wanted: cat. not wanted: lifetime poop-scooping duty
February 17, 2014 10:09 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I want a cat. I'd like it to be an indoor/outdoor cat, because I CANNOT DEAL with litterboxes. Partner says we'd probably need a litterbox anyway, for when the weather's bad. Is that true? If you have a cat and no litterbox, please tell me how it works at your house.

I'm planning on getting an RFID-operated cat door for letting the cats go in/out, so they don't have to rely on us to open a door.

Weather-wise, we live in rainy Washington state, so there's a long rainy season. The last time I had in/out cats I lived in California. :/

I really, really, do not want a litter box, not even a robotic one.
posted by homodachi to Pets & Animals (58 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know that if it's an outdoor cat, it still poops, right? Either it poops on your lawn, or it poops on your neighbor's lawn. Unless you live in the woods, it's going to poop somewhere you'll need to scoop.

If you live in the woods, your outdoor cat will probably get eaten by a coyote at some point. For that matter, if you live in foothills, same thing goes.
posted by musofire at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2014 [14 favorites]

Yeah, seconding that your poop-scooping responsibilities don't actually disappear without a litterbox, unless you have no neighbors and no intention of using your yard for anything (especially anything edible!). Pets = cleaning up poo, that's kind of just the tradeoff.
posted by like_a_friend at 10:16 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you CANNOT DEAL with litterboxes, you should not get a cat.
posted by deadweightloss at 10:16 AM on February 17, 2014 [119 favorites]

How to Toilet Train Your Cat.

Caveat: I'm not sure you should absolutely count on this working...
posted by mazola at 10:17 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you don't want a litterbox, then you will probably have to deal with pooping and peeing on the floor/bed.

BUT, here in Portland when it's not rainy, my cat MOSTLY goes outside to do her business. The problem is that unless you give your cat multiple ways to get in and out, there may be a time that they don't want to go out for whatever reason (strange cat outside, human visitor in house freaking them out) and will just use somewhere in the house to poo/pee.

I have about a quarter acre and generally my cat poops in one particular 10x10 plot of our garden, or on our cat poo compost pile. I see no reason to be out there scooping up her poo.
posted by MonsieurBon at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

My first cat was an indoor-outdoor and my parents got her a litter box because as she got older, she was less inclined to go out through the cat door to do her business outside. This meant she considered the potting soil in houseplants, bathmats and newspapers left on the floor to be perfectly reasonable substitutes for her toilet. (This was in Northern California so it wasn't all that cold out. Kitty just couldnt be bothered walk further than she had to).

Every litter box should be considered less the place for your cat to pee and poop and more of an inducement for your cat to not pee and poop over something you value more.

Also, do you garden? Guess where outdoor cats love to crap.
posted by jamaro at 10:18 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have an automatic litter"box" (it's more of a death star litter globe) - the Litter Robot - and I really don't have to do much "dealing with" it at all. I have to put new litter in every few days and take out the bag twice a week, but I don't ever have to scoop a litterbox, I don't have that catbox smell in my small apartment, and although it is expensive it's one of the smartest purchases I've ever made.

I do take the globe out and hose it down once every month or two. I then spray it with some enzyme cleaner and sit it in the sun for a few hours to dry. It's not gross or difficult, but it's still a bit of work. Perhaps your partner would be willing to deal with this part of the process.
posted by k8lin at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

Was going to point to Charles Mingus on how to toilet train one's cat.

(Though it seems to be much messier in the short-term.)
posted by supercres at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2014

Here in the UK, virtually all cats are indoor/outdoor cats - having indoor-only cats isn't really a thing, apart from perhaps if people live in an apartment. The UK is a very rainy place (!) and cats cope just fine with going outside to do their business. In fact, last winter we had 6 inches of snow and our cat still made it outside!

In fact, the only times we've needed a litter box are:
1) When you move house with a cat and have to keep it confined for a couple of weeks.
2) If the cat is poorly/had an operation/ some other medical reason for it temporarily not being allowed outdoors.
3) Only once weather-related: in the UK we've had flooding and the ONLY time we may have needed a litter box was when the water threatened to come up to the front door. In that case, we would've confined the cat inside and made him use a litter box, but thankfully the flooding didn't get that bad.

