Your Cat’s Litterbox Problems: Let’s Solve Them

Elimination problems in cats are not uncommon. And, some cats may stop using their litterbox altogether. Others may use their litterbox for urination but not defecation and vise versa. And, some might only use their litterboxes some of the time.

Problems using the litterbox might develop as a result of conflict among other cats in the household. Your cat might not like the cat litter you picked. She might not appreciate your choice of litterbox. Or… it could be some type of medical condition.

Once a cat starts avoiding the litterbox, it could become a constant problem. Your cat could develop a preference for a new area… and there’s no telling where that location of choice is until it’s too late. The location could be your expensive fluffy rug in the den… or in the corner of your bedroom. If you notice your cat isn’t using the litterbox, keep an eye out.

The best approach to dealing with your cat’s litterbox problems involve making his litterbox as ‘happy’ as possible.

The moment you notice your cat isn’t going in the litterbox, that’s when action should be taken. Immediate. Don’t wait long… or else the problem could become much larger.

Litter-Box Management Problems

If your cat isn’t comfortable with her litter box or can’t easily access it, he probably won’t use it. The following common litter-box problems might cause her to eliminate outside of her box:

·        You haven’t cleaned your cat’s litter box often or thoroughly enough. There are some ‘extra’ yuckies left in there. She doesn’t like that.

·        You haven’t provided enough litter boxes for your household. Be sure to have a litter box for each of your cats, as well as one extra. Then, there won’t be competition for litterbox space.

·        Your cat’s litter box is too small for her. She should be able to fit in the litterbox comfortably and be able to go potty without getting herself ‘yucky.’

·        Your cat’s litter box has a hood or liner that she doesn’t care for.

·        The litter in your cat’s box is too deep. Cats usually prefer one to two inches of litter.

·        Some cats develop preferences for eliminating on certain surfaces or textures like carpet, potting soil or bedding. Find out what that preference is. And, try to mimic it to the best of your ability with the litterbox.

He Doesn’t Like His Litter

Cats have sensitive senses of smell and touch to help them figure out their environment. These senses can affect her litter preferences. Cats who have grown accustomed to a certain litter might decide they like that litter only… and they won’t use any other kind.

It’s in the Wrong Spot

Like people and dogs, cats develop preferences for where they like to use the bathroom. And, they won’t use the bathroom where you want them to if they don’t like the location.

Inability to Use the Litter Box

The problem could be as simple as your cat can’t get to the litterbox. Older cats or cats with physical limitations may have a difficult time using certain types of litter boxes.

Ouch… it Hurts

If your cat has some type of medical condition, she may be experiencing painful elimination. Or, if your cat had a medical condition that caused her pain when she eliminated, she may have learned to associate the pain with using her litter box.

Even if your cat’s health has returned to normal, that association may still cause her to avoid her litter box.

I’m So Stressed…

Stress can cause litter-box problems.

Cats can be stressed by things that their owners may not think of as a big deal. Have you moved recently? Have you swapped bedrooms with someone else in the household? Have you moved their litterbox to a new location?

Basic Tips for Making Cats Feel Better About Using Their Litter Boxes

·        The majority of cats like clean litter boxes, so scoop and change your cat’s litter at least one to two times a day. Rinse the litter box out completely with baking soda or unscented soap once a week at minimum.

·        Most cats like a shallow bed of litter. Provide one to two inches of litter rather than three to four inches or more (and yes, there are many cat lovers who think their cat should have a pile of litter).

·        Most cats prefer clumping, unscented litter. If there’s a fragrance to the litter, your cat may avoid the litterbox.

·        Your cat may prefer the type of litter she used as a kitten. Try to remember what type of litter she used back then.

·        Cats like their litter boxes located in a quiet but not “cornered” location. They like to have the ability to watch for dangerous situations.

Check with a Professional

If your cat associates her litter box with something negative, you can work to help her develop new and pleasant associations. It’s important to note that cats can’t be forced to enjoy something, and if you try to force her it will likely only make the problem worse.

Generally, it’s usually not a good idea to try to train your cat to use her litter box by offering her treats like you would a dog, because many cats do not like attention while they’re eliminating. However, a professional animal behavior consultant, such as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) may be able to help you design a successful retraining or counterconditioning program. Check out the article, Finding Professional Behavior Help, for information about finding an applied animal behavior professional.

Most importantly, do not scold your cat for her litterbox problems. This could severely worsen her behavior and she will no longer trust you. She is also likely to be afraid of you if you begin to scold her. We want to keep the bond we have built with our cat while determining the best way to solve the issue.