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9 Reasons Your Cat Isn’t Using the Litter Box

Missing the litter box is the top complaint of cat owners. A sudden loss of litter box allegiance means either the litter box is unacceptable, the cat feels bad, or the other cats make her avoid the bathroom.

More than 1/3 of cats with elimination problems have an underlying health condition. If your cat refuses to use the box to urinate (or defecate) but not both, look for a medical problem.

Punishment won't work. You must first identify and then remove the cause, re-establish good habits, and prevent a return to the scene of the crime.

9 Reasons Why Cats Miss the Litter Box

litterbox problems

  1. Many cats don't want to "go" after another cat.
  2. Some cats demand a separate box for urine and another for feces.
  3. Dominant cats may guard the facilities so others can't use it.
  4. Dirty litter boxes prompt cats to find cleaner spots--like under the piano bench.
  5. Boxes in noisy, high traffic places can keep cats away from the facilities.
  6. Covered boxes can hold bad odors that make cats avoid them.
  7. Big cats may need bigger boxes to contain their urine stream.
  8. Locating boxes in corners may create a trapped feeling cats avoid.
  9. Stress from anything may prompt cats to use urine scent to soothe upset kitty feelings.
    1. Check out our tips below.

 

How to Solve Litter Box Problems

Start with the basics. Use the 1+1 rule to solve litter box woes: provide one litter box for each cat, plus one (that's three boxes for two cats, for example).

Cleanup Is Key

scoop litterbox

  • Keep the toilet clean by scooping waste and discarding it at least twice a day. The more cats you have, the greater the amount of waste and ensuing smell which offends you and the cats.
  • Be sure to empty and clean the entire box at least once a week. Use scalding hot water but no harsh-smelling disinfectants, because the detergent smell can be just as off-putting to the cats. Adding an automatic litter box helps enormously, because the litter ALWAYS stays clean.
  • Clean soiled areas thoroughly with odor neutralizing products or the scent will draw your cat (or even innocent bystanders!) back to the scene of the crime. Avoid using ammonia-based products, which cats think smells like the ammonia in their own urine.

Try a New Box or New Litter

right litterbox

  • Once you find a litter your cats like, don't mess with success. If your cats prefer the linoleum, wood floor, or bathtub, offer an empty litter box, and then gradually add litter.
  • Buy a new box. Plastic holds odor and smelly old boxes offend cats even when you've scrubbed them. Cats that "blame" the old box for a scare or discomfort often eagerly embrace a new facility. Offer different types of toilets--uncovered or covered--to encourage kitty to choose one.
  • Very large cats may not be able to pose in a standard size box without dropping deposits or urinating over the edge. Offer a much bigger container such as a clear plastic storage bin to accommodate these cats.
  • A storage bin type container works well for up to three small to medium cats willing to share, so you can reduce the total numbers of boxes. I use a huge Sterilite container for my cats--and it's clear so they can "see" if someone is coming and aren't surprised or trapped.

Location, Location, Location

best place for litterbox

  • Very young, elderly, or sick cats have trouble reaching the box in time. Provide a toilet on each floor of multi-story homes, or at each end of single-story floor plans to give these felines a better opportunity for a pit stop.
  • If you know or suspect one of your cats guards the toilet from the others, be sure to position litter boxes in more than one location. One cat can't guard them all at once, and that way at least one is available to the rest of the cats at all times.
  • Be sure boxes are in a low traffic area, and quiet location. Laundry rooms where a dryer buzzer frightens the cat in mid-squat, may be less than ideal. Cats often prefer dining rooms because there's more than one entrance for easy escape. Place the litter box midway along a wall instead of in the corner.
  • Sometimes placing the new litter box right on top of the soiled area encourages cats to use the box in that location. Once they use the box, gradually move it to a more appropriate area a foot or so a day.
    • Test

The longer house soiling goes on, the harder it is to correct. Use one or more of these tips and address the issue immediately, and with time, you can reestablish litter box allegiance.

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