N+1 and at Home Science Experiments

N + 1

It’s well known in my family that I’m not too great at math. It would surprise most people who know me that I was writing a blog with N + 1 in the title. You don’t have to be great at math either to learn about this simple rule and what it has to do with making you and your cat’s life more enjoyable.
Veterinarians advocate getting N + 1 litter boxes per cat. Don’t panic, N = the number of cats you own. In other words, if you have two cats N = 2. Thus, if you have two cats, you should have at minimum three litter boxes.

Make sure to show your work:          N + 1

Say you have 2 cats in the house, N= 2       so, replace the N with a 2

2 + 1 = 3      — Even I can do this math!

So, why is this important? Having this may litter boxes may seem like overkill, but cats are affected by litter box husbandry and cleanliness. Personally, I would much rather have extra litter boxes in the house and have to dedicate a bit more time to cleaning duty than have my cat urinate somewhere else in the house.

Kitty 1

Cats are very territorial and as any cat owner can attest, they prefer not to share. The more cats you have (or the less boxes you have), the higher the risk of urinary behavioral problems in your house. Other cats and even dogs in the household can also bully or scare our feline friends making them too timid to go in a litter box. If a litter box is not in a safe location (as determined by your cat), they will choose to go somewhere else. The benefit of having extra litter boxes throughout the household is that each cat can pick their own particular litter box to use if they don’t share well with each other. You should also make sure to have at least one litterbox on each level of your house that your cat has access to. For example, if you have one cat that is allowed upstairs, downstairs, and in the basement; you will need at least three litterboxes with one being upstairs, one downstairs, and one in the basement.

 

 At Home Science Experiments

Other factors to take into consideration are litter box styles, litter type and litter box locations. There are variety of litter box choices available –  tall boxes, short boxes, small boxes, huge boxes, boxes with automatic scoopers, boxes of different shapes and colors, and covered and uncovered litter boxes.

My cat, Miss Kitty, is very particular about her litter type, box style, and location. Many times you will have to experiment a little with litter boxes in order to find out what your particular cat likes. Some cats like big litter boxes with only a small amount of litter, others like covered litter boxes and a lot of litter. Your cat is an individual and their litter box type, depth and location are as Kitty 2unique as they are. One common problem with a covered box is that, in a multipet household, your cat may feel “trapped” in a covered litter box by an approaching pet. As a result, cats may be too timid to enter a covered litter box. If you’re not sure what your cat likes, give them a few options: a few covered and uncovered litter boxes, a few different locations, and different types of litter to see what your cat prefers.

 

The scientist in me loves to run experiments at home but you have to keep in mind proper scientific method. Try to only test one factor at a time – I like to start with litter type. There are pelleted paper litters, pelleted pine litters, clay clumping litters, clay non clumping litters, crystal litter, silica gel pearls, pine or cedar sawdust, corncob litter, and even wheat husks. Start with two types in litter boxes that are placed side by side, make sure to fill the litter boxes to the same level. Each day monitor which litter your cat prefers (which one has the most deposits in it). At the end of the week, wash both litter boxes thoroughly and refill them, this time fill one with the litter your cat preferred previously and the other with a new litter type, making sure they are the same level. Repeat this process as many times as you’d like/are willing to, until you find the one litter type your cat prefers over all of the others.

Once I have found the litter type that my cat prefers over all of the others (Miss. Kitty prefers clumping clay) I move on to testing litter depths. Warning: this might get messy so you may want to place a mat under both boxes to make clean up easier. Make sure whatever you put under one box should be under the other as well and that the boxes should be side by side to eliminate location preference. One litter box will be your control and the other will be your test box. Fill your control box half way full of litter; fill your test box almost all the way full stopping about an inch from the rim. Like you did for the litter types, monitor each day to see which your cat prefers. Each week decrease the amount of litter in your test box by one inch until there is only one inch of litter in your test box. After the last week, look at your results, what depth did your cat like the most? Miss Kitty likes about 2 inches of clumping scented clay litter in her litter box.Litterbox 1

Now that we know the type and depth of litter that our cat likes, we can find out the style of box that they like. There are covered, uncovered, high sided, low sided, large, small, top entry, self-cleaning, and many more other styles of litter boxes. You can even make a large under the bed container or a Rubbermaid container into a cat litter box.  Again, have one control litter box, filled to the depth your cat likes of the litter they like side by side with Litterbox 2the test box. The “test” in this case is going to be a different style litter box, make sure to still use the litter type and depth that your cat prefers in the test box, the “control” will be the litter box you have been previously using for all the previous tests. Each week test a different style box, after you have tried all of the boxes you would like, look at your results, what style did your cat like the most?

While litterbox and litter experiments may not be exciting to everyone, your cat sure will appreciate you supplying the optimal place to eliminate. A cat that is in love with their litterbox is much less likely to eliminate in inappropriate areas of the house. Scooping litter boxes once a day and washiLitterbox 3ng the boxes weekly will also help keep your cat happy to use their box. Make sure you wear gloves while scooping litter and cleaning litter boxes to prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases (a disease that can be spread between animals and humans). To wash the litter box, throw out all the old litter, scrub the box clean using warm water and mild dish detergent, let it dry and add fresh, new litter. Make sure to wash the lid (if you’re using one) and the scooper. Other harsher cleaning products and highly scented products can be harmful or aversive to your kitty.

If your cat starts urinating inappropriately in the house, it is important to bring them into the veterinary clinic as soon as possible as significant underlying medical conditions may be causing the change in behavior. It is important that we rule out any possibility of a medical cause for inappropriate elimination before just trying things at home. If you ever have any questions about your pet’s health or about a change in their behavior, please give us a call!