You may think your cat has stopped using their litter box to annoy you, but a reason likely exists that you have not yet discovered. Some sleuthing may be necessary to figure out why your cat is eliminating inappropriately. Our team at Somerset Animal Hospital has compiled a list of common litter box troubles and ways to address these issues.

Scenario #1: Your new kitten or cat does not know how to use a litter box

Somerset Animal Hospital (SAH) solution: Luckily, most cats learn how to use a litter box fairly quickly. Ensure you place your new pet’s litter box in a quiet spot away from their food and water, and show them where their box is located. For the first few days, you can close your cat in the same room, to help them get accustomed to the box.

Scenario #2: Your cat vocalizes while using their litter, and sometimes goes outside the box

SAH solution: Any disease process can cause your cat to eliminate inappropriately, but certain conditions, such as kidney disease and urinary tract infections, make urinating painful. If your cat feels discomfort while using their litter box, they are likely to avoid the area that seemed to cause them pain. Anytime your cat starts avoiding their litter box, you should have them evaluated at our Somerset Animal Hospital, to ensure that a medical issue is not causing the problem.

Scenario #3: Your cat will get in their litter box, but they do their business outside the box

SAH solution: You may need a larger litter box. Cats need space to pick their spot and posture appropriately. If the box is not large enough, they may end up making a mess outside the box. Ensure your cat’s litter box is as long as they are from their nose to the tip of their tail, and as wide as from their nose to their hindquarters. Some cats like boxes larger than the recommended size. Extra large plastic storage containers may benefit these cats.

Scenario #4: Your cat uses the litter box sometimes, but not all the time

SAH solution: Cats like a clean litter box. If they use the box right after you have scooped, but not anymore, they could be asking you to clean their box more frequently. Scoop their box at least twice a day, and completely change out the litter weekly. When you change out the litter, scrub the box with baking soda before replacing the litter. 

Scenario #5: Your cat has suddenly stopped using their litter box

SAH solution: If you have ruled out a health issue, several other reasons could be behind your cat’s sudden refusal to use their box. 

  • You moved their box — Cats prefer their litter box in a quiet, low-traffic area. If they are using their box in the current location, do not move the box to a place that is more convenient for you. 
  • You put too much litter in the box — Cats typically prefer only one to two inches of litter in their litter box. If you accidentally put more when you are replacing the litter, they may revolt.
  • You tried litter liners to make cleanup easier — Most cats do not appreciate the crinkly noise of plastic litter liners, and will find elsewhere to do their business.
  • You bought a covered litter box — Cats like to fling litter everywhere, which may have tempted you to try a covered box. However, some cats do not like a closed-in bathroom, and will refuse to use a covered box.
  • Your cat’s environment is causing them stress — Any issue that causes your cat anxiety—new baby in the house, nearby loud construction, or the new neighbor’s dog barking incessantly, for example—can result in inappropriate elimination. You will need to take some time to consider the cause of your cat’s stress.

Scenario #6: You have multiple cats, and one of them is not using the litter box

SAH solution: Cats can be territorial, and may not appreciate sharing their litter box. You should have one litter box for each cat in your home, and one extra box. You may have to separate your cats in different rooms, and provide each with their own litter box, until their angst settles down.

Scenario #7: Your cat keeps returning to use the same spot outside their box

SAH solution: Ensure you clean the accident spot appropriately. 

  • Use a paper towel to blot up as much mess as possible. 
  • Apply carpet cleaner to the area, and allow this to soak for at least an hour. Do not use an ammonia product, which will attract your cat.
  • Scrub the area well with a wet cloth.
  • Once the area is dry, apply an enzymatic cleaner to neutralize the pet odor.
  • Keep your cat away from the area until the enzymatic cleaner is dry.

Cats’ litter box issues can be difficult to understand, but practicing patience as you figure out the problem is important, to avoid exacerbating the problem. If your cat is refusing to use their litter box, contact our team at Somerset Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.