Living with multiple cats is not all fun and games.
While felines are low-maintenance animals, the more you own, the more responsibilities you will have. One of the worst nightmares of every cat owner is cleaning the litter box. This task will be more complex if you have several felines running around the home.
Many pet owners with multiple cats are unfamiliar with the rules of boxes. Can multiple cats use the same litter box? How many litter boxes do you need? Can they be placed in the same area? There is a lot to consider, and it is confusing for new owners! Plus, get it wrong and you may find your cats refusing to use their litter box and having accidents around your home.
In this article, I will run through my favorite litter box ideas for multiple cats. This includes the number of boxes you need for each cat, where you should place them, what to do if you live in a small apartment.
Can Multiple Cats Use One Litter Box?
Having multiple cats running around your home brings so much joy! But cleaning multiple litter boxes every single day is such a hassle. That’s why so many feline owners wonder if they can have a single litter box for multiple cats.
Unfortunately, the answer is no. You should never use one litter box for multiple cats, even if they are tiny kitties or felines from the same litter. Each cat deserves its privacy when they’re trying to go to the bathroom, and not allowing them their own space can lead to a lot of mess outside their tray.
There is one common rule that you should blindly follow, no matter the situation: you need one litter box per cat, plus an extra litter box. For example, if you have two cats you should have three litter boxes, if you have three cats you should have four litter boxes, and so on. This means that if the litter box is dirty or the entrance is blocked for some reason, there’s always another available space for your cat to go.
The exception to the rule is if you own one cat. In most cases, a single cat with a single box should be fine as long as you clean it every day.
Why Do Cats Need Separate Litter Boxes?
Cats Are Territorial
Cats are territorial creatures and want to stick to their territory in the house. If forced to use the same litter box, the situation can escalate and end with a conflict. There is always one dominant cat, and if someone uses her spot, she will get aggressive. This is something you want to avoid in your household because it can cause stress among your cats.
The dominant cat will keep an eye on the litter box just because she thinks it’s hers. Every time the other cat tries to do her business, the first one will start a fight, hiss, or attack. Because of that, the second cat will feel obliged to find another spot, and that can be any room and any place in your house. You don’t want to sit down in a puddle of pee on your couch, so try including more than one litter box for your cats.
They Like Things Clean
Aside from being territorial and not wanting to share things, felines are clean and neat animals. Naturally, a litter box that two or more cats share will get dirtier much more quickly than a litter box only used by one cat. Even if you scoop the litter box daily and empty, clean, and refill the litter tray once per week, it will often still be too dirty by the end of the day for a fussy feline to want to use.
For this reason, cats prefer a spotless litter box that they’ll only have for themselves. Besides, they’d rather have to do their business in their own mess than being surrounded by the mess of the other cats in your household.
How Do You Set Up Litter Boxes for Multiple Cats?
Now that we got the numbers out of the way, it’s time to talk about location and setup. Where you place the litter box matters! They might not look like it, but cats are sensitive creatures and enjoy their privacy, so getting the litter boxes in the right location can drastically affect their willingness to use them. Here are some smart tips that will help you find the best location for each box.
1. Away From Traffic
If you put the box in high-traffic areas, the cats might end up doing their business in another spot in the house. As I mentioned before, felines like privacy, especially when they’re using the bathroom. That’s why the ideal location for their litter boxes is somewhere quiet where they can relax, where they won’t feel stressed or scared.
Most owners put these boxes in the entryway or hallway, and these rooms are usually the busiest. Try finding a calm, quiet spot where people or guests won’t disturb them. If you have an empty room in the house, that’s precisely the place that your cats deserve.
I keep my cat’s litter box in the bathroom – it’s quiet all the time and if there are any accidents it’s easier to clean up from the tiles floor. The only problem with the bathroom is that you’ll always have to keep the door open. Many owners don’t want to do that and find other places in the home, so find a solution that works for you.
2. Make It Accessible
The place that you choose also has to be easily accessible. What if you place the box on the balcony and the door is closed most of the time? Yes, that’s right – your cat is going to have to find another place to do their business instead! Your cat should be able to get to its litter box in seconds and without going around a lot of objects and furniture.
Also, think about where your cat spends the majority of its time. If they’re always downstairs in the living room, keeping the litter boxes on the top floor of your home is inconvenient. It will take your cats time to get there and could see them having accidents. An easily accessible location is best.
If you really want to do what’s best for your felines, you need to place each litter box on a different level in your home. This way, no matter where your cats are, there’s a litter box near to them. If this is not an option, you should keep the doors open so that the cats can get to their boxes whenever they need to.
3. Away From Other Litter Boxes
Each of your cat’s litter boxes should also be positioned away from one another. Cats have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, and litter boxes positioned too closely together can be off-putting. Even though there are multiple litter trays, if your cats can smell each other’s urine nearby it will still offend them and infringe on their territory.
You can keep their litter boxes in the same room, but try to place them at opposite ends. However, a better option is to keep them in different rooms entirely.
4. Away From Food and Water
This one may seem obvious, but you need to keep your cats’ litter boxes away from their food and water. Why would a cat want to go to the bathroom when it’s right next to the food? This is not pleasant to the eye, and it’s a potential health hazard! If your cats can smell their urine and feces when going to eat, it may also put them off their food and cause them not to eat.
