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The Vine

The Tomato Nation advice column addresses your questions on etiquette, grammar, romance, and pet misbehavior. Ask The Readers about books or fashion today!

Home » The Vine

The Vine: April 8, 2009

Submitted by on April 8, 2009 – 3:19 PM70 Comments

Hi Sars —

I have wonderful, sweet, loving kitty cats, and I'm about to throw them out the window.

They both have good manners when it comes to using their litterbox. Everything goes in the correct place, and there's no issues with sharing a box. However, when it comes to flushing, they tend to get carried away. Add to that a vigorous poo gallop, and there's litter everywhere. It's making me crazy.

I have a covered litter box, but I'm wondering if there's a better solution. Ideally, I'd get a Roomba, and stop worrying about it, but funds don't allow for that. Anyone, please, is there any sort of litterbox that keeps litter from flying everywhere?



Dear Maid,

Mr. Stupidhead recently rigged up a solution similar to this one on Ikea Hacker. In his case, the idea was more to prevent the dog from snacking on cat poo, so also check out the "best litterboxes" roundup on Apartment Therapy L.A.

And this model is specifically designed to reduce tracking, although I haven't tried it myself. I can tell you that my cats wouldn't go in that thing if you filled it with treats.

The readers will no doubt suggest other ideas; my only remaining advice is to accept that you'll probably never achieve a litter-free floor. Even if you don't have a sprayer in the household — and I do, Little Joe — litter sticks in between their little toes and gets tracked around and you will find the occasional grain on top of the damn microwave and wonder what you've done to deserve such treatment. But one of these options may cut down on the side effects of the digging.

When does "third party / third parties" get a hyphen?


Dear A,

"Third party" takes a hyphen when it's used as an adjective. When it's used as a noun, the hyphen isn't necessary. So, if a third party corrects your grammar, you don't need a hyphen, but if a third-party candidate corrects your grammar, you do.

This probably won't apply to the plural, ordinarily; in fact, the phrase "third parties" doesn't seem to me like it's in wide usage (you'd say "other parties" or "outside observers" or something like that instead, no?).

This rule always pertains, by the way. "Thank you for the gift," "I need to write a thank-you note for the gift."

Dear Sars,

I'm starting at Princeton as a grad student in the fall. Basically, the department's a great fit, everyone's been super-nice, and they're giving me a (comparative) boatload of cash, but I'm still kind of scared of Princeton.

My own alma mater is a scruffy, impassioned small liberal arts college with a national reputation for being — let's say it gently — offbeat. Obviously, Princeton is very different. The leggy blonde undergrads seem to jog at all hours of every day, all short shorts and bouncing ponytails, and a popped collar on a pink Brooks Brothers shirt is Frisbee-wear, not a costume.

Basically, I associate Princeton with snobbish baby masters of the universe, and I fear their judgment, even though most of them can't legally drink. You're not terrifying, and I know that you do not have a bouncing blonde ponytail, and you've mentioned liking Princeton. Can you give me any tips on navigating it successfully, without letting my self-doubting tendencies take over?


Scared That I'll Be Too Scared To Use The Gym

Dear As Well You Should Be, My Hampshire Friend,

(Heh.…Except seriously, the gym was kind of a horror show 15 years ago. "Sussudio" on endless loop. Wii Fit is your friend.)

I didn't really fit the stereotype of the Princeton undergraduate, but that doesn't mean the stereotype is wrong — it can seem, on a sunny afternoon in McCosh courtyard, like every single person who walks by has a backwards white baseball cap and cuffs-shot khakis on, went to Exeter, has parents on the board of the Met, blah blah, and you do see a lot of those people.

But it's not an overwhelming majority, if it's a majority at all; "those people" are just as likely to be fun and friendly as the ones with dreads or Ramones t-shirts; and the only contact I really had with the grad students outside of class was on my pizza-delivery route. They didn't hang out with us, they didn't date us…the grad campus isn't far away, but it might as well have been in Indiana for all we saw of our TAs socially. (Fortunately for them. We were idiots.)

