Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tips for Controlling Cat Litter Scatter

By Langley Cornwell

This is an area I need help with.

My husband and I are accustomed to sharing our living space with our pets. I freely admit that there are no restrictions in our home; our dog and our cat are allowed in every room and on every piece of furniture. We’d feed our animals high quality pet food like CANIDAE with our last nickel. I’m used to wearing a top layer of pet hair over my fleece or jersey clothes. When we’re going out in public, we’re used to quickly rolling a lint brush over our outfits before we leave. I could go on but the point should be clear, I love animals and everything that goes along with living with them.

Except for cat litter. It drives me nuts! Our cat is an indoor/outdoor guy so he mostly does his business outside now. When we first started letting our cat go outside, he would come back in to use the litter box and then immediately want to go back out and play. For the longest time he thought he could only “go” in the box. One day new neighbors moved in with an older cat. Our cats became friends and that mature cat taught our teenaged kitty it was okay to eliminate outside, that the whole big world could be used as a litter box. So now he goes out when he needs to “go” most of the time.

There are times, however, when he still uses his box and boy does he make a mess! He spreads cat litter all over the house. He’s a robust digger and it takes him a long time to get the litter organized just right. Then, when he’s done, he flings and slings the litter everywhere. We’ve found litter in our shoes, in our beds, even in our cars. It’s remarkable how far that litter spreads. We’ve tried the obvious solutions; litter boxes with high sides, covered litter boxes, but nothing changed. We’ve tried two types of mats that are designed to brush off a cat’s paws and contain the litter, but those haven’t worked. It was time to further my research. Here’s what I learned.    

Experiment with litter types. Lightweight litters seem to track and scatter easier than heavier litters. This makes sense. And apparently newspaper pellets don’t track at all. If any of you can recommend a litter that you’ve noticed doesn’t scatter horribly, please leave a comment and share your experience. I’m sure we’d all appreciate it.

Isolate or contain the box. Some people have a spare bathroom and keep the litter box in the bathtub. If that’s not feasible, Catster recommends keeping the litter box inside a plastic baby pool, which would serve the same purpose as the bathtub; your cat can dig and fling with reckless abandon and the litter will stay contained. Neither of these options are possible in our house. We could put the litter box in a large storage container and see if that helps, or put a large plastic washing machine tray underneath the box. Both of these suggestions have merit.

Try a different style litter box. Obviously deep, high sided litter boxes contain the litter better than short shallow ones. I’ve read about top-entry litter boxes but haven’t explored this option. Have any of you?

Find a suitable rug or mat. Our cat is finicky about what he’ll walk over. We purchased a cool circular rubber mat with nubs to help dislodge the litter stuck between a cat’s pads. This mat has a raised lip around the perimeter and the center is scored. When the litter is trapped within the confines of the mat, you can easily fold the mat to create a funnel and pour the stray litter into the trash. The design is intelligent and the product should work perfectly. The only thing is, our cat won’t walk on the mat. When he leaves the litter box he leaps over the mat. When he lands on our hardwood floors, litter skids everywhere. Having the mat makes the problem worse. Next I’m going to try a plush bath mat because he is content to walk on those. If you decide to go the rug or mat route, I suggest making sure your cat will walk over whatever material the mat is made of.

So far, the only thing that works with 100% accuracy is our whisk broom and dust pan. Sigh.

How do you deal with cat litter scatter and tracking?

Photo by Tom Thai

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. I have 3 litter boxes inside (2 in the basement and one upstairs in a spare room), and one out in our little enclosed garden.

    Derry's pretty tidy in the box, but Nicki pees in the left front corner, regardless of the size of the box, and he DIGS to China, if you'll pardon the old expression (I'm dating myself).

    How I deal with litter tracking is via a broom, a few times a day, and lots of vacuuming. LOL.

    It doesn't bother me, most of the time, unless I'm in a really grumpy mood. :-)

  2. A larger box "sorta" works here. I bought outdoor door mats and put those in front of the boxes - the ones with the spikey things and made of rubber. When they get bad, I take them to the car wash and power hose them off. :) I am lucky in that everyone seems to be ok walking on them. However, my parents came over and my dad decided he was going to "fix" a few things and bought a blue tarp and put it on the floor and up the walls a little ways. Not great to look at, but it does keep the litter out of the carpet.

  3. We deal with the litter, same as you. A nice broom and a dust pan. Seems like the best way. A little swimming pool under the litter box sounds good but that would take up tons of space and since I have five litter boxes, we would all be living in the litter box. LOL.

  4. I have the same issues, but I would definitely recommend you DON'T put your litter box in the bathtub. Cat litters are absorbent and the clumping litters are even worse, so if it went down the drain it could cause a serious drain problem.

  5. Austin is an indoor/outdoor cat, but when he does use the indoor litter box, he's mostly ok, except he has a bad aim on occasion! The cat litter I use is wood pellets. :)

  6. Pine pellets are, well, let's be frank -- they smell lovely and they do the job very well and they are compostable but man oh man, when they get de-pelletified (i.e. peed-on) do they get everywhere. I mean *everywhere*. That's enough frankness. I use an old shower-mat in front of the box. Kitties have no problem stepping on it; in fact, Barney actually sweeps it with his paws (like as if digging, but not) so likely at least some of what gets stuck to his paws gets deposited on the mat & not, say, on the countertops (whoops, more frankness than might be entirely palatable for a sensitive audience). The mat doesn't solve the problem but it works to trap some of the stuff. Better than the cat-mat I bought designed for the purpose, which appears to be fairly useless & fairly impossible to shake out. Shower-mat shakes just fine.

  7. Thanks very much for the comments and suggestions - and the frankness. :-)

  8. I love this because you at all so real! This is so refreshing...btw my kitten Frankie is a lovable lunatic and is 100% little boy!! I've never seen a kitten do a potty dance until Frankie lol!! He waits and plays until the last second, then runs like a madman for the litter box sending litter flying, he then does his business in record time and is off to play again :)


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