Column: Litter boxes for cats, keep it basic, clean and one per cat

Column: Litter boxes for cats, keep it basic, clean and one per cat

Meet Sally Ride (A514454), a 1-year-old cosmic kitty adventurer. She’s a very sweet girl with a heart as vast as the universe. She’s looking for a loving forever home filled with treats, pets and endless affection. Could you be the one to join her on this interstellar adventure? Pasadena Humane is celebrating Adopt-a-Cat Month with fee-waived adoptions for all felines 6 months and older.

Ever since the pandemic adoption boom ended, shelters have seen a larger percentage of available adopters choosing feline companions, as opposed to dogs. Perhaps this is because cats are relatively low maintenance pets.

If you are looking for companions that take care of their own most basic needs, then cats are a great choice. You just need to provide your kitty with food, water and a convenient indoor elimination area.

Some people say that cats are born litter box trained. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but since cats instinctively dig in dirt or sand to cover their waste, litter box training is usually fairly easy to accomplish.

Litter boxes were not invented until the 1940s, and it was several more decades before clumping, odor-controlling litter was developed.

I remember as a child in the early 70s letting our cat – Puff – in from the backyard and out on demand. She would jump up to the ledge of the window at the top of the kitchen door and peer in while meowing loudly to let us know when she was done outside.

Due to awareness of many safety concerns, I would never let a pet cat roam freely outdoors today. Most pet cats are kept indoors, using litter boxes to do their business.

Choosing the right litter box can be overwhelming. In addition to a standard plastic tub or a self-cleaning box, you can select from covered boxes with top or side openings, and even litter boxes concealed in specially designed furniture or planters.

Faced with this surplus of choice, our resident cat expert and Certified Cat Consultant, Rochelle Guardado, advises that basic is better.

“Litter boxes are marketed to please people, not cats!” she says. “Fancy lids, pretty enclosures, and other systems are likely to hinder, not enhance, your cat’s bathroom experience.”

When selecting a litter box, the most important thing is to find a pan large enough for your cat to fully stretch out and move around without hunching.

If you live in a multi-level home, provide a litter box on each floor. If you have multiple cats, you should provide one box per cat plus one. Consider adding an extra box for seniors or special needs pets.

Place your boxes in easy-to-access areas of your home where cats will feel safe and can see what’s going on around them. Avoid areas where they may feel trapped, noisy areas like near laundry machines, or far-off corners of the house that are hard for your cat to access.

So, what’s best for your cat? Again, Rochelle urges us to keep it simple. She recommends a fragrance-free litter that feels soft under your cat’s paws. Two to three inches of sand-like litter is what most cats prefer.

The key to making your cat a happy litter box user is always having a clean box. Scooping twice or more daily keeps your home smelling fresh, and it’s what your kitty likes best.

If your cat suddenly stops using the litter box, you should quickly consult your vet or emergency clinic. A serious medical issue or pain could be the cause. If physical problems have been ruled out, schedule a cat consultation with Rochelle or another cat consultant for help and guidance in resolving litter box issues.

June is Adopt-a-Cat month. Thanks to our generous sponsor, Lyn Spector, Pasadena Humane is celebrating with fee-waived adoptions for all cats six months and over. View adoptable cats and learn more about our adoption process at


Dia DuVernet is president and CEO of Pasadena Humane. 

This blog post originally appeared as a column in the Pasadena Star-News on June 21, 2024.