Litter Boxes and Kittens
By Gina Spadafori
A box full of clay or even garden dirt used to be about the extent of your choices, but the array of filler types, boxes and disposal systems can make your head spin. What kind of box should I buy? What kind of filler? Clumping, flushable, scented, unscented, biodegradable, expensive, inexpensive?
Here's what to remember: In the end, it's your kitten's opinion that counts most. Kittens and cats can be pretty particular about their box, and if they don't like it (or you don't keep it clean) they'll go elsewhere. Still, your cat may be flexible enough for your opinion to weigh in. There's no shortage of alternatives out there, so if an allergy or a personal preference makes one kind kind of filler or box unworkable, just keep looking.
The most common type of cat-box filler is clay, either clumping or unclumping. Clumping has become increasingly popular, both with owner and, if the Cornell Feline Health Center is correct, with cats. The advantage to "clumping" filler is that when wet, they form lumps that can be removed from the box with a slotted scooper -- or with various kinds of rakes, sieves and automatic sifters. Some forms of clumping litter can be flushed down a toilet (although not into a septic system), others cannot. Be sure to read the package.
Some people don't like clay litters, and they can be rather heavy when wet, so you might want to try a different kind of litter. Some of your choices are listed at http://www.sonic.net/~marina/articles/natural.html, a noncommercial site listing different kinds of cat litter, with "mini-reviews" of them. Note, however, that while it wouldn't hurt to avoid clumping fillers until your kitten is out of the "taste everything once" stage, no scientific evidence exists that clumping cat-box filler is dangerous for your kitten. Still, it's your decision.
Again, lots of choices. Be sure, though, that the sides of whatever box you get are not too high for the kitten to easily get in and out. One sign of this might be that the kitten is urinating or defecating just outside the box, often in spilled litter. Many boxes come with a side that is lower than the others; this can be a good choice for a kitten. Another open for a small kitten is an old shallow baking pan.
There are new systems that are designed to be self-cleaning. Some use an absorbent pad that has to be disposed of, others use filtering systems involving sand, pebbles, or other materials. One much-hyped one automatically rakes out the clumps. If you do try one of these systems, be sure and follow the instructions exactly.