Best cat litter system
March 28, 2006 1:02 PM   Subscribe

What is the best cat litter system?

Ok - the cutest cat ever followed me home one night, and no one has claimed her. She's gotten my totally, total cuteness and a very very good cat.

She's an older kitten, probably about 7 or 8 months. I live in an apartment and am keeping the litter box in the bathroom, and it really stinks when she pees and she tracks and tosses litter everywhere, and the bathroom is small. A hooded box would be way too big, a box with a lip made a big difference, but its still ending up on the floor.

I wanted to know if anyone has a litter that they swear by, and if there's a system or a gadget or a type of litter that they swear by. Right now I just dump the litter every other day and vacuum and sweep, which is a pain, and it stinks often which I hate as I like long languid hot showers.

One note - I'm not a scooper, can't bring myself to do that. Would love to know what kinds of systems you guys are using, and how often you change...
posted by mad_little_monkey to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
For the smell, I use a clay-based litter with silicon odor-absorbing crystals. If the cat is kicking a lot of litter out of the box, try reducing the volume of litter. And honestly, just get used to scooping the damn thing. It's really not that bad, and you only have to do it once a day.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:05 PM on March 28, 2006

Hopefully you're not dumping it down the toilet!

Is the cat covering her poo? One of our cats does and there's no stank, but the other cat doesn't, and there's a lot of stank. If she doesn't cover, investigate training her or changing her diet.

Our cats get litter everywhere too. Without a lidded box, it's hard to avoid that.

Honestly, it's best to scoop every day and do a complete change about once a week (maybe less often since you only have one cat).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:07 PM on March 28, 2006

I like the lidded box. Don't have to see it.
posted by rainbaby at 1:13 PM on March 28, 2006

I have noticed a significant decrease in odor with Fresh Step with crystals.

I have always wondered if the Litter Maid is worth the price. It would be nice to not have to scoop, but we have 3 cats and they tend to pee on the sides of the trays occasionally. I assume that would mess up the tracks on the Litter Maid.
posted by bradn at 1:16 PM on March 28, 2006

Previous discussion here that should be helpful.
posted by occhiblu at 1:16 PM on March 28, 2006

If you don't use scoopable litter, it's hard to keep up with the smell.

When my wife and I lived in an apartment we used Swheat scoopable litter. It kept the smell under wraps, was easy to scoop, and the granules were large enough they didn't track everywhere (note: they did still track some, just not EVERYWHERE like other scoopable litters that are made of fine granules).
posted by mealy-mouthed at 1:21 PM on March 28, 2006

I think you're just gonna have to get used to the idea of scooping. You can get automatic cat boxes, but my experience has been less than good with them: we've had two that broke down after a short time (although we do have a lot of cats, including fosters that don't quite get the whole litter thing). However, a friend has one with just two cats, though and says it works fine for him.

It's also worth experimenting with different type of litter: some cats don't like the feel of certain types and won't bury their waste in it. Try a few different types to see which your new friend prefers!

Other tips: don't overfill the box (to avoid spills) and try putting it in an overturned cardboard box (with an entrance hole cut of rthe cat, of course!) if you can't stand the sight of it. And take your new cat to the vet to get checked out! If she has been living in the wild, there's a good chance she could have worms or other nasties. Worms aren't that bad: a single pill can deal with them.
posted by baggers at 1:23 PM on March 28, 2006

I love Feline Pine. The pieces don't track too much and it really does eliminate the pee smell. I have 2 cats, FYI, and I change the little completely once every 10 days or so and ignore it in between. Lots of cats wouldn't go for that, however. Also, mine eat only dry food so their poop isn't too bad.
posted by miss tea at 1:24 PM on March 28, 2006

I have four (previously five, and once upon a time, nine) cats, so I have a little experience on this topic. First of all, take the tray out of the bathroom. The best place for it is in a hallway where there is more ventilation and smooth carpet-less surfaces where the litter won't impact itself into dense material. Bathrooms tend to be quite stuffy places, where even the hint of a bad smell will linger. Another way to think about it, is that you wouldn't leave your own poop lying around your bathroom, as it's a place where you clean your body. Bleugh. The thought of a litter tray in a bathroom just grosses me out.

Second: I found this in the supermarket (sorry about the poor quality picture, it's late night right now) a few months ago, and it has proved invaluable in keeping the smell to a minimum. One cat's poop is easier to deal with than four, so if it works with my hoard, it should easily deal with your single kitty. I'm not honestly sure if this is a product available in the US (I live in the UK) - although there are multiple translations on the bottle, I can't seem to find a solid website for it. It was super cheap though - 99p, and we have yet to be halfway done with it.

A side note: it might be worth your while to put newspaper under the box, just in case of... ahem... leakages. Some of mine tend to poop right in the corner, and you end up with a little spillage. Much easier to deal with when you have newspaper to catch it.

