Is the Litter Box Clean Yet?!
A while back I wrote about what I consider to be the best litter boxes and best cat litter. Click either link to see the post – these really are the best litter boxes I’ve ever seen and I wouldn’t switch to a new brand of cat litter if you paid me to.
I wanted to kind of expound on the previous a post a little with a few troubleshooting tips. Before doing so, though, I have to tell on our cats. They consistently do something that, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear they were doing on purpose. Whenever anyone is coming over for a visit, they somehow do their business right before they arrive. It’s absolutely uncanny, but at least one of them will do it each and every time. What’s worse is the fact that they don’t do it 10 or even 5 minutes before someone pulls into the driveway… they do it, like a minute beforehand OR (in a move that probably earns them bonus “cat points,” they’ll do it just as someone is pulling up the driveway!). Fortunately, I keep a cleaning station beside the litter boxes so there’s always a bag handy.
I’ve learned to keep my antibacterial hand sanitizer nearby too. It is just so peculiar that they do this so regularly.
Something else they do that amuses me is they flock to a clean set of litter boxes… I mean FLOCK to it. It always reminds me of an artist with a clean canvas. “I must do what I must do!!”
Back to litter box tips and troubleshooting. I hear from a lot of cat parents who have questions you, yourself, may have. Ironically, the first question is one I’ve actually personally had to deal with… so I know, firsthand (or maybe I should say first-elbow) that the struggle is real!
What’s the easiest way to handle cat litter duties with a bad elbow?
This question gets me where I live. I have tendonitis in my right elbow that flares up from time to time. While that may not sound terribly bad, the fact that the pain is especially bad AND that each flare up lasts for weeks on end makes it worse than it sounds.
As you can imagine, cleaning a litter box makes a painful elbow even more painful. However, there are a few easy tips that’ll help you if you’re in the same (or a similar) boat.
- Buy cat litter in a tub as opposed to a box. This way you can keep a large old plastic cup to scoop out litter to add to the litter box(es). This is much, much easier than picking up a cumbersome, heavy box each time you want to add more litter.
- In addition to buying cat litter in tubs, I buy the lightweight litter. The lightweight litter is, as you’d expect, much lighter. Whether you have elbow, shoulder, or back issues or you simply aren’t very strong (I know the feeling!) – lightweight cat litter is much easier to dish out and scoop up.
- Speaking of scooping… there’s actually a simple solution at the end of your arm. Using a metal cat litter scoop (like the DuraScoop Metal Jumbo Cat Litter Scoop on Amazon pictured here) instead of the ever-popular plastic one, is actually much easier to scoop with. We’d need someone much better versed in science to explain why this is, but it makes a big difference. What’s more, using a “jumbo” size, like the one pictured below, makes it even easier.
How can I know if I’m nose-blind to litter box smells?
This is a good one! The first answer that pops to my mind is this: Have someone (a friend or family member) who you KNOW will always be truthful with you keep you honest. Tell them to let you know if they ever smell either litter, ammonia, or the cat’s business. Be sure to explain that it’s not an insult to you (or your cat!) and that neither of you will get sore. Let them know what a huge favor they’re doing for you. If the time comes where they DO smell something other than what you want them to smell – ask yourself if you’ve been cleaning the litter box regularly (more than once a day). Also, determine if you’ve recently dumped out the whole shebang and cleaned the box and area around the box. If you’ve done each of these things, then you may want to switch cat litter.
I live in a small apartment and refuse to even think about giving up my cats (they’re family!). I just don’t want my apartment to smell bad. Any advice?
First off, as a cat lover (and mom), I applaud your cattitude! They are, indeed, family!
Second of all, cats are incredibly clean, wonderful, entertaining, and loving pets. They’re so much fun and are a great source of companionship. A cat, herself, does not smell bad. Sure, the breath can be a bit much after she eats tuna, but a cat (itself) doesn’t smell bad because she wouldn’t stand for it. They’re incredibly picky about smells.
The only thing, obviously, to worry about smelling with cats are their food and their litter. If you use dry food and never allow it to get wet, you’re way ahead of the food game. As for wet food, be sure you don’t let it sit out. Only give your cat what she’ll eat then toss the rest.
As for litter box odors, the tips above as well as in the article linked to at the top will give you a great head start on staying out of a smelly situation. However, there are a few extra tips I’d like to share – they’ll serve you well whether you live in a small space or a large one.
- Be sure the litter box is in a well-ventilated area. Never stick one in a closet – this will simply trap the odors.
- Consider an air purifier. The one I’ve linked to, here, is a basic, inexpensive one that’ll help freshen air while reducing pet odors. There are many shapes, sizes, and varieties of air purifiers on Amazon – click the link to have a look. What is air purification all about? Air purifiers actually clean the air – they don’t mask odors, they remove them and leave you with freshness that doesn’t come in a can.
- Change the litter often. Seriously, this is so important – and yet so neglected. A cat is a very finicky little being. They do not, at all, want to do their business in an area with pre-existing waste beneath their feet. Can’t blame them! Check the litter box(es) throughout the day and clean whenever something catches your eye.
- When you’ve cleaned the litter box, don’t allow the bag of waste to just sit in your trash can, it’ll begin to smell.
- Use a little baking soda in the litter box to help absorb odors. Personally, I use the one in the litter box aisle that’s lightly scented and made just for litter boxes. It smells pretty AND does a great job of keeping odors away.
- Don’t spray air sanitizer directly over the litter or on the cat’s breathing level.
I have asthma and I often wheeze after cleaning the cat box. What can I do to prevent this problem?
This is another question that hits close to home. I, too, have asthma. I’ve found that lightweight litter produces less “dust” when I’m cleaning the litter box and, therefore, makes it a much cleaner and less toxic environment for my lungs. CatSpot makes a fascinating litter that is made from 100% coconut (See CatSpot 100% Coconut Litter). It’s all natural, lightweight, and dust-free. This would be the first cat litter I’d try if traditional cat litter bothered my breathing. Unless you have an allergy to certain types of cat litter, I’m certain it’s the dust that comes up when you clean the cat’s box.
Finally, here’s a problem a lot of cat parents run into…
I clean the litter box throughout the day and yet, no matter what room I’m in, I can still smell litter! It’s driving me crazy. Why does the smell of litter follow me everywhere?
Short answer? Because it’s probably on your clothes and in your nose! Sorry to gross you out, but the dust that visibly comes up when you’re cleaning the box(es) can (and does) get onto your clothes and even in your nostrils. You can alleviate the clothes problem by wearing an old flannel button up top backward (or jacket, raincoat, whatever…) over your clothes and tossing it into the laundry after the fact.
As for the nostrils, you could always grab a box of mouth masks to use or you could keep it simpler by tying a bandanna around your mouth/nose each time. I’ve also heard of people sticking pieces of tissue into each nostril while cleaning.
Personally? I just buy lightweight, dust-free litter and it alleviates the problem all together.