In short - no, you do not need a litter box for day-to-day use, even in very rainy weather. However, it may be prudent to have one on hand that you can get out in any of the instances mentioned above.
posted by schmoo at 10:19 AM on February 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

I don't think this is possible. If you bring a new cat home and immediately let it go in and out as it pleases, it is likely to go out, bolt, and never return. The cat needs to be shown the litter box and the food bowl and then be given time to process that this is it's new home, where food lives, before being let outdoors -- which is a whole issue in and of itself. While individual cats' owners may have different experiences, as a whole, outdoor cats live shorter lives and are more prone to accidents, illness, and injury.

I really don't think you should get a cat, sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:20 AM on February 17, 2014 [23 favorites]

One of my cats is steadfastly anti-toliet training.

Generally speaking it's not difficult with a normal cat. But some cats are special.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:22 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Stuff like litter boxes is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of potentially gross pet stuff; there's vomit and fluids and unexpected tummy trouble and all sorts of disgustingness that goes along with having a pet. If the first hurdle of litter box is a problem for you, I think you're very lucky to have such a clear indication that maybe pet owning is not in your future.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:24 AM on February 17, 2014 [33 favorites]

We have an outdoor cat (two, in fact). Both use the litterbox fairly regularly, as well as throwing up on the kitchen floor and bringing in deceased wabbits. You're unlikely to find a cat sans litterbox, sorry.
posted by katrielalex at 10:28 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

At some point in your life with a cat, a litter box is going to become a fact. Your cat may get sick or injured and have to be inside-only for some period of time (and may then decide s/he likes doing business in the box instead of outside). Your cat will get old (less likely with an indoor/outdoor cat) and possibly arthritic and not want to go outside when it's cold/wet/dark/broad daylight/any other reason because cats.

If you are solidly in the "Nope, never ever, can't deal, nope," then I strongly advise you not get a cat.
posted by rtha at 10:30 AM on February 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

As a kid I had a sandbox in my backyard that I used to love to play in.

Many of our neighbors let their cats outside to roam the neighborhood.

Guess what my sandbox turned into.

Eventually, my parents had to take out the sandbox because it was impossible to keep clean, thanks to our inconsiderate neighbors.

Please be considerate of others. If you can't keep your cat indoors and clean its litter box, you should not own a cat.
posted by Old Man McKay at 10:31 AM on February 17, 2014 [27 favorites]

Yeah, even if you have a toilet-trained or outdoor-pooping cat, you will have vomit and hairballs. Often at the worst possible times in the worst possible locations, like on your duvet when you're trying to sleep in.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:31 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

When I had indoor cats who I let out for a while, they both steadfastly refused to use the great outdoors and came home to use the litter box. And all cats will go outdoors less and less as they get older.

You can't let a cat out the day you get it without running the huge risk of it never returning -- your only option is to feed a feral and hope it eventually comes inside. Where, if it decides it wants to pee, it will be on a pile of blankets or something should there be no litter box.

If you absolutely don't want a litter box, you really need to find a different pet.

But if you explain what the issue with a litter box is, there may be ways to help alleviate those concerns instead.
posted by jeather at 10:32 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Our indoor/outdoor cats meow at the door when they want to go out. Ditto for when they want to come in. The system works pretty well, though to be fair we live way out the middle of nowhere and there are a variety of places for them to do their business. During a bad stretch of horrible weather, one of them decided to discreetly poop behind some exercise equipment, but by and large things are fine.

When we had a litter box, I used pelletized pine for the litter. You can buy it cheap at any farm and feed store. It seldom smells and is very easy to clean. World's Best Cat Litter, by the way, is very close to chicken scratch, a crumble feed that you can also purchase at a feed store for a fraction of what WBCL sells for at the pet store. If I were to bring in another litter box, I'd use one of those two litters with no problem, and I typically keep the litter box in my office as an extra incentive to keep it super clean.
posted by jquinby at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would second the view that if you cannot deal with litterboxes then you shouldn't get a cat.

