Baby vs. the Litter Box

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Cat litter box a mess, baby will be crawling soon

July 2003

I love my cats but truly hate the litter box. My 2 cats share a litter box and I've tried everything to contain the litter/smell/and mess. They are masters of tracking litter outside the box and spreading the granules (we use the non- scoopable type) all over the floor. And the smell! Now that my life is busier I just can't seem to get to the litter box. Now that I have a 7 month old, I'm paranoid that when she starts crawling she'll get some of these litter granules all over her and worse yet, put some of them in her mouth. Any advice for what to do? much help needed

Unless there's a reason why you haven't before, try the clumping litter -- it REALLY helps! Chirsitne

Here's my recommendation for your litterbox situation 1) buy a litterbox with a lid 2) buy a good clumping cat litter 3) buy one of those mats you put in front of the opening to the litter box so the cats will step on it when leaving the box 3) clean out the cat box AT LEAST once a day (twice is best)

The litterboxes with lids have an odor-absorping square (replaceable) in the lids, and I find they work wonderfully with clumping cat litter. As long as I clean the box out once a day, catbox odor is not a problem!

Good luck... from a fellow cat-lover

Without knowing the space configuration of your home or the habits of your cats, here are some suggestions

Get a second (or even third) alternate/rotating litterbox, of medium size (big enough so the cats don't feel squished, small enough for you to handle without strain). Put about two inches of litter, no more, in the box. Place the box on a larger ''doormat'' (the kind with plastic nubbies, or a plush/shag carpet fragment) to catch the granules from the cat's feet when they exit the box. Shake the mat out outside as needed to keep the granules from clogging/spilling.

Whenever you notice poop in the box, immediately take a plastic baggy (from supermarket produce), put your hand in it, grab up the poop, turn the bag inside out, knot it off, and dispose.

Every morning when there's any promise of sun at all (or even heat through the clouds), take the used/wet box outside (lawn, driveway, trashcan area, whatever) and angle it to maximize its exposure to direct sun for as long as possible -- this will dry and deodorize the wet litter. If the litter is not too thick, the sun should bake all the way through, especially if you can stir it partway through the day.

This might sound like a lot of work but if you set up your space and materials efficiently and go about it matter-of-factly, this routine should help a lot. Another benefit is that the sun-drying technique can save you money on litter (and help the environment) by replacing it less often (maybe once a week rather than twice?).

Good luck! Let us know if this works for you! Willie's & Andy's mom

I presume you are already using a litter box with a hood. If not, get one. Secondly, try using the scoopable litter, and in particular the low-track kind (we use Ever Clean). Third, make sure you have one of those rubber pads at the entrance of the litter box, so that when the cats come out most of the litter will be caught there. Finally, you may want to put some floor mats or kitchen rugs at the door(s) that go into the room where the litter box is. That will help catch some of the litter that sticks to the cats (or your feet/shoes). Of course, none of this will prevent all of the litter from getting all over the place.

Still, once your baby starts crawling around you'll find you'll have more time to do house work, and you can use that time for sweeping the litter off the floors ) I got myself a Shark electric broom, and I couldn't be happier with it. It's ideal not only for picking up litter, but cheerios and other assorted things she drops on the floor. anon

First off, you absolutely have to clean out a litter box daily, not only for your comfort and safety, but for the cat's as well! It's disgusting, but it only takes a few minutes and can be made pretty easy.

When I had a litter box and the same problems, I got a hood/cover for it, I duct-taped up a curtain over the entrance of thick clear plastic to help stop the kicked litter from going out (important to make it so it's easy for the cat to go in and out), and I put a little carpet scrap doormat just outside to help remove some of the litter from their paws which I shook off daily. I also kept a Dust Buster right next to the box to make it very easy to clean up the litter that did get on the floor and I kept a litter scoop and a supply of plastic bags nearby. anon

I bought a litter box with a lid that rolls on its side. All the litter and waste falls through a grid, and the waste stays in a litte tray when you roll it back. You just pull out the tray to empty it. It's so easy that I often roll it over and empty it whenever I'm in the bathroom, so it gets done pretty freqently. I keep an empty tissue box stuffed with plastic bags nearby, which also helps. I believe I got the litter box at Pet Express on Martin Luther King and University. It's gray plastic and comes in two sizes. For two cats the large size is probably best.

I just discovered a scoopable litter that's very finely textured and doesn't track much. It also doesn't seem to smell as much as others. It's by Arm & Hammer and I think is called Super Scoop, or something like that. It comes in a bright orange box. I love scoopable litter because it's so easy to remove both urine and solid waste and it doesn't get gummy. Good luck! Kathy

Since 1998, I have used several versions of the ''purrfect privy''. It's essentially a cabinet for the cat litter box with a clever system for keeping litter in the box. It also keeps babies out of the cat litter ! My very active 2 year old has never managed to get into the box, even though he has been very interested in it since he started crawling at 7 months ! It also is not so bad looking (some guests have thought it was a stereo cabinet). You can find the info and order it at the company's website http//

The woman who owns it and runs the customer service is very helpful and provided good advice when I needed to switch from the ''2-story'' version to the lower version for my older and quite large tom cat.

