Well, I’ll admit it, I love my cats.
I never liked cats before I had my own; in fact I remember being horrified when I used to babysit kids with cats. After calming the kids down from their night-time fears, my own would set in. Any sound, glow or creek in the house would scare me. I was literally on edge until the parents came in the door. The culprits of these noises? No paranormal activity here, just a couple of cats staring at me in the dark and creeping around.
From that point, cats and I didn’t get along.
So, What Happened?
My husband and I discussed getting a pet.
I wanted a dog; the deal killer was that I’d have to walk it in the winter because he didn’t want a dog. My husband said that we should get a cat. I didn’t like that idea very much until we went to a pet store and saw a beautiful little kitten there. She was white with chocolate brown ears, boots and tail. A little Siamese-Himalayan mix kitten with bright blue eyes, it really doesn’t get much cuter than that folks. We took her out to play (in that little cavernous room in the pet store that closes the deal literally every single time) and that was that – we got a cat. Her name, Malee, is the Thai version of ‘Molly’, which we wanted to do to honour her heritage.
A little over a year later, we thought that Malee would enjoy a friend at home while we were out working all day. We searched around for a cat we thought would match her personality well. One day, a few months into our search, we met a little black kitten at a PetSmart adopt-a-thon who was petrified of us and completely in love with us at the same time. She looked the total opposite of Malee; all black with white ‘tiger’ stripes in her undercoat (I believe her colouring is referred to as ‘black smoke’) and bright yellow eyes. That cat we called Paislee (due to her amazing striped pattern, and to have a similar name-ending to Malee) and now those two have the run of the house.
We look over a lot with those cats.
The hair can be something else, hence our Dyson purchase but 2 days after getting little Malee. The cat puke-in-random-locations-at-inopportune-times thing has taken some getting used to and now I don’t wince, I just grab my cleaning product and cloth and get to work. Discovering my cat allergies has been a good time as well (I keep the Reactine folks in business and am currently contemplating allergy shots). But I have to say, acclimatizing to living with a litter box has by far been the biggest challenge for me.
We keep ours by our kitchen’s patio door to allow for good ventilation in warmer months and also to be accessible to the backyard hose for cleaning. Finally, we won’t forget about it (like we potentially would if it were in our basement). If a day goes by where it is not scooped, I freak out. Cats aside, I have a sensitive nose and I feel like my house reeks (OMG, I can’t have anyone over. This is horrible – what, do I live in a toilet?).
We have one box for the cats to share. We are planning on getting a second one so that each cat has her own private space. I like the theory behind this but I am not too fond of the added work it’s going to require. According to some research I’ve done, it seems this is the best way to keep each cat happy and eliminating in the right place (read: we’ve encountered a couple of accidents – not fun) is to have a separate litter box for each cat.
Further to that, managing the odours comes down to how often you are scooping the litter (i.e. removing the waste), changing the litter and of course cleaning the litter box and surrounding area.
What’s worked best for us? I think we have a pretty solid (no pun intended) routine.
Here’s our litterbox strategy
We keep a grooved winter boot mat under the litter box. It’s great at catching any extra granules or pieces of litter that get stuck in their paws upon exit of the commode and also helps with keeping cleanup easier. It’s plastic and easy to wash. I tried the other litter mats that are made out of rubber (look like rubber spaghetti clumped together) which absorb anything (read: accidents) meaning mine got tossed. If the cats get any litter around the area we just sweep it up. They are pretty good at containing it to that area though.
The Litter box
We used to have one with a top closure and a charcoal filter. The cats hated that closure; it trapped in all their elimination odours (think about how you feel in a ‘full’ port-o-potty). The charcoal filter sitting atop of the box didn’t do much by way or eliminating odours despite the very convincing marketing. We ditched the lid and the cats much prefer the open space. It airs out better. We now use a biodegradable and disposable litter box, and the cats absolutely adore the texture of it (they scratch it for fun). I like this plan better, and would not have gone for it if the litterboxes were not biodegradable.
The Litter Liners
Again, we used to use these however they became cumbersome and superfluous. I don’t think the liner is a necessary step so long as you are cleaning and disinfecting your litter box on a regular basis. They seem like a product that was developed to sell in pet stores (Johnson, we need to raise our sales numbers this quarter…think of a way to sell the customers something they already have…). If you want to line the box, use newspaper or tinfoil (they won’t feel it under all the litter) and change it each week. Apparently, cats don’t really like liners. The bottom line: clean your litter box out and you won’t have to worry about a liner. If you find your litter box is absorbing odours into the plastic, you can replace it every year. We don’t, but I’m just saying, if you find that is an issue, there’s your alternative solution.
The Deodorizing Products
We keep a PureAir charcoal filter beside our litter box. It is cleaner and looks nicer than a box of baking soda and needs changing once every 6 months. We’ve found it somewhat helpful in managing the ever smelly issue of cat elimination. I am not a fan of air fresheners (they give me a screaming headache), so I avoid them at all costs. Plus I don’t want to mask an odour, I’d rather deal with it. Finally, cats are pretty finicky (you don’t say), and if they don’t like that smell they’ll find somewhere else to do their business. If you are going to use something, stick to a natural solution like a half-lemon left in a dish near the litter box, an open bowl of vinegar, a box of baking soda or a charcoal air filter.