5. Find a Cool Room
Ideally, the room the litter boxes are in should be cool with enough airflow. Hot and humid rooms will promote an unpleasant smell from the litter box, and the cat can refuse to use it. For the same reason, avoid placing it right next to a window and direct sunlight. It’s better if it’s in a dark place in the room to help keep nasty odors to a minimum.
6. Make It Big
Aside from having a litter box for each cat, each box also needs to be big enough. When I say big, I really mean it! Did you know that the litter box should be around 1.5 times the length of your cat? You’ve probably noticed that cats turn when they get in the box trying to find the best spot. When you choose a big box they’ll have enough space to turn and the box won’t get dirty too quickly.
What About Small Apartments?
Unfortunately, the rule on the number of litter boxes also applies to small apartments. While it can be a challenge to find space, cats have their needs and it’s your job to take care of them. Instead of leaving one box for all your cats, try fitting more boxes somewhere in the apartment. If you really can’t fit one box for each cat plus one extra, then stick to one box for each cat.
To add more litter boxes in a small apartment, you can try making a chic furniture box. These can serve a dual function both as a table and a litter box. It can blend seamlessly with the rest of the furniture, and no one will even know that there’s your cat’s litter tray hiding inside. These days you can get so many ideas online and re-create them, or purchase one from a pet store.
If you don’t have space even for this, then you’re left with the worst option – having a single litter box. In this case, you have to be very diligent about hygiene. You have to clean the litter every single day and keep it neat at all times. Also, choose a cat litter for small apartments to reduce litter tracking and any unnecessary mess around your home.
You’ll also have to be very smart about the litter box selection. Self-cleaning boxes will make your life easier, plus your cats will be happy that their go-to place is clean. These designs are usually more expensive, but you’ll see that self-cleaning litter boxes for multiple cats will be one of your best investments. You can also try getting an extra-large litter box, so maybe each cat will use a different side.
Do Cats Have a Preference for Open or Closed Litter Boxes?
When you live with multiple cats, you need to try and satisfy the needs of them all.
What if one cat loves going to a closed toilet, but the other one doesn’t even get near it? In that case, you buy different style toilets for each cat – it really is that simple. However, before splashing out on a litter box that your cat may not like, here is some general advice on whether an open or closed design is best for you.
1. Open Or Closed
There is no wrong or right answer for this one!
It’s all a matter of preference and different cats like different litter boxes. Several studies explored this issue, and the result is unanimous – cats don’t really care. As long as the litter box is big enough for the cat to go into and kept clean, they should happily use it regardless. With that being said, some cats don’t want to get into a closed litter box because they can feel trapped.
There is no way to tell whether your cats will want to try a closed litter box. Your best bet is to get one and wait. Maybe some of your felines with love it, or perhaps even all of them will love it. If your felines decide that they like using closed boxes, you should opt for top entry litter boxes. They are the best option to minimize trails and messy floors.
2. Does Age Matter?
Age does matter!
Older cats need special treatment because sometimes they find it hard to use certain litter box types. In most cases, elderly cats find it hard to jump into a top-entry litter box. It takes too much energy for them and many have joint issues or arthritis which makes this painful. Even climbing in and out of a regular litter box can cause discomfort.
Thankfully, choosing a litter box for older cats is easy. Your best bet is an open box with low sides and a low entrance point because the cat will find it the easiest to climb. Open boxes with low sides are easy to find and use, but you will probably need to clean the floors more often. There are also closed litter boxes with a low entryway that can be very useful for messier cats.
Older cats also often suffer from incontinence or forgetfulness, and so also need an extra box placed somewhere around the house. This is the best way to prevent messes and keep your house clean. If you have old cats who visit the loo often, get a stainless steel litter box, that’s the easiest material to clean, and it’s incredibly durable.
3. Does Gender Matter?
Generally, the gender of the cat doesn’t determine whether it will prefer to have an open or closed litter box. However, males are more territorial than females and are more prone to spraying to leave their scent around your home. Therefore, you may prefer to try a closed litter box if you have a male cat to help contain the urine inside their litter box.
With that being said, this behavior isn’t exclusive to males. Territorial females can also spray! So, regardless of gender, many owners find enclosed litter boxes much better when it comes to keeping their house clean.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Hopefully, after reading this article you have many litter box ideas for multiple cats.
You should try to have as many toilets as cats, plus one extra, as each cat wants privacy and a clean litter box. Also, it’s more hygienic if each one of your furry friends has its own bathroom. It doesn’t have to be the most expensive model on the market, just make sure that it’s big enough and clean.
The box’s location should be a quiet, private one where the kitties won’t be bothered. Besides, they should be able to get to it quickly. The bathroom and empty rooms in your house sound perfect, while the hallways are not the best option. Choosing the right litter box for your cat – be that an enclosed design for spraying cats or a low-sided box for senior felines – is also essential.
Use these litter box ideas for multiple cats and you should reduce aggressive and territorial behavior, have fewer bathroom accidents to clean up, and have all-round happier, healthier felines!
geri mandel says
i am fostering 6 kittens a mama cat.. I have put out 6 litter trays along with the enclosed mama box which she uses. They are now 5 weeks old and have been at it since they were 4 weeks. Sometime one or two of them get it other times they are not. And the others just don’t get it at all. Too young? Too many training at once?