Cat litter, trays and toileting are essential things to get right to ensure your cat remains healthy and happy in its home.

Cats and kittens are instinctively clean and very unlikely to ever soil their beds. Cats always need to bury their faeces so it’s important to ensure they have a tray and litter type they feel happy using indoors. When a cat stops using their litter tray this is often a sign that all is not well in their world. Whether you have an indoor, or an outdoor cat, it’s essential to ensure your cat likes the type of litter you provide and the position of their litter tray. Even if you have a cat that toilets outdoors it’s important that they also have the indoor option too.

Cats can be very picky about where they go to the toilet, so it’s a good idea with a new kitten to ask the breeder the type of litter they were using. This will ensure that they continue to be happy to use their litter tray in their new home environment. If you are adopting an older cat, it should be fairly easy to encourage them to use a litter tray.

There are generally three types of litter tray on the market; a standard open top tray, a hooded or covered tray and a self cleaning tray. Standard open top trays, with their lower sides, are acceptable to most cats, but are particularly good for kittens and older cats who will find them easier to climb into. Hooded trays are a great choice, however, for cats that need more privacy and are great for preventing litter being thrown around. They are also better at reducing odours and keeping children and other pets away from the litter. Self cleaning trays are much more expensive and often contain a sieve to help collect the clumped litter. Some even have fully automatic raking systems!

Whatever type of litter tray you choose for your cat, it’s a good idea to try lining the bottom of the tray with a Tray Liner, which can be simply lifted out from the bottom of the tray along with all the litter. Please be aware, however, that not all cats like tray liners and it’s best to stay away from the scented ones which may not smell so nice to your cat and put them off!

Choosing where to place your cat’s litter tray is vitally important. If you find that your cat or kitten isn’t keen to use it it’ll probably be because he feels vulnerable using it in that particular position. Cats like privacy and do not really like to be watched when toileting and so a secure, quiet, and low traffic place, like a bathroom or utility room, is ideal. It’s also possible that your cat could be put off by noisy or draughty places, so please take that into account too when positioning a tray. Litter trays should also be placed well away from your cat’s food dishes and bed. There’s a standard rule of thumb that cats should have a litter tray each plus an extra one. This is because many cats will not use a soiled tray for a second time. It’ll also give them a choice of where to go and reduce the likelihood of any accidents. It’s also a really good idea to place them in slightly different positions so that there’s no confrontations!

Another reason your cat or kitten could be put off using their tray is a lack of cleaning. Cats are incredibly clean animals and will be very unhappy if their tray isn’t cleaned on a regular basis. Whatever type of litter you use (more on that later) you should be removing clumps or refreshing it regularly. Always scoop out soiled and wet litter whenever you notice it and top up with new litter as necessary. The tray itself should be completely cleaned at least once a week with a pet friendly cleaner – but please check your litter instructions for the recommended frequency of cleaning. Avoid strong smelling disinfectants and particularly products containing “phenol” which is toxic to cats. Please also ensure that you use the correct amount of litter in the tray as the wrong amount may put your cat off. Cats usually prefer to have their litter deep enough so they can bury their waste easily. If you find it a chore refreshing litter, it’s a good idea to use the litter tray liners mentioned above which can be bought in all good pet shops.

Choosing litter can be very confusing. Ultimately, it will be your cat who decides as they will let you know if you’ve picked the wrong one! Litter is generally split into two types – clumping litter and non-clumping litter. Clumping litter is designed to absorb moisture into small firm clumps which can be removed with a scoop on a daily basis. Non-clumping litter locks away any moisture without forming clumps and, depending on the type of litter, generally needs to be stirred/shaken and refreshed on a regular basis (check the manufacturers instructions).

Litter is mostly made from Clay, Silica, Vegetable matter, Wood and Paper. Some types are more environmentally friendly than others. Clay and Silica for example are not biodegradeable, whereas, vegetable, wood and paper based litter are more environmentally friendly and can be composted (minus any faeces). Another consideration with litter is how dusty and spreadable it is – especially via your cats feet! Silica and Paper based litter are generally the least dusty, with clay being the worst. Wood and Vegetable litter tend to be somewhere in the middle for dustiness and spreadability. Ultimately it will be your cat who decides if they like it or not!

Most kittens purchased from a reliable breeder will have been toilet trained already before bringing them home. If not, it shouldn’t take long to toilet train them. The simplest way is to take them to the tray in the morning, at night and after every meal. Wait for them to do their business in private and then give them some praise. It should only take a few days to get him or her using it by themselves.

Cats will often mark their territory by spraying urine. Spraying should not be confused with their normal toilet habits. Cats that are secure in their own home are very unlikely to spray indoors. If you do find your cat spraying indoors this is a very good sign that they are feeling stressed and anxious for some reason. Any spray or toilet mishaps should always be thoroughly cleaned up using a suitable cleaner which can be purchased from all reputable pet stores. If the area isn’t thoroughly cleaned, it’s likely they will continue to mark or toilet there. It’s also recommended that you exclude the cat from that particular area for a few days wherever practical.

If your cat is house soiling, or refusing to use his litter tray, it’s important to consider all the factors involved – do you have enough litter trays? Can they easily get into their tray? Are you cleaning them often enough? Are you using pet friendly cleaner? Is the litter deep enough to bury their waste? Are they positioned in quiet, private areas? Have you tried different types of trays and different kinds of litters? Is your cat feeling threatened by another cat? – investigating all these factors should help in resolving any toileting problems they may be experiencing.

Next time I’ll be looking at the different types of Cat Breeds and their characters and personalities.