How Many Litter Boxes Do You Need per Cat?


Who knew the topic of cat litter boxes could be so complex: What kind of litter will my cat like? What kind of litter box should I get her? Where do I put the magic combination? How do I make sure she keeps using it? Let’s scratch even further below the surface by adding one more consideration to the conversation–how many litter boxes should I have per cat?

The easy answer seems like it should be one per cat, right? But, as most cat folks know, few things are ever that easy when it comes to our feline friends.

The magic litter box ratio

In the veterinary profession there is a magic rule for cats and litter boxes, which is called the “n+1 rule”. “Basically what it means is that you should have one more litter box than the number of cats you have,” according to the experts at Preventive Vet. So, even if you only have one cat, providing two litter boxes is ideal, giving your kitty a choice on where to do their business.

Why would I need more than one litter box if I only have one cat?

Let’s face it. Cats are finicky creatures. Giving your cat a choice gives you peace of mind. If you only have one litter box and something upsets your cat, such as a new person in the house, guests at holiday time, thunder, or an overzealous neighbor with a leaf blower, giving them access to more than one spot for business lessens the likelihood that said business might be conducted elsewhere in your house–popular places include on your bed, on carpets, and on area rugs.

There is also the chance that a choosy cat might prefer one type of litter box (covered/uncovered), a specific litter, or even one placement over another. By providing two litter boxes you can easily identify your cat’s preferences and save yourself both from potential discomfort.

Photo by Litter Robot on Unsplash

Can two cats use one litter box?

They can. But the better question might be, will they? With multiple cats you face all kinds of litter box conundrums that can include:

  • what does a kitty do if they have to go but there’s already someone in there?
  • if someone “dropped a bomb” in there, someone else may not consider it safe to enter and go elsewhere
  • when one kitty wants to go but another, more dominant, kitty is getting in the way or even attacking the other, preventing them from a safe solo experience
  • having a very playful kitty who wants to romp at all times, even when there is more serious business to attend to

So you see, more boxes mean more options for a relaxing release. On this note, our friends at the Humane Society of the United States also recommend “not to place all the boxes in one location because your cats will think of them as one big box and ambushing another cat will still be possible”.

How many litter boxes do I need for a two-story house?

The size and layout of your house are less important than the “n+1 rule”. Of course if your house is absolutely huge, you might consider even more than that. It’s all about making private spaces that are easy, safe, and comfortable for cats.

Where do you put the litter box(es) in a two-story house

As we’ve noted, litter boxes should be placed in different areas of the home so a two-story home should have plenty of safe spaces to choose from. In general, you would want to place these in areas your cat frequents and that are easily accessible. While it might seem ideal to put a litter box in an unused bathroom or in the garage, your cat might not agree. Can’t you just imagine them thinking “Why walk all the way across the house and down the stairs to potty when there’s a nice, plush rug right here”?

Photo by Litter Robot on Unsplash

How often should I clean litter boxes?

The answer to this is up for debate–some people scoop morning and night, others every few days. A common sense approach for both health and comfort would be at least daily. A cat is more likely to make use of a clean potty–wouldn’t you?

Beyond scooping, and depending on which type of litter your cat chooses, you should completely empty litter boxes on a regular basis. The folks over at the Humane Society of the United States offer the following advice, “Twice a week is a general guideline for replacing clay litter, but depending on your circumstances, you may need to replace it every other day or only once a week. If you clean the litter box daily, you might only need to change clumping litter every two to three weeks”. Every time you empty a litter box, you should give it a quick scrub with a mild detergent to be sure to rid it of anything of offense.

Further reading:

Why is My Cat Peeing on the Rugs?

How to Figure Out the Best Place For a Litter Box

The 10 Best Types of Cat Litter for Your Kitty–and Your Home

Why Your Cat is Peeing in the Bed

Take a Deep Breath–We’ve Found the Bet Odor-Reducing Cat Litter

Come Clean with These Dust-Free Cat Litters


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