You'll find plenty of people who don't fit the "Billionettes" profile — and if it's anything like it was, you're around the undergrads in class and that's kind of it. And they're all too preoccupied with bicker or re-fonting a paper to hit a 15-page minimum to notice whether you fit in — which you will, just not with the "remember that time at the fox hunt" crowd.

Once you get there, trust me, the intimidation factor drops away pretty fast; you get preoccupied with daily shit and you don't have time for it. Try not to get too anxious about it before you know what it actually is.

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  • Molly says:

    I looooove the Clervercat box. I had to actually drop my cat into it (with the lid off; I didn't try to stuff him through the hole!) before he realized there was litter in there, but once he knew what it was for he took to it with no problems. To make the transition easier I had old box and new box out together for about a week. It doesn't 100% completely eliminate litter around the house, but it does get rid of the big piles he used to kick out.

    And the gal who fears Princeton should give David Sedaris's mock graduation essay from "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" a look.

  • Lis says:

    Littermaid, I fully sympathize with you. We have a rescued male cat who lived his first year in the wild and while he took to the whole litter box thing like a pro, he also dug like a pro and sprayed litter EVERYWHERE. This litter box is a lifesaver (link goes to Amazon) basically it forces the kitty to turn a corner before doing their business so when they dig and dig and dig the litter is going behind them onto the wall of the box… I'm not so good at describing, but it's only $29.00 on Amazon, so it's not that big an investment!

  • Elissa says:

    I've recently found that a good way to deal with the litter/small apartment problem is to buy crystal litter. (They have it at Petco and lots of other places: .) The crystals are much bigger than little grains and so my cat (a former champion litter kicker) can't get much traction and I haven't really had any runaway litter problems since. I was worried that she'd be freaked out by the larger, blue crystals, but in true cat-like fashion, she did the exact opposite of what I'd thought she'd do and didn't react at all. Give it a try!

  • Princeton GS says:

    Dear As Well — From a fellow Princeton grad student, welcome to the Orange Bubble!

    I was completely freaked out by Princeton when I first arrived here 4 years ago. I'm also a small liberal arts college grad; my alma mater was close-knit, friendly, and supportive, and I feared that I would be crushed alive by the big bad Ivy League. I won't lie — there was some adjustment, both to the heavy graduate school workload and to the different atmosphere at Princeton (both faculty members and students can be annoyingly concerned with proving their own brilliance, especially first-year grad students and new profs who are anxious to show they deserve to be here). But I found some good friends, found a great adviser, discovered the Wegmans on Nassau Park Blvd, and overall I've been very happy here.

    A couple of things to keep in mind. First, like Sars said, grad student and undergrad social life is miles apart, and grad students don't fit the Princeton stereotype at all. The popped-collar set probably won't be around you enough to judge you. Second, the undergrads are actually pretty great based on my experience here — some are spoiled, but most of the ones I've met are hardworking and smart and interesting. Third, you are FAR from the only person coming to Princeton grad school from a quirky liberal arts college background. In my department, Wesleyan (the Connecticut one) is the second most common alma mater, and I think Reed is somewhere in the top 5. So if you experience culture shock, there will be others in the same boat.

    Good luck — I hope you like it here as much as I do, if not more! Also, Stephens Fitness Center is actually pretty great — overcrowded at times, but not at all intimidating like I feared. I'm gym-phobic and I feel 100% comfortable there.

  • Moonloon says:

    @ Scared, it's the self-doubt you don't need. Sadly, if my life-experience is anything to go by, you'll loose that at about the same time you lose peachiness in the butt (I'm pushing forty now – eek!).

    I'm not sure I have any point to make here, except whoever designed life had a most EVIL sense of humor!

