5 common litter box mistakesLitter boxes. They seem so easy, so straightforward. Your cat knows just what to do and he does it. All you have to do is clean it out once in a while right? Right? Right?

Well, sometimes right. But plenty of times….wrong.

Litter box problems are one of the chief complaints veterinarians report hearing from their clients and one of the top reasons cats are abandoned at shelters.

So, something must be going awry.

First, you need to understand that a cat’s potty experience is a whole lot different than a human’s. It’s a complicated issue that involves much more than just a bodily function – there are a lot of behavioral, instinctual and emotional aspects to litter box use. If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, take him to the vet right away. There could be an underlying medical issue. If there’s nothing medically wrong, consider one of these 5 box blunders well-meaning cat owners make:

The Box is Too Small
It doesn’t make sense, I realize, but standard sized litter boxes you might find at the pet store aren’t usually big enough. Jumbo-sized boxes can do the trick but there are even better solutions – a large under the bed storage box, for example, works great. Other people have found success with plastic baby pools (obviously you have to have the space for this one). Consider your cat’s experience when hopping into a too-small box: he can’t dig, he can’t turn around and he can’t cover. It’s not hard to imagine why your sweet kitty might prefer going elsewhere.

The Litter Smells
Scented litters may seem like a good idea to you but for many cats it’s a big turn off. Cats have sensitive little noses and overly scented litters may send them elsewhere to do their biz. Frankly, I can’t stand scented litters myself so I can only imagine how my cats must feel. Try unscented litter if your cat isn’t using the box.

The Box is Covered
Covered boxes are usually marketed to humans who want to keep the unpleasant sight and smell of the box tucked away. The problem is, what may be good for a human can be a major bummer for your cat.

First of all, most covered boxes have only one entrance/exit and this can make many cats feel trapped.

If there’s only one way out (the same way they came in) and there’s another cat, a dog or even a human near the ONE entrance/exit, that’s pretty scary for your kitty.

Also, you may be keeping the smell from your precious nose but imagine how your cat feels when he heads into that smelly little enclosed closet. It has to be overpowering – not only the dirty litter smell but if you have scented litter in there? It’s probably like walking into a porta-potty right after someone sprayed flowery room spray in there. Ewww.

Take off the lid and see how that works in getting your kitty back into the box. I’ve heard from several readers who say making that easy change solved all of their litter box problems.

There’s too Much….or Too Litte Litter in the Box

Put yourself in your cat’s paws for a minute. The amount of litter in the box can make a huge difference in your cat’s litter box experience. Too much litter and your cat may be sinking into it, unable to get a foothold. Too little litter and your cat may not like feeling the bottom of the box or it may be hard for him to cover so he feels out of sorts. If your cat is making a detour away from the box, try experimenting with different amounts of litter in the box.

There Are Too Many Boxes in One Location
Many experts suggest one box for each cat in your house and then one extra. But…they shouldn’t all be in the same spot. The idea is to have different options, environments and locations for your cat. If all of the boxes are in one spot, lined up in a row, for example, they might as well be one big old communal box. That’s not helping anyone or, rather, anycat. Experiment with different spots to see if your cat prefers a new location.

Often, litter box issues require some trial and error to find out just what the problem might be. Consider whether you might be making one of these litter box blunders and let us know what works for you!


Seriously, is there nothing worse than a house that smells like cat pee? Even the cleanest, most fastidious cat parents sometimes have to deal with the pungent, ammonia-y stink of a cat who is spraying or peeing where he shouldn’t.

When I heard Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a veterinary writer in San Diego, was struggling with this and found a solution, I asked her if I could share her success with you guys. “Absolutely,” she said.

Dr. V. was at her wit’s end. Her cat Apollo was spraying around the front door and she could not figure out why. She’s still working on that issue, but in the meantime the smell was overwhelming. She tried everything to remove the odor but nothing worked. “I mopped three times, scrubbed the door by hand with a grout brush, anti-icky poo, bleach, everything.”

The stress level was rising in their house, which happens when you begin to get frustrated with living with the pee smell and feeling helpless to put a stop to it.