As for smells Try scoopable litter (e.g., Everclean, especially the anti-bacterial or odor control versions). It is better at containing the smell, and it is also easier to simply scoop out the mess rather than cleaning the entire litter box out which you have to do for non-scoopable litter. In addition, while I know that it's *really hard* with a baby around to find the time for this, if you want to avoid the smell you really do need to scoop every few days. cat lover

I finally invested in the electric kitty box about six months ago and it really works! No odor with three cats, but I do empty it most every day. They were $200, but online you usually can find it around $136. I also have the tent which covers the unit. I highly recommend the unit. For any additional info you can email or call me at 650.637.1087 Mary V

I suspect your kittys don't like a dirty box either and could develop some even messier ways of letting you best to tackle this one quickly!

First, get a box with a removable lid - like a little private room for the kitties. It will cut down on kicked out litter. Second, get the best clumping litter you can afford -costo's brand is pretty good. The clumping litter will cut down most of the odor and mess. And make it easy to keep the box clean. Urine will not pool in the bottom of the box, and less litter will get tracked. Third, develop a daily ''cleaning the box'' routine, like first thing in the morning, early, and get it over with. Use plastic bags, such as the ones from the newspaper, or produce bags,and a good solid wide scooper. Also, sweep the area around the box at the same time in the morning. Get a little broom with a long handled dustpan - easier on the back - these are great, i can't live without mine. (Bed,Bath Beyond carries them)

We have two indoor cats and zero smell. The cats track litter minimally. My kids are teenagers now, but we had 2 and 3 indoor cats throughout their infancy and whole lives and they never ate cat litter. The work involved in having pets is a big burden, I know, but the lessons in love, gentleness, kindness and responsibility that come from having a pet easily outweigh the work. Good luck! Debby

Instead of regular litter, I use organic oatmeal or some other grain. I put a garbage bag in the litter box, which has a snap on top, and then snap the top on. When there is a big poop, I take it out, but there is still an odor. Anon

It's expensive, but I recommend the Litter Maid, available for about $100 at Target. Basically, it's an electronic, self- scooping litter box. The cat goes im and takes care of business; 10 minutes later, a rake goes through the box and deposits it into a waste container.

We have 2 cats, and we change the container about every 3-4 days. The replacement containers are also available at Target or pet stores.

It's not completely perfect--Occasionally, it will ''jam''--but you hear that the rake can't complete it's cycle and then just scoop it out. Also, you have to use self-clumping litter. We use Fresh step scoop and it works pretty well. HOWEVER, it really is pretty effecient, especially if you just don't want to think about it at all.

There's still some litter on the floor near the box--is it possible for you to put a gate up near the box so the baby can't get near it? Jennifer

Two thoughts we gated off our dining room where our treasured books, china and crystal, parrot, cats' water and food (a favorite off-limits toddler treat) and, during the wet season, litterbox reside. We found that installing the gate was much less hassle than attempting to child-proof the room, whihc we call the grown-up room.

The rest of the year, our cats have outdoor access to our decks (via a cat door, available at Home Depot), where we put a good-sized dog house containing a high-walled litterbox. It fits quite nicely against the back wall of the house, leaving a good 12-18'' space between the exit and the box inside. The floor of the dog house is lined with a cheapo Ikea woven sisel mat, and we find this catches much of the litter as the cats exit the box; the roof snaps off for easy scooping access.

This idea may work inside if you have the space, and it prevents kids from just reaching into the cat box as well. Be sure to get the biggest box you can afford if you're having trouble getting to scooping the litter daily, or you'll have a more offensive mess than litter crumbs on your hands! --baby mama with tidy cats

We had that problem and solved it overnight by getting one of those litterboxes with the top on it, like a little house. They have a filtered vent on top which allows air circulation without allowing the smell to get out much. And it solves the problem of grit being kicked out all the time, which was what drove me nuts.

About tracking the grit out there's not much you can do about that, but I have had a little luck with putting the litterbox on a rattan mat, with plenty of mat sticking out in front, where they climb out. This seems to ''grab'' the grit off their feet, and I can go vacuum it whenever I want; it also keeps it from moving around and spreading across the floor. You can get one of these mats for 99 cents at Ikea, or home depot has some that don't have the grippy bottom (which I like, they don't slide around that way). Good luck! pooper scooper

I don't recall the original post, but I've seen the responses. My friend uses a large flat plastic container that she uses for the litter box. (The container can be bought at Target in the containers/plastics area that one usually uses for storage of odds and ends and can fit under the bed since it's flat.) This litter box is kept in the bathtub. The cats go there to do their business and the litter stays contained in the tub. Also, our tenant put a regular litter box with a ''roof'' in the tub too. Anon

