For many cat owners, the litter box is the bane of cat ownership. It smells, litter goes everywhere and cleaning it is no fun at all. However, keeping your cat’s litter box clean is extremely important to her mental and physical health.
Why Do Cats Use Litter Boxes?
In the wild, cats are very careful with their waste and make sure to bury their urine and feces. This behavior has two reasons behind it. In the wild, smaller cats are often preyed upon by larger predators such as coyotes, wolves, owls and eagles. In an effort to keep their presence hidden from predators, cats keep their scent (and therefore their waste) hidden. Only the large-and-in-charge male cats or extremely territorial females will mark their territories by spraying, and even this marking puts them at risk.
Additionally, cats are predators themselves. In order to keep their prey from smelling them and knowing they are in the area, they bury their excrement. This keeps cats incognito and reduces the likelihood that their prey will smell their presence before they are close enough to pounce.
So, what does a wild cat’s habits have to do with our domesticated friends? Indoor cats retain many of the instincts they had when they were wild. Luckily for us, burying their output in a cat litter box is one of the instincts they retained.
Why Do Litter Boxes Need to Be Cleaned?
Imagine you are a cat. Would you want to go to the bathroom in a dirty litter box? As cats dig in their litter boxes for a place to go, the last thing they want is for a paw to hit an old deposit. If you let your litter box get too dirty, chances are your cat will start going either next to the litter box or in another part of your home. While it’s easy to get mad at your cat for this, it’s also easy to understand. No one likes to use a dirty bathroom, and our meticulously clean feline friends are no different.
If your cat has started urinating or defecating outside the litter box, the best thing you can do is clean the spot with baking soda and peroxide or other enzymatic pet cleaning products. Some of these cleaners are made up of good bacteria that will eat away cat urine and leftover fecal particles. This will almost completely eliminate any lingering odors and will hopefully prevent your cat from wanting to go in the same place again.
In addition, you’ll want to make sure there are no other underlying health issues causing your cat to go outside of her litter box. If you believe this is the case, talk to your veterinarian.
How to Clean Your Cat’s Litter Box
Your cat’s litter box should be cleaned daily, sometimes more often if you have multiple cats and multiple boxes. Make sure to wear gloves when you scoop her litter, and change the litter in the box at least once per week. If you absolutely hate cleaning your cat’s litter box, there are several types of automatic litter boxes on the market. While they are significantly more expensive than your average litter box, they are more than worth it if scooping poop isn’t really your thing.
If you don’t want to get an automatic litter box or diligently clean a regular one, consider potty training your cat. Potty training a cat can be a challenge, but once they get the hang of it you can say good-bye to litter boxes for good.
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