  • bossyboots says:

    I used a booda for my cats for a while. Unfortunately, one of them *really* doesn't like being in an enclosed space for litter boxing, so she eventually decided she preferred anyplace with carpet as an alternative. Yuck. I could see her point, though – any kind of over-housing, especially plastic, is going to contain smell like crazy. Good for those living entirely outside the box (heh), bad for those who have to get in that box to do business.

    I really, really, really love Feline Pine litter. It turns to sawdust, so the stuff that tracks is way less annoying. And it smells better than any clumping litter I have ever used. I don't recommend the clumping variety of FP – doesn't really work – but the pellet kind is really awesome. Two of my guys are major diggers, and even though they fluff this stuff all over the place, it's a lot easier to deal with than any other litter I've ever tried.

  • Katy says:

    Littermaid, my kitty digs too, and I solved the problem very cheaply and simply. I put her litter box inside one of these storage boxes from Ikea: The box is about a foot tall, so it forces her to hop in and out and prevents her from digging. Also, if I have company over and I don't want them staring at cat poo, I can just put the lid on temporarily. Highly recommend.

  • Jenny says:

    Littermaid: I was having the same problem with my two gigantic boys. I bought and love the top-entry CleverCat litterbox. My cats use it with no problem and didn't have any trouble adapting to it.

  • Rebecca says:

    Ha! I was reading that thinking "That's a lot like how I felt coming to a big prestigious Southern state university from Hampshire." The jogging, oh the jogging. At Hampshire, the closest I saw anyone get to exercise was performing in the circus (oh, and amateur pro wrestling). It blew my mind when I first came here to have dozens of people jogging around campus at all hours of the day. So sporty! So many smooth ponytails! So much…make-up? Jogging?

    But there's a mix, like there is anywhere, and it's true you spend 99% of your time with other grad students. I've actually enjoyed the experience of trying out an institution with money in the endowment and an appreciable school spirit. I wouldn't trade my undergrad for anything, but it's good to mix it up.

    Also if there is a Wegmans you are SET. God I miss Wegmans.

  • Em says:

    Scared – I can't speak for Princeton, but I can definitely relate to the fish-out-of water feeling that can come from going to an Ivy for grad school after very much not for undergrad – although in my case it was a sprawling midwest land grant school and law school. IMO, as well as what I saw from folks in other grad programs, except to the extent that you TA or have some other position of authority, you're not going to be mingling with the undergrads that much, unless, of course, you want to and seek it out. Main campus facilities like the main gym or the library, maybe, but the fit with your specific program is a lot more important once you get to the grad level.
    Congrats! And good luck! :)

  • Sarah says:

    I second the recommendation for both the domed litter box as well as the crystal litter. I cat-sit for several friends and these seem to work pretty well. Although the three-cat apartment contains a completely unused Clevercat box and a large cat who will go on the floor when the other box is not up to his standards, so YMMV. Back when I had a cat and hardwood floors, I had an extra large Astro Turf mat which worked pretty well:

  • Marby says:

    We also use the Clevercat box, and love it. Our cat loves boxes and caves, so we just filled it up and chucked the old one, and poof, cat in a box. We got it to stop the dog from the poo-eating, and it had the happy side effect of stopping the litter from being tracked all over the house.

  • KPP says:

    @Maid Are you on a clay litter? When I switched to Feline Pine, the pellet kind, that reduced the out of litter box tracking. Sure, once in a while, I'd step on a pellet in a kitchen, but I didn't end up with clay litter tracked all over the place anymore. My 15 year old cat didn't have a problem transitioning (although, I personally found mixing the two litters for a week to be really…weird). The pellets break down and the light stuff mostly goes to the bottom of the box and the pellets mostly stay on the top layer. Don't know if this would help with your kicker or not. It might make it easer to scoop back in if nothing.

    Feline Pine is just one of the pelleted litters–there's Yesterday's News and some other's that are made out of various natural-ish substances.

  • Green says:

    Scared: Do not be scared. I just finished my engineering PhD at Princeton last month. The grad school is a totally different set of people from the undergrads. Of course there are exceptions on both sides of that, but the fellow graduate students in my department became my family, and are all cool, independent, and down to earth.

