Proven Strategies For Solving Cat Litter Box Problems: Your cat has stopped using the litter box, and you’re frustrated and angry. But look at that box through his eyes. Is it too dirty? Too small? In the wrong location? Cats don’t stop using the box out of anger or spite. There’s always a reason, and in the cats eyes, it’s a good reason. Call on your inner detective to understand what the reason is, and your cat will soon love that litter again.
Why Some Cats Hate Litter Boxes?
Here are some clues to help your inner detective figure out why your cat’s not using the box. We’ve proposed some solutions, too.
Problem: A Health Issue
Bladder stones or crystals, urinary tract infections, arthritis, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and kidney disease can all cause litter box issues. If your cat stops using his litter box, ask your vet to test for all of these conditions, not just a UTI.
Solution: All of these conditions can be treated and managed, and your cat’s litter box habits should return to normal when he begins to feel better.
This is such a serious problem it has its own stress page.
Problem: Think Inside The Box
Most cats prefer litter boxes without tops. Let’s take a look at that box from the cat’s point of view.
- Problem: “Ugh.. This box is disgusting!”
- Solution: Cats don’t like to get their feet dirty, and many won’t walk on used litter. So scoop the box daily, even if you’re tired or just not in the mood. If you use clay litter, change it the moment it feels damp.
- Problem: “Eeuuu… It smells awful in here.”
- Solution: If there’s a top on your box, take it off. Tops trap unpleasant odors that are noticeable only to a cat. Also cats, especially cats in homes where there are other animals, like to see an escape route from their boxes. That’s not possible if the box is covered. If your cat urinates standing up, give him a very deep storage box instead of a conventional covered litter box. Cut down one side, so it’s easy to get in and out.
- Problem: “What is that strange smell?”
- Solution: Cats are more comfortable using boxes that smell familiar and have their own unique scent. Use unscented litter, and when you wash the box use only hot water and no soap. Soap and detergent can leave a residue that disguises the cat’s scent and discourages him from using the box. If you give your cat a new box, add some used litter so the box smells familiar, and don’t get rid of the old box until the cat is consistently using the new one.
- Problem: “I’m old and stiff, and getting in and out of that box is just too hard.”
- Solution: Cats with mobility issues, including obesity and arthritis, do best with boxes with very low sides. The plastic storage boxes designed to slide under beds make great litter boxes!
- Problem: “My claws keep getting caught in that stupid plastic thing.”
- Solution: Litter box liners inhibit digging and can discourage some cats from using the box.
Problem: Location! Location!
- Problem: Two cats require two litter boxes.The location of your cat’sbox is just as important as the litter you use and the box itself.
- Solution: Make sure your box is in a location that’s accessible and feels safe. For most cats, the basement and laundry and furnace rooms are neither. If you must have a box in the basement, put on some nightlights so the cat can find his way. Cats cannot see in total darkness. Laundry and furnace rooms are especially bad choices because the furnace going on or the washer shifting into a violent spin cycle can startle the cat so much he’ll never use the box in that location again.
- Problem: Not enough boxes
- Solution: The rule of thumb is one box per cat in the household, plus one. You can never have too many boxes! Even a cat who lives alone should have two litter boxes. Scatter the boxes around your house, so one is always accessible. Ideally, you’ll have at least one on every level of your home.
- Problem: Urinating in the box but defecating just outside it.
- Solution: Some cats like to urinate in one box and defecate in another, so try putting two boxes side by side. Or give your cat a larger box. The one you have may feel too cramped.
More Solutions To Get Your Cat Using The Litter Box
- Try an empty box. Many cats who like to urinate on furniture or clothing are willing to use an empty box with no litter in it at all. Putting a puppy training pad in the box will make cleanup easier for you.
- Scatter boxes everywhere. Put an empty box wherever your cat is eliminating inappropriately, even if it’s the sofa or your bed. Use a box with very low sides (think storage box). When the cat is using some of the boxes consistently, you can try moving them very gradually to locations that are acceptable to both of you.
- Use puppy pads. Some cats will not use a litter box, no matter how many accommodations you make. If you put puppy training pads in the places where your cat eliminates inappropriately, the cat will use them, and the pads will protect your furniture and rugs.
- Try deterrents. Electronic deterrents designed for animals will keep your cat off the furniture without harming him. Pet supply stores sell them. Both Feliway and catnip are “friendly” scents and discourage urine marking. If you use catnip, put little mounds of it everyplace your cat urinates. He’ll use those spots for playing rather than as a litter box.
Not using the litter box is the most common cause of conflict between cats and their human families. If your cat stops using the box, be patient while you try to understand the problem and work on a solution. Being angry and punishing the cat will cause him to be even more stressed and will make the problem worse.