Cats absolutely will puke, probably many times, over something valuable or non-washable. They catch, and dissect vermin. Sometimes right next to you. Mine once dropped a live mouse on Mrs MM. They lick their bums in full view and wander about. They lick their bums out of view and then come and lick your face.

My cat, who is lovely in almost every way, appears to have a bowel issue every 4 weeks, which means a large skidmark will appear on our bedding. Or sometimes a small nugget of poo will appear on the bathroom floor. I'm not saying this is common. I am saying that, especially as cats get older and infirm, poo may become an issue. Cats can live into their late teens and like humans may be infirm for several years or pass quickly. Older cats, insecure cats, devil may care cats - they'll poo either where they please or somewhere strategic.

On litterboxes particularly: no, a cat that goes outdoor does not have to have a litter box. They nearly all prefer a good al fresco crap than a litter box, assuming they feel secure outside. Cats bury their poo, so it won't be all over your yard. It'll be nestled behind your favorite bedding plants, or among your prize rare breed homegrown carrots.

You will need a litterbox, though. Firstly, when you get a cat, you need to keep them indoors for a few weeks so they bond with your home, and hopefully you. Then, if they're an outdoor cat, you aim to wean them off their litterbox so they crap outside. You still need your litterbox for things like keeping the cat in before taking them to the vet, or when they're ill, or when they are injured and have limited mobility.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:33 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you really, really want a cat and you really, really don't want to have a litterbox you should find a way to get over your litterbox aversion.

There is no other way. If it causes you this much distress I recommend therapy, I really do.
posted by lydhre at 10:34 AM on February 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Like schmoo, I am in the UK and have an indoor/outdoor cat. The cat goes out to do her business in all weathers. We have a litter box somewhere that we used when we moved house, but we haven't needed it since. As everyone else has said, I expect we'll need it again when she nears the end of her life.

Unlike dogs, cats are pretty careful to put their poo somewhere tidy and bury it. So if you have flower beds, that's where it will go. In our cats-outside-is-normal culture, contra-indications for having an outdoor cat include

- you don't have flower beds, your neighbour does have ornamental gravel
- you're near a main road
- your neighbours' kids let their rabbits and gerbils have the run of the garden
- the cat is very long haired (the hair gets matted)
- the cat is unusually valuable and thus might be stolen
- you have carpets that you would be sad to get covered in muddy paw prints or mouse intestines.
- you would be upset to occasionally have to evict a live mouse or bird from your house.

Cats do throw up, but cat puke is WAY less disgusting to clean than cat poo.
posted by emilyw at 10:35 AM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Waking up to a pile of cat vomit on the bed is way worse than anything that happens in the litter box. Also, the smears of mouse blood on our bookshelves after his hunting session were pretty disconcerting. Cats, unfortunately, are kinda gross.

I agree with the people above that if it's that big of a deal to you, then you probably shouldn't get a cat. Unless you never let the cat inside, there will be poop in your house at some point.
posted by ohisee at 10:37 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

We had indoor-outdoor cats when I was growing up and never had a litterbox. I can only remember two accidents ever. Once, it was a blizzard and the cat didn't go out for two days or something. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore and left a gigantic pile of poop in the corner of the linoleum floor in the kitchen. The second time, the cat had gotten his tail run over by a car and could barely walk, so he peed on a pair of old jeans my dad had left on the floor.

(I think it's worth mentioning, that same cat was not as lucky when he crossed the road again a year or two after the tail incident.)
posted by gueneverey at 10:38 AM on February 17, 2014

My ex had a cat. The litterbox was THE LEAST GROSS THING about the cat.

Things that were grosser: Barf piles that looked oddly like haystacks; barf piles that looked oddly like cloudy pee; barf piles that looked both like cloudy pee and haystacks; poo that fell behind the litterbox and subsequently dried into odd, dust-covered postmodern shapes; PEE IN MY SHOES.

There's a lot of gross when it comes to pets. Love can overcome that, but that kind of depends on the person and the pet.

