Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How many litter boxes does one household need?

Lucy the cat sitting nicely beside her litter box
According to Lucy, you can never have too many litter boxes.
I've had three cats, off and on, for many years. Sometimes, all three cats have shared one litter box. Sometimes, I've been generous and provided two litter boxes. In this large house, for example, I have provided one litter box upstairs and one downstairs for a full year with no complaints.

Recently, however, I have come to see the error of my ways. When the cats feel they don't have enough litter boxes, all hell breaks loose.

Cats who have been raised together often share their beds, toys and litter boxes with no problems. But when one cat is upset, too vocal or aggressive, no one wants to share.

Eamon and Maggie have been fighting lately, and Lucy no longer feels that any cat box is safe for her to use. She seems to fear ambush when she's in a vulnerable position. Instead of using the litter boxes, she started to use the entryway rug.

In a way, this is a positive because the rug can quickly be washed. But it's not a habit I wanted to encourage.

Thankfully, the behavior was easy to stop. When I provided a new litter box and placed it in the entryway where the rug used to be, she started using the new box right away. This is an open position, where she can run away if she needs to, and she's often not forced to encounter the droppings of other cats in her box.

Experts say you should provide one litter box for each cat living in the home, plus one extra. (Technically, I am still one box short.) If you have more floors in the home than you have cats (three cats in a four-story home, for example), you need to provide a litter box on each floor. It does seem like a lot of litter boxes, I know, but it's much better than the alternative. Trust me on this one.