Cat Health

Solving Litter Box Woes

Having issues with your cat’s toilet habits? Needing some good advice and possible reasons why your feline friend is refusing to utilize their litter box? We have you covered with top tips and possible reasons for litter box woes. 

Litter box mishaps are one of the biggest issues affecting cat owners worldwide. This is particularly true for indoor cats, older felines, or outdoor cats during the cooler months. 

If you notice any litter box problems, or if your cat has developed any behavioral issues, it’s best to seek out professional advice from your vet to rule out any underlying health conditions. 

Interestingly, many pet owners do not seek advice on this common problem until after three months of frustration. Sadly, the problem can then become behavioral, meaning it will be a greater challenge to cure the underlying cause. Top cat vets, who commonly see this problem, have reported that they can more successfully resolve the litter box woes if the pet is seen within a month.

A kitten using a littler box while another watches
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Why has my cat stopped using the litter box? 

According to the ASPCA, around 10% of all cats develop elimination problems. There can be a number of reasons why a cat chooses to stop using their litter box. More importantly, it’s a sign that your cat is desperately trying to tell you something.

This can range from the basics; the litter tray is not being cleaned enough, or that you have a multi-cat home and there are simply not enough boxes, to the more extreme cases of; illness, such as urinary tract infections, or a behavioral problem, such as territory marking due to high-stress levels or anxiety.

It’s a good idea to get a clear picture of the litter box issue:

  • Is the mess just outside the box? 
  • Is it in a new area, like behind the curtains or the couch? 
  • Is the mess only on the floor, or has it occurred higher up on a wall or door? 
  • When is it occurring? 
  • Is your cat exhibiting any other new behaviors like hiding, hissing, or increased anxiety?

Asking these questions can give you a good picture of the possible reasons why it’s occurring, and if it’s being caused by anxiety or another concern.

Related: How To Train Your Cat With Treats

Kittens or multi-cat homes

For kittens, watching them using the litter box is a good way to gauge if anything is going wrong. Some kittens will perch on the side of the box and accidentally relieve themselves over the edge. In this case, replacing the open litter box with a hooded version works well. Just ensure you keep the door off the litter box until your kitten is used to the new arrangements and is strong enough to push through the flap. 

If you have a multi-cat home, it’s vital you have one litter box for each cat. It’s also best to keep these boxes in different locations throughout the home. If you notice one of your cats is constantly going outside the box in the same area, try adding a litter box to this space, and gradually move it to the desired location. 

With all litter boxes, hooded or open, it’s important to keep them clean and remove waste quickly. Hooded versions can better hide odors, but even though you cannot smell it as much as the traditional boxes, your cat will as they enter. This can be a huge deterrent for cats. Regularly emptying the litter and keeping the box clean and fresh is imperative for preventing litter box issues. 

Don’t forget to clean any accidents up quickly, using specially developed products or products containing an enzyme, like washing powder, or white vinegar also works well. You need to neutralize the smell or your cat will believe this new area is their toilet spot.

Related: Hidden Dangers For Your Cat! 6 Shocking Dangers At Home

A kitten using a litter box
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Understanding spraying/marking in cats

Cats are territorial animals, meaning they feel comfort and safety within their chosen zone. Scent plays an important role in marking this territory. For indoor cats, this zone typically includes their home, but for outdoor dwelling cats, this territory can also mean the backyard and even a good portion of your neighborhood.

Cats will typically ‘mark’ humans, objects, and territory that belongs to them in non-abrasive methods; like head-bunting and rubbing their faces and tails on objects or corners. However, if a cat is feeling threatened or heavily stressed, this desire to ‘scent-mark’ may become more extreme.

In these cases, many cats will begin to mark using a concentration of urine. This will normally be done on walls and will tend to be a vertical streak rather than a puddle. Cats will also shake their tails and pad with their feet while marking. Some cats also phantom mark and will show this behavior with no actual urine. 

If you suspect your cat is starting to mark their territory by spraying, seeking immediate professional help from a feline behaviorist is paramount. Removing and understanding the stress to your cat, and also supporting them with medication, may be required. 

Common reasons for sudden marking:

∙      New cat or human family member

∙      Change of home or environment

∙      Outside stress – new cat in the neighborhood

∙      Feeling insecure in their environment

With a little bit of time and understanding, your kitty’s litter box woes can be solved! Although your first intervention might not be successful, keep trying and your kitty will be loving their litter in no time.

Is your kitty feeling stressed and could use a pick-me-up? Or, do you want to reward her for her good litter box behavior? Treat her to a KitNipBox! Our boxes contain the best high-quality cat toys, all-natural treats, and other fun, healthy cat products. You can find out more about what’s inside here, or give a gift by clicking this link.