Perhaps you should not get a cat unless your partner vows to do all the cleaning up.
posted by mochapickle at 10:41 AM on February 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just to answer the question asked, an indoor/outdoor cat will find a place to poop when there's snow on the ground; however it might be in a garage or other outbuilding if they decide that's preferable to snow. If you don't want a litter box in your house, you can find a way to put it under cover outside, though you still have to clean it. But, barn cats don't just hold it all winter--they find a way. If you live in western Washington, no snow you get would be enough to cause any real issue.
posted by HotToddy at 10:42 AM on February 17, 2014

My mother's cat is toilet trained. It is definitely possible, of course it depends on the cat.

Having said that, I have no idea what people are talking about when they say you may have poop either indoors or outdoors anyway if you don't have a litter box. Cats want to bury their waste really good so that predators don't know where they are. Plus, they roam farther than you might think. Unless you live in downtown San Francisco with no yard and only sidewalks, you will not see poop anywhere.

Cats also are pretty resourceful at keeping warm; in your area, it'll be fine to let the cat out. You won't need a litter box.
posted by Melismata at 10:43 AM on February 17, 2014

Besides the myriad dangers your kitty will face outdoors, there is something else to consider: outdoor cats in the US are responsible for more than 1 billion bird deaths a year. If you truly cannot tolerate a litter box, perhaps a cat is not the pet for you at this time.

More directly, I had an indoor/outdoor cat as a child that eventually succumbed to Lyme disease - a rather traumatizing experience for us both. He may have occasionally done his business outside, but he also made frequent use of his indoor litterbox.
posted by bahama mama at 10:45 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If it helps the omega paw litter box takes most of the squick out of cat litter box stuff except for washing it down every once in a while.

The only reason I am not still using it is that my cat is too big for the one we got.
posted by srboisvert at 10:45 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also cat's typically don't actually throw up. They regurgitate.

The food/hairball has not made it to their stomach yet. That is why it is much less gross than human puke.
posted by srboisvert at 10:49 AM on February 17, 2014

I have an indoor-outdoor cat. At least once a year she approaches the door from outside, begging to be let in, and when I let her in she heads straight for the box to do her business.

I do not know of any indoor-outdoor cats that do not have litterboxes.
posted by komara at 10:50 AM on February 17, 2014

My answer to your question is simple. Miss Kitty whiles away her days being gorgeous, lying around the house and occasionally going out to do her bidness. I watch her carefully for signals that she's ready to go out. When she's ready, I open the door and she goes out. I check on her various times after that and eventually she comes in. We don't have a litterbox - I'm with you and can't abide them.
posted by Lynsey at 10:53 AM on February 17, 2014

Second the litter robot, expensive but works better than anything. Before my cat started drinking water a bit excessive, I changed the bag every two weeks, now it's down to every week and the only thing I have to do is occasionally top of the litter.
As far as indoor/outdoor cat goes, I will just add that the lifespan of that cat is about 4-6 years and 16+ for an indoor cat. Don't think a cat is the right animal for you.
posted by Ferrari328 at 10:56 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Back in the day when I had indoor-outdoor cats, we had a couple who came inside specially to use the litter box. It was sometimes exasperating, but I don't really blame them as they *were* trained only to go there.

The litterbox really isn't that big a deal (I've been scooping them daily for nearly 30 years). If you have a germaphobe thing going on, real live pets in general might not be something you actually want.
posted by aught at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2014

My mother's cat is an indoor-outdoor cat, and is 17 years old.
posted by Melismata at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2014

[Folks, this needs to stay focused on the question on not wandering into broader debates about outdoor cat stuff in general.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:01 AM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

As someone who is dealing with cat poop issues very intimately right now, I beg you to ask yourself this: what will you do when the cat gets old? My 17 year old cat was always great about pooping in the litterbox or outside (pee not so much) until last August. Now I clean poop out of my bathtub once or twice a day. Will you throw an elderly cat with arthritis outside in one of Washington's scary, rainy windstorms to poop?

