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Cats are wonderful, but let's be frank, their litter boxes (and more importantly, their tracked litter around your living space) isn't. So why does your normally ultra clean, dainty cat get their bathroom litter everywhere? And what should you do about it?
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Why do cats kick litter everywhere?
There are a number of reasons cats kick litter around. They vary from self-preservation to marking their territory to sending you a message! Here are a few reasons your cat might be kicking and tracking kitty litter around your house.
As domesticated as your cat may seem, they still have some wild instincts in them. Your cat is descended from wild cats who tended to live in sandy or dusty regions with fine soil that would allow them to literally cover their tracks (specifically their waste). Digging and covering their feces helped hide the sight and scent they would leave behind, so that predators would not easily be able to find them. However, in the process of digging, they might not always have complete control over where the dirt (or in this case litter) lands.
Marking their territory
As most cat owners know, cats are very territorial. When they want others to know this is their home, they will do a number of things like rubbing their scent, spraying their scent, or—you guessed it— kicking their scent covered litter around! If they are kicking a great deal (especially out of whatever door or opening is available in their litter box) they are deliberately kicking soiled litter around in order to spread their scent. Obnoxious, yes, but it's a normal behavior, and they truly think they are helping keep intruders away from your family's home!
Most of the time, cats learn how to handle their excrement from their mothers. So if a mother cat keeps their litter box clean and doesn't kick up too much litter, their offspring will more likely mimic that. However, if the mother cat is not tidy or if a kitten is taken away from their mother too soon to learn, they might develop messier habits using their bathroom. There are ways to train your cats to use the litter, but it can take some time.
The playfulness of youth
Your cat will sometimes be more inclined to throw litter depending on their age. An older cat whose joints are more fragile or who suffers from arthritis will probably kick less to cover their litter. However, younger cats are more athletic in addition to sometimes having fun digging in the litter. Just like we loved playing in the sandbox as kids, your kitten's litter box can be just as exciting and fun for them to dig their little paws into.
Dirty cat litter
Yup, this might just be because you aren't cleaning their cat litter enough. Most likely it is unintentional, because the dirtier the litter, the harder it is for your cat to find a clean place to dig. Which means it is harder for them to clean their paws, which can lead to them tracking litter throughout the house. However, they could also intentionally be sending a message so you know, you better clean up. NOW. Either way, your cat is right. Here's a guide to how frequently you should be changing your cat's litter. It differs depending on how many cats you have, and the type of litter you use, but it's important to stay on top of it no matter what!
How to control the scatter of cat litter
Will you be able to eliminate litter completely? Most likely not, you have a cat and you need kitty litter, unless you want them pooping in your plants. No matter the reason for your cat's spread of litter, there are a number of things you can do to try and limit the amount of litter that spreads throughout your space.
Pick the right litter box
The litter box will have a big effect on the spread of the kitty litter in your house. If you pick a more enclosed litter box, there is less opportunity for the spread of litter. However, some cats don't feel comfortable using their litter in such enclosed spaces so an open box with higher sides is a good option to catch the litter before it spreads. There are also top open litter boxes; however, they are not good options for cats with injuries or who are older and have trouble moving, since it will require your cat to jump over the sides and down into the litter box. Here's a guide to choosing the right litter box for your cat.
Many litter boxes and accessories are available on sites like Chewy. They even have litter boxes that fit into a corner, like this one from Van Ness, with a higher back and sides. A litter box with extra high sides can also help. A hooded litter box that your cat jumps into from the top all but guarantees that your cat won't be able to track litter all over.
Pick the right litter
Your cat might have a preference as to type of litter. There is clay litter, clumping sodium bentonite litter, silica litter and biodegradable litters made from corn, pine and wheat. Cats tend to prefer finer litter. However, the coarser the litter, the less likely it will stick to your cat's paws. At the end of the day, if your cat doesn't use it, it doesn't matter. You need a litter that your cat likes to use.
Litter box accessories
Having the accessories for your cat's litter box will make life so much easier. Putting a litter mat under the litter box or around it can help catch the litter on your cats paws before they track litter on the floor. Getting a privacy hood for your cat (if you have a cat who doesn't mind enclosed litter boxes) can limit the range of litter kicked around.
A cat litter mat underneath your box is pretty much a must for trapping litter that gets scratched out or sticks to your cat's paws. Some are cute, like this Frisco paw-shaped cat litter mat, while some are functional, like this large IPrimio litter box mat that's easily washable. And a good dust buster or handheld vacuum, like the Bissell Pet Hair Eraser, stored near the kitty litter, will help you clear out any spilled litter before it spreads too far. Bonus! It also picks up pet hair.
Clean the litter box area
Most importantly, the more you clean the litter box, the less the litter will leave the litter box. If you regularly clean out excrement, any tracked litter will be less soiled, which will stop the spread of germs. Your cat wants a clean bathroom as much as you do. So be ready to keep their area clean, since they can't exactly clean it themselves. And if you really hate litter boxes and have the time and patience, you could always train your cat to use the toilet.