Anyway, Dr. V. said the only thing that worked was Zero Odor, a product that has gotten major accolades the last couple of years for being super effective and non-toxic. (My sis-in-law uses it on dog pee on her carpet and swears by it….even uses it when her husband forgets to take the towels and put them in the dryer! DOH!)

Dr. V. sprayed the walls with Zero Odor and soon after, the smell was gone. “My husband, who has the nose of a bloodhound, proclaimed the entryway odor free, which is as good an endorsement as it gets!”

I am super happy to share this story with you because I know it’s one of the biggest issues we cat parents face. Dr. V. also used on the litter after Apollo used the box for a stinky poop and she said it worked great there too.

“I never go out of my way to endorse products,” Dr. V. told me. “I see so many and it gets overwhelming. This one, for me, is a game changer. It’s amazing stuff.”

You can check out Zero Odor on Amazon or at Zero Odor’s web site. I also saw it for sale in my vet’s office!

Let me know how it works for you!

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Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 5.19.09 PMAh, the Sundance Film Festival. Every year I see Facebook photos of friends marking it off their bucket list, boasting of Robert Redford sightings and other celebrity encounters. I think to myself that it would be fun to go to the Sundance Film Festival… but NOW it would be even more fun because of…..the Catdance Festival.

What’s Catdance?

Well, the Catdance Film Festival is sponsored by litter company Fresh Step, and is a celebration of cool short cat films. Well, the films are short. Not the cats. Although, the cats might be short but I’m not really sure…it’s hard to tell in the films. Never mind. They are short films about cats.

Here’s how it works: amateur and pro filmmakers from across the nation produce these short films about cats and submit them to the now esteemed Catdance. A panel of judges from Fresh Step and their Feline Arts Council select five finalists. These finalists were featured at a celebration in Park City, Utah on January 18 during the Sundance Film Festival. While the two events are not related, I’d love to know what RR thinks about cats invading his party…

This year, as usual, the films did not disappoint. Here’s what you can look forward to if you click on over to the finalists page to view these little gems and vote:

The Inheritance - a funny film about a couple tasked with looking after a dead aunt’s cat, Greg. If they care for Greg for the rest of his life, they’ll receive the aunt’s estate. Sound simple? There are stipulations…..oh, yes there are.

Dreams Are Real – Have you ever seen your cat’s paws twitch when he sleeps? How cute is that? And what DO cats dream about? Well, you’re about to find out.

The Clever Cat – this little kitty is one smart guy. He’s working hard to get to the yummy fish his staff is making for dinner. He leverages all the tools and other beings (i.e. the dog) available to him. Does he get the fish? Well…watch it and see.

Ricky - this film makes me want to go get a kitten. It’s the story of baby face Ricky who finds himself in his new home, trying to acclimate. He wants to make friends with the other creature there (the dog), who really doesn’t want anything to do with this lonely little guy. Does he win him over? Or do they become life long adversaries? You can find out by checking it out.

Dirty Paws: a Feline Noir – is a cute detective story about a guy who gets sucked into helping a pretty kitty find her lost toy. You’ll be surprised how she rewards him….

If you love cats (or even just like them), you’ll enjoy these films. You can view all of the finalists and vote for your favorite here by February 28. The film with the most votes wins $50,000 and a “golden” litter scoop award. d looks and shining personality would steal the show. Do you think the staff would be capable of such an endeavor? I wonder….

And, if you vote, you’ll get a chance to win fun prizes from Fresh Step, like t-shirts, coupons, products and more.

Entertainment, cats AND a chance to win some goodies? Even if you don’t win the goodies, you can’t lose!

Disclosure! This post was sponsored by Fresh Step but I thought you’d enjoy a little non litter box fun. My opinions are my own!

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Happy Winter with Arm & Hammer

December 26, 2013

Well, we’re in the middle of that funky week between Christmas and New Year’s where everything is a little out of whack and everyone is home. Yes, in the house. Things are (hopefully) a little slower this week than they’ve been for at least a month and perhaps you have a little more time to notice things around your house (I know I have).

Are you noticing the litter box? Is it a little, erm, stinky?

This is a great time for me to talk about litter box odor, one of our favorite topics around here. Many brands claim to do a good job at keeping litter box odor at bay but as you all know, not many come through on that promise.