If you can't deal with cat poop, don't get a cat.
posted by KathrynT at 11:06 AM on February 17, 2014 [11 favorites]

I grew up with an indoor/outdoor cat that went to the bathroom in a little sandpit outside all the time. Even until his deathat 19. We had two more indoor/outdoor cats without litter boxes and they both got hit by cars and died.
posted by KogeLiz at 11:16 AM on February 17, 2014

The first time you're walking down the hall to pee at 1 a.m. and you step on something and it goes squelch and you turn on the light and realize that your cat has killed, brought home, semi-disembowelled and left a thing that was once a mammal on the carpet and you aren't sure what kind of mammal it was and now its liver is stuck between your big and second-largest toe and NO AMOUNT OF SHAKING WILL GET IT LOOSE

you will realize that the "less scooping poop" trade-off may have been a rawer deal than you imagined.

Listen to the nice people above. Outdoor cats are nightmare factories. Litter is the least of your concerns.
posted by Shepherd at 11:18 AM on February 17, 2014 [23 favorites]

I had an indoor/outdoor cat growing up, and he still used a litterbox. He also got tapeworms at one point, probably from outside, and he regularly brought home all sorts of disgusting gifts that he'd killed especially for us. Cats are pretty non-gross as far as pets go, but they are still gross as all hell.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:24 AM on February 17, 2014

Based on the anecdotes above, obviously it is not impossible that an indoor/outdoor cat may be willing to use the outdoors for its litterbox, but it is also not impossible that you'll get a cat who needs an actual indoor box. Are you really going to be able to tell ahead of time for any individual cat? What will you do if you end up with a cat that really needs/wants to go indoors? I think any time you adopt a pet it's a good idea to make sure you're willing to care for that animal even in worst-case scenarios, and if you really cannot handle the possibility that there may be a litter box in your life, you probably should consider other options besides owning a cat.

(FWIW, my own experience was that my otherwise-indoor cat got to be an indoor/outdoor cat for two summers, when I lived with a housemate who insisted on keeping the windows open for her own cat to go in and out of. That seems to be all it took for my cat to develop a strong preference for pooping in houseplants and peeing on furniture/laundry when he couldn't go out ... can't say I'd recommend it.)
posted by DingoMutt at 11:50 AM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I too am in the UK where this is the norm. I adopted a cat who had never pooped al fresco before. She was 12. It took a year of much stubbornness on both sides, but she lost and has been happily pooing in the garden with wild abandon ever since.

Until last week, after months of the worst winter storms we've ever had, and an unfortunately timed run in with a new cat in the neighborhood, she's shown signs she considers herself above pooing in the rain. I've been turfing her outside any time it looks like she's considering pooing elsewhere, much to her indignation. But I'm confident I'll get her on track again as the weather clears up, and the new cat learns his place.

But yes, letting the cat outside doesn't absolve you of dealing with poo or litter trays. Also, if I lived somewhere where there were predators which go for cats, I would keep them indoors.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:53 AM on February 17, 2014

Many years ago we allowed our cat to be indoor/outdoor....but eventually many factors convinced us that it was healthier for kitty to be an exclusively indoor pet. But even in those days when Sparky was allowed to go outside anytime he meowed at the back door, he still always came inside and went to his litter box to attend to his toilette.

I'm pretty squeamish, the weirdest little things make me literally gag, but I eventually adapted to cleaning the litter box. Clumping litter was a definite asset. What worked for me was taking a grocery store-type plastic bag with me, scooping the waste quickly into it, then tying the "handles" into a knot and throwing it away.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2014

We had a cat who never ever used a litter box and, as the designated litterbox changer (my wife was busily (with my help) getting pregnant over and over again) I loved it. When she needed to take a dump/piss, she told us and we let her out. There was just one problem: she was a fearless, arrogant bitch (the cat, I mean), and she taunted the local thug's 3 pit bulls once too often, and they *literally* ripped her to shreds. Lesson learned? If you can't handle a litter box, don't get a cat.
posted by brownrd at 12:02 PM on February 17, 2014

Growing up, we had three indoor-outdoor cats and no litterbox. They used the cat flap and pooped outside in the yard. No scooping required: being cats, they buried it.

All three died of old age/cancer after I had flown the nest, but I think my parents may have provided a litterbox during each cat's final days.

