Can Cats Share a Litter Box in a Small Apartment?

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For cat owners with more than one cat, the litter box can be a tricky issue to tackle since the traditional method (which is ridiculous in a small apartment) has always recommended n+1 litter boxes, n being the number of cats. Therefore, in my apartment, they would have recommended I have 5 litter boxes for my 4 cats.

Litter boxes. Litter boxes everywhere – this is a nightmare for some cat owners. Especially ones living in small apartments or going to move into a small apartment. For a simple plastic box for cats to do their business in, there seems to be a lot of questions regarding it.

That would mean that a quarter of the floor space in my apartment would be covered by litter boxes. That’s a bit too much, therefore, having cats share a litter box(es) is ideal for a lot of people.

Picture 1. We know cats can be picky about their litter boxes. However, sharing one isn’t difficult!

So can cats share a litter box in a small apartment? They absolutely can as long as all the cats are friendly with each other. Cats will take turns to use the litter box, very rarely will they go in it at the same time. Keeping to the tenets of an effective litter box: clean, large, and easily accessible – there is little reason why a cat wouldn’t use a litter box that another cat also uses.

Why It Isn’t Ideal to Have Many Litter Boxes in a Small Apartment

As said above, litter boxes take up a lot of horizontal space. Small apartments (or people living in one room with their cats) have to work with minimal flooring space so it is important to maximize the amount of room that is taken up by cat stuff. However, it doesn’t mean that it won’t be an effective area for our cats to do their business.

Also, more litter boxes mean more litter and as a result, that means more litter tracking. For those that don’t know about what litter tracking is, it’s basically the spread of litter around the home. Usually from our cat’s paws after going inside the litter box and digging around. Some litter will track less than others (pine litter is the one I use exclusively).

Picture 2. Loki, the youngest of my 4 cats – prefers his litter box clean, clear, and under control.

Depending on what type of litter box and litter that you choose to use, it might cause even more odors than necessary.

To make sure that our cats are satisfied with sharing and taking turns using the litter box, just simply follow the litter box tenets.

An effective litter box is:

  • One that is large enough for the cat to put their full body into easily
  • One that is placed in an area that is safe and they’re able to be aware of their surroundings without surprises
  • Easily accessible for all types of cats (i.e. Low to the ground and easy to enter)
  • Clean and regularly scooped (the more cats you have, the more frequent you have to scoop)

For me, I am living with 4 cats in a small apartment and I scoop at least once a day with 2 litter boxes. There was a time in which I was using one litter box with 4 cats but that required me to scoop at least twice a day. It was a lot of scooping but it was very possible to do. However, adding a second litter box here was probably best to do in my situation with 4 cats.

It’s going to depend on your situation but as long as your cats get along – they will share the litter box with no problems. The reason that they need to get along is for the obvious reason of stress and avoidance. Cats that are not friendly with other cats around them will not easily approach the places that other cats are present. Stressors and avoidance behaviors can wreak havoc on proper litter box behaviors.

Important Science About Cats and Sharing Litter Boxes

In a 2017 study: Does previous use affect litter box appeal in multi-cat households?, tests were done with cat pairs that were familiar to each other (read: friendly) and placed into enclosures that included everything they needed.

The researchers then added familiar urine/feces to one litter box for one test, faux-urine and faux-feces to another, and urine/feces of different cats for another test, and for the control – a clean litter box. They then observed the eliminating behaviors and actions of the cat pairs.

The researchers found that:

  • Cats prefer a clean litter box out of everything (they used the clean litter box more often) – an expected result
  • For the other litter boxes with urine or feces, It didn’t matter who used the litter box. Cats used the litter boxes at the same rate whether it was their own waste or another cat’s waste.
  • What was interesting is that the faux-urine (saltwater) and faux-feces (gelatin log) were still not as appealing as the clean litter box even though the saltwater and gelatin were not real waste and had no distinct smells. Therefore, the cats operated visually to what was in the litter box. Meaning they cared about how their litter box looked.
Picture 3. Litter box placement is important, in front of the door is a good spot to place it to prevent tracking.

So what does this tell us? That cats don’t really care about who uses the litter box and they’re able to share litter box quite easily – but what makes the litter box appealing to use? The way that it looks. As long as there are no physical or visual obstructions inside the litter box, they will tend to use it more often than a litter box with visual obstructions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kkGGchVAV4

So How Many Litter Boxes Should You Have in a Small Apartment?

In my apartment, my two litter boxes take up minimal room near the door and my four cats (see how I live with 4 cats in a small apartment here) have used the two litter boxes with no problems for years.

Two Cat Home1 Litter Box Recommended
Three Cat Home1 Litter Box Possible – 2 Recommended
Four Cat Home2 Litter Boxes Recommended
Five Cat Home2 Litter Boxes Possible – 3 Recommended
Table 1. Number of Litter Boxes Recommended VS. Number of Cats in a Small Apartment

Again, cat relationships are going to be a big factor in how well they use the litter boxes and of course, litter box cleanliness (see above study- no visual obstructions). There isn’t one right answer, it’s what works for you and your home.

Litter Box and Litter Recommendations For Sharing Cats

For more information and everything cat owners need to know about litter boxes in apartments, click here!

Below are some of my recommendations for litter and litter boxes and the tools that I use to keep the litter box area neat and clean.

Litter Box & Litter Tracking Mat

  1. Purina Tidy Cats Hooded Litter Box System
  2. Purina Tidy Cats Hooded Litter Box System

    This litter box kit contains some pads and pellets (don't use them). I recommend just putting away the pellets that they give you and get pine litter. Pine litter works very well with this litter box and it's very easy to clean.

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  3. iPrimio Cat Litter Trapper EZ Clean Mat
  4. iPrimio Cat Litter Trapper EZ Clean Mat

    Litter mats are very effective tools used around the litter area. It traps whatever dust and litter that might come out from the box and prevents tracking. I use this item with my Purina Hooded litter box.

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Litter That I Use

I exclusively use pine litter in my apartment because it simply is the best in an apartment. It doesn’t track and is very efficient to use. For more information about pine litter: Complete Guide to Pine Litter.

  1. Feline Pine Cat Litter
  2. Feline Pine Cat Litter

    Pine litter is the only way to go to prevent tracking all over the apartment. It's natural, cheap, and incredibly easy to clean and manage. Use with a sifting litter box like the Purina Hooded Litter Box!

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  3. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Double Duty Cat Litter Deodorizer
  4. Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Double Duty Cat Litter Deodorizer

    When you need that extra odor prevention, sprinkle a little into the sifting tray. Very useful when you need to get rid of odors quickly (like when guests come over).

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monsieurtn

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats - increasing our beloved feline's welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

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