Arm and Hammer double duty clumping litterOne brand that does is Arm & Hammer. I’ve been wanting to try their Double Duty Clumping Litter so of course when Arm & Hammer asked if I wanted to partner with them on a promotion this year, I agreed. For this quarter, I tested out this litter and some of their saline nasal spray.

First of all, let’s talk litter.

The Double Duty Clumping Litter boasts that it manages both #1 and #2 smells equally well. With the bombs that my boys like to drop, I was hoping, REALLY hoping, it would work.

It did.

I admit; I was very surprised. I have a litter box in my office and for some reason, every time I sit down to eat lunch at my desk, someone comes in and lays some tootsie rolls in the box. Why they do this, I do not know. But it is awful! All I want to do is eat and now I have to scoop the poop, take it to the garage and wait until the smell goes away. Ugh.

The day after I put this litter in the box, I was eating my lunch at my desk, wondering when one of the boys would be in to make their lunchtime deposit. I glanced over at the box and, lo and behold, someone had already been there. I could not smell it at all! Seriously. I was shocked.

As the days went on, the litter continued to trick me into believing no one was using the litter box but of course they were.

I am a big, big fan of this litter. It has a bit of an odor itself but it’s not too perfume-y; another thing I was extremely pleased about. So many litters claim odor control but mask it with gaggy litter perfume smell. Clumping is also very good.

So, A+, Arm & Hammer guys!

Simply Saline Nasal SprayThe second item I tried is the Simply Saline nasal spray.

In the winter, like everyone else, I get stuffed up and my nasal passages get dry. I have always been a fan of saline sprays because they help keep things moist and comfortable. This was my first time trying the Simply Saline nasal spray and it was great! If you’re not familiar with saline nasal sprays, they are mists made of water and salt, delivered via nozzle into your nose. It’s a great way to keep things clear and moist on a regular basis and especially when you have a cold. I’ve tried squeeze bottle nasal sprays but I like this one because of the adjustable nozzle and easy delivery of the mist. I am a fan.

Here’s the best part. If your nasal passages are clear your sniffer is much more sensitive to smells like litter box odors. Good thing Arm and Hammer’s litter is effective at keeping odors at bay, yes?

As part of this program with Arm & Hammer, we’re celebrating keeping cozy and comfy this winter by offering another giveaway! Like we did a couple of months ago, we’re offering to one lucky winner:

ARM & HAMMER Seasonal Giveaway Image 2•Two-Three (2-3) ARM & HAMMER products ** 2-3 products featured in the giveaway picture will be provided to winner based on product availability. Featured products include: ARM & HAMMER™ Sensitive toothpaste, from the makers of Orajel™, Spinbrush: ProClean Sonic, Tooth Tunes™, ARM & HAMMER™ Ultra Power 4X Liquid Laundry Detergent, ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda, ARM & HAMMER™ Simply Saline™ Nasal Relief, ARM & HAMMER™ Double Duty Clumping Litter
•One (1) $100 Visa Gift Card for purchasing more ARM & HAMMER products

**Disclaimer: NOT all products pictured will be included in the giveaway**

To be entered into the drawing, leave me a comment below, telling me 1) a funny litter box bomb story OR 2) how you keep your litter box fresh OR 3) Any great tips for keeping nasal passages clear this winter.

Leave a comment by Monday, December 30 at Noon, EST.

I’ll do a random drawing of one lucky reader to receive the prize!

ARM & HAMMER products are simple, versatile, and effective – and always a great value! Switch & Save today to keep it simple. Here are some ways to learn more and stay connected:

Share and connect on Facebook.
Visit ARM & HAMMER’s website to explore ARM & HAMMER products, tips and hints, FAQs, and consumer reviews.
Where to buy ARM & HAMMER products.
Sign Up for the ARM & HAMMER Savings Center (coupons, etc)

DISCLOSURE: As always, I disclose when I’m compensated by a brand to share info with you. I am part of a six month program where I’m reviewing and sharing Arm & Hammer products with you. I receive free products and compensation to be part of this program. BUT my opinions are my own and you should know by now that I would not recommend a product to you that I don’t believe is a quality, useful product! And, paid sponsorships like this help keep this little blog running so thank you for supporting us!


