Tips for Litter Box Management

Meeting Simple Feline Standards

Would this box be large enough for a family of 2 or  3 cats?

Because cats really do care about the location, size, smell, and cleanliness of their litter boxes, it is important to provide a toilet facility that meets their standards.

Cats like to be clean. Since cats have to climb into a litter box and will get the odor of whatever is in the box onto their fur, they prefer to enter a box that is clean. If you have been getting away with a less than perfectly clean box and your cats are not protesting, then you have been very lucky.

Also, since cats lick themselves to bathe, and since they prefer to be clean, cats will be ingesting some of whatever you use for their litter. For health and other reasons, this should be an important consideration.

The most important thing to remember is that changes in an animal’s behavior are indications of a problem. Animals do not suddenly change their behavior for no reason. When it comes to litter boxes, the first thing a change in behavior might indicate is a health problem.

While each cat is a unique individual and has unique preferences and tolerances, here are some simple litter box tips that may be helpful to you and your cat(s).


The Family Litterbox.  Not everyone looks happy.


1. Make sure the box is large enough for the cat. A box that fits a kitten well might become too small for the same cat as an adult. Adult cats come in a variety of sizes, so keep that in mind as well.

2. “Location . . . location . . . location” – not just a slogan for real estate. Put litter boxes in places that are easy for each cat to get into and out of without being trapped or jumped on by other felines in the house. Also, choose a location that is just plain easy for a cat to use.

3. The recommended number of boxes to have is 1 for each cat + 1 more. This may not be necessary if you have only 1 or 2 cats, but as the number of felines goes up, this general rule becomes more important.

4. Plastic litter boxes eventually pick up the smell of urine. It is advisable to replace boxes every couple of years.


1. Pick out the pee and poop a minimum of twice daily – more often if possible. Cats do not like to dig through urine and feces to “find a spot.”

2. Change the litter completely at least once a week, especially if you are not using a good quality clumping litter that is easy to pick out.

3. Choose a scent-free litter or one with a mild scent that is natural to the product of which the litter is made. Cats have a strong sense of smell and may not like having a chemical smell on their fur. This is also healthier for your cat, as the chemical gets on them and they ingest it when they groom.

4. Do not use chemicals or anything scented when you wash the box. Cat noses are much more sensitive than human noses, and if you use something that they don’t like to smell, they may stop using the box. Remember, also, that chemicals can be toxic, so use natural, safe products.

5. Some cats are very sensitive to the texture of the litter, especially if the cat has been declawed. A softer litter can increase a cat’s comfort even if it is not a clumping litter.

6. When changing to a new litter, it is best to mix the two litters together for a week or more. This gives your cats a chance to adjust to the new litter.


Some cats, as they age, develop arthritic problems in their backs and hind end. This may make it difficult for them to climb into a normal litter box. Here are some things you can do to help your senior citizen feline continue to use a litter box.

1. Try a cookie sheet as a litter tray so your elder cat can easily climb into it.

2. Some cats will adapt to “wee wee pads” while others still prefer to have litter in the cookie tray so they can cover their feces and urine.

3. A cardboard box can surround the tray with one end opened flat for easy access. This will minimize how much litter gets spread around due to the low sides of the cookie sheet. It will also keep the tray from moving around when the cat is using it, making it more comfortable for your cat to adapt.

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For help with litter box problems, consider Animal Communication.  When we discover why your cat is not using the litter box, we have an opportunity to identify the underlying issue(s) and resolve them.  Contact Nedda at 860-651-5771 or

Feline Hospice for Violet

April 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Animal Communication, New Posts

Tips to Share, with Violet’s Approval.

Violet, April 25, 2015 - Still Glowing.Violet, April 25, 2015 – Still Glowing.

by Nedda Wittels, © 2015

Yesterday was a fasting day for Violet, but this time she seems a bit stronger than the first time she fasted more than 4 weeks ago.

The photo is from early in the morning.   We’re all early risers around here, so I had to use the flash, which caused the infamous “red eye.”  The “red eye remover” has made her right eye look blind, but her eyes are really a lovely crystaline blue.  Her left eye is nearly closed because of the lamp that was on that side of her.

The glow is all Violet.  She really is glowing with radiant Light.


If you look right above Violet’s head, you can see some black plastic.  Hospice care requires a bit of planning re: urinary and other “accidents.”  So underneath the soft throw on which Violet is sitting is part of a large plastic leaf bag I’ve cut up and put there to protect the chair.  The pillow behind her is also encased in a large plastic bag and covered with a normal pillowcase.

I refuse to confine Violet.  She would be furious and miserable, and so would Starlight and Sakhara.  And it’s not necessary, with a few precautions.  Besides, she’s still able to get around, although slowly.  We wants to remain part of the family, and of course, I would never deny her that.

Violet is still quite capable of getting to the litter box and getting into the box, too.  She doesn’t have any arthritic problems, so she can easily climb into and out of the litter box.  And at least for now — until she becomes too weak to get there on her own in some later stage of this process.