Hope that's of some use!
posted by saturnine at 1:27 PM on March 28, 2006

My friends and I swear by the Littermaid Automatic litter boxes, but they're awful big. On the other hand, they keep smell to an absolute minimum, so you can put them somewhere other than the bathroom.
posted by tkolar at 1:32 PM on March 28, 2006

Scooping is not that bad if you do it every day (keep a stash of plastic bags near the litterbox. Ikea has a cute cheap $2 bag holder that I use).

Also, scooping's not that bad if you use good litter. I like Fresh Step. Cat litter, unfortunately, is one of those things where you get what you pay for. Do not economize.
posted by selfmedicating at 1:38 PM on March 28, 2006

I use the Worlds Best Cat Litter (that's what it's actual name is). It's made of corn and it greatly reduces the smell. Also, since the box is in the bathroom I just flush it instantly. I don't love scooping (who does?), but it's nice to just flush it away and not worry that you're busting up your pipes. Plus this stuff is all natural, I always worried she was licking that weird crystal stuff off of her paws with the other litter.
posted by jdl at 1:39 PM on March 28, 2006

2 cats here. We use World's Best, which is made out of corn. Like Swheat Scoop, it's a flushable clumping litter. It doesn't have as light and pleasing a fragrance as the Swheat Scoop, but it clumps harder and it thus easier to scoop out. I scoop 1-3 times per day, depending on how often I'm in bathroom, and sweep every morning.

I found a hooded box invaluable. This one keeps them from kicking litter everywhere in a way that conventional hooded box do not. It is bulky, though.
posted by amber_dale at 1:43 PM on March 28, 2006

You can get a litter-catcher mat at the pet store. If you put one of those down where the cat enters the box, it should cut down on some of the tracking. They sell litter box deodorizer as well, but if you want to do it cheaper, get some Arm & Hammer baking soda and mix a few shakes of it in with the litter. It's safe for cats, and cuts down on the smell.
posted by vorfeed at 1:51 PM on March 28, 2006

The last link in amber_dale's post is a major step forward to me. Unfortunately, my cat doesn't understand going in through the top and tries to poop on the top. But using it without the top has cut down on all but a little litter spillage.
posted by ontic at 1:57 PM on March 28, 2006

We have one kitty, in our apartment (side note: dear god, help). Our apartment isn't large enough to have the litter anywhere else but the bathroom, but this doesn't seem to be an issue (other than kitty joining in whenever _I_ am having a little quiet time.. sigh).

Anyway, the crystal-based stuff (that is, all crystals) is what we use, and it doesn't smell _at all_. We scoop her poo as soon as we find it, straight into the loo -- someone tell me, please, why I shouldn't put cat poo down the same hole as my own?

The only issue we have is that she seems to get a little.. enthusiastic.. with the digging, and spreads the crystals around a fair bit. 'Course, now she's started digging in my pot-plants, so perhaps I brought home a little terrier or something by mistake.....
posted by coriolisdave at 1:58 PM on March 28, 2006

someone tell me, please, why I shouldn't put cat poo down the same hole as my own?

Because if you use a non-flushable type, it will clog up your pipes. Most cat litter is clay, so it expands and clumps when it gets wet. Keep flushing it and sooner or later you'll have a big lump of cat poo and clay blocking your pipes. And I ain't gonna come around and fish it out for you.
posted by baggers at 2:03 PM on March 28, 2006

Blargh, boxES.

Your cat's diet may also affect the stinkiness factor.
posted by amber_dale at 2:08 PM on March 28, 2006

I'm surprised no one has mentioned that you can toilet-train your cat. Here's how.
posted by beagle at 2:11 PM on March 28, 2006

As per a common recommendation in the previous thread, I tried Feline Pine and stuck with it. It has the most effective odor neutralization of any flushable litter I've tried, it's very good at absorbing pee without clumping into a pasty mess, it doesn't track out of the litterbox and onto the furniture (World's Best tends to form a dust that tracks all over the house), and it's made from reclaimed pine sawdust so it's more "natural" and when you put in a fresh batch, it smells like Home Depot.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:11 PM on March 28, 2006

Oh, and my experience with toilet-training the cat with this system:

Getting the cat (~1 year old) to use the litterbox suspended over the toilet was shockingly easy. However, once we started removing segments of the litterbox to make a hole in the middle of it through which we instructed the cat to poop, she got really freaked out. One very tiny hole in the middle was all she would put up with... even after a few weeks, opening the toilet-pan more than 1" in the middle led to lots of litter-scratching and a failure to poop. We gave up when she started digging in the potted plants.