    If you're interested in chatting about some more details, I'll email Sars and let her know that she can pass my email address on to you (if that's ok with you, Sars.)

    But yeah, chill out. I had a great time here. Good luck!

  • Cheryl says:

    I, too, have the Clever Cat box. It doesn't entirely eliminate the flying litter problem, but it does reduce it. My cats are both incredibly gifted at the litter kicking (and somehow managing to leave the poo uncovered), so I suspect it might work better for less intense litter kickers. Honestly, I'm not sure that anything short of a hermetically sealed cat room would rid it entirely.

    I have also used the crystal litter that Elissa suggests and that didn't make a whole lot of difference for my boys. I've been using this Green Tea cat litter, mostly because it's light and easy to carry from the grocery store. It seems to track less, but I still have to sweep every day.

  • jennie says:

    Those are some fine-looking litter boxes, especially Mr. S's. Right now I've got a covered one, kind of wedged awkwardly between the washer and the dryer in our pantry closet, with a dustpan and brush on top for the daily sweep, 'cause my cats are diggers too. Inelegant and irritating, but… cheap, and no power tools required. PetSmart also sells these gigantic rubber mats – I'm at work and shopping sites are blocked, so I can't get you a link, but they're made of some kind of squishy rubber, painted and pressed into strips, and a lot of the straggly grains get caught in the grooves and wind up not all over the house. They come in "huge" and "for small spaces" sizes, and you can cut the huge one down to fit your needs, supposedly. I think exit mats of some kind are key, especially if you don't have carpet.

    For what it's worth, I tried the crystal litter once (though not for this particular problem) and I don't know if we just got a crappy kind, or what, but it created this perfume cloud when you scooped it that kind of clung to your face, and which you could then, you know, taste. On your own lips. ICK.

  • yellowhat says:

    "re-fonting a paper to hit a 15-page minimum"

    Oh, that phrase brought back memories…

  • Vail says:

    If you have an older kitty (like ours) who doesn't squat to pee try|66%3A2|65%3A12|39%3A1|240%3A1318

    There are no seams so the urine doesn't go into the cracks and crystallize. We just ordered ours and we're waiting with baited breath (cause boy can that cat stink it up).

  • Heatherkay says:

    Oh my God. The Clevercat. Our 20-pound lynx-size cat was a champ about trying to use this, but he hated every minute of it. He is also quite the digger. He's got Popeye forearms.

    It was almost worth it for the laugh I got when he bumped the lid while trying to get in, knocked the lid cattywampus, knocked the lid into the box while standing on it, knocked the box over, then left a trail of tiny startle poos as he ran from the mudroom, through the cat door, and under the bed.

    Of course, I didn't see any of this other than the running — I had to reconstruct it CSI-style — but the mental movie cracks me up every time I think about it.

    We've taken to using a large garment storage box rather than an enclosed box, but a litter mat. I've also thought about putting up some sort of little half wall. But the cabinet idea is genius.

  • K says:

    Littermaid, I have had a great experience with the Tidy Cat Breeze system. It uses large pellets instead of litter, so the liquid trickles down through a screen and is caught in a pad (like a big diaper/puppy pad). You just scoop the poo out daily like with any other litter box and change the pad once a week or so. They say the pads won't stink, and I've found that to be true.

    Because of the pellet size, it's a lot harder for the cats to fling them everywhere or take them along on the poo gallop. When a pellet does migrate, it is much easier to clean up then regular litter and best of all no dust or gritty feeling under the bare feet!

    You do have to buy the special box to start, but I've found that it's actually ended up cheaper in the long run compared to clumping litter and there is way less mass going into the landfill. I was going through 40 pounds of clumping litter a month, now I just have four pads and the petrified poo each month.

