Many cat owners wonder if their cats will share a litter box. Maybe you’re thinking you won’t have enough space in your home for multiple boxes. You might be thinking that it’s easier to clean one box rather than two. But will the kitties be happy to share? Here's the answer, based on our expertise - and research!
While cats will share a litter box if only one is available, you should still give your cats options. It's important to have numerous litter boxes available. Ideally, you should always have plenty of litter boxes available for your cats. While a cat will use the same litter box as another cat, it’s not a good idea for them to do so. The reason for this is cats are possessive and territorial by nature.
Keep reading to learn why it’s best to have more than one litter tray available, how many litter boxes you should have, and ways to encourage your cats to use separate litter boxes.
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How many cats per litter box?
The recommended ratio of litter boxes per pet is one litter box for each cat you have plus one extra. You can read more about this formula in our guide: How many litter boxes per cat should you have.
While cats will share a litter box, it’s best to offer more. This helps to avoid possible problems such as aggressive behavior among your pets. If you live with multiple cats, you may notice they seem to prefer sharing one litter box. That's fine - as long as the cats are ok with that.
However, if the cats are uncomfortable with sharing this precious resource and end up having to wait for the litter box to be vacated - this can ultimately result in urinating outside of the litter tray.
For example, if you have two cats residing in your home, you should have three litter boxes. Yes, that’s right, three. One litter box for each cat and one extra box. This will allow for each cat to have the bathroom privacy they require (let’s be honest, no one wants to use one toilet at the same time) plus one extra, just in case.
Additionally, these litter boxes should be kept in separate areas to avoid any potential conflict. Even if you have one cat, you should still have more than one litter box available for your pet, in a different location, should they need to use it.
Why multiple litter boxes are important
We know your cats’ comfort is important to you. By giving your cat’s separate areas for their bathroom business, they’ll be able to feel at home and happy in their surroundings.
Also, cats don’t use their litter boxes only to eliminate waste. They may also use their litter box as a space to retreat. If your cats are required to share a litter tray, they may be forced to confront each other when seeking time alone which might result in an unfortunate conflict.
By offering multiple litter boxes for refuge and privacy, you’re giving your cats options and freedom.
Not only is having multiple litter boxes comfortable for your pet cat, but it also has increased benefits for you!
Cats who use a shared litter box that frequently will fill it with excrement quickly, even if you clean it daily. Simple clean-up and decreased odors are a bonus when using multiple litter boxes rather than using one shared litter tray. We think that’s a win-win!
While your cat may willingly share a litter box, they are some disadvantages to them doing so. Not only for your pets but you as well.
It’s possible for cats who share a litter box to become aggressive with each other. In essence, they're competing over a resource here.
You might notice social aggression (hissing, growling, swatting, chasing or even fighting). You may see territorial marking around your home (spraying outside of the box, defecating on the rug). Avoid aggressive behavior by making multiple litter boxes available. Don't subject your pets to threatening situations and support a safe environment.
And by the way, having more resources available in a multiple-cat household is always a good idea. Have enough food dishes, sleep space and of course, attention from you - to go around.
It can be difficult to track each cat's health issues if they share a litter box. If you notice loose stools in a litter box of multiple cats, it will be hard to distinguish which cat might be ill. Also, if one cat does become sick, they can transfer illnesses through feces in the litter box.
To avoid any spread of infection between your pets, it's best each cat has its separate litter box. Should you be required to quarantine your sick cat until they get better, they’ll be well adjusted to their litter box.
Additionally, cats are attracted to some scents just as others deter them. While they may share a litter box out of necessity, they will eventually be put off by another cat’s scent. Regardless of how clean the litter tray is, your cat's nose is highly sensitive, and they can detect smells we humans don't notice.
Lingering odors can result in your cat finding an alternative space to relieve themselves, such as a rug or a hidden corner in your home.
Read more: How to Get Rid of Litter Box Smell
It is normal for some cats to share one litter box with another (or many) cats.
Like us humans, all cats have different personalities, quirks, likes, and dislikes. While some may not have any issues sharing their litter box, others may immediately react negatively to the offense.
Your cat may seem okay with sharing for one week, but the next may seek an alternative outside of the shared litter tray. So, remember to always offer alternatives. Sharing the box should be a choice - not something forced on the cats in question.
How to encourage the use of separate litter boxes
If you notice tension developing between your cats or they are fighting and experiencing issues with each other, it might be because they are sharing litter boxes. There are a few things you can check and correct which will encourage your cats to use separate litter boxes.
You likely have a favorite brand or style of shoe because they fit you just right. Well, your cat has preferences too! They may prefer one type of litter over another because of the consistency. Or, due to your cats’ size, they may like the open litter box as opposed to a covered box.
If possible, once you’ve determined your cat's likes and dislikes, try having two of the same litter boxes held in different areas of your home. Introduce each cat to their specific litter box by gently placing their paws in the litter box and allow them time to adapt to their new setting.
Keep both litter boxes clean. If you've scooped all excrement from the litter trays and notice they still prefer one box over the other, this could be because of lingering smells. It's essential to regularly deep clean both litter trays, scrubbing with water, a mild detergent, as well as baking soda.
If one litter box is in an area that experiences significantly more foot traffic than the other, your cat might feel too exposed. Your pets may avoid using this bathroom due to a lack of privacy. If you notice a litter box is in a place that is much noisier than the other, your cat may feel frightened or threatened and may avoid using it.
Avoid keeping your cat's litter boxes in one room if possible. We understand that space might be an issue, try your best to have separate areas for your cats to avoid problems between your pets. A good practice is to have litter trays in different rooms and then one extra in the middle.
You may need to retrain your cat(s) to use the correct litter box. Some pet owners find this necessary after their cat recovers from an illness or they experience a big life change. A few things you can do are:
- Keep food away from the litter box. Pets do not like to combine their dining area with their bathroom area.
- Show your cat that it’s their litter box. Place them inside the box and teach them by gently scratching their paw in the litter and against the inside of the litter tray. Never do that against the cat's will. If Kitty resists, let go and let her find the box in her own time.
If your cats seem okay sharing litter boxes, you don't need to force them otherwise. You can offer alternatives to them and keep options accessible and available.
Best litter boxes for multiple cats
Whether your cats choose to share a litter box, despite being offered multiple, or they staunchly prefer separate boxes, there are a couple of factors you’ll want to keep in mind when purchasing a litter box.
Important factors are the base depth, overall size, and easy exit and entry. Here are a few of our top picks:
A highly-rated option, this litter box is deep enough for multiple-cat use and affordable enough for you to purchase one for each cat plus an extra one for "just in case."
This litter box is an Amazon favorite for many pet owners of multiple. The carbon filters help keep pet odors to a minimum. It also has a hood that can be easily removed for cleaning or if you notice your cats prefer to use the bathroom with the hood down. Your cats will each love having personal sanctuaries in different corners of your home.
Cleanliness is critical when it comes to litter boxes, especially when it comes to multiple cats. This litter tray prevents leaks and spills and has a lid that provides quick access for easy cleaning. The top also offers three coverage options to suit each cat's privacy preference.
Save your cats any unnecessary stress and strained relationships, offer multiple litter boxes and in turn, encourage good behavior. Remember, a good rule of thumb when it comes to litter boxes is the total number of cats you have plus one.
Read more -
12 Best self-cleaning litter boxes
The 10 types of litter boxes every cat owner should know.