When you’re introducing your new cat to your home, the litter box should be one of your first stops. Let her sniff it a bit, and then place her inside it. She may dig around a bit, or she may hop out. If she hops out, place her inside it again in an hour or two.
Continue to introduce her to the litter box when she first wakes up in the morning and after meals. When she uses the box, praise her lavishly to reinforce the behavior.
Often, cats will shun the litter box if it’s not in an acceptable spot. Position it in a quiet, low-traffic location that your cat can access at all times. Do not place it near her food and water. Laundry rooms are not optimal locations because of the noise produced by the appliances.
If you have a mechanical litter box, like a self-cleaning box or a Litter Robot, make sure there’s a low-tech box available for your new cat. She can graduate to the high tech versions when she’s ready.
If you have several cats in your household, make sure the new cat has private access to her very own litter box for the first few weeks after you bring her home. She’ll be more comfortable if she’s not wading through other cats’ waste when nature calls, and she won’t be perceived as invading your other cats’ territory. As she becomes integrated into your feline family, everyone will become more comfortable sharing boxes.
Cats are finicky about their boxes, so the following tips should help you provide the most appealing waste facilities for your cats.
Clean Daily, Change Weekly – Cats detest dirty litter boxes. Just as most people don’t like to use filthy, overflowing porta potties, cats don’t like wading through waste to find a tiny patch of clean litter. Clear the box of waste daily, and change out the litter completely weekly.
One Box Per Cat Plus One – You simply can’t have too many litter boxes. The rule of thumb is one per cat, plus one. If you have three cats, you need at least four litter boxes. If your home is large or on more than one level, add a couple more.
Don’t Use Litters That Contain Deodorants – Scented litter is geared toward the cat owner, not the cat. Some cats will refuse to use a box containing heavily scented litter. To avoid problems, use a fragrance-free or unscented blend.
Try Different Litter Types – Even among cats in the same household, some may prefer one type of litter to another. The four main litter types are clay-based clumping, clay-based non-clumping, crystal, and natural/biodegradable. If you experience problems getting a cat to use the litter box, experiment with different types of litter.
Is The Litter Box Big Enough? – Fluffy needs room to do her business, and she might avoid a box that she finds too small. If you have a large-breed cat like a Maine Coon, try a jumbo-sized litter box. Your cat is also less likely to have an “over-the-side” accident with a larger box.
Hooded Or Open? – Some cats love hooded boxes and enjoy the privacy. Hooded boxes trap odors, which helps keep your house from smelling like a crazy cat lady’s house, but it’s a turn-off for a cat. Wash both the box and the hood thoroughly every week, and change the filter regularly.
Wash Your Litter Pan Thoroughly Every Week Or Two – Over time, a plastic litter box will absorb cat urine (even if you use liners). Wash it thoroughly with soapy water every week or two, and replace periodically. Be sure to rinse thoroughly after washing so that it doesn’t retain a strong detergent smell.
Formerly Feral Or Stray? Try Dropping Leafy Matter Into The Box – If your cat was feral or a stray, she’s accustomed to digging in the great outdoors. Sometimes, bringing the outdoors inside will make her feel more at home, and encourage her to use the litter box. The material will need to be removed and replaced daily. Over time, gradually scale back the amount of material you put in the box until she’s using 100% litter.
Getting used to a litter box isn’t difficult for most cats. If you’re attuned to feline behavior and your own cat’s litter box preferences, you’re unlikely to encounter any unpleasant accidents.