What Causes Cat Litter to Track and Get Everywhere?
There isn’t one simple factor that causes cat litter to track outside the litter box. Litter tracking has to do with your cat’s particular habits as well as the type of litter and litter box, where you put the box, how much litter you use, and how you clean up after kitty.
If your cat is a “digger” who scratches and flings litter outside the box every time he uses it, you’ll have different challenges than a kitty who doesn’t bury their poo. Some cats even lay in their litter box for reasons that are mysterious to humans but make sense to feline brains. One kitty loves non-clumping pellet-style litter, and another kitty will only use unscented clumping litter.
You can make changes to reduce tracking, but those changes won’t help if it upsets kitty and makes her stop using the litter box. That’s trading one problem for a worse one. Every home is different and you’ll want to choose the litter tracking solutions that work best for you and your furbabies. Here are five to consider.
1. Reduce Tracking with Your Type of Litter
Let’s get one thing out of the way: most litter will track to some degree. There are litters that track more and litters that track less, and you have choices about which cat litter you use.
As with all things, there are trade-offs, so going with a lower tracking litter may have other downsides. You’ll have to decide what the optimal balance of cat litter features is for you and your kitty.
In general, these litters tend to track less:
- Pellet-based litter, like ARM & HAMMER™ Feline Pine Original. This non-clumping litter contains highly absorbent pine fibers and the larger, heavier pellets are much harder to fling from the box or get stuck on your cat.
- Low-dust clumping litter, such as ARM & HAMMER™ Double Duty Clumping Cat Litter. With larger litter particles and 99% dust-free, this lower-tracking litter forms hard clumps for easy scooping and clean up and has a fresh clean scent to help with urine and feces odors.
- Fragrance-free litter, such asARM & HAMMER™ Super Scoop™ Fragrance-Free Clumping Litter. This litter is coated to make it dust-free which helps reduce tracking. With super absorbent clay and baking soda crystals, it clumps quickly and into very hard clumps to reduce scatter when cleaning the litter box.
2. Help Prevent Tracking with Your Choice of Litter Box
You can have some control over how much litter gets on the floor by choosing certain types of litter box. For a litter box that helps reduce litter tracking try:
- A covered litter box. Litter can only escape from the front opening or small amounts on your cat’s paws. Some covered boxes also have a flap over the opening to help keep more litter inside.
- A top-entry litter box. The higher sides help keep litter inside, and having to jump out from the top helps to get litter off of kitty’s paws on the top of the box before she jumps down to the floor.
- A larger litter box. If you bought a box when your cat was a kitten, she might have outgrown it. According to cat behavior expert Pam Johnson-Bennett, your cat’s litter box “should be 1 ½ times the length of your cat from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.” The larger box will help keep litter in the box when your cat scratches around.
- A litter box with higher sides. Again, the higher sides help keep litter inside the box and off the floor. Some cats will jump to the edge of the litter box side before jumping to the floor, which can knock litter particles off paws as well.
3. Where you Set Up Your Cat’s Litter Box Affects Tracking
Not only does the type of litter and the type of litter box have an impact on how much litter tracking happens in your home, so too does where you put the litter box. Litter boxes that are hidden in cat furniture or in farther away areas will keep litter contained to specific areas.
Try these places to put your litter box to help prevent more widespread tracking:
- A litter box hider. Put your litter box inside a cabinet, or a piece of cat furniture. Litter that gets scratched outside the box or the first bits that fall from your cat’s paws will be inside the hider.
- Inside a closet with a cat door. Keeping the box hidden away and having the cat jump through the cat opening will help keep litter behind the closet door.
- In the basement or an unfinished area. Unless you have an elder cat who can’t make it long distances to get to the litter box, most cats don’t mind traveling to a private, out-of-the-way area to do their toileting. If you have the space, keeping the litter box away from highly traveled or main living areas will help keep tracked litter (and potential odors) to a minimum.
4. Litter Mats or Carpets Can Help Reduce Tracking
Litter mats are one of the best inventions for helping stop litter tracking. Basically, you set your litter box on top of or in front of a piece of carpet, fabric, or specially designed mat to help “wipe” kitty’s paws as they exit the litter box. The mat also helps contain any litter scatter from kitty’s vigorous scratching. By getting litter particles on the mat instead of the floor, it’s harder for them to be tracked as far from the box.
Litter mats can be as simple as a carpet remnant, bath mat, or old towel. You can also purchase specialized silicone or fiber litter mats similar to door mats that trap dirt and debris before it can track throughout the house. Some litter mats funnel dirt and particles away from the surface and trap them in the mat’s fibers to reduce tracking and dispersion. Simply pick up the mat and shake it out, vacuum it or wash as part of your litter clean up.
Litter mats come in various sizes, and bigger is usually better if you have the space around your litter box. The larger surface allows kitty to take more than one step on the mat to get litter off paws and to have a wider area around the box to catch any litter that escapes during use. The largest portion of the litter mat should be in front of the litter box exit point if the box has a specific opening and around the external sides if an open box is against the wall.
There are even litter mats designed for corner litter boxes, so shop around to find one that fits your litter box set up best.
5. Help Keep Litter from Tracking Everywhere with Daily Clean Up
It might be obvious, but how and how often you clean your litter box affects litter tracking. The more frequently you clean the litter box and how careful you are when scooping clumps of urine and feces impacts the amount of litter that gets outside the box. The longer you leave litter on the floor around the box, the more it can get tracked by human feet and cat paws.
Here are some tips for litter box cleaning that help prevent or reduce tracking:
- It sounds simple, but one of the best ways to reduce tracking is to keep a hand broom and dustpan near the litter box. Keep it easily accessible near the litter box to and sweep up any scattered particles. A hand vacuum will also work.
- Keep your litter box scoop over the litter box when removing clumps of cat waste. Carrying the scoop outside the box can allow particles to fall on the floor. Hold the waste bag over the box and closer to the litter instead of lifting the scoop up high. Put the entire edge of the scoop inside the waste bag to minimize particles missing the bag.
- Put the entire litter pan inside a trash bag when dumping the litter for a complete litter change. Lift the box up to pour the litter into the bag and only remove the pan after all litter has been scraped clean.
- Did you know a lint roller can pick up small litter particles off the floor or other surfaces? You can also roll up a piece of wide tape and press it to litter scatter for a quick cleanup that doesn’t escape.
- Move the litter box and sweep or vacuum under it as part of weekly or monthly cleanup.
- Roll your litter mat up to keep particles from escaping and take it over the trash can or outside to shake.
- People with pets generally need to vacuum more frequently than those without! If you have more than one cat and more than one litter box, you’re going to have more dirt and chances for litter tracking. Pet parents may have more dirt, hair and poop, but you also have more snuggles, purrs and love.
Help Stop Litter in its Tracks with a Combination of Strategies
While it’s impossible to keep every grain of litter in the box, there are ways to keep litter tracking levels down. Finding that combination of litter tracking solutions where both you and kitty are happy is the goal.
And remember, if you decide to try a new litter, go slowly and monitor your cat. The best litter is one your cat uses regularly without complaint and that gives you what you need in terms of benefits, such as easy clean-up, ability to carry and pour the litter, wetness absorption, odor control and lower tracking.