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Does previous use affect litter box appeal in multi-cat households?

, , and . Behavioural Processes 141 (3): 284-290 (2017)

Abstract

It is commonly assumed that cats actively avoid eliminated materials (especially in multi-cat homes), suggesting regular litter box cleaning as the best defense against out-of-box elimination. The relationship between previous use and litter box appeal to familiar subsequent users is currently unknown. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between previous litter box use and the identity of the previous user, type of elimination, odor, and presence of physical/visual obstructions in a multi-cat household scenario. Cats preferred a clean litter box to a dirty one, but the identity of the previous user had no impact on preferences. While the presence of odor from urine and/or feces did not impact litter box preferences, the presence of odorless faux-urine and/or feces did – with the presence of faux-feces being preferred over faux-urine. Results suggest neither malodor nor chemical communication play a role in litter box preferences, and instead emphasize the importance of regular removal of physical/visual obstructions as the key factor in promoting proper litter box use.

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