  • Fred says:

    We've got 7 cats and 4 litter boxes in the house – and we use a lightweight wheat-based litter that works very well, but tracks like crazy. One thing we've found that helps a great deal (besides the covered boxes) is putting down a catch tray in front of the boxes. The ones that we use are the plastic sort with a grid insert – it's even notched at one corner so that you can pour the recovered litter back into the box… It's cut down on the scattering problem enormously.

  • AngieFM says:

    Oh, Sars, I laughed out loud at "My Hampshire Friend." I had totally placed the writer there, too.

  • The Other Katherine says:

    Actually, my experience is that "third parties" as a noun comes up all the time in business discussions. What you don't see is "third-parties" used as an adjective. You might see something about "third parties' disclosure requirements," or something along those lines that uses the possessive, but not that often. (Not that anyone in the business world EVER PAYS ATTENTION TO THE FINE POINTS OF GRAMMAR. Ahem.)

  • CK says:

    Littermaid, my cat drives me crazy with litter tracking too. I wanted to write to warn you that the Roomba did not seem to work well for this. The litter (and cat hair) was bothering me so much that I ran out to Target and dropped $300 on the Roomba, but regretted it. It does vacuum well but it takes a long time to clean a room and doesn't just focus on the high-dirt areas. I found that I would rather just spend 10 minutes vacuuming where the litter/cat fur actually were and get it over with rather than wait 45 minutes for Roomba to do the whole room. Plus Roomba did nothing to solve the problem of cat hair and litter on the couches. We switched to the recycled newspaper litter which helped a little since it has large pieces. Ended up selling the Roomba on Craigslist for half of what I paid for it!

  • Alie says:

    @Princeton GS:

    I go to a gigantic SUNY school, and my class has a strange mix of just-graduated 18 year-old kids who didn't know what they wanted to do, aspiring high school students, and people (like me) who plan to go on to get a PhD in the field. (Actually, I'm totally applying to Princeton.) And as far as first-year grad students go, there are those who are determined to prove how smart they are EVERYWHERE. (Usually by making sure we all know how much Derrida they've read …which in my book just means they're masochistic, not necessarily intelligent.)

    Oh, and I grew up next to a trailer park and then went to a Fancy Pants Seven Sisters school, so the social-class shock definitely exists. Though I also went to a Fancy Pants Prep School as well (yeah scholarships!) so I was prepared for it. Just try to remember that you got in to the school because you're wicked smart, and when you're in school that's all that really matters.

  • Hollie says:

    Littermaid, I feel for you. I actually sprung for one of these: They're on the spendy side, but they're of great quality, and fairly easy to assemble. Though, I have a covered litter box inside my litter chest (my kitty isn't so good at aiming, either, so I can't take the top off), and a plastic "litter catcher" between the covered box and the litter chest door, and I *still* get overspill. As Sars says, it comes from the kitty's feet. But, it's greatly reduced from what I'd get if I didn't have the chest at all.

  • Sami says:

    "re-fonting to hit a 15-page minimum" – man, I wish I could do that, sometimes. At my university length is decided by wordcount, and you can't font that stuff at all…

  • Jen says:

    @ Littermaid: I do have that Clevercats box Sars put a link to in her response. I have 2 cats: 1 big one that's a few years old and a kitten who's now 5 months old but I got at 2 months. It took a little adjusting for the older cat but they now both use it and it's GREAT! In the beginning the older cat was def holding it in but she's a clean cat and eventually went in rather than on the floor. We have virtually no litter around the house where before we had tons. I'd def recommend this box.

  • sillyberry says:

    For those of you who use pine pellets – did you find it difficult to scoop poo? I always felt like it was hard to separate the poo from the pellets and thus ended up throwing out a lot of whole pellets with ever cleaning.

    I really REALLY wanted to like the pellets, but hated the scooping process so I gave up.

  • Kris says:


    If you don't have room for a cabinet-style litter box, try putting it in the bathtub. I've got a one-bedroom condo, and there's no other place for it where it isn't in the way or far too public. The scattered litter stays in the tub, and the bathroom fan takes care of odors if the cat uses the box while I have company. Yes, I have to sweep out the tub each night before I take a shower, but I need to sweep the bathroom daily anyway, what with the hair the cat and I shed. It's a small bathroom, and it takes about 90 seconds, so it's not any extra time out of my day.

