If you’re going back and forth as to whether or not it’s a good idea to grab a litter box for your outdoor cat, I’m hoping this article will do the trick helping you decide. It’s absolutely your choice, as in my opinion, litter boxes are nowhere near necessary for outdoor cats.
There are a number of different reasons you may want to have one, but there are also plenty of people who choose not to as well.
If none of the reasons why you might want to have a litter box for an outdoor cat strike you as relevant to your household’s cat(s), or you feel the points for not having a litter box are more relevant to you at this moment in time, I’d say that’s a pretty clear indication you should be skipping out on them entirely for the time being. Nothing stops you from getting a litter box later, but we’ll get into more of that in the discussion below.
Let’s jump straight into the reasons you may want to have one to start, then I’ll discuss a number of reasons you may not want to bother giving litter boxes for outdoor cats a go right now.
Why You May Want a Litter Box for an Outdoor Cat
1. Bad Weather May Mean Your Cat Doesn’t Want to Go or “Go” Outside
There are absolutely ways to make the outside a lot more comfy cozy for cats who go outdoors. There are outdoor cat houses that provide shelter from rainy weather, insulated cat shelters for colder winter months, and even electronically heated cat houses for regions that get well below zero. That being said, if you’ve got an outdoor/indoor cat or two and they’re pretty squeamish about going out in certain weather conditions, you may want to grab an indoor litter box for him or her to use in case the weather gets pretty bad. Kitty won’t want to go on the floor, and you won’t want him or her to either!
2. Injury or Sickness May Make Your Cat Prefer to Use the Litter Indoors Sometimes
There are times when your cat may or may not feel well, and if you suspect your outdoor cat might want to spend these times indoors rather than lounging around outside, you may want to have a litter box around for those times. Not all cats will prefer to stay indoors even if they’re injured or sick, but I can imagine a number absolutely will.
3. Fear of Another Animal May Make Your Cat Want to Stay Indoors
If your area has quite a number of other cats, fear of other, more aggressive felines in the area may prove to be a source of anxiety for one or more of the cats you have at home. Due to a desire to stay safe and not get into fights, your cat may opt to spend a lot more time indoors, thus increasing the need for an indoor litter box.
If you’ve noticed your cat is scared of one of the outdoor cats – or really any animal, such as a dog or of wild animals like raccoons, foxes, or even bears if they frequent your area – you may want an indoor litter box to prevent the need for kitty to go outside if he or she is a bit too scared to at a certain time of day, for instance.
4. As Your Cat Ages He or She May No Longer Want to Go Outside as Much
Cats get old just as we do, and while a lot of them maintain quite a reasonable level of activity and continue to behave like slightly calmer versions of their older selves when they get old, there are cats who become very anxious around other cats and very stressed about going outdoors in general as they hit their elder-years. Early litter training by always having at least one litter box inside may make life easier when your cat gets old, as the transition won’t be so difficult if you don’t have to teach an old cat a new trick.
5. To Reduce the Amount of “Presents” Left for You to Pick up in Your Garden
Having so many feral street cats in our neighbourhood is absolutely amazing, but there is one downside to all the furry fun we have with these cats around: loads of little loos left scattered all over our garden. No, it’s not the biggest of deals, and it definitely is more obvious when you don’t have a large property, or if you have very few exposed dirt areas cats really love to leave their presents in. If you don’t mind the poos left in the garden by now, you probably won’t need to consider this at all, however.
6. Make It Easier for You to Pick up Poos: Most End Up in One Spot
If you do mind the little presents that end up all around your garden, so you typically spend the time to pick them all up, you may want to grab a litter box to help reduce the volume of little poos that end up around the yard. If you have an outdoor litter box for your cats, as well as one for inside, the number of spots you’ll have to clean will be down to two, rather than the plethora of places that your cats typically use at the moment.
