That darn cat...
June 19, 2005 9:02 PM   Subscribe

What are some ways to get a cat to adjust to a new, different (hooded) litter box?

We've got a 6 year old female cat that we've just tried to switch to a hooded litter box from an uncovered one in an attempt to cut down on the amount of litter that gets kicked and tracked onto the bathroom floor. Our cat is pretty much terrified of any unfamiliar object that it sees though, and so far all we've gotten for our trouble is some pee on the bathroom rug. She's very good with using her old litter box and never goes anywhere else so she's obviously not thrilled with the change. Are there any good ways to help a cat get comfortable with a new litter box?
posted by shinji_ikari to Pets & Animals (13 answers total)
Understandably, she probably doesn't like to crap in the dark. Also, the tight space is annoying her -- there's no tail room.

Get her used to the new box by starting without the hood, assuming the hood is removable. Also, if it has any removable flaps or panels or filters, remove them when you eventually try her with the hood on.

You might have to settle for a hood with no door, but that would still catch most of the kicked litter. In that case, you could try to rig something outside the box, like putting the litter box in an even bigger box (a large, low pan) to catch the kicks.
posted by pracowity at 9:36 PM on June 19, 2005

Drop the cat in the litter box when it's perfectly clean. Seriously. They know what to do once they smell and feel it.
posted by interrobang at 9:51 PM on June 19, 2005

If interrobang's idea doesn't work, try starting with the hood off, but sitting right there next to the litter box. Each day gradually move it up a little at a time till it's in regular position. Not sure if this is workable, but by introducing the cover slowly, maybe the cat will be able to get used to it and not freaked out by it.
posted by wsg at 10:06 PM on June 19, 2005

A friend of mine suspended the hood over the litterbox with a hook in the ceiling and then lowered it onto the bottom part inch-by-inch over a week or so. He says it worked great, although I know he had to put a piece of tape on one side to keep the hood from rotating.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:01 PM on June 19, 2005

re: what pracowity said. Those big, flat, plastic boxes made to shove under the bed work well to help contain the litter mess.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:35 AM on June 20, 2005

Alternative: put old open box by new closed-in box. Fill both with fresh litter. Let cat use whichever she prefers. After a day or two, put some used litter and turds in the new closed-in box, so she can smell that it is her bathroom. Wait a couple days more.

Now you have two choices. You could take the old box away, hoping the cat will transition to the new box. Or, you can let the old box get really foul with poo and pee, and let the cat transition when she's ready. Generally, cats don't like dirty litter boxes.
posted by yesster at 6:27 AM on June 20, 2005

We switched from hooded boxes to the Clever Cat -- our kids like it because they can poke heads or tails out depending on if they are scratching or doing business. Bonus: you can use regular, heavy duty trash bags for litter liners. Ours prefer this box to literally everything else we've ever used. At the utter height of our litter problems we used Dr. Elsey's Cat Attract Litter and then switched to the regular Dr. Elsey's (Precious Cat) litter. We have had next to zero problems since. We also reduced tracking by actually putting the box in the tub/shower enclosure in the bathroom that we don't shower in -- we used a gripper pad under the box and it never so much as budged, and the tracked litter was not underfoot.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:43 AM on June 20, 2005

I second leaving the old box next to the new one and letting it get filled up, cats hate nothing more than a dirty commode. The cat will switch to the new one when they realize how nice and clean it is, and then you can get rid of the old one.
posted by babypoe at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2005

Huh. My parents just switched their cat to a hooded box and had no trouble. I think they let the cat see the box sans top first, with clean litter. But I guess your cat's mileage may vary.
posted by konolia at 10:07 AM on June 20, 2005

I used hooded litter boxes for about two years, until one of my cats started refusing to poop in the box. At that point, on the advice of my vet, I switched to a hoodless box.

Maybe your cat will adjust fine eventually and you'll never have another problem. If she doesn't though, here are some things I tried.

I also had problems with cats digging and flinging litter everywhere, so I made my own litter box from a super deep Rubbermaid container, as described here. (You have to scroll down a bit for the section on litter boxes.)

These boxes work great. The cats can get in the box, dig and throw litter, and virtually none of it gets out. The box doesn't prevent them from tracking the litter (a problem I had with the hooded boxes too) so I place a throw rug under the box. This has really cut down on litter getting scattered all over my floors.

The down side to the box is their size. They're harder to empty out, although I've gone from changing litter weekly to monthly, given that the box holds so much litter. But you do need two people to empty the box.

They're also a little less attractive than the hooded boxes, which keep it all out of view. Still, since switching to the extra-large litterbox six months ago, my one cat has not had a single accident.

Hope this helps.
posted by Sully6 at 10:15 AM on June 20, 2005

Or, you can let the old box get really foul with poo and pee, and let the cat transition when she's ready.

This is not a good suggestion. Yes, cats like clean boxes, but they will shit and pee elsewhere in the house before using a box they see as intimidating. In addition, you can stress out a cat with "techniques" like this, which can result in behaviorial problems.

Vets will tell you: many cats do not like covered boxes. My aunt's cat flat out refused to use one, and even started pulling her own fur out before the situation was remedied.

I think that unless your car adjusts soon, switch back to an uncovered box and find a way to deal with litter management.
posted by Specklet at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2005

Keep in mind that the top of the box isn't going to stop any litter; it's the sides that stop the litter from getting everywhere. If the covered box doesn't meet with kitty's approval, you might try just raising the sides on three sides of the box. If you make kitty enter the litterbox compound along the wall, loose litter can be controlled pretty easily:
  --------wall------------                   |                   |        +-------+  |     |  | litter|  |     |  |  box  |  |     |  +-------+  |     |             |     +--cardboard--+
Using litter with bigger particles (compressed newspaper or pine) might make things easier to clean than clay or clumping litter, because then you just sweep up chunks rather than having a layer of gritty dust, but I'd avoid changing the litterbox contents for a while after changing the architecture.
posted by mendel at 12:18 PM on June 20, 2005

Thanks for the suggestions everyone. However, it would appear that the cat wins this round. We tried placing her in the clean new litterbox (without the hood even), and while I can certainly see the humor in watching a rather overweight cat streak down the hallway at top speed to get away and almost wipe out rounding the corner I think it may have been somewhat counterproductive. We tried putting her old litterbox out next to the new one (again, even without the hood on it) and moving some of her, um, personal effects over to the new box to trick her into thinking she had used it. That clearly wasn't fooling anyone, since after 2 days she had only peed in the old litterbox and hadn't done the old number 2 anywhere (that we know of yet anyway...) That kind of freaked us out since we didn't want to cause her bowel problems or anything and so we're just going to have to give up on the new litterbox and find a better way to deal with stray litter based on some of the other suggestions.
posted by shinji_ikari at 10:36 AM on June 21, 2005

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