Failing to use the litter box is the number one behavioral problem cat owner’s face. It is also a leading cause of euthanasia. All medical and psychological causes must be ruled out by your vet before this diagnosis can be confirmed. Inappropriate Elimination is the term used when behavioral problems cause cats not to use their litter box.
* Litter Aversion is a problem in which the cat does not use the litter box, but defecates and/or urinates on horizontal surfaces, for example, your beds, bathtubs, or rugs. If your cat eliminates just outside the box, then she probably dislikes either the litter box or the litter inside it. If she eliminates somewhere else, it may be because she would prefer to have the litter box moved to a different location
LITTER: Most cats like the new fine “silaceous”, clumping litter. Use soft, granular, unscented varieties. A litter depth of ½ to ¾ inches is best. A lot of cats won’t use litter that’s too deep. Potting soil is an option for outside cats moving inside.
LITTERBOX TIPS: Litter box problems are the toughest problem cat owner’s face.
Prevent mistakes before they become bad habits. First get a litter box that fits your cat’s size and shape. Place the box in a semi private area accessible to you and your cat and keep it clean.
* The texture of litter is important. Most cats like the new fine granular clumping, soft unscented varieties of litter.
* A litter depth of ½ to ¾ inches is best. A lot of cats won’t use litter that’s too deep.
* Older arthritic cats have trouble if the sides of the box are too high or they have to go up and down stairs to get to the box.
* Many, especially shy cats, prefer privacy but don’t like to feel “trapped”. Some cats like covers, others may object to the darkness.
* Place the box in a somewhat private area easily accessible to you and your cat. Avoid cold, dark drafty basements.
* Use one box per cat per floor of the home.
* Keep the box clean. It should not smell. New automatic litter boxes clean litter 10 minutes after each use.
* Liners are available. They help with cleanliness. Cats may or may not tolerate them.
* The litter box should fit your cat’s size and shape. It should not be too big or too small.
* Some cats like covers, kittens may object to the darkness.
* Use plain clay litter, not scented litter or clumping litter.
* Switch to plain clay regardless of what you have been using.
* Use potting soil for an outdoor cat coming inside to live.
* Keep the box clean; scoop it out daily. Completely replace all the litter every three to five days.
* Don’t put the litter box where the cat eats or sleeps.
* In multi-cat households use a minimum of one box per two cats.
* Overuse of deodorizers can cause litter aversion.
* Poor box location can lead to house soiling.
LOCATION OF LITTERBOX
* Place the box in a semi private area accessible to you and your cat.
* Avoid cold, dark musty basements, garages, laundry rooms and avoid busy noisy areas.
* Shy cats prefer privacy but don’t like to feel trapped. Be sure there is more than one way in and out of the area. If cats can see all around them, they feel more secure.
* Place the box in a quiet area and/or get a cover or privacy screen for the box.
* Don’t put the litter box where your cat eats or sleeps. Avoid tiny closets that cats have to squeeze in and out of.
* If your cat eliminates somewhere else, she might prefer the litter box if it was placed in a different location.
Don’t use Ammonia based products to clean up urine mistakes. Urine contains ammonia, so these products generally make the problem worse.
URINE ODORS TIP: Your vet can recommend the best commercially available products to eliminate urine odors. Larger boxes with more litter that are frequently cleaned solve a lot of problems.
OBNOXIOUS STIMULI – For cats that still eliminate in the wrong area after relocating litter box, making the area less appealing occasionally helps. Try obnoxious stimuli. These are strong odors like – Oil of Wintergreen or Menthol. Cats hate the smell. Use them to spray the area the cat is eliminating in to make it less desirable and she might decide to use her litter box. Don’t spray them near her litter box.
TIP – Cats do not need to be trained to use a litter box. It is instinctive behavior from 4 weeks of age. Confining your new kitten to a small room containing the litter box for a few days helps familiarize her initially with its location and her new surroundings. In an adult cat with inappropriate elimination, that is not using the litter box because of behavioral problems, isolation or confinement for over 30 minutes is not effective and can make the problem worse. It increases anxiety, fear and stress.
* Refer to a Behavioral Specialist if changes to litter, box and location don’t solve the problem.
A Breakaway Collar, with a bell attached, can be tried to interrupt inappropriate elimination. It startles the cat and is a form of negative reinforcement. You must be at home to use it but no guarantee you will catch the cat in the act. Negative reinforcement used to interrupt undesirable or dangerous behavior is only effective if done within 60 seconds of the act.
TIP: Electronic or magnetic access collars allow entry only; increase privacy and confidence are an option for a cat afraid to use her box because of conflict in home between cats. Ask your vet if this is appropriate.