A household should have a litter box for each cat, plus one extra. This means one cat should have two litter boxes. It not only helps to provide a clean spot for your cat(s) to eliminate, which can keep them from going outside the litter box, but it can also prevent territorial issues between cats.
This article covers what to consider when it comes to the placement of two litter boxes and when to avoid putting them side by side.
Can I put two litter boxes next to each other?
Yes, you can place two litter boxes next to each other. It’s not a good idea to do so if you’re trying to solve a litter box problem, such as two cats fighting over the litter box or one cat peeing and/or pooping outside of the litter box.
Placing two litter boxes next to each other is the equivalent of placing two toilets side by side. If one is filthy or they’re both in a smelly bathroom and that bathroom is in a location you don’t like to visit, an extra toilet doesn’t improve the situation. It’s also not ideal if you must share the bathroom with someone else. If they make a mess in one toilet and you must use the toilet right next to it, you’re still dealing with their mess.
This is why it’s not ideal to place two litter boxes next to each other.
Where do you put the second litter box?
Ideally, you should not put two litter boxes next to each other. Here are suggestions for where to put the second litter box:
- Away from food & water
In the wild, cats wouldn’t eliminate where they nest or eat, so those instincts are a part of your housecat. A litter box should never be placed next to a food dish for this reason. If the litter box and food dish must be kept in the same room, they should be several feet away from each other.
- In a quiet & well-lit spot
Your cat wants to feel safe when they’re using the litter box. If they can’t see their surroundings well because the litter box is in a dark corner of the house, they’ll feel less inclined to use it. Safety also means they’re able to watch the room as they’re going to the washroom and they can easily escape; it’s an instinctual thing. You also don’t want to place the litter box in an area where they could be startled by loud noises or people coming in and out of the room. That means entryways are not ideal, neither are furnace rooms where the sound of the furnace or a central vacuum turning on could startle them.
- Where they’re eliminating outside the litter box
If your cat isn’t always using their litter box, try placing the second or third litter box in the area they’re eliminating outside of the litter box, even if it doesn’t seem ideal (e.g. it’s in a dark corner in the basement). It will be very important to clean the area they’ve been eliminating with an enzyme cleaner to get rid of all of the smells. If they smell their scent in an area, it can encourage them to keep going there, even if it’s a foot or two away from the litter box.
When your cat is marking around the litter box, it typically means they’re being territorial about their litter box or that they don’t like something about the litter box (the litter, cleanliness, type of litter box, etc.). So although your cat is marking and eliminating next to your litter box, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should place the second or third litter box there.
If you have multiple cats and you believe your cat is eliminating and scratching next to the litter box to mark their territory, placing the second litter box in another room would be ideal.
- A spot your cat frequently visits
It’s unlikely you’d find your cat curled up by the furnace taking a nap or just hanging out, so it’s not an ideal spot for their litter box.
You don’t necessarily need to have the litter box in the middle of the living room (although if they keep eliminating there, it’s not a bad idea to place a litter box in the area while you correct their behavior). However, try not to place an additional litter box completely out of the way.
If your cat never goes into a room, don’t place the litter box there. Try to place it somewhere your cat would naturally discover it on their own. It has to make sense for the cleanliness of your home (e.g. you don’t want the litter box in your kid’s playroom) but it should also make sense for your cat; especially if you’re trying to correct their lack of litter box use.
- On another level
If your house has multiple levels and your cat hangs out on each level, it’s a good idea to place a litter box on each level. A flight of stairs can be a decent trek for a little cat, and you don’t want to give them any excuse to be lazy and find an easier spot to eliminate outside of their litter box.
It’s especially important to have a litter box on each level if you have a senior cat, a cat with mobility issues, or a cat dealing with kidney or bladder issues. If they have to pee but can’t get to the litter box on time because it’s across the house and down a flight of stairs, they may have more accidents outside the box.
Can two litter boxes be in the same room?
Yes, two litter boxes can be in the same room. They should be on opposite sides of the room so your cat views them as two separate litter boxes and the odors from one litter box don’t take over the second litter box. The benefit of having two litter boxes is that it provides your cat with more options, so it’s counterproductive to place them right next to each other in one room.
Give each litter box a dedicated space that feels separated from the others. This ensures each cat has their own territory, one dirty litter box doesn’t impact a clean one, and your cat has location options.
3 Reasons Not to Put Two Litter Boxes Next to Each Other
One of the most frustrating scenarios to deal with as a cat owner, which is also difficult to correct, is dealing with a cat urinating or pooping outside of the litter box. This situation may lead you to get the correct number of litter boxes per cat. And now you may be wondering if you can simply put the second or third litter box next to the other.
Here are 3 reasons why it’s a bad idea to put two litter boxes next to each other.
1. Cats are territorial
If you have more than one cat you may be dealing with one cat guarding the litter box or marking around the litter box.
For this reason, it is recommended you have at the minimum, a litter box for each cat, but one per cat plus one extra is best (e.g. if you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes).
If you place those extra litter boxes right next to the existing litter box, it doesn’t allow your cats to have their own space with their own smells.
2. It doesn’t cut down on odors
One of the other reasons it’s important to have a second litter box is because it helps give your cat a clean place to go to the washroom. If you’re not scooping their litter box at least once a day, the smells can easily become overwhelming.
If you simply place the second litter box next to the first litter box, it’s going to seem like one big, smelly litter box to your cat. Placing the second litter box in another room, or at least several feet away from the first litter box helps ensure there’s a clean-smelling spot for them to do their business.
3. It doesn’t give your cat options
If your house has stairs and your cat is on one level and must use the washroom, they may have to go all the way upstairs or downstairs to do so. This may not be a big deal to you, but your cat is smaller, and a flight of stairs requires a lot of effort, especially for a senior cat.
When a cat is going to the washroom outside the litter box, one of the reasons may be that they don’t like the litter box’s location. It may be that they had a bad experience when using the litter box in the current location (e.g. they were startled by someone or something, or they experienced pain when using the litter box), they don’t like the surroundings of their current litter box, or it’s next to their food dish.
Placing a second litter box an inch or two away from the first litter box doesn’t help them disassociate the litter box with that bad experience. You won’t know if “location” is what’s causing your cat to not use the litter box.
If you place the second litter box in another room and your cat starts using it, it gives you a clear answer: your cat isn’t using their original litter box because they don’t like something about its location.
When should you put two litter boxes next to each other?
Place litter boxes next to each other if only have one cat and you’re diligent about cleaning the litter boxes. If both are kept clean, the smells from one won’t keep your cat from using the other.
It’s likely safe to place them side by side if your cat is also diligent about using the litter box. If they’re eliminating outside the litter box, you’ll want to place the second litter box in that location, or in a location that’s more appealing to them.
Some cats prefer to urinate in one litter box and defecate in another. In this scenario, your cat may prefer to have both litter boxes side by side.
I hope this article has helped explain why it’s best not to put two litter boxes next to each other 🙂