  • RJ says:

    OH MY GOD. My three cats have been driving me insane with the litter. They have 2 boxes, and they manage to get litter all over the kitchen (the boxes are UNDER a table by a window). Worse, one of 'em has now decided that my front hall is his personal bathroom (this started about 6 months ago).

    I have been contemplating turning at least one of them into a stuffed ornament. I'm so glad someone asked about this – I already see so many great suggestions!

  • Lisa says:

    Whatever you do litter-wise, DO NOT buy this.

    My cat is not large by any means, but there is NO ROOM for any of the maneuvering he needs to do, so all of his wee went into one corner of the box, thereby making a clump of gargantuan proportions that wouldn't fit into the slender "pullout waste tray." If you have a kitten, maaaaybe it would be okay, but not an adult cat.

    I take care of my boss's cats, and they have that Breeze system. I don't agree that the pads don't stink; they do — a LOT. (Of course, this may be from their food or whatever.) Plus, I don't think he puts enough pellets in there, the poo just rests on top. Yuck.

    Re: Princeton. Have any of you alum read "The Rule of Four"? It's a mystery set in PU and written by two grads. Sort of Da Vinci Code-esque, if you like that sort of thing.

  • Bonnie says:

    I have Clevercats and I ADORE them. I have a vigorous litter-kicker as well and this nearly eliminates the problem.

    They are 9, 10 and 13 pounds and I had nary a problem with getting them to use it. I left the lid off for the first few weeks, then popped it on and they didn't seem fazed.

  • Pam says:

    Robyn Anderson has a pretty good solution to the cat litter box dilemma.

    Tried the Littermaid and it pooped out after 3 rakes of the automatic doohickey.

  • Cyntada says:

    "re-fonting to hit a 15-page minimum"

    Boy, I sure thought I was something, working type to make my papers fit the page minimum! That was approximately the era when home computers were becoming common, but not all students had one. The upside was that not all teachers had them either, and I was a graphic design student, so it was a little easier to get away with funny business with the typesetting. Nowadays I see that my partner has some very specific requirements for formatting his school papers, or there's just a wordcount and that's the end of it.

  • KPP says:

    @sillyberry – When I bought the Feline Pine, you could save up the UPCs and mail in for a free wider slotted scoop so the pellets would fall through if you shook it a bit when you were scooping. I sent away (which isn't really the same sort of glee as when you used to get cereal box prizes), but it wasn't really my favorite thing. I usually just used the corner of a regular scoop and just got the poo out and dug around the box. Still, it was free (minus the stamp to mail it in).


    Huh. This would have been handy to have too.

    I don't think you need to buy Feline Pine to use these those (well, other than to gather the UPCs to get the free scoop). I think all of the pellet litter works on the same principle–starts as pellets, breaks down into a dust, settles to bottom of box. Country Cat, Yesterday's News, etc. I just have bunnies now, no cat, but I still use cat litter for their boxes.

  • jbp says:


    We have 4 cats and 2 dogs…and the dogs love to "snack" the litterbox. (don't EVEN get me started on the grossness of it!)

    We have a Booda corner box in one bathroom and a domed one (like on the first web page Sars recommended) in our bathtub in the other bathroom. I don't plan on taking a bath any time soon, but the amount of litter in the rest of the house has decreased markedly.

    -No Puppy Mouth Kisses, Please!

  • evier says:

    I third the Tidy Cats Litter Breeze system. I have 2 cats who have both adapted well to this. I change the pee pad every 5 days and supplement more pellets throughout the month, since some do end up sticking to the poo and getting scooped away. Every now and then a pellet ends up on the floor and it's easy to just pick up and throw away. I also buy the pads and pellets from Amazon in bulk so it ends up being way cheaper than what I was paying for regular litter.

