DEAR PET TALK: How many times do you have to change the litter box if you have a cat? — Trixie, age 7
DEAR TRIXIE: Your kitty will be most appreciative if you (or your parents) frequently clean the litter box. Cats are very fastidious creatures (all that time spent on grooming is part of their nature), and a soiled litter box could prompt kitty to find other places to use as a toilet. Many stores sell a slotted scooper, so you can separate the waste-clumps from the litter, and some manufacturers have made pooper scoopers with long handles, so you needn’t bend down to retrieve kitty’s little creations.
But why do cats use a litter box, while dogs will relieve themselves out of doors? Go back many thousands of years, to the origin of the domestic cat in North Africa, a place filled with sandy deserts.
As “house” cats evolved alongside their human keepers, they retained that need to cover their feces, and sand or loose soil was the preferred medium. A man named Ed Lowe invented commercial cat litter in 1947, using a clay substance called Fuller’s Earth which was more absorbent than sand. It also wasn’t as easily tracked through one’s house.
Since Lowe’s invention, multiple manufacturers have produced varieties of litter ranging from crystals, to wood pellets, to walnut shells, to variants on clay. However, the clumping variety is the most popular and convenient. If you have multiple cats in a household, they may need their own litter boxes, as some cats don’t like to share.
Sally Cragin is the director of Be PAWSitive: Therapy Pets and Community Education. Send questions to email@example.com.