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Litter Box Choices

With the increasing popularity of cats as pets, there have been many developments in the accessories we can get to help make their lives, and ours, much happier and more convenient.

Litter boxes, for example, have come a long way from the simple, plastic rectangle filled with plain old sand. Now you can find boxes in many shapes, sizes and colors, as well as other litter disposal and handling mechanisms and systems.

In the "plain old box" category, if you want a little variety, you can get a triangular pan to fit in a corner, or one with high sides for those energetic cats who like to shovel the sand around for five minutes, looking like a badger digging a hole.

The hooded pans, with removable covers, can help hide things a bit, as well as contain the odors to a small extent. Perhaps one of the best features of a covered pan, though, is the fact that it keeps the sand inside the box, no matter how vigorously your cat likes to paw around in there... unless he aims for the entrance, of course.

In the inexpensive category, the box I like best is the sifting pan. It comes with two litter pans, nested, with a third pan on top that has a lattice bottom. When the sand is ready to be sifted, you simply lift up the top pan, jiggling it as you lift, and dump the solids into a waiting bag or can, leaving "clean" sand behind. Place the latticed pan into the bottom pan and nest it underneath the top pan. When it's time to clean the sand again, just lift the pan out, and pour the sand into the bottom pan, collecting the solids in the lattice pan in the process. Clean the dirty one and place it under the stack, ready for the next round. This cycle is repeated until the sand is exhausted, then is simply replaced. No scooping!

If you are willing and able, the more expensive options include the various electric, self-sifting pans. Using sensors, these pans "wake up" after the cat has left, activating a rake or screen that moves through the sand, dumping the collected solids into a reservoir. Simply pull the little drawer out, empty it into a bag, if the system hasn't already done that step, and throw it away.

The most expensive system I've seen is the one that integrates with a toilet in the home. Somehow, it rinses the sand (using special crystals, not regular sand, by the way) and dries it out, flushing the wastes away in the toilet. You never have to touch anything or carry anything to the trash. It's the ultimate litter system.

No matter which system you choose, it's essential to keep litter boxes clean. The most frequent complaint about house cats is what's called "inappropriate elimination," or, not using the litter box. And the most frequent reason they avoid the box is that it's not clean enough.

Find a litter box that is easy to use and fits your budget and you'll find your cat behaving better in your home.

Dr. R.J. Peters established a shelter in 2002 and has rescued and worked with hundreds of cats. To see more litter pan options, visit

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