The other day, she was in the chair in the photo all day, not moving once, although she ate whenever I placed a bowl of raw pureed chicken liver under her nose.  I thought about taking her to the litter box, but she insisted this was unnecessary.  DIGNITY!!

With the elderly, dignity is very important and to be respected.  Still, it turns out I should have insisted, because by the time she decided she really needed to pee, she only made it half-way there.  Smart Violet.  She figured out she couldn’t make it and used the cat bed.  This is far better than cat urine all over the floor, in my opinion.

So I began negotiations with her.

Nedda:  “Violet, I would like to take you to the litter box a few times a day and encourage you to pee.”

Violet:  “No.”

Nedda:  “Violet, I don’t care that you used the cat bed, but I can feel that you’re a bit embarrassed about that.” [I received special permission to talk about this in this post.]   “I want you to be comfortable.  I just want to help.”

Violet:  [Stoney silence.]

Nedda:  “Look, if I put you into the litter box and you don’t need to use it, that’s fine.  On the other hand, if you’ve been sitting a long time and aren’t fully in your body, it might be helpful for me to take you to the box.  That’s all I’m saying.  I just want to help.”

Violet:  [Reluctantly]  “Hm.  Well, I guess that’s ok.”

Nedda:  “Thank you.”

Everything is a negotiation, these days.  Knowing Violet as I do, I suspect that she’s cooperating more with me than she normally would because I agreed to consult her on everything and to let her do this whole event her own way.  That’s Violet, for sure!

So immediately after the above conversation, I carried her to the box, and she urinated a considerable quantity.  She wasn’t at all embarrassed, either.

If you have an elderly cat who has some arthritis and you’re concerned about the cat having difficulty accessing the box, here are some alternatives you and your cat might find helpful.

One of my clients recently discovered a litter box for ferrets where one side has a 3″ entrance, which is lower than the sides on most of the cat boxes available.  An elderly arthritic cat might find this box just perfect.


Very low baking pans and even cookie sheets can be used for cats who can’t climb into litter boxes anymore.  You can put a large cardboard box around them to handle any litter than flies about.  You can also use wee-wee pads covered in litter so the pan isn’t slippery.


Here’s a website that shows how to create a litter box with a low, narrow entrance and very high sides.  This was recommended to me by one my clients who created one for her cat who loves to splash litter about.  Since you can create the opening any height you and your cat prefer, this might be the perfect solution for you.

If you find that plastic bags are too slippery to put under a throw (remember, an elderly cat needs stability), try this “Solid Grip Easy Shelf Liner” from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  When you first open it, it has a terrible smell, but you can cut it to the sizes you need and wash it in a washing machine in cold water and laundry soap.  Hang it up to air dry and the odor will be nearly gone.  Because it’s not at all slippery and is washable, you might find it the perfect solution for keeping things dry under your elder cat.

Violet Hospice 010Cat Cave with black plastic liner.

As you can see from the photo, I’ve even lined the cat cave with a plastic bag.  It can be challenging to find just the correct size cardboard box to please my cats.  This one is large enough for Violet to have a visitor and has been in use for a long time.

Sakhara, who’s the largest of the 3 cats, will frequently be found curled up with Violet in the cave..  Because it “smells like home” to them, I’m doing my best to keep it around as long as possible.

One other option to maintain dryness is some of the smaller bath mats that are washable and have a water-proof and no-skid backing.  I have lots of those around, and they’re great.  If something spills, the mat absorbs it without leaking, and then goes right into the washing machine.  The ones I have also go into the dryer and come out clean and fluffy.


Since cats in hospice will lose weight and become rather boney, and also because many do have some arthritic issues, getting the bed soft enough and keeping them comfortable really matters.

Violet Hospice pillow_04-25-2015Orthopedic foam is luxurious.

My cats have a variety of beds to choose from all over the house.  Some are much firmer than others, and each cat has her own preferences.  For elder care, I wanted something comfy and protective of their joints.

The orthopedic foam you see in this photo was advertised as a “dog” product, but it works fine for cats, too.  The cover you see is what came with it.  I use another cover on top of this one that’s even softer.

When brand new, I put the smelly foam in my dryer at a setting called “Fluff Dry” so that there was no heat.  To my amazement, that cycle eliminated the odor completely.  The cover that came with it is machine washable.

I never buy anything for my cats that’s can’t be washed or otherwise safely descented.  Off-gassing of chemicals is as bad for animals as it is for us, and their noses have 10,000 times the scent receptors of our noses, so I figure if I can’t stand the smell, it will be worse for them.



Here’s Violet enjoying her living room chair.  I put a hassock in front of it so that it’s a bit easier for her to get up and down.  She spends part of many nights and days here, and then other times retreats to her cave.  Her cave had been on another hassock, but now it’s on some old blankets about 3 inches above the floor, mostly for insulation purposes.  Violet was quite annoyed when I put the cat cave lower down, but I insisted that I didn’t want her falling in the night when I was asleep.

Violet Hospice 032Violet in chair with hassock to prevent falls
and to make climbing up  and down easier.


Wishing for a laugh or a lighter side as you read all this?   When doing hospice for our animals, we need some levity, and Starlight is happy to provide it.

Starlight in her basket.