As you know, cats are extremely sensitive little creatures.

Changes in your home can be a big cause of stress - and litter box problems - for your cat

Changes in your home can be a big cause of stress – and litter box problems – for your cat.

There are a million, bajillion reasons why they might pee outside their litter box. It’s up to you, as their parent, to figure out just what their problemo may be.

No doubt, you may never really know the reason but you owe it to your sweet furbaby to try to find a solution. Once you solve the problem, that may help narrow down the cause. Kinda backwards, I know. But suffice it to say there is a reason. So there is a solution.

First of all, if this is new behavior, please, please, PLEASE take your cat to the vet to rule out any medical reasons. A UTI, for example, can be deadly to a cat if left unattended. Plus, have you ever had a UTI? OMG and ugh. You can’t blame your cat for squatting everywhere and anywhere if that’s the problem.

Another reason may be stress. Do you have a new pet in the house, a new baby, a houseguest, a new house? Even new carpet can send your kitteh into a tailspin and out of the litter box. Be patient with your cat and try to reduce the stressors if you can. Some situations can’t be controlled (new house or carpet) and hopefully will correct themselves over time. If it’s a new pet or baby try to give your cat as much attention as possible and don’t force the new family member on your cat. Try to keep them apart and keep your cat feeling confident about his territory and place in the home.

Here’s an easy one: did you change anything about the litter box situation? Switch litters? Switch locations of the litter box? Drastic changes can be a problem. If you’re switching litters, try to ease into the switch by mixing the new kind in with the old. Little by little, increase the amount of new litter until that’s all you’re using.

If you’re switching locations, show him where the new box is. If you have multiple locations (which is desired but not always possible) don’t switch them all at the same time.

Is he marking or does he have litter box aversion? I’ll get into this in more detail in another post but marking is a territorial and instinctual behavior that involves a different set of issues. Aversion is when something is keeping your cat from going tinkle where he should.

These are just a few reasons. We all know the feline psyche is a complicated one. I’ll continue to share the reasons for these problems to help you consider all possibilities in your quest to solve your baby’s issues.

As always, let me know your solutions or reasons. The more information we can share with others the better!

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Drinkie, drinkie, boy!

The more I learn about litter box issues and urinary health for cats, I find it’s pretty much unanimous among experts that getting your cat to drink more water is a big part of the prevention and treatment of most urinary issues.

And, because medical problems are often the cause of inappropriate elimination (i.e. outside the litter box), it’s important for cat parents to make this a priority.

The irony is that cats aren’t big water drinkers so it’s up to us to entice, cajole and bribe (if your cat is particularly savvy) our furry buddies to get some more of that H2o in their bodies.

One way is to put your kitties on an all wet diet, like I’ve done for Romeo and Pugsley. Obviously wet food has more water in it than dry food. I also read a suggestion to moisten the dry food with water or broth.

Another way is to make sure there are multiple bowls of fresh, clean water throughout your house. Don’t forget to change the water bowls daily so they don’t get gross with particles of food and bacteria floating around in them.

Some experts recommend drinking fountains. I was fortunate to receive one from Petsmart for review recently. It’s the Petmate® Cat Infinity Elite, a fountain that uses UV technology to blast bacteria for healthier, cleaner water. I loved the idea of the UV technology because it seems fountains I have had in the past have gotten really slimy, really quickly. So far, this one seems to be working out just great and, after a month of use, I haven’t had to scrub it out yet.

It took a week or so for Pugsley to start drinking out of it and another week before Romeo did, but now both boys are happily slurping up their agua from the fountain. So that’s good!

I also came across a terrific article by Dr. Donna Spector, who is the consulting vet to HALO, an all natural pet food.

Dr. Donna offers these good ideas for getting your cat to take in more water:

  • Feed an all wet food diet
  • Feed more frequently so the cats drink more frequently
  • Add more water or broth to your cat’s wet food to give it additional moisture
  • Use ice cubes or chips as treats

My vet also suggested putting a little tuna juice in the water to stimulate interest. I tried this once and the cats didn’t really “get” it but I think it’s worth another shot.

What have you done to get your cat to drink more water?

