Litterbox Basics: What is the Ideal Set Up?

We hear so much about the importance of where and how the litterbox is set up that it’s worth reviewing the basics. What IS the perfect litterbox configuration? Well, the Happy Litterbox wants to set our readers up for success so they can, in turn, do the same for their feline friends. While each cat is different and is called to action by a discrete list of motivators, the following suggestions can eliminate barriers to litterbox perfection.

The Box

The litterbox itself should be big enough for your cat to move around in and it should have sides low enough for easy entry and exit. Also, some cats are fine with covered boxes but some cats are not. If your cat isn’t using the covered box you’ve provided for him, try taking off the lid and seeing if that helps.

Multiple Litter Boxes

Have several litterboxes at your cat’s disposal (literally!) The general rule of thumb is one box per cat, plus one extra. So if you have two cats, you’ll need three boxes. Also, they shouldn’t be lined up in a row. Try to place them in different areas of your home to give your cat options.


The litterbox should be located in a place that gives your cat some privacy but is also conveniently located. You don’t want your cat to have to jump through hoops in order to use their box. Also, if you live in a multi-level home, you should have one box on each floor, which is especially helpful for senior cats. Finally, keep the boxes away from food and water bowls. Who wants their bathroom in the same area as their dinner table?


True, cats have their own preferences when it comes to litter but most cats like a fine-grained litter that has a “clumping” quality. If your cat doesn’t approve, then move on to something different. However, once your cat likes a certain litter, it’s a good idea to stick with it.

Depth of the Litter

The box should contain litter at a depth suitable for your cat to sufficiently dig and cover. An inch and a half is usually enough but sometimes cats have different preferences. If your cat is not using the litterbox, depth of litter is one variable you can test.

Cleaning Out the Box

Litter should be scooped multiple times each day, and the litter should be changed every week. About once a month or so each box should be scrubbed out with water and a mild soap. This may seem like a lot of work but dirty litterboxes are one of the biggest reasons cats avoid the litterbox. Also, the more you scoop and clean, the less icky it will be and the easier you can keep litterbox smell at bay.

Pay Attention to Your Cat

Watch for signs your cat may be giving you. If your cat is peeing or pooping outside of the box, first take him to the vet to rule out any medical issue. If he has a clean bill of health, then he probably disagrees with something listed above. If that’s the case, then make subtle changes and continue to monitor your cat’s reaction. Above all, don’t give up.  Sometimes all it takes is one small change to get you cat back in the box.

Start with the basics and you may never have to deal with a litter box issue. But if you do, make sure these basics are covered and adjust from there.

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