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Litter box size matters

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The number one complaint about bad cat behavior involves problems with the cat going outside of the litter box.

In some cases, there is something medically wrong with the cat and they are trying to tell you that they don’t feel good. They know that they will get your attention fast if they urinate or defecate anywhere but in their litter box. This is why you should always consult a vet to rule out any medical issues if your cat is not using their litter box correctly.

But medically healthy cats will also go outside of their box as a way of communicating to you that something is not right – emotionally, psychologically or with the box itself.

While there are a number of factors that may lead to your cat not using their litter box, the results of a new study recently published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior suggest that the size of the litter box matters.

In the study, 43 households with 74 cats were each provided with two different sized plastic containers. One was an average sized cat litter box and the other was approximately 34 inches long and 24 inches wide – a box larger than that of commercially available litter boxes.

Overall, the cats chose to use the larger boxes more often than the regular litter boxes, clearly showing that they prefer a larger litter box. A larger box gives them more room to maneuver around and circle as they dig, do their business and then bury.

When asked about the study, Marilyn Krieger, CCBC (Certified Cat Behavior Consultant) of the Cat Coach, LLC said, “This is great info and supports what we all know to be true.”

Other factors that contribute to good litter box behavior are box cleanliness and location. Good litter box use is also affected by the number of cats in the house, their average age, their gender and the total number of boxes – the rule of thumb is one box per cat plus one.

In our home, we adapted the use of an over sized container as a litter box a couple of years ago when one of our male cats kept missing the box. At first we used Rubber Maid storage containers. Now we use cement mixing tubs. While smaller than the ones used in this study (they measure 27 inches by 19 inches), they are large enough and deep enough to keep our cats happily using their custom litter boxes.

Litterbox size preference in domestic cats (Felis catus) - Norma C. Guy, Marti Hopson, Raphael Vanderstichel: Department of Companion Animals, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, 550 University Avenue, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada C1A 4P3

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