Hi, I have been watching the digest to see if anyone else suggested this first... try toilet training your cat. Many people who live with cats in confined spaces (like boats or mobile homes) train their cats to use the open toilet bowl. This completely eliminates the use of liter and the mess you complain of. I am sure that it is described in a book somewhere more completely, but here is my understanding of the process. First move the liter box to the top of the toilet lid. Then over a period of weeks you replace the litter box with a pie tin on the lid. After a few more weeks place the pie tin in the rim. After a few more weeks punch holes in the tin so that the liter decreases with scratching. Gradually make those holes bigger until you can remove the pie tin entirely. We have though about doing this with our cat as her preferred location for urinating is in the bathroom sink, but I haven't tried it yet. Rose

Want a new cat but worried about messy litter box

Sept 2002

Hi. Our very old cat died recently and my husband now says no more cats. I've always had cats (and dogs) and to a greater or larger degree had trouble with litter box issues. My husband says no more because the last two cats we've had have had really poor litter box hygiene - tracking litter all over the house, going outside the box, flinging poo on the walls... The last one, as he got older started going all over the house and had to become an outdoor cat in what should've been his golden years. We have a crawler and a toddler and two big dogs which makes cleanliness especially important. In our current house we don't have a good place for a litter box unless the cat was really good at keeping litter contained in the box. Should I just give up having a cat for a few years or does anyone know of any breeds of cat that are particuluarly fastidious with regard to the litter box? And yes, we do clean and scoop daily and yes the animals were checked by veterinarians. thanks for breed suggestions in advance.

I solved this problem by getting a very deep litter box (really a plastic storage box from Target). The cat can dig till her hearts content and much less litter ends up outside the box. Until they are really old, they will have no problems jumping into the box. jennifer

I have a main coon, and he is one of the smartest cats I've ever owned, he was even learning how to use the toilet (you start by putting a little pan of kitty litter on the bowl), but my other cat went bonkers so the experiment had to end, but I think he would have eventually used the toilet with no litter on top. Other than finding the right breed, I would suggest only having one cat, they are territorial animals and multi cat households have more problems with the litter box. Also there is a flushing cat box, but I don't really know how well it works. But it might be worth finding out. april

Cats are rolling pearls around for baby to eat

August 2001

I know that this is an awfully strange request, but I am at my wits end. We are currently using pearls in our cat box. They work very well at absorbing the urine and the smell and lasts a long time. The only problem is that we find the pearls all over the house. The cats play with them and chase them as they roll around our home! Our baby is crawling and I don't want her to eat them, as she manages to do with everything else she finds... I know that they make some that aren't supposed to roll, but my friends who use them say that even they make it all over the house. I would love any suggestions you might have for aww.4d type of kitty litter. Thanks! Michelle

I had the same problem with the pearls and my newly crawling baby. I actually found the pearls in his mouth several times, and once, a shattered pearl! The container says Non Toxic, but that wasn't reassuring enough. I went back to regular, cheap clay litter, and now use cat box liners and just toss the whole thing twice a week or so. It doesn't seem to get tracked around nearly as much, and I'd bet I'm spending less in the process. I loved the idea of the pearls, but the reality didn't work out as well. Jennie

We had the same problem with the 'pearls' kitty littler rolling all over the house. We tried the alternative shaped 'pearls' which did not roll as much but still found litter all over the house (it got stuck between the cat's toes). With a baby in the house we decided that we could not deal with having litter on the floor for him to munch on. So, we switched to Yesterday's News (recycled newspaper) or Cat Country. Both are pellets and both need to be changed very frequently - they are not nearly as remarkable in urine and odor absorption as the pearls. But, they do not get all over the house and are environmentally friendly. For us it was a trade off. We clean the litter very often and can sometimes smell the cat box (nothing too offensive), but our baby is not eating cat litter. Good luck in your search for the perfect cat litter! Siana

The kind carried by Trader Joe's is the best we've found, and it's quite inexpensive. It is made of compressed sawdust, so it's ecologically sound, and it's flushable. And the cats don't find it as fun to play with as the pearls, so it doesn't get spread around the house as much Nomi

My personal preference after trying numerous brands is Ever Fresh which unfortunately used to be at Target, but now is ONLY at Petco at South Shore shopping center in Alameda. (I even called the company to see if I could get it closer or delivered.) It comes in 30lb plastic containers. I go out of my way for it because the granulation is just right: not too fine which sticks to the cat's feet and is dusty, and not too coarse. Also, it really is orderless and easily clumping. I have a 21 year old cat (yes!) with kidney disease which necessitates cleaning the litter box at least once daily; so I really am well acquainted with litter! victoria

We use cedar chips for our cats and we love 'em. The smell is nice, there isn't lots of dust, and they don't track around the house *too* much. Our cats like them fine but some cats may not like the smell. It's not the fancy scoopable/flushable stuff but it's pretty darn cheap -- less than $3 for a bag that can fill the cat box 2 or 3 times. We never flush the stuff anyway -- just change the whole box often. I think most people use this stuff for rabbit or bird cages, but after trying loads of different, very expensive, cat litter, we decided this stuff filled all our needs at the right price. --Colleen