Solving cats litter box problems is do-able…and in this article I’m going to go over many of the most common causes that your cat might not want to use it’s litter box.
Why is your cat not using the litterbox?
What's in this article
- Nobody Likes a dirty litter box
- Where is the litter box located
- Not enough litter boxes?
- Is the litter box large enough?
- One more problem for cats that have been “declawed”
- Fear of being ambushed
- If your cat doesn’t like the litter you’re using…
- Don’t punish your cat
Your cat’s unpredictable bathroom behavior does make sense … to your cat.
An understanding of cat behavior goes a long way when it comes to making peace with your cat and the litter box.
Some cat owners experience no litter box problems … but add another cat or person into the household, a move or any change in routine and your cat’s bathroom manners may falter.
Sometimes they seem to falter for no reason at all.
Cats must be one of the cleanest creatures on earth and you want to keep your home clean… so you are both on the same page…
Either they are pooping just over the edge of the box, or squatting right next to the box and urinating.
Perhaps your cat is not going anywhere near the litter box.
He or she may have found an alternate location to do his business, which suits your cat just fine, or it could be urinating all over the house.
With litter box problems, sometimes the problem is not so much the cat as it is the box. If your cat dislikes the litter box (or the litter), for whatever reason, your cat won’t use it.
But your well behaved kitty will still try to follow the litter box rules … and will therefore eliminate nearby.
Cats that are making messes all over your home may be sick, in pain, or incontinent (they cannot physically control their elimination).
Felines do not make a fuss when they are not well … so it may not be obvious to you that they are.
If your cat is not using the litter box here are some simple tips that should work to prevent or resolve litter box problems.
Nobody Likes a dirty litter box
… especially your cat. Cleanliness is a core quality of being feline. If the box becomes unbearable your cat will look for another spot to use … one that is pleasant and sanitary. Scoop as often as you can, at least daily.
As a rule, change the litter and clean the box at least once per week. It is best to avoid high powered disinfectants, bleach and ammonia based cleaners. These are toxic and your cat may find it hard to breathe.
Ammonia smells a bit like cat urine and could confuse your cat and trigger some urine marking behavior, which is a problem you can do without.
To remove urine odors purchase an enzyme product which will neutralize the proteins in the urine and eliminate the smell. Vinegar is also effective in neutralizing urine odor.
Where is the litter box located
As you know, it is most helpful to have a bathroom close by when you need it. If your home is more than one story you can avoid litter box problems by placing at least one centrally located litter box on each floor.
Cats like privacy too. A high traffic area or busy room may prevent your kitty from relaxing enough to do his or her business in the litter box. A quiet, concealed spot is preferable.
If cats don’t have privacy, they might find a spot that is. If they do find another spot, be sure to locate a litter box there or nearby.
Adding some sort of divider, such as furniture or a screen can help. If you provide the privacy, your discreet cat should be good to go.
Don’t mix dining and bathroom areas. Usually, the best place for the litter box is in the bathroom and food dishes in your kitchen.
These are places cats already associate with these activities and they are inclined to match their habits to yours.
Not enough litter boxes?
If you have you ever lived in a home where there were multiple residents and only one bathroom you know it can be a bit of an endurance test if you have to wait your turn. If your home is large enough, try to provide one litter box for each cat and one extra.
Is the litter box large enough?
Just like a comfortable chair, the litter box needs to ‘fit’ your cat. Felines are a fussy lot when it comes to doing their business.
Before cats do the deed, they will move about in the box, pawing at the litter while choosing the perfect spot to squat.
When done, some cats then carefully push the litter around … in an effort to bury their deposit (an instinctive behavior meant to hide evidence of their presence from would be predators).
A large litter box will allow your cat to turn around easily … the bigger the better.
Older house cats, kittens, and cats that are somehow challenged physically may have trouble just climbing into the litter box. One solution is to cut another, lower entrance into the litter box or remove one side completely.
One more problem for cats that have been “declawed”
Declawed cats, unfortunately, have their own unique troubles.
Sensitive scars at the site of their missing toe tips can make every day activities painful; that can include contact with the uneven and rough surface of litter.
For these cats try a softer or finer grained litter or use an alternative to litter such as puppy training or litter pads.
Fear of being ambushed
If you have more than one cat, a dog or curious kids your kitty could be avoiding the litter box out of fear of being ambushed.
My dominate cat rules and the other cats are very careful not to cross his path. In cases like this, covered litter boxes may not be suitable because your cat cannot see what is going on around him.
To avoid litter box problems in your busy home, try to provide two or more, open litter boxes located in secluded areas, preferably out of reach of dogs and kids.
If your cat doesn’t like the litter you’re using…
you should be able to find another litter that works for your cat … and your budget. Some litters outperform others and are therefore more economical.
Clumping litters can be easier to scoop, some are flushable. Many are plant based and are safer for pets.
Cats do have sensitive paws and may be uncomfortable with the texture. Some litters are scented, which may be a preference for us, but it doesn’t work for cats.
If anything, house cats – with their super noses – will avoid the perfumed litter entirely. Some artificial scents cause respiratory problems, just as they do with some people.
Check out our Best Cat Litter post for reviews and some important things to think about when choosing a litter.
Don’t punish your cat
If your cat has ever been punished or yelled at while in the litter box they may consider the area to be a frightening place.
Even if the memory of the punishment has faded they may still associate the sights and smells of the litter box with an uneasy feeling.
If your cat is not using the litter box, don’t punish him or her and definitely don’t rub their nose in it. Punishment will only create a sense of fear and confusion in your cat and won’t solve your litter box problems.
Pick up your cat’s deposit and put it into the litter box. In a separate time frame, place the cat in the box and give it generous amounts of praise.
Be sure that the litter box is in a new location and has been freshly cleaned.
This way the cat should recognize their ‘new’ bathroom as a pleasant, positive place and not the scene of a horrible experience.
Armed with some insight into your cat’s view of life and the litter box, you should be able to provide the best litter box environment for your cat … your pet who really does cherish cleanliness.