Moving the location of a cat's litterbox is a very big change, so you will need a plan before you get started. You should know the main steps of changing the location of your cat's litterbox to make sure it is a smooth transition. Here is everything you need to cover:
Where Are You Moving the Litterbox to?
Moving the litterbox from one room to another is very different than moving it from one floor to another, so the process is going to be different as well. We're going to outline the two versions along with the steps that go into each of them:
Moving the Litterbox to Another Floor
First off, if you live in a house, you should have two litterboxes for your cat, but we'll get to that in the second part of the article. If you want to move the litterbox from the basement to the first floor, you have too much ground that your cat can cover just out of memory. This means that you need the second litterbox for the move.
Make the move gradually
To reduce the stress that comes with moving the litterbox, you have to make the process of it develop gradually over a few days. Here are the main steps:
- Place the second litterbox in the desired new location, but keep the old litterbox in its place.- this way, your cat will have a backup litterbox where it already feels comfortable until it gets accustomed to the new one.
- Show your cat the new litterbox. - this introduction step is very important and your cat may embrace the new location from the very start. Even if it doesn't, you still have to show it where it is several times.
*Some articles advise that you wait until your cat has to urinate and take it to the new litterbox. Others even advise that you take your cat from its old litterbox while it is using it and take it to the new litterbox. We strongly recommend that you do not do that. This is a highly-intrusive and could result in emotional trauma.
- Move the old litterbox closer to the new location. - In our example, take it to the entrance to the basement because it will keep the old litterbox on the route that your cat is used to taking, but show it that something is changing.
- Keep showing your cat the new litterbox, but do not force it into using it. - Perseverance will earn you points in this task, but so will a light touch. Take your cat to the new litterbox and put it inside it only if the cats permits you to do that. If it shows any sign of opposing this, stop right there and let the cat go.
- Close the entrance to the old location of the litterbox and move the old litterbox closer to the new one. - Setting boundaries is very important and one of them is letting your cat know that the old location of the litterbox is no longer available. Placing its old litterbox on the way to the new one will ease the relocation process. You should expect a bit of a protest, so do not be surprised if your cat marks its territory in front of the closed door.
*If the marking persists for more than a week, you may have to think about placing a litterbox there. It is much easier to praise your cat for doing something good (using a litterbox) than scolding it for doing something bad (marking the carpet). There are other ways of making that specific place undesirable, such as placing a litterbox that your cat does not like, which will most likely make it go to the other one.
Has your cat started to use the new litterbox in the new location?
1. Yes - Then you are almost done with the moving process. All you have left to do is remove the old litterbox, leaving the new location as the sole option. As for the litterboxes, you can place both of them in the new location so that your cat feels comfortable. You can then see which one it prefers and keep that one.
2. No - If your cat is using its old litterbox placed in the intermediate location, but refuses to use the new litterbox in the new location, there is a chance that it may not like the box itself. Your next step is to move the old litterbox even closer to the new location, gradually, until you replace the new litterbox with it altogether. New location, same old litterbox, happy cat.
*If your cat stops using the old litterbox as well once you pass a certain point, then you may have to reconsider your choice for the new location. Read about the ideal characteristics of the location of a litterbox below and find a new place to relocate the litterbox.
Moving the Cat's Litterbox to Another Room
If the distance is short, like from one room to another, then the process will be much easier. We still recommend a second litterbox for the process, but it can be done without it as well.
Making the move without a second litterbox
This is obviously the quickest way to make the move and the steps are pretty straightforward. If you want to move your cat's litterbox without using a second box, then here is what you have to do:
- Place the litterbox in the new location.
- Close the entrance to the old location and keep it closed for the following days. - This way, your cat won't have a choice and it will have to go to the new place.
- Show your cat where you put the litterbox. - You will have to do this several times for it to sink in. Rest assured that your cat will remember where the litterbox it, the question remains whether or not it will want to use it.
If your cat accepts the new location, then the moving process should go smoothly. However, if it does not accept it, you should expect protests. Here are only a few ways this can manifest itself:
- Your cat can mark the place right in front of the old location, presuming it is still closed off.
- If the old location is available, it can go and mark the territory there.
- It can urinate or defecate outside the litterbox (in the new location) as a sign of protest. If this type of behavior persists and your cat does not accept the new location of the litterbox in a week or more, then you may want to consider finding a new location. Traumas caused by litterboxes can lead to behavior issues in cats. If you can prevent these, then you are well-advised to.
Making the move with a second litterbox
Using a second litterbox might make the process smoother, even if you are moving it to another room. Here are the steps you want to take:
- Place the new litterbox in the new location and leave the old one where it is.
- Show your cat the new litterbox and let it get used to it, stress-free. - Exactly as we described for big moves, having the old litterbox in the place that your cat is already familiar with will reduce the stress of the transition.
- Move the old litterbox outside the room of the old location. - This will show your cat that there is a change coming, but it will ease it into the process.
- Close the door to the old location. - This will show your cat that the old location of the litterbox is no longer an option.
- Keep showing your cat the new litterbox. - Repetition is key and, eventually, your cat will take the hint, so keep showing it where the new litterbox is without forcing it into using it. Be perseverant, but not intrusive.
- Make the new location the only option - Either by placing both litterboxes in the new location or by keeping just one of them there, make the new location the only option for your cat. This will show it that this is the new place for it to go.
