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Pet Connection Q&A: Don't expect two cats to share one litter box

Published: Tuesday, Sep. 25, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3D

We already had an adult cat. We adopted a kitten, and now that she's half-grown, we have litter box issues, specifically wars over the box. What should we do to make them "share the bathroom"?

– Via email

One box is not enough. You should have one box for each cat, plus one. If you have one cat, you need two litter boxes. Two cats, three litter boxes. Put them in different locations. For instance, keep one upstairs and one downstairs. That way, one is always convenient. And with more than one cat, it prevents fights over who gets to use which box when it's needed.

Some cats like to ambush others when they use the litter box, so place litter boxes in locations with easy escape routes. Privacy is important, too. Another good reason to have multiple litter boxes: Each cat may prefer a different type of litter.

What about what goes inside the box? There are all kinds of different cat litter, and they all have pros and cons. Most cats prefer clumping litter because of its soft, sandy feel. It's easy on the paws and easy to scoop. Other cats might like a fine-grained clay litter. Look for one that comes in a dust-free formula. Some cat litter is easier on the Earth, made from recycled paper or natural substances like corncobs or wheat. But if your cat doesn't like it, you'll be throwing a lot of it out, which is not that environmentally friendly. Let the cats pick their preferences by offering a "litter box buffet."

Avoid scented litter. It might smell good to you, but that perfumed odor can be sensory overload for a cat.

– Dr. Marty Becker

The buzz

Purebred dogs help with human health

• Efforts to identify genetic markers for diseases are getting a boost from purebred dogs. While people (aside from, possibly, royal families) breed more or less randomly, purebred dogs have traceable lineage, and typically trace from a small population of dogs. Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, Elaine Ostrander of the National Human Genome Research Institute noted that this means canine genes may hold the answers to conditions such as epilepsy and those that cause blindness and kidney cancer.

• The trend toward ever-fatter dogs and cats continues, according to DVM360.com. Citing data gathered by Banfield Pet Hospitals, the industry news website noted that veterinary visits by more than 2 million dogs and 430,000 cats revealed weight gains in both populations. The incidence of excessive weight in dogs is up 37 percent since 2007. The incidence in cats is worse, with the prevalence of overweight cats increasing 90 percent since 2007.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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