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The Chew: Cat in the Box

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The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Dog Paws n Cat Claws, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, DPnCC offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.

My first cat, Chimichanga, would retaliate if I didn’t keep his litter box clean. Instead of getting into the box, he would squat down in front of it to relieve himself and we cat owners know how difficult it is to get cat urine odor out of a carpet. Even if WE can’t smell it after cleaning, our cats certainly can. Maintaining your cat’s litter box is the most important part of cat ownership and needless to say, Chimi kept me motivated to keep litter boxes clean for all my cats.

The Litter

Each cat has its own rules: from what kind of litter they prefer to where you put the box. With so many products to choose from, it may take time to find the right litter that you and your cats can agree on. Keep in mind that scented litter was invented for humans, not your cats, and they may not like it. I never cared for clay litter and decided to experiment with other options. It took some time and effort to find the winning product that we could all agree on.

Cleaning

Make it part of your daily routine. For example, my boyfriend has the morning shift after walking the dog and I have the evening shift after feeding the cats. If you have children, make it part of their daily chores. The only member of the family that should never touch a litter box is a pregnant woman. She could contract toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection transmitted through infected cat feces. Once a week, dump litter and clean the box with a mild detergent like dish soap that won’t leave a strong chemical smell or residue behind. Anything stronger could be toxic to your cat and they may choose to relieve themselves elsewhere.

Placement

Cat experts recommend you have just as many litter boxes as you have cats, plus one. Cats like privacy when they need to use their box but placement needs to be convenient. If you live in a multi-level home, each level should have a box. Make sure that doors blocking access are propped open. Don’t place litter boxes next to noisy appliances such as washing machines or water heaters. Cats have a very strong sense of smell and depend on this sense to tell them where their food is so keep the box away from their food and drinking water.

Types of Litter Boxes

What type of box you use may take some experimenting. Some cats prefer those with lids, others may not. Start out with two different models and you will quickly discover which they prefer. I love the deeper boxes with holes in the top because my dog isn’t able to reach those “special” treats. Self-cleaning boxes are an option, but keep in mind they need checking daily and changed once a week as well.

Accessories

There are several litter box deodorizers available, but like scented litter, they can be a turn off for cats. Using plain baking soda works just as well. Litter liners were invented for human convenience but when I tried to use them, my cats shredded the bag on the first day while covering up their business.

At Dog Paws n Cat Claws, we train our in-home sitters to scoop the litter on each visit. Your being away can stress out your cat and they could retaliate for this reason alone. Keeping a clean litter box will minimize the temptation they may have to ruin your favorite rug.

An unhappy cat has a way of making your life difficult. Keep your kitty’s litter box clean and fresh and you will have a happier cat…and a happier you!

Sara Schabach
In-Home Pet Care Manager

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