At the time, we were using World's Best, which was horrible as all the stray bits of litter clumped up around the toilet seat base and were very difficult to clean.
posted by rxrfrx at 2:15 PM on March 28, 2006

One of the most important factors in cat poop management (cpm) is the type of food that you feed your cat. If you feed your cat dry food, the cat will have hard firm poop (hfp). If you feed your cat wet food, it is more likely to have messy squishy poop (msp). Msp smells a lot more than hfp, and it is much harder to scoop. If you want to practice six sigma cpm, then you should see if you can train your cat to eat dry food.

As for litter, I've settled on Yesterday's News. It is similar to the Pine Pellets, but it doesn't degrade so quickly.

With this combination (plus a lidded litter box and a track pad) we have virtually no smell. It basically only smells when I'm in the act of scooping out the urine-soaked pellets. The poop doesn't smell at all.
posted by alms at 2:21 PM on March 28, 2006

If you are in an area where people use pellet stoves, just get yourself a bag (25# and 50# are the typical sizes sold) of pellets. Where I live the bigger bag costs about $3.50, there's zero smell (other than a sort of cedar-y smell), it breaks down to dust (no additives at all - it's just compressed sawdust, the naturally occuring resins serve to 'glue' it together until it is re-wetted), and is flushable. The bags are pretty big for many apartment dwellers, I know, but if you've got a storage cube you could re-bag it and keep the bulk there.
Works for our two kitties, and save a bunch of cash.
posted by dbmcd at 2:29 PM on March 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

baggers: Yeah, figured it was something like that. The crystals (which absorb the moisture without seeming to swell) shouldn't be an issue though, surely?

I can't rave about its odour-stopping properties enough.
posted by coriolisdave at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2006

After 10 years with my 2 cats, and always having litter everywhere, and the stench, I have finally found a combination that works really well for us all. It's been a long journey of trial and error getting us here, but this combo really does the trick and the whole litter/poop/piss situation is no longer a hassle.

First step: I got the Booda Dome, and it's excellent. It has a filter at the top which captures any escaping orders, and the closed design traps most of the smell inside to begin with. The opening is at the front and the cats had no problem figuring out how to get in or out. They seem to really like the round shape of it and it's big enough even for my giant cat. There is also a smaller version for smaller cats. Clean up is really easy, just lift up the top, scoop out the mess and your done. The little steps at the front keep the litter from being tracked outside. We never have little anywhere outside of the box now that I'v been using the dome. You can use it with a liner as well, but my cats tend to rip those up, so I just put the litter straight in, then about once a month, I empty it all out and rinse the whole contraption.

Not sure what your issue is with scooping, I have no idea how else you're going to clean up regardless of what method you choose.

Second step: I got the Litterlocker. Scoop the mess right into the gadget, turn the little wheel, and the smell is locked away. Comes with a baggy thingy on the inside which eventually runs out and needs to be replaced. This is very similiar to those things they make for baby poop in nurserys. Works great.

Third: For litter I use Arm & Hammer Super Scoop which clumps up really nice and also helps to lock in the smell. I also sprinkle in a little bit of Arm & Hammer Cat Litter Deoderizer and mix it in with the litter.

Now, my house never smells like cat piss, and clean-up is almost, dare I say it, fun!
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:31 PM on March 28, 2006

Also wanted to add that no matter what type of box we ever tried, they always managed to pee up the side of it, and usually onto the wall, and over on to the floor. The dome device I mentioned above has totally eradicated that problem as well.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:36 PM on March 28, 2006

I have a littermaid and I'm happy with it. I have 2 cats, and it works great.

However, I have a cat who got sick with crystals in his urine and took up a habit of peeing on the carpet sometimes. Since then, he's had an aversion to the littermaid box, which he never had a problem with before. I'm sure this is unique to him, as his brother uses the littermaid religiously. I do have a regular litterbox for the other guy (that they both use).

Wish I could get the formerly sick (and now healthy) kitty to stop peeing on my damn carpet though...
posted by twiggy at 2:57 PM on March 28, 2006

Before you go with clumping litter, google "dangers of clumping litter". There are several people with strong arguments against it, based on supposed effects to the health of the cat (eg if ingested, litter can clump inside your kitty). Personally I use crystals (well, I don't, but the cats do).
posted by Gortuk at 3:12 PM on March 28, 2006

I highly recommend Feline Pine if your cat will use it. It's the only thing I've experienced that completely neutralizes the odor, but my cat has changed his little mind and now will only use SWheat Scoop litter. Finicky little beast.

The best way to keep the smell down is to get in the habit of scooping regularly. Every time I go into the bathroom, I check the box and clean out any deposits.

