In developed countries, pet cats are commonly kept indoors, with limited or no access to outdoor areas. Indoor cats must use litter boxes to urinate and defecate but if cats do not like their litter box, they may urinate or defecate in inappropriate places, which is a concern for cat owners, a common reason for veterinary consultations and a reason why cats are surrendered to shelters. Thus, providing cats with litter boxes that meet their needs is imperative, but the importance of an appropriate litter box is usually underestimated.
This French study investigated cats’ litter box preferences in desexed cats kept indoors with no access to outdoor areas in a single pet household. Two trials were conducted each lasting 28 days; the first involved 13 cats in which cat owners placed two litter boxes (one covered with no door and one uncovered) side by side in the same room. The litter boxes were of equal surface size. The second trial involved 12 cats with a similar protocol, but this time the uncovered litter box had a smaller surface area compared to the covered litter box. Every day, the presence of faeces and/or urine in the litter boxes was recorded.
Results from this study indicated that cats have a clear litter box preference and maintain that preference over time. Cats utilised the covered litter boxes significantly more than small-size uncovered litter boxes, and their choice was not influenced by sex nor by the type of litter box used before the study. This study indicates that most cats preferred covered litter boxes rather than uncovered litter boxes and cat owners should consider this information when selecting a litter box for their cats.
Beugnet V, Beugnet F (2019) Field assessment in single-housed cats of litterbox type (covered/uncovered) preferences for defecation. Journal of Veterinary Behavior 36:65-69.
Reported in RSPCA Animal Welfare Science Update