LIFE TIPS: Regular maintenance of cat litter makes cats and owners happier

Although cats are cute, cuddly and can make great companions, all is not rosy and happy with them. In fact, the cat litter box smells nothing like roses!

To learn more about kittens and litter, we went straight to an expert on all things cat.

Tania Boudreau owns 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 a year. The most cats they’ve ever had at one time is 15.

Because their cats and kittens are only indoor ones, they are litter box trained to have access to the whole house. So when it comes to cat litter and litter training, Boudreau knows well.

Where to put a litter box

The rule of thumb, says Boudreau, is to have one litter box per cat plus one extra. If you have a big house, have one on each floor.

Place the litter box somewhere private, away from heavy traffic and noisy appliances, she says. If you have more than one cat, position the litter box so that there is an easy escape route in case you have one cat that likes to bully the other.

Tania Boudreau of CaperCats Cattery in Isle Madame, Cape Breton, says the best way to track your cat's health and keep them healthy is to regularly clean their litter box.  Contributed - Contributed
Tania Boudreau of CaperCats Cattery in Isle Madame, Cape Breton, says the best way to track your cat’s health and keep them healthy is to regularly clean their litter box. Contributed – Contributed

Health hazards

There are always risks when dealing with any type of waste. Cat litter can be unhealthy for humans if not disposed of properly, Boudreau says. E. coli, toxoplasmosis, and roundworms are a few toxins that can cause problems in humans. However, not all cats are carriers of these toxins. E. coli is a well-known type of bacteria because it normally lives in everyone’s intestines. It’s just certain strains that will cause problems, 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 reproduce rapidly with an incubation time of between one and five days, she explains.

“Pregnant women should avoid cleaning the litter box since toxoplasmosis can affect the fetus,” says Boudreau.

Roundworms are common in kittens that they get from their mother’s milk, says Boudreau. The mother can contract this parasite by eating mice or birds. When cats eat rodents, they ingest the parasite into their lungs and may then spit it out. These larvae then infect humans, she says.

Cat urine can get very smelly if left in the litter box for a while, Boudreau says. It will eventually emit ammonia which can cause allergic reactions in adults and children.

“Keeping your cat’s litter box clean regularly will help avoid these problems, and having an indoor cat will be less likely to get infected with these parasites,” says Boudreau.

Wood pellets, the type used in pellet stoves, are a cheap alternative to traditional kitty litter and eliminate messy dust problems.  File Photo Saltwire.com - Saltwire Network
Wood pellets, the type used in pellet stoves, are a cheap alternative to traditional kitty litter and eliminate messy dust problems. File Photo Saltwire.com – Saltwire Network

Choosing the right cat litter

There are so many types of litter you can use, but as long as you clean the litter it will help with odors.

“We use both clay and wood pellet litter for our cats and we have no problem with the odor,” says Boudreau, noting that she prefers wood pellets and always recommends it to everyone. the world to try wood pellets with a mesh litter box.

Wood pellets are great, she says, because there’s no dust. This means it’s less likely to spill onto the floor, easy to clean, and inexpensive.

The wood pellets used by Boudreau are exactly the ones you would use for a pellet stove. She buys them at Canadian Tire for $6.99 for a 40lb bag.

Clay litter is also good to use and does a great job of reducing odors, says Boudreau.

The general rule is to have one litter box per cat, plus one more.  Contribution - Saltwire Network
The general rule is to have one litter box per cat, plus one more. Contribution – Saltwire Network

What is important is to have a good clumping litter that holds the urine together. Cheaper clumping litter will crumble when trying to scoop it, leaving the litter smelly, Boudreau says.

She uses Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance Lightweight litter which seems to work well for them.

Boudreau has heard of litter that changes color if it detects an infection in the cat’s urine. She says it’s a good ideal if your cats have frequent UTIs, but it’s not necessary.

“Cleaning your cat’s litter box daily 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 is consumed and if your cat is straining it will indicate a problem. Keeping an eye on the consistency of urine and stool is a good thing to monitor, she says. Besides, if you have to take your cat to the vet, this information is good to give him.

Ultimately, personal preference and what your cat would like to use will determine which type of cat litter is best for you. The biggest tip is that when changing litter, do it slowly to avoid accidents outside the litter box.

Clean the litter box

Eventually, you will need to clean the entire litter box, which should be done once a week. Empty the entire box and clean it with warm water and dish soap.

Boudreau’s Top Litter Tips:

• Have a litter box large enough for your cat to easily move around in a private space. The rule of thumb is one box per cat plus one more.

• Pick up litter every day, or more often if you have more than one cat.

• Regularly clean the litter box

• Fill with fresh bedding at least 3 inches deep

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