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How to Avoid Litter Box Mistakes

We hear from people quite often who are struggling with their cats urinating and/or defecating outside of their litter boxes. No one likes this, but usually this is because of something that is making the cat not want to, or not able to, use the litter box. Below is a list of a few ‘rules’ that can help to keep your cat happy to use his/her litter box.

#1 - You should have 1 more litter box than you have cats. If you have 1 cat, you should have 2 litter boxes. If you have 2 cats, you should have 3 litter boxes. And so on.

#2 - If your house has more than one floor, you should have a litter box on each floor. This is especially important if you have an older cat that might not enjoy climbing the stairs due to some arthritis or other pain. So one on the main floor, upstairs and basement is a good idea if your cat has access to all of these levels of your home.

#3 - Make sure that your litter boxes are the correct size. If the space is cramped then the cat might not want to use it, or might actually end up with his/her tail and back end hanging out over the edge of the box. A rule of thumb to consider is that your litter box should be 1.5 times as long as your cat is from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail. Also, if your cat is older, perhaps having a box with low sides so it is easier to step over would help as well.

#4 - Do not put the litter box near to where you feed him/her. Cat’s prefer to separate those two jobs to different areas. It makes sense when you think about it. We don’t want to eat our meals in the bathroom either!

#5 - Not all cats like a covered litter box, especially in a multi-cat household. They like a space where they can see what is coming and not feel trapped or confined. Some cats seem to be fine with a cover and like the privacy, but many do not.

#6 - Make sure that you have enough litter in the box so that the urine gets absorbed without having a wet surface and the feces can easily be covered. Don’t skimp on the litter.

#7 - Usually cats prefer a clumping, non-scented type of litter. If you are struggling with your cat not using the litter box and try all of these suggestions, then perhaps it is time to try a different type of litter. Cats can have preferences and we should do any litter changes slowly over about 5 days.

#8 - Most importantly, keep those litter boxes clean! Cats are very clean animals. They are always grooming themselves. They don’t want to go into a dirty litter box any more than we want to use a public toilet that hasn’t been flushed. If you use scoopable litter you should scoop it at least once daily (twice is better) and you should dump the entire thing out and scrub the box at least once monthly. If you aren’t using a scoopable litter then you should scrub the box once weekly. Their noses are far more sensitive than ours are and if it still smells dirty, even with clean litter, then they might not want to use it.

If you have done all of these things and you are still struggling with your cat eliminating in places other than the litter box, then make an appointment with us. There could be a medical reason that is might be contributing to this problem and we’d be happy to help!

If you want more information about this potentially challenging problem, you might want to go to the American Association of Feline Practitioners and read their guidelines on House Soiling. https://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/house-soiling