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Although cats are cute, cuddly, and can make great companions, not everything about them is rosy and cheery. In fact, the kitty litter tray smells nothing like roses!
To get the nitty-gritty on kitties and litter, we went straight to an expert on everything cats.
Tania Boudreau is the owner of a registered cattery called CaperCats Cattery located in Isle Madame, Cape Breton. They have been breeding ragdoll cats for six years, producing five to six litters per year. The greatest number of cats they have ever had at one time is 15.
Because their cats and kittens are only indoor ones, they are littered trained to have access to the whole house. So, when it comes to cat litter and litter training, Boudreau is well versed.
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The rule of thumb, says Boudreau, is to have one litter box per cat plus an extra one. If you have a big house, have one on each level.
Place the litter box in a private area away from heavy traffic and noisy appliances, she says. If you have more than one cat, place the litter box so there is an easy escape route just in case you have a cat that likes to bully the other one.
There are always risks when dealing with any kind of waste. Cat litter can be unhealthy to humans if not properly disposed of, says Boudreau. E. coli, toxoplasmosis and roundworm are a few toxins that can cause issues with humans. Not all cats carry these toxins, however. E. coli is a well-known type of bacteria since it normally lives in everyone's intestines. It’s just certain strains will cause issues, she says.
Toxoplasmosis is caused by a parasite that outdoor cats get from eating mice or birds. Cats with this parasite will have oocysts in their feces and these small microorganisms quickly reproduce with an incubation time between one to five days, she explains.
“Pregnant women should avoid cleaning litter since toxoplasmosis can affect the fetus,” says Boudreau.
Roundworm is common with kittens which they get from their mother's milk, explains Boudreau. The mother can get this parasite from eating mice or birds. When the cats eat rodents, they ingest the parasite into their lungs and then could cough them up. These larvae then infect humans, she says.
Cat urine can get very smelly if left in the litter box for a while, says Boudreau. It will eventually emit ammonia which can cause allergic reactions in adults and kids.
“Keeping your cat litter clean on a regular basis will help avoid these issues plus having an indoor cat will less likely be infected by these parasites,” says Boudreau.
There are so many types of litter you can use, but as long as you clean the litter, it will help with the smells.
“We use both clay and wood pellet litter for our cats and don't have any smell issues,” says Boudreau noting she prefers wood pellets and always recommends that everyone tries wood pellets with a sifting litter box.
The wood pellets are great, she says, since there is no dust. This means it is less likely to track all over the floor and is easy to clean and is cheap.
The wood pellets Boudreau uses are just the kind you would use for a pellet stove. She buys them from Canadian tire for $6.99 for a 40lb bag.
Clay litter is good to use as well and does a great job of reducing smells, says Boudreau.
What is important is getting a good clumping litter that holds the urine together. Cheaper clumping litter will fall apart while trying to scoop it out which leave the litter smelly, says Boudreau.
She uses Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance Lightweight litter which seems to work well for them.
Boudreau has heard of the litter that changes colour if it detects an infection in the cat’s urine. She says this is a good ideal if your cats do get frequent UTIs, but it's not necessary.
“Cleaning your cat litter box every day is a great way to keep track of your cat's health,” says Boudreau.
Knowing the size and frequency of urine and stool will determine how much water intake and if your cat is straining will indicate an issue. Keeping an eye on both urine and stool consistency are all good things to keep watch for, she says. Besides, if you have to take your cat in to the vet, this information is good to give them.
In the end, it will be personal preference and what your cat would like to use that will determine which kind of kitty litter it best. The biggest tip is when switching litter, do it slowly to avoid accidents outside the litter box.
Eventually, you will need to clean the entire litter box which should be done once a week. Empty the whole box and clean with warm water and dish soap.
Boudreau’s Main Litter Tips:
• Have a litter box big enough for your cat that it has room to move around with ease in a private area. Rule of thumb is one box per cat plus one more.
• Scoop the litter every day, or more often if you have several cats.
• Clean the litter box regularly
• Refill with fresh litter at least 3 inches deep