    A friend of mine has the kind you attach to a water line and basically flushes everything away. I'm not sure what it's called though. She loves it for her 3 cats, even though one of them hates it and refuses to poo in it.

  • Chrissi says:

    I have a Booda and the combination of that with the Feline Pine pellets nearly eliminated any tracking problems I had. However, I think she likes to pee in the farthest corner at the seam where the lid connects with the bottom and somehow, well, it's leaking out onto the floor. And I have no idea what to do about it, so I may have to try the Clevercat thing too. Also, when she digs the pellets against the side of the Booda it kind of sounds like machine gun fire, which is fine with me, but may annoy some people.

  • wife of a Princeton Grad student says:

    Hey Princeton Grad student,

    I am not a student and while I definitely had a more difficult adjustment to the Ivy League scene, I'd like to reiterate that the grad students have completely different lives from the undergrad students.

    Also, many of my husband's classmates come from the small liberal arts colleges. You'll be fine…

  • Karen says:

    We have 5 cats and three litterboxes–2 Clevercats and one ginormous homemade jobbie. We had to go with those because not only do we have crazy diggers but we also have one who likes to stand when he pees thereby shooting pee all over the lid of the covered boxes or straight out the opening. The homemade version is similiar to Robyn's from except that's it's a large lidded storage bin with a hole cut in it. That way our champ can pee a high as he wants and it still stays in the box.

  • meltina says:

    We've used the Omega Box for almost a year without problems, with two cats sharing (they just ignored the old Booda dome). Granted, we sprang for an extra large version that I see no longer carries.

    I tried Feline Pine too, but Boris (my now 2 1/2 year old male) just would not buy it… the litter smelled different, and that was enough for him.

    We handle our litter dust problem with a large tracking mat, and I mean large. It takes up quite the room, and is ugly, but it traps stuff like a champ. We clean the mat every other week, and seeing how much litter it traps is believing. The trick is that it goes under half of the litterbox, because placing it flush next to it would result in all the litter pooling by the litterbox entrance.

  • e says:

    A few litterbox comments in general:

    I used the Omega boxes that Lisa links to above – I had one small one and one large one. I have four cats, varying in size from large to small. Typically for cats, the smallest one insisted on using the large box and the largest one insisted on using the small box. I never had problems with the cats fitting into the litter box or maneuvering, but I did have the "single-huge-clumping" problems when I used clumping litter. I switched to crystal litter, and that solved the problem.

    I had to stop using them because one of my dogs learned how to flip the litter boxes over and I didn't have a secure, no-dog-access place to keep them, but I loved them to pieces while I did use them; I gave them to a friend who's still using them and loving them. So, everyone's MMV.

    I also used a mechanical rake-scoop-dump machine for about two months; it worked fine but I had to top off the litter on an almost daily basis, the smell was atrocious, and cleaning it thoroughly was almost impossible.

    I currently use two regular boxes (for four cats, yes) with the crystal litter (to Jennie: Try the "store brand" or, if you can find it anywhere, Mimi Crystals. WalMart used to carry it, but they stopped and I can't find it anywhere else without paying insane shipping prices. The "big name" kinds I've tried are all heavily scented, and IMO create the "fish-and-roses" effect, but the generics tend to be unscented AND do a better job at preventing odor), and a cheap 4×6 "fashion rug" from the "teen bedding" section in front of the litter box area. The rug is similar to this:
    Instead of a typical "cut pile" it's kind of got big, loose, floppy loops of material; you could easily lose an earring in it, but it does wonders for trapping and holding the stray litter. I have to take it out (carefully!) once a month or so and shake out all the stray litter but I almost never have litter anywhere else in the house.

  • e says:

    That last paragraph has WAAAAAY too many quotation marks. Sorry.

