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The latest scoop on litter
Clumping vs. nonclumping. Nonscented vs. scented. Activated carbon vs. sodium bicarbonate. With so many choices, it may be difficult for cat owners to know what to use. This behaviorist highlights recent research on cats' litter and litter box preferences, so you can give clients evidence-based recommendations.


VETERINARY MEDICINE


OVERALL RECOMMENDATIONS

It is in everyone's best interest to identify a litter and litter box environment pleasing to cats. Research and product development will continue to advance and identify superior litter products, but it is important for practitioners to provide evidence-based advice to cat owners regarding litter and litter boxes so toileting problems are minimized.

When providing that advice, remember that cats prefer clumping litters and litters with activated carbon. If a fragranced litter is going to be used, data suggest cats prefer a cedar scent to other scents. I caution owners against purchasing citrus-scented litters, which are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace. Finally, based on the trends noted in the box size study, I recommend that practitioners advise owners to purchase large or jumbo-sized litter boxes for their cats or even consider purchasing large plastic storage boxes to use as litter boxes.

Of course, it is important to remember that you may encounter cats with unique preferences. The best way to identify an individual cat's set of toileting preferences is to offer a variety of litter choices and box styles and retain the litter and litter boxes that the cat preferentially uses. It is also wise to remind clients that no odor-controlling litter ingredients can substitute for daily litter box scooping and regular box washing.

Editors' Note: Dr. Neilson has received research funding from The Clorox Company, makers of Fresh Step litter.

Jacqueline C. Neilson, DVM, DACVB
Animal Behavior Clinic
809 S.E. Powell Road
Portland, OR 97202

REFERENCES

1. American Veterinary Medical Association. U.S. pet ownership and demographics sourcebook. Schaumburg, Ill:AVMA, 2007.

2. Salman MD, Hutchison J, Ruch-Gallie R, et al. Behavioral reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats to 12 shelters. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2000;3(2):93-106.

3. Patronek GJ, Glickman LT, Beck AM, et al. Risk factors for relinquishment of cats to an animal shelter. J Am Vet Med Assoc 1996;209(3):582-588.

4. Marder AR, Engel JM, Hekman JP. Feline behaviour problems reported by owners after adoption from an animal shelter, in Proceedings. 6th Int Vet Behav Meet and Eur Coll Vet Behav Med–Companion Anim Eur Soc Vet Clin Ethology 2007;138-139.

5. Clutton-Brock JA. A natural history of domesticated mammals. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

6. Borchelt PL. Cat elimination behavior problems. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1991;21(2):257-264.

7. Neilson JC. Pearl vs. clumping: litter preference in a population of shelter cats, in Proceedings. Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2001;14.

8. Horwitz DF. Behavioral and environmental factors associated with elimination behavior problems in cats: a retrospective study. Appl Anim Behav Sci 1997;52:129-137.

9. Sung W, Crowell-Davis SL. Elimination behavior patterns of domestic cats (Felis catus) with and without elimination behavior problems. Am J Vet Res 2006;67(9):1500-1504.

10. Neilson JC. Scent preferences in the domestic cat, in Proceedings. 6th Int Vet Behav Meet and Eur Coll Vet Behav Med–Companion Anim Eur Soc Vet Clin Ethology 2007;171-172.

11. Neilson JC. Scent preferences in the domestic cat, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2008 Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2008;42-45.

12. Neilson JC. Litter preference test: evaluating carbon enhanced litter, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2007 Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2007;59-60.

13. Neilson JC. Litter odor control: carbon vs. bicarbonate of soda, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2008 Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2008;31-34.

14. Neilson JC. Is bigger better? Litterbox size preference test, in Proceedings. Am Coll Vet Behav/Am Vet Soc Anim Behav 2008 Scientific Paper and Poster Session 2008;46-49.


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Source: VETERINARY MEDICINE,
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