That being said, I now have two indoor cats (apartment living), and was very hesitant about/grossed out by the litterbox at first, but it has turned out to not be a big deal at all. We have a Litter Genie, which looks like a gimmick but is awesome.
posted by baby beluga at 12:20 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also in the UK where this isn't an issue and where it rains a lot. When we adopted our (adult) cat we were advised to keep him inside for six weeks, lest he abscond. For that period we needed a litterbox. As soon as we started letting him outside he stopped using the box, and hasn't used one since. That was 7 years ago and that is probably the smallest amount of litterbox involvement it's possible to have.

Our cat isn't a hunter but we have still had to deal with cat vomit. And pee, when he was sick with a urinary tract blockage one time. Goes with the territory.
posted by altolinguistic at 12:23 PM on February 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've lived in here in Washington with several indoor-outdoor cats who never pooped inside, so it is possible. They were my housemates' cats, not mine. In this particular house the cats could always get outside -- there was a cat door -- and it was a pretty big, wooded lot which I presume was where the cats were doing their business as it was never an issue for the humans.

I think we got off lucky. My next-door neighbor's indoor-outdoor cat was killed by a car recently. Another cat on the block was eaten by a coyote in front of her. Other neighbors' cats poop in my yard and it's really annoying.

I keep my cats inside and just deal with the litter box; if you use good litter and clean it every day, and have a good place to keep it, it isn't a problem. If you don't have a good place for a litter box, don't get a cat.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:31 PM on February 17, 2014

It sounds like what you are looking for is a robot cat. Or possibly a stuffed one. The only live cat that doesn't need a litter box is a stray cat.

However, there are ways you can get a cat without needing to clean a litter box.

For instance: My housemate and I have three cats between us. She hates litter boxes. I hate the smell of wet cat food. So, she feeds the cats and never goes anywhere near the litter boxes. I clean the litter and never touch the cat food or cat bowls.

Can you and your partner work out something like that? I mean, sometimes I'm sick and she'll clean the litter boxes for me; or sometimes she's out shoveling snow and I'll feed the cats out of guilt. But 98% of the time we only do the task we don't mind.
posted by kythuen at 1:17 PM on February 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

My next-door neighbors take care of a stray cat. I am almost certain they don't have a litter box. The cat spends most of his time outdoors and only goes into my neighbors' house to eat; the cat meows to come into the house and also to leave after eating. They even set up a cat carrier outside with an electric blanket that the cat sleeps in.

I don't think this cat considers my neighbors' house to be his home, or anything more than possibly a feline bed and breakfast establishment. I doubt you'll find a cat like that unless you take in a stray, so you'll more than likely need a litter box. If you can't deal with it, don't get a cat.

Also, even if you do find such an ideal cat who doesn't pee or poop in your house: We live in a rural area. If you don't, I'm almost certain your neighbors likely won't appreciate cat excreta left on their lawns.

We have a cat who is strictly an indoor cat. My most hated chore is cleaning out the litter box, especially since our cat absolutely refuses to bury her poop and I haven't figured out why.
posted by tckma at 1:56 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Some cats can totally manage a lifestyle without a litter box, but the problem is, you cannot guarantee that you are going to get that cat. You can't guarantee that you won't get a cat who has accidents indoors if the weather is bad outside and there's no box. Or that the cat won't get injured and need to be kept it. Most cats do bury their waste, but I'm another one who has one who won't. And you also do have to have the sort of ground they actually scratch up to bury it, a significant wrinkle if it's damp and muddy out.

You are talking about bringing a living creature into your home. You need to be able to commit to that creature for a lifetime, regardless of what happens. There are pretty much no animals where, at some point in their lives, waste cleanup won't be an issue, but maybe there's some animal where the cleanup will be something that bothers you less.
posted by Sequence at 2:06 PM on February 17, 2014 [9 favorites]

to add to the excellent answers above, we have 2 cats, a cat door, and my husband went to considerable expense to build them an outdoor enclosure so that we would not lose them to busy streets or predators (of which we have many).

He also built, at moderate expense, a deep sand pit in a waste area of our yard that would not grow grass. It's intended as an outdoor litterbox, and does a reasonably good job of keeping the cats from digging up our garden.

