We all want to be the best human our cats could ask for, but sometimes we need to be reminded of our responsibilities. For me, that reminder came in the form of a smell emanating from the bathroom heating vent one particularly cold winter morning. Usually the hot air traveling up from the furnace/laundry room carries the scent of fresh laundry, but on that day the hot air being pumped upstairs brought only the harsh stink of cat urine.
"Oh my God," my husband yelled from the hallway. "Come smell the bathroom!"
The odor was so strong, you would have thought that maybe Ghost Cat or Specter had peed right there in the bathroom, but of course they hadn’t. They’d only peed where they are supposed to, down in the laundry room, where their kitty litter box sat near to the furnace. This stink was not their fault — it was mine. I’d forgotten to change the litter.
Here are five ways I’m reminding myself to tend to those cat boxes so this never happens again.
My cat litter is the cleanest when I’m settled into a routine. Making a habit of scooping at the same time every day is super helpful in ensuring the box is not gross — but I have to admit, before the furnace stink episode, I’d let my routine fall to the wayside. I was cleaning the cat litter three or four times a week, and counting on my husband and the robotic litter box (more on that thing later) to pick up my slack. It wasn’t fair to my husband, and it certainly wasn’t fair to my beloved cats.
Getting blasted with that hot whiff of cat urine was a reminder of how I’d let cleaning the cat litter fall too far down my to-do list, and how I needed to make sure I made it a priority again. I set an alarm on my phone to make sure that I remember to clean the litter even on my busiest days.
Another way I’m helping myself remember the litter box is by making sure I can see it. Back in our old apartment this was never a problem, as we had a small space with no storage and the cat box was basically in the kitchen (I know, gross). Now that we’re in a house, though, the cat boxes are hidden behind walls. It’s nice that I no longer have to watch Ghost Cat relieve herself while I’m making spaghetti, but it’s also easier to forget to scoop when you’re not looking at the box all the time.
Recently, my husband had the brilliant idea to move the two kitty boxes to a more prominent place in our laundry room. In the new spot, you can’t help but see the litter boxes when you open the laundry room door. Although my husband definitely does the lion’s share of the laundry in our household, I do frequently go in there to see if there are any clean socks in the dryer, and when I see the litter boxes I give them a quick spot scoop.
When my husband brought home a self-cleaning litter box, I thought it would help keep the litter box fresh and make human lives easier, but it never did either of those things — getting rid of it did, though. That box sucked from the beginning. It required a lot of retrofitting just to ensure Ghost Cat didn’t dislodge the poop collector every time she stepped into it. It also worked best with expensive crystal litter — when we made the switch to less expensive clay-based litter, it just didn’t do nearly as good of a job sifting out the waste.
My husband tossed the auto box the same day the urine smell infiltrated the bathroom, and I’m very glad he did. I can no longer delay the daily task of cleaning the cat litter by telling myself that the automatic box will do it for me — plus, it’s actually easier to clean the cat litter now that we don’t have to fuss with the poop-caked rake mechanism.
One of the reasons for the big furnace stink was my unfortunate habit of over-sifting the litter boxes in order to extend the life of the litter. Because I was filling the boxes so full, I needed to sift and sift and sift to get all the waste out, but of course no amount of sifting is going to get rid of all the bits of litter that have absorbed waste.
These days, we’re not filling the boxes with as much litter as we used to. This not only allows me to see the waste without having to dig around in the box forever, but it also means I can completely change out the litter more often. Brand-new litter makes my kitties happy, even if there’s not quite as much of it.
Despite being a smartphone fanatic, I still need a paper to-do list. I’ll make a list on a Post-It and stick it to my phone, or scribble it on a notebook I leave on the kitchen table. It may be old-school, but there’s something about seeing an action item scrawled in your own handwriting that makes your mind go, "Oh, that must be important." And really, unless you want resentful cats and a house that smells like pee, there’s no to-do list item more important than cleaning the cat litter.
What about you? How do you remind yourself to clean the litter?
Read more from Heather Marcoux:
About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten,GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +