Cats and Their Litter Trays

Cats and Their Litter Trays

Do you have a cat?

The number one reason that cats are surrendered to shelters and new homes is due to inappropriate urination.

For a long time we've been aware that cats can be very particular about their toilet habits (unsurprisingly).

And a recent study conducted at Ross University in the Caribbean has now put some evidence to our theories.

Inappropriate urination can often be associated in the first instance with a medical condition such as recent surgery, bladder infections, or trauma. However the association of the litter tray with the painful episode may persist and inappropriate urination continue until the owners have had enough.

Usually we've advised people on a number of solutions if you experienced this problem, and they still apply today. This solutions include: 

  • Cleaning the litter box daily
  • Changing the type of litter or varying the litter
  • Adding litter trays using the rule one per cat  +1 (ie 1 cat = 2 trays, 3 cats = 4 trays)
  • Making sure the litter tray is large enough for your cat
  • Changing the location of the tray
  • Changing the type of litter tray-uncovered or covered.

The research at Ross University looked specifically at cat preferences towards covered or uncovered trays. They looked at 20 cats with no history of inappropriate urination and studied these cats over a two-week period in their houses. The only change that was made was to allow cats access to a covered or an uncovered litter tray.

So it turned out the cats really aren't that bothered and in fact 70% of the cats in the study showed no preference to one type of tray or the other. The balance of cats were evenly split between preferring one tray to the other. So overall there is really no difference in the type of tray that cats would prefer at all.

But the most important and consistent feature that we've seen in studies regarding inappropriate urination and anecdotally from cat owners is that cats prefer a clean litter tray that is a large enough size and a fine grain clumping litter. In these circumstances we reduce the risk of inappropriate elimination due to litter tray or environmental issues. They don't really care whether the tray is covered so the take-home message is to make sure that your litter tray is cleaned daily and if you are having problems with inappropriate urination it may reflect a medical condition. Some cases require behavioural modification so it is best to speak with your veterinarian if this is the case.