Size, location and style are all important factors when it comes to choosing a litter box
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
There are more litter boxes than are dreamt of, Shakespeare might have written, had he been trying to please a cat. From plain plastic rectangles to high-tech automated models that relieve owners of the chore of scooping, there’s a box to suit the fancy of any cat -- and they’re the ones whose opinions matter.
No-frills litter boxes are good starter choices. The box should be large enough for the cat to easily move around in. Rule of paw: A litter box should be 1 1/2 times the cat’s body length. Your cat shouldn’t have to scrunch up to fit inside.
“I generally don’t recommend a litter box with a lid, especially for large cats, because they’re just too uncomfortable,” says Marybeth Rymer, DVM, who practices feline medicine in northern California. “They can’t squat properly and hold that position comfortably.”
But not all cats and cat households are the same. Seniors, cats with mobility challenges and kittens all benefit from a box with a low entry point so it’s easy to step into. Some litter boxes made of silicone have foldable sides that can be raised or lowered, depending on what a cat needs more: ease of entry and exit, or high sides to contain kicked litter.
Some cats urinate standing up, causing urine to land outside the box. Cats who do this may have arthritis in their hips, knees or spine, Rymer notes, making it painful for them to squat. A veterinary exam and pain medication may solve the problem. Otherwise, a box with high sides can help to contain urine. A number of litter boxes have high walls or attachable guards to prevent cats from “overshooting.” These boxes are also great choices for cats who power-kick, sending litter flying.
Another option is a top-entry box, with a lid that is easily removed for scooping. Cat lovers who have top-entry boxes say their cats use them without issues.
“I really like these for upright pee-ers,” says cat owner Cindy Steinle. “I’m not a fan of covered boxes on the whole because typically they hold in odor, but these seem to really allow airflow.”
Speaking of odor, ease of cleaning is important. Rymer cleans her cats’ plastic litter box weekly with warm water and unscented soap, and scoops it at least once daily.
Litter boxes made of stainless steel -- yep, they exist -- are also easy to clean. That’s what Sue-Ellen Stillwell has for her senior cat, Scout. The box has high guards and is easy for Scout to get into.
“I’m in a small apartment, and this litter box does a good job of containing the smell,” Stillwell says. Triangular corner litter boxes can also be useful in small spaces.
What about fancy automated litter boxes? People either love them or hate them, usually based on cost, size, the number of cats they have -- and their cats’ response to them. New Yorker John Sibley recently overcame his reluctance to spend so much on a litter box and purchased one for his 12 cats. He was sold after it cycled nine times the first day.
Rymer, however, isn’t a fan, having seen too many cats who were frightened by the loud noise. She tried one herself, but found it difficult to clean.
Place litter boxes in quiet areas where cats doing their business won’t be interrupted by, for instance, a garage door opening or a dryer buzzer going off. Rymer likes quiet locations such as little-used bathrooms, utility rooms without loud appliances, and closets with sliding doors.
Ideally, have one litter box per cat, plus one. Place them in separate rooms so that one cat can’t hold all of the boxes hostage. Having them in different areas also makes it easier for seniors or kittens to find a box right away when they need one.
The right box will bring a purr of Fortune’s cat.
Q: My dog loves tangerines, and with the holidays coming up, she’ll be begging for them frequently. Are they OK for dogs to eat, and do they have any health benefits?
A: It’s surprising the number of dogs who love tangerines and oranges. I’ve even known of some who enjoy eating grapefruits! The good news is that citrus is not harmful to dogs when given to them in small amounts, with peels and seeds removed.
While a dog who eats a complete and balanced diet doesn’t need vitamin supplementation, oranges and other citrus fruits certainly contain beneficial nutrients: vitamin C, of course; folate; calcium; potassium; and thiamine (vitamin B1), all of which are good for dogs. Citrus fruits also contain fiber, which is important for digestion, and can contribute to the good bacteria that naturally occur in your dog’s gut.
Give citrus in small amounts. A single segment is plenty for a medium- or large-sized dog, and no more than half a segment for a small or toy dog (or puppy). Avoid giving it to dogs with diabetes, so as not to raise their blood sugar levels. Some dogs have stomach upset, including diarrhea, in response to the acids and sugars in citrus. If this occurs, you may have to take oranges and tangerines off the table as dog treats.
Although a segment of citrus is fine as a treat, don’t give your dog orange juice. It contains way too much sugar and acid, and is lacking in the nutrients and fiber that are found in whole fruit.
Other fruits your dog may enjoy in small amounts include blueberries, bananas and apples (for details, see uexpress.com/pets/pet-connection/2016/09/19). And with the holidays coming up, here’s an important reminder: Never give your dog grapes or raisins, which can be toxic -- even deadly. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Great Dane is
named hero dog
-- A Great Dane therapy dog named Maverick was recently honored with this year's American Humane Hero Dog title. The nationwide competition recognizes outstanding dogs in five categories: therapy dogs, service and guide dogs, military dogs, law enforcement and first responder dogs, and shelter dogs. Of these, one top dog is awarded the Hero Dog title. Maverick brings comfort to military families at funerals and helps them cope with trauma, injuries and stress. The other contenders were military working dog Buda, a 4-year-old German shorthaired pointer who is an explosives detection dog for the Coast Guard; Poppy, a 5-year-old black Labrador who is a member of the University of South Carolina police department; Raina, a 13-year-old shelter dog who advocated for people and pets with special needs until she passed away in October; and service dog Moxie, a 5-year-old mini goldendoodle who performs numerous tasks for her owner.
-- All kinds of information on reptiles is available in print and online, but not all of it is reliable. Good sources for reptile husbandry and health information include the following: “Mader’s Reptile and Amphibian Medicine and Surgery,” which is written for veterinarians, but may also be valuable for the dedicated herper who can afford the $190 cover price (sciencedirect.com/book/9780323482530/maders-reptile-and-amphibian-medicine-and-surgery); Reptiles magazine care sheets (reptilesmagazine.com/care-sheets); Anapsid, a herpetology and green iguana info site (anapsid.org); Lafeber, for exotic bird and reptile health (lafeber.com/vet); Reptifiles, for reptile care, husbandry and more (reptifiles.com); and the Association of Reptile and Amphibian Veterinarians (arav.org).
-- Cats often enjoy lapping up milk, but most are actually lactose intolerant. A treat of milk or other dairy products can cause unpleasant stomach upset for them. Diarrhea is not something either of you want to deal with. Kittens who need to be bottle-fed should be given a formula called KMR -- kitten milk replacer -- not milk. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Bluesky at kimthornton.bsky.social. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.