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Creating the Ideal Litter Tray Setup: A Guide for Cat Owners

Updated: Apr 8

When it comes to keeping our feline friends happy and our homes smelling fresh, the setup of a cat litter tray can make a world of difference. It's not just about choosing the right litter or tray; it's about understanding the needs and preferences of our whiskered companions. In this guide, we'll explore how to create the ideal cat litter tray setup, ensuring cleanliness, comfort, and convenience for both you and your cat.

Choosing the Right Tray

The foundation of a good litter setup is the tray itself. Cats have different preferences, but here are a few general tips:

- Size Matters: Opt for a tray that's large enough for your cat to turn around comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to choose a tray that's at least one and a half times the length of your cat.

A tabby cat in a litter tray that is too small
Choosing the correct litter tray size is very important

- High Sides vs. Low Sides: Kittens and senior cats may benefit from trays with a lower entry side for easy access. High-sided trays can help contain litter scatter for more enthusiastic diggers. Older cats can also find it hard to squat in position due to arthritis, resulting in urine spilling over the side of lower trays. If you can't find the perfect size, modifying a plastic storage tub, such as the one pictured below, by cutting out an entry port on one side can be a good solution - you can get ideas and inspiration from the folks in the Bunnings Cat Hacks group on FB.

A plastic storage tub.
With modification, storage tubs like this can make excellent litter trays. They are readily available at storage and hardware stores.

- Covered or Open?: Some cats prefer the privacy of a covered tray, while others dislike the confined space. Observe your cat's behaviour to determine which they prefer.

A couple of other things to mention about covered trays:

  1. These are not ideal for cats with respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis, as airborne dust particles may be breathed in more easily

  2. If you have multiple cats, some may take advantage of the fact that the cat using the tray cannot survey their surroundings and may mount an ambush on individuals as they exit.

A brown cat exiting a covered litter tray
Not all cats like using covered trays. Removing the door is best.

Selecting the Litter

The type of litter you choose is crucial for acceptance and odour control:

- Clumping vs. Non-Clumping: Clumping litter makes it easier to remove waste, keeping the tray cleaner. However, some cats prefer the texture of non-clumping litter.

- Material: Litter can be made from clay, silica gel, recycled paper, wood, corn and even tofu. Each type has its pros and cons regarding odour control, dust production, and environmental impact. Experiment to see which your cat prefers and which aligns with your preferences for cleanliness and sustainability. Low dust options are always best for cats with respiratory conditions. Most cats also prefer non-scented litter.

A montage of different types of cat litter
There are many different types of litter available - experiment to see which one is best for you and your cat.

Ideal Location

Where you place the litter tray can significantly affect your cat's willingness to use it:

- Quiet and Accessible: Choose a spot that's easily accessible but away from busy areas to give your cat privacy - the laundry and/or bathroom is ideal. It can be useful to have a litter tray available on each level of the house, especially if your cat has mobility issues.

- Away from Food and Water: Cats instinctively avoid eliminating near their food and water, so keep the litter tray in a separate area.

- Multiple Trays: In multi-cat households, the general rule is to have one tray per cat, plus one extra, spread out in different locations to prevent competition. Some cats can guard access to all of the resources in one room, for example.

An Abyssinian cat in a bathroom
The bathroom or laundry are excellent for litter tray placement. Some owners even use the shower base for easy clean up of spills.

Maintaining the Litter Tray

- Regular Cleaning: Scoop waste daily and change the litter according to the manufacturer's recommendations or as needed. Regular cleaning prevents odours and encourages your cat to use the tray.

- Deep Cleaning: Wash the tray with mild soap and water during litter changes to remove lingering odors and bacteria. Avoid strong chemicals or fragrances that might deter your cat.

A person scooping litter from a tray
The litter tray needs daily attention. Some cats will refuse to get into a used tray.

Additional Tips

- Litter Mat: Consider placing a mat under the tray to catch any litter stuck to your cat's paws, reducing scatter and keeping the area tidy.

- Trial and Error: Be prepared for a bit of trial and error as you figure out your cat's preferences. Patience is key.

A tabby cat checking out a litter tray
It is a good idea to check in with your cat to see if they are happy - some will have strong preferences with tray and litter type, positioning and cleanliness!


Setting up the ideal cat litter tray is a blend of understanding your cat's preferences, maintaining cleanliness, and ensuring accessibility. By taking the time to create a comfortable and welcoming bathroom space for your feline friend, you'll promote good litter box habits, reduce stress for your cat, and keep your home smelling fresh.

Remember, every cat is unique, so what works for one may not work for another. Keep an open mind, and don't hesitate to adjust your setup as needed to keep your kitty happy and healthy.


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