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My wife and I adopted two very cool cats about 2 years ago. We love them and they love us. We're a very happy cat family. I'm the cat super dad.

Unfortunately, now we have to move from our 1200 sq/ft (~111m²) apartment down to a 680 sq/ft (~63m²) apartment.

I'm wondering about what to do with the litter box situation. Until now, we've always had room to supply our kitties with the 2+1 litter box strategy. But with the new apartment, I can only see one box being possible without annoying the humans too much.

Here's the possibilities to help us:

  • Balcony Kitty Box: My wife told me about this. We could have the kitty boxes on the balcony (7th floor) through a contraption called balcony enclosures (wire cages). Provided they can't escape, it sounds OK ... until winter comes. Also, I don't know if the cats will like it. Seems restrictive.

  • Enclosed Boxes: I've always understood that cats don't like covered boxes. Who am I to argue? To me, this option sounds like forcing the cats to use concert Port-a-Potties at that one concert we'd always like to forget. Humans might find it tolerable.

  • Weird Spaces: Have one box in the only space that makes sense, while having another under a sink, one behind the bedroom door, one on top of the fridge. Not sure, running out of ideas...

The cats are close, but not bonded. The older one (4yrs) is a little high strung, but the younger one (3 yrs) is the chillest cat ever.

3 Answers 3

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Just to note: N+1 isn't essential, if the cats are comfortable with each other and you clean the box frequently (which may be easier with clumping litter).

My household had one box for two cats (siblings, admittedly) until one was ill enough that having a box on each floor seemed a good idea; I've maintained that since even though I have only one cat now, just because I'd already set it up.

A friend's household had one box for three cats, using standard clay litter, and they were pretty good about not blocking each other's access.

The only cat I've ever known to have trouble with a covered box was one who'd had some intestinal surgery which made his waste much wetter and more odorous -- think dog poo level rather than the relatively dry feces of most cats. He didn't like the smell either, and got out if the box as fast as he could. On the other hand, the covered box with carbon filter made this much less of a problem for the humans, and he did put up with it.

Yes, cats can be picky. But like everyone else, it's a matter of what expectations you agree upon, and how practical the setup is, and the personalities and health of the specific individuals. N+1 boxes where N is the number of cats strikes me as overkill by at least one box.

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  • I personally have two boxes for three cats. One of them gets cleaned daily, the other weekly--because they mostly just use one and tend to forget the other's there.
    – Allison C
    Commented Apr 13, 2023 at 19:50
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In my experience, it's perfectly acceptable to cram a litter box into an unconventional nook like behind a door, under a sink or (in my parents home) behind a sofa.

The most important thing is to clean them at least once a day. If you clean them more often, you can even try reducing the number of boxes to 2. You woudn't want to use a Port-a-Potty that's clearly just been used by someone else, but a clean one is acceptable. My parents have 3 boxes for 2 cats and one of the boxes is never used, so it can work. Especially if the apartment is small and the cats know each other, you have a good chance that they each claim one box for themselves and stick to this new system. But I repeat, you must keep the boxes clean. If one is dirty, the incentive to look for another corner to "do business" is much bigger.

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There are multiple options you can try. First and probably the most convenient is to attempt introducing an enclosed litter box. You're right that most cats don't prefer it and some may even refuse to use it. That's why it's best to give your cat the option. Start by having the most open boxed litter boxes you can have and then ideally just introduce only a single enclosed litter box. If it works and your cats use it, then in order to follow the 2+1 rule, introduce 2 of these boxes (but I'd still keep one conventional litter box to give your cats the option and to make them happier).

Another option it to try putting boxes in unconventional places like you said. In my experience cats are usually not picky about where to use the litter box and will still go there. However, I'd recommend not putting the boxes on high places like the refrigerator as you suggested. In a tiny place, it is vital they still have as much free spaces as possible to play in or wander and for cats, that especially includes vertical space. And if its possible for them to go up high on the refrigerator, that is an excellent place for them to hang out and no cat's gonna wanna just hang out up there if it's also where everyone else is going to the bathroom. Another possibility is that you mentioned putting boxes in places like under the bathroom sink. That is technically an enclosed space that is just larger than an enclosed litterbox would be. You could try putting boxes in there and then SLOWLY transition to an enclosed box by having typical litter box there for couple weeks, then putting in an enclosed box (in the exact spot) for a couple more weeks and then moving that box to a more convenient location. However, I'd recommend not moving litter boxes around for a while after the move, so that your cats have time to settle and really get to know and be comfortable in the new place (since cats really HATE change).

A final option I can give is like a compromise between you and your cats and comes with potentially the most problems and requires the most work. But despite the 2+1 rule (which I do now follow), I have had multiple cats that are perfectly happy using less number of litter boxes, so it is possible to do so. However, I will point out these cats were using that few amount of litter boxes from the moment I got them as kittens and so were probably used to it by then. This has led me to believe though that the 2+1 rule is less about territory and more about hygiene. So you could start off with fewer boxes (I'd personally to give your cats time to adjust to the change, start by taking only one litter box out and then in like the option above, once you see your cats are alright with that, take out another one weeks/months after the first reduction). Of course, be prepared that since your cats are adults with established routines, they might not be able to make this adjustment or at least not make it easily, so I'd be on the lookout for cat pee or poop in inappropriate places (any inappropriate elimination should be cleaned immediately and thoroughly to get rid of smell, and ideally not with scented cleaners). But now for the hard work on your part. To make this adjustment go as well as possible, the litter box should at the very least be cleaned DAILY. But if using only one litter box for two cats, it is possible that it should be cleaned even more frequently. So before your cats pees on the floor and you throw in the towel, just clean it up well and adjust how frequently you clean it. If, however, you're cleaning it as frequently as you possibly can and the inappropriate elimination is still happening, then that's when I'd say you should give up this method and try something else. Don't be discouraged though when I warn against possibly peeing outside the litter box: it's only a POSSIBILITY. I don't know your cats and they may be perfectly happy to make this change. Its worth at least trying this and if you decide you can't take it, then after the first pee outside litter box, then you can decide to try something else (but it's still worth at least an attempt!).

I'd like to make a final note on a balcony litter box that you mentioned. I'd think that's a wonderful first idea to start with. Its not really enclosed and its out of the way but also in a place that you're cats will go. The worst possible scenario is that it becomes a summer-only litterbox but it still is an added option your cats can use and I do believe they will have no problem using it. However, if they do refuse to use it in winter when its cold, then I'd recommend still keeping it out (as an option), but using the methods stated above to add the appropriate amount of litter boxes in the house for them to use (you can never have too many litter boxes). Alternatively if you still find you cannot have 2+1 litterboxes in the house, then use the method stated above to properly introduce them to a reduced number of boxes in the house.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I had considered summer to start the balcony litter training. I'll let you know how it goes!
    – stoker
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 8:33

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