Anyway, I used a Rubbermaid dishpan for his litter box. It is much deeper than most litter boxes, and it was small enough to fit in the area between the toilet and sink cabinet. He was still able to kick some stuff out, but not nearly as much.
posted by luneray at 3:13 PM on March 28, 2006

I really like this litterbox; I hate to scoop, too, and this takes care of it; roll it half over, then back, and the poop and clotted litter are all collected in a pull-out drawer. Also, no electronics or anything to get screwed up. I've had mine for years and swear by it. Automatic Litterbox
posted by Rubber Soul at 3:53 PM on March 28, 2006

I use Tidy Cats Small Spaces scoopable litter. It works even better than the Tidy Cats Crystals Blend they used to sell. The last few years have seen great advances in cat litter performance.
posted by kindall at 3:58 PM on March 28, 2006

Another vote for Feline Pine. Absolutely no pee smell at all, no dust. We scoop the poop, and with two cats using the same box we only have to change the litter every 1.5 to 2 weeks.
posted by DakotaPaul at 4:06 PM on March 28, 2006

I recently saw a litter box similar to this one. It actually had three boxes - two regular looking litter boxes and a sifter that was the same size. It worked by layering a box on the bottom, a box in the middle and the sifter on top. You poured the sand in and let your cat do his/her business. To de-clump you would lift the sifter box and dump the clumps into a trash bag (or whatever). You then pull the bottom box (the one without sand) free of the box with sand. Place the sifter into the empty box, pour the now clump-free sand into that and set both of those into the box you just emptied.

I hope that all makes sense. It was damned ingenious if you ask me. The only thing I didn't like is the lack of a hood (you could probably rig up something).

I currently use a hooded box with a plastic sand-catcher mat in front of it. That combo catches a lot of the clumping litter I use, but not all of it. Smell is minimal and it's usually my fault that it smells (lack of scooping, adding new sand, or it's time to totally replace sand).
posted by deborah at 6:55 PM on March 28, 2006

We've had no luck with automated kitty litter boxes (breakdowns and icky mess, for the most part). Our picky cat must have tested just about every possible combination out there. We finally settled on the Tidy Cats crystals, a tall, open-top plastic box with a cut-out for easy exiting (is actually a litter box lid), and poop-scooping at least every day. A litter mat helps with the stray bits, but it still spreads a bit, and the crystals are painful to bare feet. We change the litter every 1-2 weeks.

Hooded boxes may help keep odor in, but be aware that a lot of cats really dislike them for just that reason. Frequent scooping is the best way we've found for odor control, and with the crystals, which absorb urine without clumping or smelling and leave only little poops for the toilet, it is very easy and clean, if not as environmentally friendly as we'd prefer. (If your kitty buries her poop, and you use the crystals, it may do a pretty good job of keeping odor down by absorbing the moisture.)

I also have to second the word of warning on clay litter, particularly for a young cat.
posted by moira at 7:23 PM on March 28, 2006

Low investment fixes: use cheap litter and use plastic litter box liners so that you can change it very frequently, easily and at will (i.e. change it before your long shower or if a girl or boy is coming over), and get a litter box mat to catch more of the litter she kicks out. I think all the gadgets and special litters are bunk. Excrement is smelly and cats like to kick dirt around when they poop, it just goes with the territory. Having a better place for the box to go (i.e. a basement or porch) or not keeping cats are the only things that can totally keep a litter box from being a sometimes nasty element in your home environment.
posted by nanojath at 8:04 PM on March 28, 2006

I've forgotten the count, but I fifth or sixth the Feline Pine, and second the Booda Domes. The pine does a great job of masking the smell of urine, and turns into sawdust when wet. Shake the litter pan a little, and the sawdust sifts to the bottom, leaving clean pine on top. Plus, it sticks to the poo pretty well, which makes it easier to scoop out. I also recommend using box liners. Makes cleaning them a snap.

I have 4 cats, and 4 litter boxes. We keep three in the basement and one in the downstairs bathroom, so the kitties have plenty of places to go. I use one small bag of pine per litter box, and change after about 2 weeks.

When the wife and I lived in our old place (with only three kitties), we put the litter box under the sink in the bathroom. I just removed the doors to the cabinet under the sink, and found that the Booda Dome worked perfectly (it was a double-wide sink, so all three litter boxes fit). I kept a think pile bathmat in front of the litter boxes to catch anything that the cats tracked out, which worked pretty well.

Granted, this whole system was in a guest bathroom, but we still cleaned it out regularly, since one of the cats is finicky about having a relatively clean place to do his business, and the bathroom wasn't far off the rest of the house, so the smell would reach us quickly. Also, none of them buried the evidence... I think that they realized we were just going to dig it back up and figured "why bother?". Little fluffy bastards.
posted by Jim T at 9:10 PM on March 28, 2006

I'M surprised anyone mentioned toilet training, and the question asker is too squeamish even to scoop.
posted by agregoli at 9:59 AM on March 29, 2006

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