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Behavior

Help! Solving Litter Box Problems

Inappropriate urination, or peeing outside of the litter box, is the number one complaint of cat parents and also one of the top reasons cats are relinquished to shelters every year. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s extremely frustrating when your cat decides the litter box is off-limits! But, there’s always a reason for it, and fortunately, there are a lot of ways you can address the problem.

To resolve the problem, you need to:
1. Figure out why your cat is avoiding the litter box and resolve the reason.
2. Make inappropriate locations undesirable.

Figure out why your cat is avoiding the litter box:
Medical Reasons


Before anything else, your first step should be to take your cat to the vet to rule out any medical reason for inappropriate urination. This is very common! If your cat has a urinary tract infection, he may be associating the pain of urination with the litter box and that’s why he’s avoiding it. If he’s older, he may be having difficulty or pain climbing into the litter box.

If your cat is not altered – this might be spraying and not a litter box avoidance problem. In most cases having your cat fixed will solve the problem. And for the record, intact female cats can spray, too!

Number of Litter Boxes


The general rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat, plus one extra. So if you have one cat, you should have 2 boxes. If you have two cats, you should have 3 litter boxes, and so on.

Cleanliness


Cats have a much more sensitive sense of smell than we do and some cats are very picky about how clean their litter box is. If your cat is avoiding the box, try scooping more often, fully changing the litter more frequently, and remember, plastic litter boxes break down and absorb odors over time. It may be time to replace your litter boxes. If your litter box has a cover, try removing the cover. Covered litter boxes are the equivalent of port-o-potties for humans, trapping odors inside. You wouldn’t want to climb in there, and neither does your cat!

On the contrary, have you used a strong smelling cleaner that your cat may be sensitive to?

Type of Litter


If you have a new cat, he may not like the “feel” of the litter you’re using. Or your cat may have developed an aversion to the texture of the litter over time. Try changing your litter. Perhaps your cat would prefer a softer textured sand, a dust-free pellet type litter, or even shredded paper litter. Or, try a litter with an attractant added to encourage him to use it.

Some cats are even picky about how much litter is in the box! If the litter is your problem, you may have to do some experimenting to get it right.

Multiple cat households may require multiple types of litter to keep everyone happy.

Location of the Litter Box


Have you moved the litter box recently? Like us, cats prefer privacy when doing their duties. If there’s a lot of foot traffic or noise, try moving the box to a more secluded area. But, put it in an area where he will feel safe and have an escape route if he needs it.

Now you Need to Make Your Cat’s Inappropriate Urination Spots Undesirable:

Find urine stains with a fluorescent black light and clean it with an enzymatic cleaner made for pet stains. A spray like NOse Offense will get rid of offensive odors.

If your cat continues to urinate in certain areas, place a litter box in that spot. When he consistently uses that box for a month, then you can start moving it to a better location – very, very gradually – an inch at a time. If you move it too quickly you risk your cat avoiding the box again!

If your cat is urinating on furniture or clothing, or places you can’t put a litter box, make those places less appealing to your cat by covering them with things like aluminum foil, or using deterrent sprays.

For more information about solving cat litter box problems, you may benefit from reading a book on cat behavior, (we recommend Pam Johnson-Bennett’s books), re-training your cat to use a litter box, or speaking to your vet or an animal behaviorist.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Jaimee

    Mar 25, 2018 at 6:02 am

    I like that you included the section about resolving the urinating in other areas too! I’ve been looking for a while on the subject and everyone always talks about the main things to do with the litter box (not in a high traffic area, keeping it clean, multiple boxes, etc) but no one really talks about how to re-train your cat when they are already interested in urinating somewhere else.

    I like the idea of placing a little box in that area and then slowly (even inch by inch) moving it. Tedious but seems like it would be effective.

  2. Pingback: 7 Tips to Litter Train a Cat - The Catington Post

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Just when this dog-eat-dog world has handed you all the poop you can take, it's time to walk the dog. Or wash the dog. Or feed the dog. You get the idea. So welcome to the world of easy-to-care-for cats. Entertainment comes bundled in a furry, huggable, self-cleaning cat who won't beg for your food. In his eyes, you don't eat well enough anyway. Just keep a laser pen handy, sit back and wait for the fun to begin! Cats...ya gotta love 'em.

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