Cat Not Using Litter Box

We receive numerous questions from loving cat owners at Pet Assure each month—and litter box problems are a frequently recurring theme. Recently, one kitty parent asked about issues that might be causing her precious pet to do her duty elsewhere. We did a little research and came up with this list of the five most common reasons cats avoid the litter box.

1. The litter box isn’t emptied frequently enough.
Would you enjoy digging in soiled kitty litter? Most cats don’t, so scoop the box at least once a day. If you have more than one cat, scoop even more frequently. Completely empty the box (throw out the old litter) and scrub it at least once a month. Use water and a mild dish soap, avoiding solutions that leave behind strong smells. If the box itself smells bad after cleaning, it’s time to replace it with a new one.

2. She doesn’t like the litter.
If your cat starts eliminating outside the box after you switch kitty litter brands, she may be objecting to the new material. Preference studies show that most cats like soft, fine grain clumping litters. They also prefer unscented varieties. Fill each box with several inches of litter so she will have plenty in which to dig when doing her business.

3. The box is too small or otherwise difficult to enter.
If you originally purchased a kitten-sized litter box, replace it with a larger version as your pet grows. If you can’t seem to find one roomy enough for your cat, build your own. Large plastic bins make excellent litter boxes. The high sides will keep your pet from kicking litter onto your floor while the generous interior guarantees space for even the biggest cat. Plus, kittens and arthritic kitties may find them easier to enter. Check out these instructions from Cats Adored.

4. You haven’t placed it in the right spot.
Some cats will use any litter box (filled with any litter) placed in any location in your house. Others are a little pickier. If your cat starts eliminating outside the box after you’ve moved it, he may not like the placement. In general, you should have at least one litter box on each floor of your home—even if you have only one cat. If you have more kitties, multiply the number of floors by number of cats to determine the ideal number of boxes. Spread them throughout your house, but keep them away from frighteningly noisy appliances that may scare your pets away from the box.

5. Your yard is full of intruders.
Some cats begin urinating and spraying when they feel their territory is threatened. While your pet may be indoors only, she’ll view any cats coming and going in the yard as competition. Inappropriate elimination near a patio door or particular windows is usually a good indication that you’re dealing with a feline marking situation. Do whatever you can to keep neighbors’ cats and other animals out of your yard. Motion activated sprinklers are quite effective.

Or course, a medical issue may also be to blame. Urinary tract infections are painful, and your pet may begin to associate the pain with the litter box. They are also very serious. A cat with a urinary tract blockage can die within hours. If yours suddenly stops using his or her litter box, a visit to the vet is definitely in order.

Do you have any experience with litter box problems? Share any tips with us in the comment section!

About Julie Perkins

A self-professed "crazy cat lady" and slave to three furry masters, Julie loves all things fuzzy. Throughout her life, she has been owned by cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish and even a hermit crab. A freelance writer who has perfected the fine art of typing with one hand (because there is a cat on top of the other one), she lives in Colorado with her husband and a menagerie of critters.

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