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Thinking outside the (litter) box

Grigg EK, Pick L and Nibblett B. Litter box preference in domestic cats: covered versus uncovered. J Feline Med Surg. 2013; 15: 280-4.

The most common behavior problem in cats leading to their relinquishment to animal shelters is inappropriate elimination or housesoiling. In this situation, cats eliminate urine, feces, or both around the house, but outside the litter box. Litter box management is one area of focus for prevention of elimination disorders of either medical or behavioral origin. Some of the common recommendations associated with improving litter box management are: 

1) cleanliness – boxes should be cleaned at least once per day and litter completely replaced weekly,
2) type of litter – the fine-grained clumping clay litter is the most commonly recommended,
3) number of litter boxes – the general yet untested rule of the number of cats plus one,
4) litter box size – larger box size especially for larger cats and,
5) style of box – recommending against self-cleaning boxes or covered boxes. 

Little research has been done to look at box style, such as a preference for uncovered versus covered litter boxes. The authors wanted to determine if cats did prefer uncovered litter boxes when all other factors are equal. Twenty-eight cats were enrolled in the study. Nineteen of the cats showed no preference between a covered or uncovered box. Some individual cats did have preferences for one box type or the other – four cats for uncovered boxes, four cats for covered boxes. With a minority of cats exhibiting a litter box style preference, offering a ‘cafeteria’ choice of litter boxes, including a covered box, might be beneficial. Additional studies related to litter box management are recommended, such as evaluating scented versus unscented litters. [VT]

See also: Sung W and Crowell-Davis SL. Elimination behavior patterns of domestic cats (Felis catus) with and without elimination behavior problems. Am J Vet Res. 2006; 67: 1500-4.