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Nothing brings more dismay to a cat parent than to discover a puddle of urine or a little pile of cat poop somewhere in the house, other than the litter box. Inappropriate elimination is one of the most common complaints vets hear from cat parents and sadly, one of the biggest reasons cats are abandoned or relinquished to shelters.

But the good news is that most litter box issues can be resolved. In fact, one behaviorist told me that they are sometimes one of the easiest problems to correct. That’s encouraging!

Through research for my blog, TheHappyLitterBox.com, I’ve found some common steps experts recommend taking to find a solution to your cat’s litter box woes.

Visit your vet!
First and foremost, it’s critical to rule out any medical issues that may be causing the behavior. There are a variety of ailments that lead to litter box problems so don’t hesitate to get to the vet if your cat is suddenly avoiding the litter box.

Adjust your litter box location.
Often, cat parents place the litter box in a location that’s convenient to the humans in the house – a boiler room, next to the washer/dryer or sometimes even in a closet. Cats can develop aversions to the litter box because they simply don’t feel safe doing their business there due to funny or loud noises. If some cats feel “trapped” when they visit the litter box, they may avoid it altogether. Find a quiet, convenient location that allows the cat to escape in a couple of directions.

Try different litter boxes.
Cats have difference preferences, just like humans do. Some like bigger boxes yet some don’t like climbing over high sides. Some don’t like covered boxes yet some prefer the privacy that covered boxes provide. The only way you can find out what your cat prefers is to try out a few. It’s recommended to try several boxes with the same litter in it to determine which box your cat prefers.

Try different litter.
Cats have varying preferences for litter too – the smell, shape, feel, consistency and more, all can make a difference for your cat. Some experts suggest offering a litter box “buffet” where you put out different litters, but use the same type of box so you can see which litter your cat gravitates towards.

Consider interior stressors.
Things that you may not even notice can impact a cat’s sense of comfort and security. Is there a vacuum cleaner sitting near the litter box, where it wasn’t sitting before? Did you recently have houseguests? Do you have a new baby in the house? Many things can produce anxiety in your cat. Talk with your vet about options to manage this. Solutions range from pheromone diffusers to flower essences to even medication in some cases.

Consider exterior stressors.
Neighborhood cats or other animals can trigger marking behaviors or inappropriate elimination. One woman I know could not figure out why her indoor cat was suddenly marking the walls of their home until she discovered there was a wild bobcat cruising around her yard! Experts recommend shielding your cat’s view of the outside by keeping the blinds closed on the lower levels of the house. If your cat likes to perch on furniture and look out the window, consider removing the furniture and getting a cat perch to place somewhere else in the home – where your cat can’t see outside. There are a variety of solutions on the market to deter wild animals or neighborhood cats from coming into your yard.

Tap into an expert.
Consider hiring a certified cat behaviorist. Behaviorists will come into your home and look at the environment from your cat’s perspective. You may be surprised about what’s bothering your cat and the behaviorist can help pinpoint the issue and create a plan for changing the behavior.

If your cat is prone to litter box issues, don’t despair! And don’t give up on your cat. With a little work and a lot of patience, most litter box problems can be remedied and you – and your cat – can be happy again.


My Cat Scares My Other Cat in the Litter Box!

November 8, 2013

This week, our Litter Box Mentor, Cat Coach Marilyn Krieger, answers reader Renee’s question about why her cat Izzy is intimidating her other cat, Skittles, in the litter box…and what Renee can do to restore peace. Here’s what Renee writes: “Any thoughts on a cat who plays potty police with the other cat? Whenever my [...]

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Do Air Purifiers Work on Pet Odors?

November 6, 2013

It’s giveaway extravaganza around here lately! I am excited to share with you a truly incredible product….and to offer you a chance to win one of your very own. I’ve been looking for an air purifier forever. First, because I’d like to keep certain, ahem, litter box odors to a minimum (have I mentioned one [...]

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Odor-Free Cat Living and Giveaway

October 31, 2013

One of the biggest complaints people have about living with cats is the constant battle with litter box and litter box-related odors. Sometimes I feel like all I do is scoop boxes, transport smelly bags of stuff to the garbage, clean boxes, scrub the floor around the litter boxes, clean up “accidents” and more. My [...]

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