By Lynne Miller
The old saying in real estate, “location, location, location,” applies to litter boxes, too.
Where you put the litter box can mean the difference between harmony and hostility between you and your pets. If you want your felines to feel comfortable doing their business and minimize the likelihood of soiling around the home, it’s wise to put some thought into where you place the litter boxes, says Blair de Jong, an ASPCA feline behavior counselor.
“In the cat world, one of the biggest problems we hear about is litter box training and inappropriate elimination,” de Jong says. “Once they start, litter box problems are a pain to manage.”
Where to Put Your Cat’s Litter Box
The best places for litter boxes are usually quiet, easy-to-reach corners that offer privacy, de Jong says.
“Check out where your cat spends the most time,” de Jong says. “If your cat never goes up to that weird attic room, don’t put the litter box up there.”
As a rule, cat owners don’t want to see or smell litter boxes, so they may tuck them in places that are out of the way for the pet, says Paula Garber, a cat behavior specialist from Westchester County, New York.
Instead, place the box someplace that the cat can easily get to, preferably a low-traffic area away from food and water bowls, Garber recommends. Cats usually like to hang out with their humans, so one of those favorite spots may be perfect for a litter box.
Think about the aspects you look for in a bathroom, Garber adds. Choose a spot with sufficient light since cats want to be able to see when they go to the bathroom, she says. If possible, use nightlights to brighten an area. “If you lived in a home where the only toilet you could use was in a dark corner, you would not want to go there,” Garber says.
Your cat’s personality, age, physical condition, and the layout of the home are factors to keep in mind, she says. For instance, a senior cat with limited mobility cannot be expected to travel far when nature calls, so make sure her litter box is nearby, Garber says.
Litter Boxes in Multi-Cat Households
Litter box placement can get complicated when multiple cats live under one roof, Garber says. What works for one feline may not be acceptable to the other kitty.
A client of Garber’s placed litter boxes in the garage for his two cats. One cat uses the boxes, the other one doesn’t, despite the cat door on the garage door. “The garage is probably dark and probably gets cold in the winter time,” Garber says. “It’s not convenient to the cat.”
Since not all cats will share their litter boxes with housemates, it’s important to have enough boxes to take care of all your pets, she says. “In multi-cat households, you definitely don’t want to put litter boxes right next to each other,” since cats will see the two as one litter box, Garber says. “You want to spread the litter boxes around the home.”
And because some kitties prefer to urinate and defecate in separate boxes, Garber recommends maintaining two litter boxes for each feline in the family.
Kitties feel vulnerable when they’re going to the bathroom, especially when there are other cats in the home, Garber notes. In her own home, she keeps a litter box right at the top of the staircase leading to the bedrooms. Hallways “are open areas,” Garber says. “Cats feel safe. They can see other cats coming.”
While an upstairs hallway can be peaceful, busy foyers are not ideal for a litter box, she says.
Solving Litter Box Problems
Cats like to hang out in comfortable rooms. If your kitty likes a particular bedroom, and you don’t object, place a litter box in the room, Garber says. Make sure to keep the bedroom door open.
Your cat’s toilet can also be placed near your toilet, if it’s just you and your pet living in the home and the room is large enough for a litter box, de Jong says. However, if someone in the home shuts out the cat by closing the bathroom door, it may prompt the animal to do her business somewhere else.
“The other issue is if you don’t have a confident cat,” de Jong says. “Let’s say you’re showering. The sound of showering may scare the cat.”
Since cats like to relieve themselves in quiet places, Garber and de Jong advise owners not to place litter boxes near appliances like washing machines, refrigerators, or furnaces. The sounds from the appliances may spook some animals.
Don’t surprise your cat by moving the litter box all of a sudden. If you need to relocate the box, make sure to move it gradually, a few inches each day, until the box reaches its new destination, Garber says.
“You don’t want to make sudden changes with the litter box by moving it from a place where it was for a long time,” she says. “Cats are very sensitive to sudden changes to their environment. They may not take the time to look” for the box’s new location.
Some cat owners find innovative solutions to litter box problems. One owner with several kitties found the younger animals would gang up on the elderly arthritic cat when she needed to use the litter box in the living room, de Jong recalls. The owners resolved the problem with a sensor cat door collar, which gave the senior animal exclusive access to a room with a separate litter box.
“She’s the only cat with access to that room,” de Jong says. The owners “wanted to give the cat her own special place.”