Critter Culture
Simple Math: The Litter Box to Cat Ratio

Simple Math: The Litter Box to Cat Ratio

Critter Culture Staff



It's not the most entertaining topic, but your cat's litter box is an important subject. How many should you have? What style is best? Should you use a particular type of litter?

Knowing the scoop will help you maintain a clean home, avoid feline hygiene issues, and make for some happy kitties.


Will two cats use one pan?

Two tabby cats seen from above while using a closed litter box. Lightspruch / Getty Images

Two cats may or may not be okay with using one litter box. Regardless, you're their parent, and you're in charge.

A bullying situation may arise by only using one box. And what if both little ones need to go at the same time? Also, think about the smell and contents: one cat may not find it safe to enter after the other cat just did its business. It's only decent that your pets have privacy when going to the bathroom. Providing multiple boxes allows them some alone time devoid of annoyances and territorial aggression.


What if you only have one cat?

Cute tabby cat sitting on a top-entry litter box and looking up to the camera Lightspruch / Getty Images

Even if your furry friend is rolling solo, you should provide them with at least two boxes. There's an adjustment period if the cat is new to the scene. Your home is a foreign land, so they'll need time to figure out where things are. Keeping only one litter box in an unfamiliar surrounding is a recipe for disaster when house-training.

Especially in an emergency, your kitty may not have time to make it to a specific area of your home. Plus, situations like visitors, storms, and loud noises could be upsetting and require an immediate trip to the litter box. It's much better to have a nearby choice if the urge to go arises out of nowhere.


Your home's size matters

Young woman cleaning cat litter box with wood pellets in bathroom.

Picture your home's size. Are you in an apartment? Do you live in a sprawling structure? How many levels are in your house? All of these factors come into play when thinking about placement.

Your goal is to have a private, comfy, and safe area for each cat. Putting pans in spots that are easily accessible is important. You wouldn't want to walk up three flights of stairs to use the restroom, so consider this scenario when contemplating litter boxes.


Where are your cat's hang-outs?

Cute British Shorthair kitten in litter box at home

Whatever style of home you have, there are bound to be some areas your cats prefer more than others. Pay attention to their go-to spots because they feel secure and comfortable in these locations. If Fluffy, Midnight, and Chloe each take to a few favored places, make sure to put their respective boxes in one of these zones to avoid a territory dispute. Don't set up their pans in little-used areas that are inconvenient and out of the way: it won't end well.


Factor in an area's climate

cat in plastic litter box Xiuxia Huang / Getty Images

Temperature and airflow are also points to ponder when planning litter logistics. You don't want a concentrated location, so spread out the pans. Ideally, well-ventilated locations are your best bet, so smells don't stagnate and linger. Your cat should also be comfortable, so avoid drafty, cold, humid, or exceptionally warm spots. Stay away from vents, so the scent doesn't blow throughout your home.


The n+1 rule

Directly Above Cat Litter Box with a kitten inside Jordan Lye / Getty Images

How many litter boxes per cat do you need? The simple answer: n+1.

N+1 is the veterinary rule of thumb for the ratio of kitties to litter boxes. You should have one more pan than cats, at the very least. There's an actual logic behind this that's based on preferences, location, health, cleanliness, and how well your felines get along.


Preferred litter types

High Angle View of Curious Devon Rex Kittens Examining Dirty Cat Sand in Litter Box CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

Another reason to have multiple litter boxes is because of personal preference. Litter substrates vary, and individual cats may favor specific types. Clay, silica, pine or paper nuggets, sand, and grain litters are some examples of what's on today's market. If you've done everything right, but the kitty is still going right outside the pan, it's a good indication you should try an alternate substance.


Litter box sizes and varieties

Cat litter box with scoop on wooden floor

Cats prefer different types of litter boxes, too. You should always go with the largest pan size available, but otherwise, offer your kitties some options to find out what works best. Kittens or seniors need a low entry point. Some cats may want to be hidden. Others could be excessive diggers and need high walls. The n+1 rule allows you to try different boxes to get a feel for who likes what.


Sanitation and hygiene

Cat at litter box Vstock LLC / Getty Images

Keeping ample litter boxes is also a matter of health. If you have a cat that isn't feeling well, the last thing you want is for it to be sharing a bathroom area with others. Plus, overcrowding one pan rapidly leads to unsanitary conditions. Sharing litter boxes is an open invitation to urinary pain, diseases, infections, and other nasty problems.


Cleaning litter boxes

Pet Owner Cleaning Litter Box and Putting Remains in Small Garbage Bin. CasarsaGuru / Getty Images

Your cats simply may not be into sharing, so self-cleaning litter boxes aren't a loophole in the n+1 rule. Stay true to this number and be vigilant about cleaning their pans.

Scooping daily is the preferred frequency, but it may have to be even more. Changing the litter entirely varies depending on use, but do it at least once per week and scrub out the box every time with a mild soap.



Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Odor and Cleanup

Choosing the Best Cat Litter for Odor and Cleanup

Get your paws on the latest animal news and information