How Many Litter Boxes Do I Need?

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By Jane Harrell, Petfinder.com associate producer

Imagine coming home, bladder bursting, and walking into your bathroom to see that your roommate has left it reeking, the toilet unflushed, toilet paper everywhere. It would give you a moment of pause, no matter how badly you needed to relieve yourself. The same can be true for cats who share litter boxes.

How Many Litter Boxes do I Need?

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Jackson Galaxy, cat behaviorist and star of Animal Planet’s My Cat From Hell, says litter box issues are one of the top three reasons cat parents hire him. (Read our interview: Cat from Hell Star Reveals the Top 3 Cat Complaints.) But for multi-cat households, the solution can be as simple as having the right number of litter boxes. “The rule of thumb is one litter box per cat, plus one extra,” Galaxy says.

The cat-to-litter box ratio
As a cat foster mom, I recommend that new adopters have at least 1.5 litter boxes per cat. So if you have one cat, you need two litter boxes; two cats, three litter boxes.

Some cats just don’t like sharing litter boxes, and this ratio lets each cat claim his own. Even if they don’t mind sharing, keeping extra litter boxes around ensures that, if one of your cats is using one litter box and the scary washing machine is running next to the litter box in the basement, there will still be an appropriate place for your other cat to relieve himself.

Preventing litter box problems
You may have fewer than 1.5 litter boxes per cat and your cats might be fine with it — that’s certainly possible. But one cat may become tired of sharing and opt to seek out another place to potty. Before he decides that your bathroom rug suits him just fine, you’ll want to offer him his own litter box. Here are a few warning signs that your cat might want another litter box (or a different kind):

  • Spraying the sides or wall around the box: This can be especially common with covered litter boxes. Cats may try to tell others to “keep out” by spraying the litter box’s entry or the area around it.
  • Leaving pee or poop uncovered: Some cats just never develop the habit of covering their waste, but if your cat suddenly stops burying his urine or feces, it might be his way of telling other cats, “this box is mine.”
  • Eliminating outside the litter box: If your vet rules out medical reasons for the behavior change, your cat may be sending you a strong message that he’s not happy with the current litter box set-up.

Tell us: How many litter boxes do you have?

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