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Like his ancestor, the African Wildcat, your cat has survival instincts to help keep him safe from predators and competitor cats. As appealing as a covered litter box seems to you, using one goes against your cat’s natural survival instincts. Removing the lids from your cat’s litter boxes will help nurture feelings of safety, ultimately curbing his urge to eliminate where he is less likely to be trapped.
Not only will uncovered boxes provide your cat with a good escape route and an improved sense of safety when using the box, they will also prevent the smelly Porta-Potty effect, as the inherent lack of air flow in covered boxes keeps urine and stool moist and extra stinky. With a cat’s keen sense of smell, this can prove unbearable. A box that is covered can cause some cats to not visit the box to urinate as often as they should (generally 3 – 4 times a day). It’s not healthy for your cat to hold his urine. Sooner or later, the velvet sofa will become a great alternate litter box site to your cat.
When possible, be sure to locate the uncovered litter boxes in open and easily accessible areas where your cat has a good vantage point of the environment and several escape routes. Safety outweighs the need for privacy in most cats, but there are cats who prefer a more private or even hidden location to eliminate. Instead of having covered boxes, locate uncovered litter boxes in private areas. If you must have covered litter boxes in specific areas of your home, make sure you give your cat choices by also providing uncovered boxes in other areas.
When it comes to cats and their environment, looking at the world through their eyes and understanding what falls in line with their natural instincts will help ensure a happy and healthy cat. As always, if your cat is urinating in locations other than the litter box, schedule an appointment with your cat’s vet to rule out health issues.
Who is Mieshelle Nagelschneider?
Meet Mieshelle Nagelschneider, ACCBC, a cat behaviorist and author of the science-based cat behavior book, The Cat Whisperer (Random House Publishing). Her passion and curiosity about cats, along with her study in animal behavior, has enabled her to help thousands of cat owners solve their cats' behavior issues for over two decades.
Learn more at The Cat Behavior Clinic, and look for her book later in 2013!