Adopting a cat can be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences life has to offer. Kitties are soft, playful and fiercely loyal to the ones they love. But along with the joys of owning a cat come some minor misfortunes, including dealing with the occasional hairball and having to wake up at the crack of dawn to serve kibble. For most people, this is as bad as it gets with their bewhiskered bedfellows.

Choosing the right litter box can mean the difference between immediate litter box training triumph and life-long cat box blues. OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but the type of litter box you choose is really important.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when making your selection:

  1. The best material for a litter box is heavy, durable plastic since it’s easy to clean and holds up well over time.
  2. If your cat has bad aim, choose a box with higher sides. This helps keep litter and waste off the floor.
  3. Kittens need a box with sides low enough to allow them to enter and exit easily.

Another important consideration for a litter box is that it be large enough for your cat to turn around and give the litter a few good kicks. According to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, cats have a natural tendency to cover their waste, so be sure to buy a box that allows them to do so.

A general rule of thumb for litter boxes is that the number of litter boxes in your house should equal the number of cats you have, plus one. In other words, if you have one cat, there should be two litter boxes in your home. Two cats need three boxes, and so on. This is especially important for a cat that is having trouble using a litter box.

Another significant thing to consider is where the litter box is located. You should place your cat’s box in an area of the house that is both quiet and easily accessible. Cats are skittish creatures, and they won’t go in a box that’s in high traffic or chaotic spot.

One exception is for a formerly outdoor/newly indoor animal. In this case, it may be best to place a litter box near the door if that’s where your nature-loving feline is lingering.

Learning to use a litter box is pretty much instinctive for cats. Still, there are some helpful tips for making the process goes as smoothly as possible.

The first is to show your new pet the litter box as soon as you bring him into your home for the first time. Don’t worry if he hides at first — this is normal. Experts at the Washington-based animal shelter and wildlife rehabilitation center, recommend just placing the litter box wherever your cat feels comfortable and then gradually moving it to your preferred location.

You should also place your pet in the litter box after naps, meals, play sessions, and whenever you think he appears inclined to “go.” Keep this up during the first few days of your relationship with your new pet, and you should achieve litter box success in no time.

There are a few dos and don’ts that are vital to litter box success. Probably the most important is that you keep the box clean. Scoop the poop from the box at least once a day and clean it with soap and water once a week. Cats are finicky creatures, and many will turn up their noses at a filthy litter box.

On the other hand, don’t try to cover your cat’s scent with perfumed litter; according to the Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health, many cats will be repelled by the perfume’s odor. A cat also needs to be able to locate the litter box by his scent. If he can’t smell it, chances are he won’t find it.

The last tip is to find a litter your cat seems to like and stick with it. Test out a new brand and watch your cat’s reaction. If he paws at it a few times and then leaps out of the box with a disgusted look on his face, chances are he doesn’t like it.

Finding one, he does like — as exampled by his willingness to use it — may require trial and error, but your efforts will undoubtedly pay off in the long run.

The most important thing to keep in mind when training a cat to use the litter box is not to punish or scold him while he is in the litter box. If your pet makes mistakes, pick him up and place him the litter box. He’ll make the connection soon enough. It also helps to praise him when he uses the box successfully.

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