As for the version with the second litterbox, there is a chance that your cat will not like it. This means that it will protest for a while. If this type of behavior persists, then you may want to reconsider the new location you have chosen. But what makes a good place for the litterbox?
The Do's and Don'ts of Litterboxes
Choosing the correct place for your litterbox has a great impact on the relationship that your cat has with it. A good place will generate a healthy relationship, while a bad place can cause litterbox mishaps, emotional trauma, and even chronic issues of the urinary tract in your cat. Here are the Do's and Don'ts of litterboxes:
What kind of litterbox to choose?
- Do - Open litter boxes are ideal - In these, a cat can see everything in every direction, which will make it feel calm. Moreover, it will not feel secluded or pressured inside, which should help your cat accept the litterbox easily.
- Do - Closed litterboxes must have at least two openings - to avoid traumatizing the cat, make sure your cat has at least two entrances. This will make it feel less confined when it is using it
- Don't - Closed litterboxes with only one entrance - These can trigger a claustrophobic reaction in your cat. While the top makes it much easier for you, it makes the litterbox a hostile space for your cat. Some cat owners place these next to walls and sometimes even facing a wall, making it quite a dark scary place for the cat. If there are two cats using this type of litterbox, then one of them may end up trapped inside by the other, which can be a very traumatic experience, so it is best to avoid it.
How many litterboxes per household?
The ideal number of litterboxes that you should have in the house is 1 per cat plus one extra. That means two litterboxes for one cat, three litterboxes for two cats, four litterboxes for three cats, and so on.
Having spare litterboxes for your cats will help them feel more comfortable and it will also prevent them from fighting over the litterbox. If you live in a house, you should have one litterbox on every floor.
- Do - Place the litterboxes in separate places in your home - makes sure the cats can territorially identify the entire home by placing the litterboxes in different rooms.
- Don't - Place the litterboxes one next to the other - This might encourage fighting over litterboxes and could prove to be inefficient for one of the cats.
Best Places for Litterboxes
- Do - Place the litterbox in a quiet low-traffic area where your cat can have some privacy - Some cats get shy when they use the litterbox, so make sure it is not in an area where people walk around a lot. This could make your cat feel uncomfortable.
- Do - Place it in socially important areas of the house - while we want to keep these hidden, cats are not embarrassed when they have to go use the litterbox. Put it somewhere they can easily go to, where they have direct access to. You should choose a spot that is close to where they spend most of their time. If they have to go up or down two flights of stairs to get to the litterbox, it is not a good place.
- Do - Place it in an area that is well light and welcoming - the litterbox should be placed in an area of the house where the cat feels safe. Dark places like unlighted basements and garages will make the cat avoid the litterbox until the very last moment.
- Don't - Place it in an area that is not always available to them - it is very important that the cat can go to the litterbox at all times. Don't put it in a room that is closed for part of the day, such as a bathroom that may be closed when you are at work.
- Don't - Place it in loud areas - such as near the washing machine - loud noises are a big stressor for cats, as any cat owner who owns a vacuum knows. Placing the litterbox in an area with loud noises will create pressure for the cat in those moments when it should be calm.
- Don't - Place it in an area with lots of heat - the temperature will worsen the smell of the used litter, which is something you want to avoid. You will be bothered by the smell and your cat will be distressed by it. Cats are clean animals and they will protest if they have to use a bad-smelling litterbox.
*Regarding the smell, do not deodorize the litterbox with products like plug-in air fresheners because these can be very difficult for your cat. Cleaning the litterbox on a regular basis will keep the smell to a minimum.
- Don't - Place it next to the cat's food - cats are very clean animals and they will certainly not like it if you place their litterbox next to their food, so be sure to avoid that because it will affect their diet.
Why Is It Important that Your Cat Has a Good Relationship with the Litterbox?
From choosing the right litterbox to finding the ideal spot to place it in and all the way to going through the entire moving process, everything is important when it comes to litterboxes because your cat should feel entirely comfortable to use it. Here are a few reasons why:
This is usually the first step of an unhealthy litterbox routine. If your cat gets scared or goes through a traumatic episode involving the litterbox, such as getting trapped inside a box with a single opening or getting constantly interrupted while urinating, it will have a reaction to it. Part of it will be behavioral and that stress will be relieved in another way, such as scratching the couch or marking the carpet. The other part of it will be the long-term effect of a stressful relationship with a litterbox, which is urinary tract issues.
Stress Bladder and Chronic Urinary Tract Illnesses
When cats avoid using the litterbox for a prolonged amount of time (weeks to months), they may develop stress bladder. This means that they will have a new urination pattern. They will avoid using the litterbox for as long as possible and when they do, they will try to urinate as quickly as possible. This leads to the incomplete evacuation of the urine in the bladder, which in time can lead to chronic illnesses of the urinary tract.
Chronic Digestive Issues
If a cat will avoid using the litterbox, it will also have a precarious defecation pattern. It will be bloated and constipated for an extended period of time, which could lead to chronic issues of the digestive tract over the years.
While it might seem extremely simple, as you can see, changing the location of your cat's litterbox is a much more complex matter than it seems at first. We hope our guide is useful to you and that your transition process goes smoothly. Have you tried any of the methods we mentioned? Do you have any more suggestions? Tell us all about your experience in the comments section below.