In developed countries, pet cats are commonly kept indoors, with limited or noaccess to outdoor areas. Indoor cats must use litter boxes to urinate anddefecate but if cats do not like their litter box, they may urinate ordefecate in inappropriate places, which is a concern for cat owners, a commonreason for veterinary consultations and a reason why cats are surrendered toshelters. Thus, providing cats with litter boxes that meet their needs isimperative, but the importance of an appropriate litter box is usuallyunderestimated.

This French study investigated cats’ litter box preferences in desexed catskept indoors with no access to outdoor areas in a single pet household. Twotrials were conducted each lasting 28 days; the first involved 13 cats inwhich cat owners placed two litter boxes (one covered with no door and oneuncovered) side by side in the same room. The litter boxes were of equalsurface size. The second trial involved 12 cats with a similar protocol, butthis time the uncovered litter box had a smaller surface area compared to thecovered litter box. Every day, the presence of faeces and/or urine in thelitter boxes was recorded.

Results from this study indicated that cats have a clear litter box preferenceand maintain that preference over time. Cats utilised the covered litter boxessignificantly more than small-size uncovered litter boxes, and their choicewas not influenced by sex nor by the type of litter box used before the study.This study indicates that most cats preferred covered litter boxes rather thanuncovered litter boxes and cat owners should consider this information whenselecting a litter box for their cats.

Beugnet V, Beugnet F (2019) Field assessment in single-housed cats oflitterbox type (covered/uncovered) preferences for defecation. Journal ofVeterinary Behavior 36:65-69.

Reported in RSPCA Animal Welfare Science Update

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