Tips for Cats with Litter Box Issues
22 September, 2014

All cats need a clean, fresh litter box where they can feel comfortable to eliminate properly.  Just like humans, no one wants to do their business in a dirty bathroom! Therefore, it is important to make sure you clean the box daily.  If you have a clean litter box and your kitty starts having issues with it, either in or outside the litter box, there might be a bigger issue to unravel.

Litter box problems in cats can be diverse and complicated. Behavioral treatments are often effective, but the treatments must be tailored to your cat’s specific problem.

Make sure that your cat or cats are comfortable in their litter box

If your cat isn’t comfortable with his or her litter box or can’t easily access it, she 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.
  • 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.

Litter Box Cat

  • Your cat’s litter box is too small for her.
  • Your cat’s litter box has a hood or liner that makes her uncomfortable.
  • The litter in your cat’s box is too deep. Cats usually prefer one to two inches of litter.

There are other litter box issues that might prevail:

Some cats like different surfaces

Some cats can develop preferences for eliminating on certain surfaces or textures like carpet, potting soil or bedding.

Location Preference or Aversion

Like people and dogs, cats develop preferences for where they like to eliminate and may avoid locations they don’t like. This means they might avoid their litter box if it’s in a location they dislike.

Inability to Use the Litter Box

Older cats or cats with physical limitations may have a difficult time using certain types of litter boxes such as top-entry boxes, or litter boxes with high sides.

Negative Litter-Box Association

There are many reasons why a cat who has reliably used her litter box in the past starts to eliminate outside of the box. One common reason is that something happened to upset her while she was using the litter box. If this is the case with your cat, you might notice that she seems hesitant to return to the box. She may enter the box, but then leave very quickly—sometimes before even using the box.

Stress can cause litter box issues

Stress can cause litter-box problems. Cats can be stressed by events that their owners may not think of as traumatic. Changes in things that even indirectly affect the cat, like moving, adding new animals or family members to your household—even changing your daily routine—can make your cat feel anxious.

Multi-Cat Household Conflict

Sometimes one or more cats in a household will control access to litter boxes and prevent the other cats from using them. Even if one of the cats isn’t actually confronting the other cats in the litter box, any conflict between cats in a household can create enough stress to cause litter-box problems.

Below are some medical conditions that can cause inappropriate elimination:

Urinary Tract Infection

If your cat frequently enters her litter box and seems to produce only small amounts of urine, she may have a urinary tract infection.  Make sure to see a veterinarian to rule out this possible medical problem.

Feline Interstitial Cystitis

Feline interstitial cystitis is a neurological disease that affects a cat’s bladder. Cats with cystitis will attempt to urinate frequently and may look as if they are straining, but with little success. They may lick themselves where they urinate, and they may have blood in their urine. Feline interstitial cystitis can cause a cat to eliminate outside of her box, but this is only because of the increased urgency to urinate and because there is pain involved in urination. Feline interstitial cystitis is very serious and can be life-threatening to the cat. It must be treated immediately by a veterinarian.

Kidney Stones

If your cat has kidney stones or a blockage, she may frequently enter her litter box. She may also experience pain and meow or cry when she tries to eliminate. Her abdomen may be tender to the touch.

Tips to help your cats use their litter box

  1. Every cats likes a clean litter box, so scoop and change your cat’s litter at least once a day. Rinse the litter box out completely with baking soda or unscented soap once a week.
  2. The majority of cats prefer large boxes that they can enter easily.
  3. Most cats like a shallow bed of litter. Provide one to two inches of litter rather than three to four inches. Most cats prefer clumping, unscented litter.
  4. Most cats don’t like box liners or lids on their boxes.
  5. Cats like their litter boxes located in a quiet location. They like to be able to see people or other animals approaching, and they like to have multiple escape routes in case they want to leave their boxes quickly.

Good luck and hopefully your cat will start eliminating in the proper place to make you and your kitty a lot happier.


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