7. Reduce Uprooting Plants When Cats Dig to Cover up Loos
Having an outdoor and/or indoor litter box, by virtue of making sure your cats have a place to go that isn’t the yard, should also help with the amount of plat uprooting that may or may not be happening in your yard currently. I know I’ve come home to find a bunch of newly planted succulents completely uprooted by an eager little kitty trying to cover up her poo, and as a result, I feel if I had my own outdoor cats, especially if I had many and they liked to go in the new soil I’d dug up to plant in, I’d grab a litter box for outside to prevent this happening so often.
8. Lessen the Chance of Bothering Neighbours with Too Many “Presents” in Their Yard
Some neighbours, especially those who like cats, may not mind at all the fact that your cat(s) decide to use their gardens as a rest room every so often. Others will dislike how much your and others’ cat will poop in their grass, flowers, soil, and other places in their front and back gardens, but won’t tell you outright. Finally, there are a few who will be bothered enough to complain about it to you (hopefully nicely), and maybe even ask you to do something about it if you can.
No matter which type of neighbour you have, but definitely if you have the latter, you may want to grab a litter box to reduce the chances of your cat taking a dump in a neighbour’s yard, as it could help keep the peace, and it’s just quite a nice, neighbourly thing to do. The hope is if you have an outdoor litter box for your cats to use while outside, they’ll come back or wait in your yard until they have to go because it’s a lot nicer than going in the grass or some other part of the yard.
9. Increases the Chance of Finding Symptoms of Illness Through Poop Inspection
There are a number of symptoms – from diarrhea to worms – that can easily be seen if you’re scooping your cat’s poop out of a litter box. These could be the first indications of a sick cat, and they could also be a useful hint amongst other possible symptoms that might help your vet be able to diagnose an ill kitty.
Picture from post The Story of The Three Musketeer Persian Cats (& an Imposter)
Why You May Not Want a Litter Box for an Outdoor Cat
1. In Most Cases, It’s More Work for You to Clean a Litter Box
The most obvious reason as to why you may not want a litter box for an outdoor cat or multiple cats who go outside: it’s going to create more work for you. If you find none of the potential benefits of having a litter box for your outdoor cat(s) swaying, you may be better off opting out of a litter box. Especially since there are a few more downsides we need to discuss..
2. It’s More Costly Than Having Your Cats Go Outside
You don’t need to buy a litter box, a litter scoop, a litter mat, or have the recurring cost of cat litter if your cats simply do their business outside. It’s not too high a financial expense, but it is one nonetheless, and can get pricey if you do have a lot of cats. Maybe the savings could go toward more regular vet visits instead.
3. Having to Buy and Use Litter Is Less Environmentally Friendly
I’m pretty sure (correct me if I’m wrong) it’s better for the environment if you have outdoor cats go outside – especially, especially if you compost the little poos your cat leaves everywhere or leave them be instead of throwing them out in your bin by placing them in a paper or plastic bag. Not only are you saving on the ecological footprint of all the products you’ll have to buy when you have a litter box for your cat (as said, the box itself, the scoop, the litter mat, the recurring use of cat litter), you’re also saving on the ecological footprint of the transportation, the shipping, the packaging – which is quite a lot.
If you have litter that’s thrown away after it’s used up, you’ll have (in my mind) quite a large environmental impact since you’ll need to get the products more often. Want to use re-usable bead litter? Many of these are damaging to the environment if they’re accidentally flushed down the toilet or go down the drain and up in the sewers in any way. Would use scoopable, clumping litter instead? By not having a litter box you’d be saving on the water it would take to flush the litter down the toilet each time you scoop. Have scoopable litter you won’t flush? You’ll likely need a garbage bag, plastic or paper, to throw your cat’s clumping litter away in.
While the environmental impact of having a litter box may not be incredibly large, it still exists, and may be enough for you to want to pass on the litter box for your outdoor cat(s).
