. One thing to keep in mind though, whatever will be your choice, be sure that the litter box has enough space for your cat to perform his rituals before defecating such as sniffing the litter, digging and turning around several times before doing his business. If you have a kitten, get a low box so they can easily get in and out. You can progress to a litter box with higher sides as your pet grows up.

There are several advantages when you use covered litter boxes. First, walls or objects near the litter box are protected from cat urine and litter that you may scratch. The covers also keep the litter contents from being accessed by small children or other pets. On the downside, cat litter boxes trap litter dust that can be bad for your cat’s health. Since it’s covered, you don’t see or smell the contents and you tend to keep postponing your maintenance duties. When your cat finds that the litter already stinks, he will end up doing his thing somewhere else and that can be a problem for you.

Whatever may be your choice for your cat’s litter box, make sure that you cat is comfortable in using it to avoid problems with your cat doing his stuff anywhere but the litter box.