Cats are clean and love routines, so when your furry friend goes to the bathroom in places other than the litter box, something is wrong. If your cat has a litter box problem (especially if he is also exhibiting signs of illness) first consult your vet to rule out medical causes. Signs of illness include: if your cat strains to use the litter box, or constantly enters and leaves it. If this occurs, take him to the vet immediately, since he may be blocked, and this is life threatening. If the vet declares your cat is healthy, and he still has “’accidents”’ then it could be a behavioral problem.
Some Common Problems:
- Litter box is too dirty to use. Cats are clean. If the box is dirty, they’ll find another place.
- Too much foot traffic around litter box. Cats won’t go to the bathroom in a loud, busy place, so put the box somewhere quiet and calm.
- Litter box is too small/large. The litter box should be large enough (not too large) for your cat to stand and turn around comfortably, and the litter should be 2-3 inches deep.
- Your cat doesn’t like the litter. Yes, cats can have litter preferences and some begin when your cat is young. Also, most cats don’t like scented litter.
- Your cat was recently declawed. A newly declawed cat won’t like the feeling of litter on his paws, and may avoid the litter box.
- Litter box is too close to food or water. Cats won’t eat and go to the bathroom in the same area, so keep food and water away from the litter box, preferably another room.
- You changed the litter box location, and your cat can’t find or remember the new place. After your cat gets used to his box in one place, try not to change it. If you change locations, make sure to pick up your cat and place him in it at the new site.
- Multiple cats use this litter box (in a multiple cat home), and your cat wants his own box. As a general rule, you should have at least one box for each cat in your home.
- Your cat doesn’t like to urinate and defecate in the same litter box. If so, try to keep two litter boxes available for your cat and clean them often. Your cat is overly aggressive and marking. Try to find out the aggressive behavior’s cause and counteract it.
- Your cat feels his territory is being invaded and is marking. Have you gotten a new cat or another pet? Can your cat see other cats from the window? Has something changed in the home? Try to find out the behavior’s cause and counteract it.
- Your cat is marking to exhibit his dominance. This can occur when a new cat is brought into the house or your cat challenge the current cat hierarchy in the house.
- Your cat had a bad experience with his litter box and is scared to go there. This is one important reason not to put your cat’s face in the “mistake” and then toss him into the box. Any bad event with the litter box can make your cat more likely to avoid it.
- A stressful situation occurred in your cat’s life, like moving to a new home or a new child or cat is brought into the home. If so, you may need to retrain your cat to go to the litter box.
If your cat makes an elimination mistake, DO NOT punish your cat by taking him to the scene of the crime or the litter box, and rubbing his face in it. After a mistake, it’s a common error among owners to place the cat in the box and yell at him.
Cats have a short memory. Unless you catch your cat in the act, your cat probably has no idea why he’s being punished. He doesn’t connect the spot on the carpet (or being put in the litter box) with poor litter box behavior. When you put your cat into the litter box and yell at him, he learns using the litter box or going to the bathroom is dangerous and results in punishment. This worsens the problem, because now your cat detests the litter box even more.
Often you can correct behavioral problems like the ones above with simple litter or litter box changes. However, if you feel you tried everything and your cat won’t use the litter box, you may need to retrain him how to use the litter box. The process isn’t difficult, but takes time and patience. Reintroduce your cat to the litter box, show him how to use it, give praise and treats when the cat “gets it right.” Cat Attract™, a natural litter with herbs that appeal to many cats can help. Watch your cat for signs that he intends to go to the bathroom. If you see the sign, take your cat to the box, and give him treats when he finishes.
To help prevent your cat from repeating mistakes, clean the mistake area with a cleaner formulated to eliminate cat urine odor, such as Nature’s Miracle™. If you use regular cleaners, it will still smell like urine to your cat. And if it smells like a litter box, your cat will probably treat it that way. If you still need help correcting this type of problem you may want to consult a behaviorist.