4. Your Cat May Not Even End up Using the Litter Box You Buy
Having an outdoor cat means that kitty’s likely to spend quite a lot of time outdoors, and if your litter box is an indoor one and not an outdoor litter box, he or she may not even be around enough to bother to use the indoor litter box you buy. If you think it’s not likely your cat is going to bother to use his or her litter, it may be better to skip out altogether.
5. It’s Fairly Easy to Train Even Sick or Old Cats to Use a Litter Box If They Ever Need One Later
If you ever need your cat to use a litter box later, it’s fairly easy to train cats to use litter boxes – especially open litter pans filled with material that looks like dirt, like corn cat litter or walnut cat litter. You may end up with an accident or two, but take those accidents and re-locate them to the litter box so your cat starts associating the box with their #2s and it likely won’t take long at all before your kitty completely understands where he or she is supposed to go.
Your Thoughts on Outdoor Cats Needing Litter Boxes?
What do you think about outdoor cats having litter boxes?
Do you have outdoor cats now or have you had them in the past? Have they ever had litter boxes? Were they indoor only or have you ever had an outdoor litter box as well?
Do you think it’s best for outdoor cats to have litter boxes? Do you see any exceptions to your general rule?
I’d love to hear any and all thoughts you have on the matter in the comments down below!
Leslee Gorzynski says
Our indoor only cat has been missing for 10 days. We have looked everywhere and put her litter box on the front porch but no luck. Then moved it into the garage (because of rain). A few nights ago a cat used it.
Then we set up a humane trap with her favorite food and toy. We have left the garage door half up every night. The next night the toy was played with and a cat was on the blanket. Last night all food gone in trap and now smell of urine. Is this going to help with our missing cat to possibly find home or is this a bad idea and attracting other cats?
Jessica Granger says
Hi! I actually have a question. A local cat that’s being fostered by a neighbor has decided to adopt me. I’m still on the fence because I travel a lot and my house is too small to keep a litter box comfortably. The cat doesn’t really want to live anywhere else (flattered), but I worry that if he starts to spend more time inside or if he starts to sleep inside at night he will need a litter box. Do cats go to the bathroom in the night? Might the installation of a doggie door be a good solution?
Thanks for any help. He’s really roping me in.
Recently, a precious feral has chosen us. He is a loner and is easy to care for eating like a king and living, for the most part, under the house. My husband built an insulated shelter for the approaching winter weather. He has not shown interest in it yet..fingers crossed! As soon as he trusts me, he will be trapped and off to the vet for neutering and vaccinations.
My thoughts and concerns are for the neighbors so I will definitely build an outdoor litter box to hopefully avert his attention away from their beautiful (and inviting) garden. I vote for a considerate, peaceful relationship with the neighbors!
I appreciate your blog as the thought had crossed my mind. You’ve given me confirmation and inspiration to get it done!
Christina H Carlee says
I have an indoor/outdoor cat. He goes out in the mornings at around 7:30 a.m. for about 1.5 hours, then comes inside for the rest of the afternoon (cat napping). Then he goes out again at around 3:00 p.m. for about another hour, then he’s back inside for the rest of the night. He uses a litter box. I don’t mind cleaning it and it helps me keep track of his elimination habits and the characteristics of his stool. It also helps to avoid neighbor complaints about cat poop in or around their property. And since I live in an over 55 villa community, where only indoor cats are allowed, having the litter box and knowing that my cat is using it daily, helps me to know that there is absolutely no reason for those busy bodies to complain about my cat being outside for a couple of hours a day. Also, I feel that the fresh air and the chance to run around and climb a tree is absolutely necessary for my cat’s mental and physical health. And mine too, since he meows and screams constantly wanting to get out. My nerves just can’t take it, so I let him out. Fortunately, he always comes back in to use the litter box. He’s a good cat.
Elise Xavier says
Very smart keeping a litter box to prevent complaints from neighbours in your situation. And boy is your fella a routine-loving sport! I can’t believe he sticks to around 1.5 hours twice a day – so incredible how he always comes back in to use the litter box as well. Sounds like an an amazing cat, absolutely!