Five Steps to Litter Tray Success

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  • At a glance

    1. Choose the right size litter tray
    2. Litter tray location
    3. Type of cat litter
    4. Keeping trays clean
    5. Number of litter trays


    One of the many reasons cats are so popular is their cleanliness. When their needs are met, the overwhelming majority of them will use a litter tray and not your new rug. The key to success is creating an environment where the litter tray is the preferred option.

    Related: Cat litter-finding the right type Choosing a litter tray

    Litter tray size

    The size of the litter tray should reflect the size of the cat. As a guide the litter tray should be 1.5 times the length of the cat. A small kitten cannot be expected to climb into a large tray with high sides, just as a large adult cat cannot be expected to squeeze into a small litter tray.

    Litter tray too small
    This litter tray is clearly too small and is an accident waiting to happen

    Storage containers are a popular choice for litter trays because they are inexpensive and the high sides help to keep cat litter contained in the tray. These types of trays are fine for older kittens and adults, but babies and senior cats will have trouble climbing in and out. Therefore a tray with low sides is better.


    The litter tray should be within easy reach, in a low-traffic area and away from food and water bowls (nobody wants to eat near a toilet, that includes cats). If you have a multi-story home, place a litter tray on each level.

    Cats like to know they have an escape route, so don’t jam a litter tray into a corner, particularly if there are multiple pets in the home. The cat needs to feel safe when eliminating or will find somewhere else. Ideally, the cat should have unobstructed views of the entire room but still have some privacy, such as a quiet corner in a spare room or dining room.

    Avoid moving the litter tray around as this can cause confusion and create issues.

    Can I put two litter boxes next to each other?

    If you have a multi-cat home, it is better to place litter trays in separate locations. Cats view litter trays lined up next to each other as one giant toilet. If there are multiple spots, in multiple locations, cats can avoid crossing paths and they have the option of choosing a preferred location.

    Ideal locations

    • A large room in a corner so that the cat has an escape route, but some privacy.
    • Multiple trays in multi-cat homes, and at least one tray on each level of the house.
    • Avoid high-traffic areas or noisy rooms.
    • Rooms with tiled or wooden floors, which make it easier to clean up any mistakes or misses.
    • Cats must have access to their litter tray at all times.

    Type of cat litter

    There are many types of cat litter compared to a decade ago. Clay, soya, silicone, corn, recycled paper and wood pellets. Some are biodegradable and safe to put in the garden (but never on beds where fruit and vegetables are grown), while others will need to go into the trash.

    When bringing a new kitten or cat into the home, stick with the type of litter he or she is used to. If you would like to change type, do so gradually over a few days by adding more of the new type and less of the old.

    Avoid scented litter as cats have an extremely good sense of smell, and scented cat litter can be overwhelming for a cat, especially when their nose is only 4 inches away from the litter.

    Avoid clumping cat litter in households with young kittens, who are more prone to getting into things. Try out different types of litter to see if your cat seems to have a preference over one particular type.

    How much litter should you put in the box?

    The recommended depth is 2-3 inches. Some cats who are diggers may benefit from an inch more.

    Keeping litter trays clean

    Cats are fastidious by nature and one surefire way to cause litter tray aversion is by not keeping it clean.

    Remove urine-soaked litter and solids morning and night. Once a week, remove all litter, clean and disinfect the trays as well as the floors under and around the trays, rinse, dry and re-fill with fresh cat litter.

    Avoid strongly scented disinfectants, I find a 1:32 bleach solution with cold water keeps trays clean and removes odours. Always rinse the tray thoroughly after disinfecting and wipe dry with paper towels.

    Related: How to clean a litter tray – step by step guide

    Number of litter trays

    The rule of thumb for litter trays is one per cat, plus one for the house. This is because some cats prefer to defecate in a different tray to one they have urinated in.

    Again, don’t line all of the trays next to each other but place them in different areas (and floors) of the house.


    Helping senior cats

    Arthritis and dementia can develop in the senior cat and pet owners must make allowances for loss of mobility and the possibility of confusion. Keep the litter tray in an easy to access location, don’t make changes, and provide a tray that is easy to climb in and out of. A cat with mobility issues cannot be expected to climb down to a basement every time he needs to use the litter tray.

    Helping kittens

    Most kittens are easy to toilet train as it is their natural instinct to bury their feces. When the kitten comes home, confine him to a small room (a bathroom is a good room as it is easy to clean) with a soft bed, food and water, and a litter tray. Give the kitten a few days to settle in before giving him free run of the house.


    • Julia Wilson, 'Cat World' Founder

      Julia Wilson is the founder of Cat-World, and has researched and written over 1,000 articles about cats. She is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. Full author bio