We were just downright cheap when it comes to litter. I mean, how can you justify spending premium dollar on a toilet-y sandbox for cats? Previously, we’ve been seen creeping out of discount grocers with their bottom-of-the-barrel kitty litter brand. Cheap, readily available clumping litter. It makes a total mess; it is dusty and grainy. It does not help with odours. I also hate scooping because dust rises and settle everywhere (and then I wonder how many toxins I’m breathing in – hypochondria).
A Litter Story
Prior to using clumping litter, we used compressed newspaper pellets and found it worked (although it didn’t clump as well) but it was expensive. It was not too easy to scoop either, since you couldn’t actually sift through and let the unused litter fall back into the pan. It helped with odours somewhat, but we were not totally satisfied. Malee was brought up on that litter so we kept using it until Paislee came along. Then we moved to something designed for a ‘multi cat’ home, bringing us to the clumping litter scenario. The cats were seemingly indifferent to the litter types, which somewhat surprised me since I’ve heard cats can be pretty particular when it comes to litter and are not good with change. I was not a fan. The house smelled, the stuff was messy, dusty and got everywhere when we were changing or scooping it. Cheap or not, it sucked.
The thing with litter is, there are so many different kinds of kitty litter and they all come with their own host of warnings, costs and environmental issues. So after months of contemplation, we decided to give some other litter types a whirl. We purchased a small package of Feline Pine (compressed pine pellets) and Swheat Scoop (wheat litter). The Feline Pine is neat; it’s like little compressed pine pellets and actually has a very pleasant smell (forest-y!) I actually like the smell of the litter and the cats didn’t seem to mind it. It’s also priced a little cheaper than Swheat Scoop. The pellets are similar in size to that of compressed newspaper and have an interesting reaction. The pellets break down as they urine and it turns into sawdust. Feces sort of sit on top of the litter or catch a few pellets in it while the cats are cleaning up. I found that it got quite dusty with the urine breaking down the pellets, but if you keep the amount of litter to a couple of inches it is manageable. You also have to be more precise when scooping (same thing with the newspaper pellets), because you can’t exactly sift out larger, clean pellets through your shovel and end up scooping clean litter away as well. However, if you were ever a kid that played in a sandbox, this shouldn’t be an issue for you. It also holds odours in pretty well – I have to say, I did not noticed a wretched smell coming from the box after we switched to that brand.
When Feline Pine ran out, we started using Swheat Scoop. If you’ve ever tried Red River cereal, it looks very similar to Swheat Scoop. We sprinkled it in a cleaned out litter box and gave it a try. It has no scent and is not dusty. Again, the cats were impervious to the change. What I liked is that it behaved the same way clumping litter does, making both number ones and number twos easy to clean up after and still allows the rest of the clean litter to sift through the scoop back into the pan for future use. It leaves no dust at all and does not break down once wet, and finally, it traps in odours well. I like it, however it’s not quite the greatest odour eliminator.
Someone told me about crystal litter, and I was very unsure about these multi-coloured granules. However, we gave it a whirl and the cats seemed fine with the change. The cool thing is, they change colour when they are no longer functional (sort of like your toothbrush), and they are unbelivevably amazing when it comes to trapping odours. I have not come across a better kind of litter. I also like how it does not clump and create dust, it is easy to scoop, and only needs to be ‘stirred’ to freshen it up. We change ours every 2-3 weeks and scoop / stir it frequently.
Crystals are the winner. The cats like it, it’s easy to use, sifts well, is not dusty, traps odours and is easy to clean up. I’d try a bag out and see what you think for yourself.
The Litter Schedule
I just want to preface this by saying that this is an ideal schedule; we do not keep it all the time.
We do as best we can. When we do keep to the schedule, the results are the best.
The litter gets scooped twice daily; in the morning when I feed them and at night when he feeds them. We scoop the litter into little lunch paper bags and dispose of them with the garbage (don’t worry, we don’t light them on fire and place them on our neighbours’ doorsteps). He cleans the box out weekly and changes the litter. Do we stick to our plan always? No, but it really helps in managing that smell when we do. I don’t care what litter has been used, I find nothing else works as well as continual maintenance.
The Box Cleaning Routine
To clean a plastic litter box:
Empty the litter into a garbage bag and pre-soak the litter box with disinfectant and baking soda for 10 minutes.
Hose out in the backyard (yes, even in the winter) and dry with paper towel.
The mat and surrounding area gets a quick clean up as well (a sweep to the tiles and the mat just gets sprayed down with disinfectant and dried).
Litter is refilled.
We put in about 1.5-2 inches worth of litter in the box, apparently cats don’t like swimming in their litter box (gosh, I can’t imagine why). There’s no harm in sprinkling in extra baking soda into the box, which will help eliminate odours as well. They just need enough coverage to kick around and clean up after themselves.
Like a typical cat, Malee eagerly awaits the clean litter box so that she can hop in and move litter around to better suit her feng shui, literally one millisecond after the last litter granule falls in the box. It’s like clockwork.
What is your routine?
What brands of litter do you use?
Have you found any methods that are very effective for managing litter boxes?