Despite this, one of our cats does not like to do his business outdoors. He's been an indoor-outdoor cat all his life, yet he prefers to use the litterbox. I got a pair of Omega Paw boxes and a Litter Locker so that I don't have to deal with daily scooping (instead I just roll-n-dump daily). However, if we did not have litterboxes inside the house, we would have cat poo inside the house. Cat #2 is just hard headed that way.

also my husband has to rake the sand pit every 3-4 weeks to keep it fresh, as Cat #1 is both prolific and persnickety.

imo there are far, far worse jobs in this world than scooping a litterbox, or cleaning up the occasional hairball (aka vomit) but if it isn't for you, I'd suggest maybe pet ownership isn't in the cards, sorry.
posted by lonefrontranger at 2:33 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

[Folks, please, don't let this thread become a parody of itself. Just answer the question. If you have other rants that belong elsewhere, put them elsewhere.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:07 PM on February 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cats are gonna cat and you don't really know what kinda cat is gonna cat up your house or how. You may get lucky and get a cat who prefers to bury his/her sweet nothings in the great outdoors. But what will you do if you don't? I think you really have to consider that very strongly.

I've had experience with a couple of outdoor/indoor cats (and one who just kinda snuck out now and again but primarily was indoors); with one exception, they all had an indoor box - irregularly, perhaps rarely used, but always available. (The exception to this was a stray. I was super attached to this cat and it simply stopped coming "home" at some point.)
posted by sm1tten at 8:28 PM on February 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I hated the litter box because my toddler thought it was a sandpit. We took a small closet, added a cat flap (a little higher so any tracked litter was left inside) and some ventilation/light holes and put in a shelf for dehumidifiers, charcoal filters and all the cleaning supplies and hung happy smelling things outside. It was a pretty decent compromise, the cats were fine using it and my husband cleaned it instead of me. Now, it's next to our washing machine, a covered box with some kind of weird paper-based pellet that has very little odor or dust. We experimented with several types until we found a litter we and the cat liked. The cat litter brand can make a *huge* difference.

You could also put the litter box outside on the porch or back garden in a fenced off and sheltered area for rainy days.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:02 PM on February 17, 2014

If you CANNOT DEAL with litterboxes, you should not get a cat.

Please take this to heart. Looking after a cat will get messy at times, even if you manage to succeed in training it only to crap on your neighbours' lawns (which really isn't very considerate). They barf, and they will choose carpet to barf on instead of easily-cleaned surfaces. They bring up slimy hairballs for you to step on in the darkness of the night. They get ill and leaky. Anyone squicked out by kitty shit absolutely should not be looking to own a cat.
posted by Decani at 4:48 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

> If you absolutely don't want a litter box, you really need to find a different pet.

But if you explain what the issue with a litter box is, there may be ways to help alleviate those concerns instead.

I second both these points. Why not explain what the problem with a litterbox is? Maybe there are ways to deal with your concerns you haven't thought of.
posted by languagehat at 6:47 AM on February 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I live out in the forest with no neighbors and have an indoor/outdoor cat. This would be a perfect situation to have a cat that only goes to the bathroom outside, except for the fact that she refuses to do her business anywhere but the litterbox. She will come inside, use the box, and go directly back outside. Cats will do what cats gonna do, there's no way to select for certain bathroom habits when picking a cat.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:33 AM on February 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, just so you know, if you get a decent cat litter, a big enough litter box and a big enough scoop - changing the litter REALLY isn't that bad! Seriously!
posted by JenThePro at 1:42 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your best bet for an outdoor-going cat if you're willing to adopt a young adult rescue cat who lived outside with other cats for its formative years--these cats come with their own issues, though. And you will still need to own a litter box in case of extreme weather (flooding is probably the most likely for you, in our case it is the over a foot of snow that we recently got) or in case you need to keep the cat inside for some reason (for example, if the cat is ill or you need to keep the cat in overnight in order to guarantee that you can catch them for the vet the next day).

And people above are speaking the truth. The only thing worse than stepping on a mouse is stepping on half of a mouse.
posted by anaelith at 3:55 AM on February 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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