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I have two cats. We feed them wet food daily (in the kitchen far from the litter-box,) and we provide them free access to dry kibble all day long.

The litter-box and the feeding zone are located in the "no-dog" part of the house and are in the same room.

We've never had any (apparent) problem with that setup: both cats are using the litter-box with no issue, and both cats are eating a few times a day.

I know this is not the ideal situation, but we've never had any problem, and I'm trying to find a balance between the theoretical ideal setup (2+1 litter-boxes, feeding in another room, etc.). Should I worry about that?

I'm also planning to change their bowl with a feeding maze (see picture). Would it be acceptable for them to "play" close to their litterbox? Should I just try and, if they use it, conclude that it is OK with them?

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Many cats are very fussy about their litter box and food proximity, bearing in mind that their sense of smell is substantially better than ours, but not all cats are that particularly bothered by it. So, short answer is "yes" you can do that if the cat(s) tolerate it. Some things to consider:

  1. Keep the boxes clean, scooped daily (or more frequent) and washed weekly.
  2. Keep the boxes in good shape, scratched/old boxes are more likely to hold odors in them.
  3. Keep an eye on the feeding habits. If they start to show signs of food avoidance, look to separate the food from the litter boxes. Mind you, if it's just one cat, then this may be an indication of something else.
  4. Keep an eye on litter usage. If they start going outside of the boxes, away from the food, then this a sign that they don't like this arrangement.

Anecdotally, I had a cat many years ago where the food and litter box were side by side and he never fussed about it, always ate his food, always used the box. On the other hand, our current cats won't tolerate that, at all, so we have the boxes and food in different rooms. It's going to depend on the cat.

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