As a cat owner, I’ve wondered why cats behave certain ways and how I can make mine as comfortable and happy as possible. With a new kitten entering my life soon and knowing how picky and territorial cats can get, I came face to face with the question of whether or not cats can share litter boxes. I did some online research and talked with a few fellow cat owners to figure out the answer.
Cats need separate litter boxes. So, if you own multiple cats, then you should provide each one with its own litter box and have a spare litter box on standby. There are several reasons for this, including cats wanting their “private” space, cats being territorial, and cats looking for another clean spot to do their business if there’s only one litter box.
That being said, there are still many more details to uncover on this topic. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive explanation for cats’ preferences and how you can better handle the litter box situation in a multi-cat household, keep reading!
Well, how about you answer this first: picture coming home from a party with friends. You had more than your fill of beverages, so your bladder is about to explode. You quickly barge into your shared bathroom, only to find that your roommate has left the toilet reeking and unflushed, with toilet paper thrown all over.
How would you feel then? Would you be able to simply go? Of course not! No one in their right mind would see anything wrong with this setting — you’d at least hesitate for a moment regardless of how urgently you need to pee. It’s pretty much the same for cats who are forced to share a single litter box.
Just like us in such a scenario, cats won’t only pause to think about using the bathroom, but they’ll also go as far as not using the litter box and just look for an alternative spot. In other words, in a multi-cat household, you should give each of your feline pets their own litter box.
You may be thinking the reason here is as straightforward as “it’s gross”, but for cats, the matter is a lot more serious.
Cats need separate litter boxes for several reasons, ranging from their nature as animals, the established hierarchy in the house, and having personality differences, to protecting their territory and expressing their emotions.
Let’s discuss a few of the most common reasons in more detail:
Cats differ from dogs in more ways than one. One of the main variations between the two species is that cats don’t exhibit the behavior of pack animals.
This is true even in the case of direct siblings. As such, cats like to have their own space where they can retreat whenever they feel like it and not get disturbed by other cats.
Consequently, it makes sense that sharing the same litter box can be stressful for many cats, especially since they use it to do a private activity; elimination.
This is why experts generally recommend providing as many litter boxes as there are cats. Additionally, there should be one spare box.
It’s a known fact that cats are territorial animals. In multi-cat homes, each cat tends to designate a special path for itself throughout the house.
This can cause an issue if the alpha cat of the established hierarchy gets aggressive to other cats when they try to get a turn to use the litter box. Dominant cats can bully weaker cats and prevent them from entering the litter box.
When a cat is denied access to the one available litter box, this can easily force it to do its business in another place — one that you won’t necessarily approve of, like your favorite rug or couch.
But if there are plenty of litter boxes available to accommodate the number of cats in the house, no cat will have to “defend” its territory because you’ll have removed the source of the conflict. This way, everyone can use their own bathroom in peace.
One of the most important rules to get your cat to use the litter box is to clean it regularly. Imagine how hard it can be to maintain this rule if all your cats share the same litter box.
You’ll have to keep a constant eye on the litter box and clean it every time one of your cats decides to make a deposit. Even if you can find a way to remove waste right away, some cats can still be reluctant about going potty in a used litter box. Being territorial animals, each of your cats will claim a litter box that the other cats will rarely come near.
You can solve this issue by setting up multiple litter boxes. This also prevents cats from overcrowding into a single box.
As a result, cats won’t be forced to look for another clean spot (again, you probably won’t like this place) to relieve themselves since stepping on other cats’ waste is no longer a problem.
Finally, setting up multiple litter boxes for your cats makes it easier to establish a healthy environment around the house.
On one hand, your cats won’t get into unnecessary confrontations. They’ll feel safe and happy having access to their own facilities whenever they need them.
On the other hand, you’ll save your carpet and furniture from getting ruined by feline bathroom accidents. If this doesn’t make for a happy cat owner, nothing will!
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As we mentioned above, the rule of thumb is to provide as many litter boxes as there are cats in your household, plus one extra box. For example, if you own 3 cats, you should set up 4 litter boxes.
That being said, some cases call for more litter boxes than that. For instance, some cats can be very picky to the point that they can only “go” if the litter box is clean. This can be challenging for owners because they’d have to clean up every time the cat relieves itself.
Additionally, some picky cats refuse to poop in the same litter box they peed in. If you don’t comply and provide 2 litter boxes, your cat will do its business somewhere else outside the box.
The proper size of a litter box depends on the size of the cat that’ll be using it. But as a general rule, the litter box should be large enough for the cat to freely turn around and dig when occupying it.
If the litter box is too small, there’s a good chance your cat will avoid using it. If it does use it, you’ll likely end up cleaning the litter your cat tossed out of the box as it went.
As such, we say the bigger the better when it comes to litter boxes. Not to mention, larger options are often more durable and will last longer.
[Related Article: 2 Cats Vs 1: What Are The Pros And Cons?]
Cats like their privacy and cleanliness, so they prefer that their litter boxes are placed in a secluded section of the house away from too many visitors and prying eyes. This can be near your bathroom or in a less frequently used room of the house.
Keep in mind that the area you choose should have enough lighting (even a nightlight can do) for your cats to see what they’re doing to avoid making a mess. Yes, cats see well in the dark, but not when there’s no light whatsoever.
Be careful not to place the litter boxes in a room where you hang out a lot or where guests stay. Litter boxes tend to stink, especially right after your cat drops by.
Bedrooms are also a no-no because you’ll have to deal with the scratching sounds at night. Not to mention, the ammonia scent will linger for a long time after your cat does its deed.
In the majority of cases, placing litter boxes next to each other should cause no issues. The only situation where such a configuration can spark issues is if you own 2 male cats as they’re likely to end up in a territorial dispute.
In this case, the dominant cat will probably claim both litter boxes as its territory and block other cats from entering. Still, this is an unlikely scenario to happen in your home, and if it does, you can resolve it by relocating the litter boxes in different spots.
Do cats need separate litter boxes? By now, you should know the answer is yes. So, if you own more than one cat, then you should provide each of them with its own litter box and have a spare litter box on standby.