To accustom Tracy to her new box, we placed it next to her original one.
My mother fell recently and broke her shoulder. Naturally, it was her right arm that took the blow, so she's having to do many things not only one-handed while she recuperates, but also with her non-dominant hand.
One of those things is scooping the litter box. A neighbor took care of Mom's cat, Tracy, while she was hospitalized and undergoing physical therapy, but Mom came home last week and needed to start doing things for herself. My husband and I arrived to help the following day, and the first thing I suggested was that we purchase an automated litter box to eliminate or at least reduce the difficulty of that chore.
We chose one that was uncovered, since Tracy was already used to that type of box. It senses when the box has been used and has a rake that slowly moves across the litter to sweep waste into a receptacle. The tray with the receptacle is replaced every 20 to 30 days. For cats who prefer a modicum of privacy, a covered version is available. Top-entry automated boxes are available as well. They can be good choices for cats who tend to scatter litter.
To accustom Tracy to her new box, we placed it next to her original one – which my husband had emptied and replaced with a new liner and litter – and filled it with the non-clumping blue crystals that serve as litter. Tracy christened it immediately, but she's still using her old box as well.
We are "seeding" the new box with small amounts of poop from the old one. The goal is for the odor to attract Tracy to the new box so she will begin using it. Cats are extremely scent-oriented – as much as or even more so than dogs – so this should help her adjust to the new toilet area. Other cat lovers suggest mixing a small amount of the former type of litter with the new litter until Tracy adjusts to the change.
Equally important, we don't want to stress her by taking away the old box entirely. In fact, the rule of paw for litter boxes is that there should be one per cat, plus one more. That means Tracy now has the perfect number of litter boxes. She's an "only cat," so she doesn't have to share either box with other felines. If there were additional cats in the home, I would place each box in a separate area to ensure that one cat didn't try to ambush another.
Both boxes are located in an area away from human traffic and far from food and water. Nearby, Tracy also has a tall chair in front of a window so she can keep an eye on what's going on outdoors. All of those things are important to cats when they are choosing a place to pee and poop.
One advantage of a self-cleaning litter box is that the cat learns that a clean box will always be available. Cats are fussy about bathroom cleanliness – aren't we all? – and they like knowing exactly when the litter box will be clean. If your cat supervises while you scoop and then immediately uses the box, now you know why.
So far, Tracy seems satisfied with her new setup, even if she isn't using the new box exclusively. And with helpers around the house, Mom hasn't had to do any scooping yet, so that's a plus for her. Even if she does have to scoop the box on her own after her kids leave, we're hoping that time and effort spent on the chore will be halved. Bonus: Tracy loves hiding out in the empty box that held her new toilet.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Marty Becker and journalist Kim Campbell Thornton of Vetstreet.com. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker.