Cat litter 101: from selecting the appropriate litter tray to acquiring the ideal litter

Hangai Lilla

2024. March 8 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

It might not be an exaggeration to claim that the litter is the alpha and omega of cat care, yet many find themselves scratching their heads months after the arrival of their furry friend. They don't know what they're doing wrong, or perhaps they're unaware that they don't have to resign themselves to what they perceive as normal inconveniences.


Our summary article provides assistance in not letting litter problems poison the experience of cat ownership. We will help you choosing the right cat litter and the luitter tray.

Selecting the appropriate litter tray

When a cat joins the family, you’ll likely be among the first to acquire a litter tray. Yet, we find that this very useful item surprisingly receives little attention. Or rather, not the right kind of attention. Most people look at the price, color, and design. Of course, these are important considerations, but it’s worth pondering a few more things before making a purchase.

Just imagine, you wouldn’t want to use a toilet that’s too small, with a narrow entrance, or too noisy. The new automated litter trays, where mechanized arms immediately scoop out the waste, terrify most cats. And this simply results in them not using the tray. Then we all know the horrors we’ll be facing.

We suggest getting information from the breeder or shelter about the expected size of your cat, or if it’s already an adult, its exact measurements. Even if you decide to personally acquire the litter tray, it’s worth reading reviews about different models online.

Is it possible that you will need more litter trays?

Cats are independent beings and they like having choices. This applies to the sensitive issue of toileting as well. It’s worth applying the +1 rule. The number of cats + 1 = the ideal number of litter trays.

How big it should be?

The general rule is that the litter tray should be at least as long as the distance between the cat’s nose and the tip of its outstretched tail. In terms of width, it should be as wide as the distance between the cat’s nose and the loosely held end of its tail. This size allows for comfortable positioning and digging, and prevents the little paws from sinking into waste.

A toilet height between 13-18 cm is ideal for cats who don’t have the habit of kicking litter around. If your cat likes to dig, you may need a taller tray, ensuring your pet can comfortably step in and out.

Covered, uncovered, self-cleaning?

Now we’ve come to the extras. Our experience shows that when it comes to covered trays, it’s the cat’s individual preference that decides. Choose according to your discretion, but be prepared to possibly adjust the setup later on.

As we mentioned earlier, as appealing as a self-cleaning litter box might be, we don’t recommend it. You can’t predict if your cat will be afraid of it, and unfortunately, experimenting with such a machine is quite expensive.

Where should the seat of the throne be?

Ideally, find a place where your cat can approach the litter tray from two sides. If you heed our advice and place additional trays in the house, never put them side by side. It’s better to place them in different, well-ventilated, calm areas of the house. Your cat’s nose is extremely sensitive, so if it’s surrounded by unwanted odors while using the litter tray, there’s a high chance it will find a more appealing spot.

Big or small granules, scented or unscented?

Thanks to fierce market competition, it’s not so easy to determine the quality of litter anymore. But before you panic, we’ll help you navigate this too!

In general, cats prefer smaller granules to larger ones. Although using scented litter might seem attractive, we strongly advise against it. It can irritate your pet’s sense of smell or even cause allergic reactions.

Silicone, clumping, non-clumping, or biodegradable? Each has its own advantages. Clumping litter is practical and economical, silicone retains moisture and easily masks odors. Non-clumping litter also absorbs moisture well and traps odors, while biodegradable litters are particularly suitable for kittens who tend to put everything in their mouths, or for eco-conscious owners. In this matter, we suggest experimenting and sticking to the version both you and your cat prefer.

If your pet isn’t particularly fond of digging and scratching, and you prefer more economical scooping, 2.5-5 cm of litter is enough, but if you’re a safety player, which we don’t blame you for, then 5-8 cm is the way to go.

How do you keep the litter tidy?

Studies show that cats are extremely clean animals and prefer clean litter to a significant extent. Therefore, we recommend scooping out unwanted elements at least once a day. But if you’re particularly sensitive to odors and your living space is small, feel free to increase this number.

To avoid infections and unpleasant surprises, we recommend cleaning the entire litter tray with soapy water at least once a month. However, avoid bleach and similarly strong alkaline or acidic cleaners! Once the tray is clean, you can add a completely fresh batch of litter. See? It’s not complicated at all!

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