  • Aspartame says:

    My cats enjoy rooting around in their box. Regular kitty litter grosses me out to no end. I use Feline Pine and/or the crystal stuff. I use a covered cat box with a $5 square doormat made of that bristle-y hay stuff with a happy gnome on it laid out in front. My apartment has this little built in desk that we don't use so I've stuck the box underneath it, aligned with the desk top so the opening of the box is facing the wall. Between the mat and the box not facing out into the room, it's cut down on any grody stuff making it onto my feet considerably. But judging from the other comments, my cats are quite dainty relatively speaking.

    I'm just praying my formerly stray, now in-door female cats will never develop the habits my parents' completely disgusting, though lovable, outdoorsy male cat had: insisting on pooping outside, but finding under the oil tank or in the bath tub totally awesome substitutes. His favorite place was the bath mat if someone didn't hang it up. So you'd step in the largest cold cat shit you'd ever seen at 3am in the dark. It was only ever those three places, but never, ever the box. And he feared snow, so my mom would have to chase him down and throw him outside all winter to force him to poop there. Where the dogs could find it and roll in it! I'm obviously still scarred. I love/loved all those animals, but that cat was amazing for his ability to force all of us to deal with his feces on a regular basis.

  • Jen S says:

    Littermaid, you and I are Cylon linked, I think–we have two cats and two covered boxes, and both our cats love to a) dig dig dig dig over and over in all corners of the box, and b) once the deed is done, scratch madly at both the litter and the sides of the box, for minutes on end, usually at 6:30 in the morning or when I'm trying to watch Dollhouse.

    I recently switched to SWheat Scoop litter and it's lovely. It clumps beautifully, smells nice, contains odor, and doesn't seem to do the box-fly half as much as clay litter. Bonus–clay litter is strip mined, so purchasing the SWheat helps the environment!

    But if you go for it, DO NOT flush it down the toilet. The bag says you can, but never, never NEVER flush cat litter. It's just backup waiting to happen.

  • AltoidsAddict says:

    My husband and I have a cat missing a hind leg which means he's not that great at his own litter management, and balancing to fling his litter is less an exercise in normal cat sanitation and more of a haphazard gymnastics act.

    We use Arm and Hammer baking soda litter with a covered litterbox, but we were still getting litter tracked *everywhere.* Flat litter mats did almost nothing. We now use something very similar to the two-tiered litter mat by Group One (; the top layer gets the litter off, but it falls into the bottom tray so that the cat doesn't just pick it right back up. That fixed the problem pretty good, and we've had the same grid litter mat for eight years so they're very durable and easy to clean.

  • Lauren says:

    Well, I'm feeling brave and reasonably frisky, so I'm about to embark on an experiment to toilet train our two. They're both big boys, and neither is a HUGE littler kicker, but…face it, the only way I could possibly love them more would be if I didn't have to deal with their poo on a daily basis. I'm home all day for now – yay, Team Recession! – so it seems like as good a time as any, and we have a second bathroom that is (a) huge, (b) has zero natural light, (c) is fully carpeted, (d) in mustard-colored shag. It can't get much worse in there, is what I'm saying, so it seems worth at least a try.

  • Tisha_ says:

    We're having pretty good luck with World's Best cat litter. It's made from corn, to it's lighter and the pieces are a bit bigger than normal clay litter. It still tracks a little, but not quite as far as the regular litter did.

  • penthilisea says:

    Re: Litter box issues.
    1. Go to your local big box store and buy a large rubbermaid container. 14 or 18 gallons will do nicely.
    2. Put down a layer of baking soda on the bottom of the box
    3. Put in a HEAVY layer of clumping litter.
    4. With the lid off the box cut a square opening on one side, halfway up, normal cat width, roughly 8 x8 or so.
    5. Replace the lid.

    Voila! Litter stays in because they can kick all day and just hit the walls and ceiling, and you can sort of rock the whole box to expose clumps and poop. I've found keeping a heavy layer of litter and adding baking soda and fresh litter as needed to be more economical then a open box with a normal amount of litter. It's also easy to just pour all the dirty stuff out and wash or disinfect the box itself.

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