Skip to main content

How to pick a spot for the litter box so your cat will actually use it

You’ve carefully chosen a litter box that your cat should love, picked out the best cat litter, and placed the box in your bathroom. Now, you wait — but did you know that where you put the litter box can actually encourage or discourage your cat from using it? Litter box problems can be tough to correct, so it’s best to put some careful thought into litter box placement so that your cat feels comfortable using the box from the start. The more you understand about your cat’s instincts, the easier it is to find the best place to put his litter box.

Cat climbing out of a Litter Robot litter box
Litter Robot / Unsplash

What your cat wants in his litter box location

When using the litter box, cats prefer quiet and privacy. They also like to be able to see their litter box, even at night. Cats don’t like to do their business where they eat, so the box needs to be distanced from your cat’s water and food dishes, as well as his favorite sleeping spots.

Even more importantly, your cat needs to be able to get to his litter box easily. It might be tempting to put the box in an out-of-the-way location, like a bathroom closet or the basement, but this adds time and distance that your cat needs to travel. It also increases the chance of your cat just not bothering with the box and doing his business elsewhere.

Instead, place the box in a location that your cat is more likely to visit. For example, if your cat spends lots of time in a certain bedroom, consider putting the litter box in an adjoining bathroom. If your cat spends lots of time on the first level of your home, be sure that you have a litter box on that level.

The box itself also needs to be easy for your cat to get into. Many cats aren’t fond of the fully enclosed litter boxes, which are dark and can be difficult to turn around in. If a box is too small for your cat, he may have trouble using it. The same is true of litter boxes with higher sides, which can be difficult for smaller cats or arthritic ones to climb into.

What to do about multi-cat households

Multiple litter boxes are a must for multi-cat households, and a good rule of thumb is to have one box per cat, if not more. Some cats will refuse to share a litter box with other cats, so be sure that all your cats have plenty of boxes to choose from.

In addition to having multiple boxes, those boxes need to be positioned in different areas throughout the home. Your cats will probably view boxes that are in the same room as being the same box, since they’ll smell the same. Position the boxes in different rooms and on different levels of the home to ensure that your cats can always get to a box when needed. You may also need to experiment with different box sizes and cat litters to find options that all your cats prefer.

Cat sitting in front of a Litter Robot litter box
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Other important factors to consider

It’s also important to think about any challenges your home poses. For instance, if you have small children, they can make your cat feel uncomfortable if they wander into his litter box area while he’s in it. In this case, it may be helpful to put litter boxes in rooms that are off-limits to kids.

Dogs in the house can also pose a challenge to giving your cat a safe space to use a litter box. Dogs are naturally attracted to litter box smells, so you’ll need to create a space that your dog can’t access but that your cat freely can. You can accomplish this by putting a latch on your doorways that holds the doors open wide enough so that only your cat can fit through. You can also close a door entirely and install a cat flap.

Understanding your options for just where to put the litter box in your home can encourage your cat to use the box reliably, but location isn’t the only factor to consider. Other elements like the box’s design, the type of cat litter you use, and even the amount of cat litter in the box will all factor into how well your cat uses the box. Keeping the litter box clean is also important. If your cat keeps refusing to use his litter box despite your trying to find the arrangement that works best for him,  schedule an appointment with your vet, since some medical issues can cause litter box use issues, too.

Editors' Recommendations

Paige Cerulli
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Paige's work has appeared in American Veterinarian, Business Insider, Healthline, and more. When she's not writing, Paige…
Why do cats spray? This obnoxious behavior, explained
It's important to understand why cats do this
a ffuffy cat in a cardboard box

Cats can be a curious bunch. They attack the holiday tree annually and stare at you until you start questioning what's happening in their heads. The hijinks may leave you thinking, "Cats, can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em."

If you have chosen to shack up with a cat (or keep an indoor-outdoor or solely outdoor kitty), you know you signed up to deal with some potty scooping up. For indoor cats, this means cleaning a litter box. The good news? Cats are pretty reliable about going in the box once trained and not around your home. Why do cats spray, though? You may ask this question if you notice small amounts of urine around your pad. You'll want to get to the root cause (and determine if a cat is spraying in the first place) so you can fix the issue and save your sofa and carpet.

Read more
Why do cats hiss? There are actually several reasons for this behavior
Reasons why your kitty makes the infamous cat noise
A close-up of a gray cat hissing

When we think of cat noises, "meows" and "purrs" typically come to mind first. However, despite their reputation as anti-social animals, cats make other sounds. Notably, a cat might hiss — sort of like a snake. A cat's hiss might stop you in your tracks, just as one from a snake might if you encountered the reptile in the wild. Why do cats hiss? Generally, that stop-in-your-tracks reaction from you is precisely what a feline wants — your attention and perhaps you (or another person or animal) to cease whatever they were doing.

A cat hissing can be a bit scary for a person or another animal, and the sound is sometimes a precursor to a physical action like scratching or pouncing. A cat's hiss is often a cat's way of protecting themselves. However, you'll likely want to avoid making a cat hiss. Knowing the reason a cat hisses is an essential first step.

Read more
Why do cats make biscuits? Here’s why your cat kneads
Cat kneading might look strange, but it has a simple explanation
A cat lies on her back kneading

The list of the most adorable things your cat does would have to include purring, meowing, and kneading. But while the first two have obvious causes, you might not fully understand why your kitty makes biscuits. Like so many aspects of pet ownership, you have to look at both the circumstances and your individual animal to get to the bottom of their instincts. The next time you wonder, "Why do cats make biscuits?" — think about their surroundings and nature to figure it out.
What is kneading?
This cat move gets its name because it looks like kneading dough or making biscuits. Generally, cats alternate between their two paws pushing against a soft surface. Not every feline will gravitate to this behavior, and it's a little different for each animal. Be mindful — for some cats, humans are the ideal kneading target. As usual, it all comes down to context, which means you need to pay attention to their knead to determine your cat's inner feelings.

Why do cats make biscuits?
Kneading can have a few different underlying causes, but many of them are about seeking happiness or contentment. However, occasionally, this action indicates something else.
Does your kitty cat exclusively knead around and on you? That might say that they think you're comforting and soft. Careful though, pets can have sharp claws, so if you have a biscuit maker, get them trimmed by the vet.
Most likely, your furry friend picked this up as a baby. Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior consultant, says, "It’s a likely throwback to happy behavior from the days of kittenhood. Kneading is what kittens do when they are nursing to encourage the release of milk from Mom."
When they're extra chill, you might wind up getting pummeled. Remember that your animal's behavior can be controlled with proper training. While it could be instinctual and a source of comfort, you can teach your pet not to knead on you by carefully not rewarding the behavior and redirecting as necessary when they attempt to rub you like dough.
If your animal has not been fixed, making biscuits could be a sign that they want a bun in the oven. This action could also be accompanied by spraying. Similarly, during pregnancy, excessive kneading can indicate that labor is approaching and you're about to have kittens.
Lastly, just like dogs, cats have scent glands in their paws, so they scratch or knead to release their particular aroma. The goal here could be to designate their territory or claim you in particular, especially if there are other beasts in the home.

Read more