The Top 8 Reasons Why Your Kitty Won’t Use the Litter Box

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If location is the problem, move the litter box to an area that allows the cat privacy but is accessible and convenient for cleaning. Some people prefer keeping the box in the bathroom, but in a multi-cat household that can get crowded. Consider using a closet in a spare bedroom or a well-ventilated porch with easy access. Some owners locate litter boxes in a rarely frequented second bathroom or even in the bathtub. Try several locations until you find one she will use consistently.

3. Litter Changes

If a change in litter box behavior occurs after you’ve switched the type or brand of litter, try changing back. Your cat may not like the new litter. Cats are individuals and what appeals to one cat may not appeal to another. Some are highly perfumed to mask odors from human noses, but perfumes are offensive to some cats; other litters just don’t have the right feel. Cats evolved from desert animals and a litter with a sandy texture is usually well accepted.

Experiment with several types to see what he likes best. Buy a small box or bag of each – test clumping and non-clumping clay (try the unscented versions), recycled paper, wood byproducts, plant-based material – the varieties are practically endless. Fill several boxes with different kinds, and see which one your cat prefers. With all these choices you are bound to find one that suits. Choosing a litter should be a team effort. If you find yourself needing to switch litters, try changing the litter gradually. Slowly add more of the new litter into the old to increase the chances of your cat accepting the switch.

If you are bringing a formerly outdoor cat indoors, and he is not using the litter box, it could be that the litter is not what he’s used to. Try filling the box with clean dirt or sand – whatever he’s been using in the yard. After he’s using the box consistently, very gradually, over the next two or three weeks, mix the dirt with increasing amounts of the litter you want him to use.

4. Litter Box Issues

The size, shape, and depth of the litter box can also affect your cat’s behavior]]. She may reject the box if, for some reason, she doesn’t like it. Hooded litter boxes are popular with some cats, but most don’t like the confining nature of them and feel trapped when using such a box – a particular problem in multicat households with dominance disputes. Large or overweight cats may find the opening to a covered box too small, or may not have enough room to maneuver inside such a box, and longhaired cats may have trouble keeping their fur clean.

Older cats, or cats with health problems, such as arthritis, may have trouble stepping into boxes with high sides, or into boxes with smaller openings. If cats have any health problem that makes movement difficult, provide a sturdy ramp in front of the box, and a step down inside if needed.

Some cats dislike litter box liners. Remove the liner if you notice your cat pulling it up or leaving claw marks in the plastic.

Providing several boxes of different sizes and types may help resolve the litter box problem.

5. Environmental Changes

Cats are creatures of habit and they don’t like changes in their environment. If your cat stops using the litter box after a change has taken place in the household, it could be that the change is causing her to become anxious. Anxiety is one of the more common feline emotional problems and may contribute to a number of behavior problems, including house soiling. Have you just brought home a new child, spouse, family member, or pet? Have you moved or remodeled the house? Have you recently changed your routine – gone back to work, say, after being at home all day? Even healthy cats can become stressed and anxious by changes that might seem minor to you. Look at the situation from the cat’s viewpoint and see what might be going on.

During household changes, reassure your cat, give him extra attention and treats, and keep the litter box squeaky clean. This will help him regain his feeling of safety and routine, and help him adjust more quickly. If you’ve added a new baby to the household, check out the helpful advice on Helping Your Cat and New Baby Get Along; if a new pet has arrived, read Pet to Pet Socialization – Adding a Kitten. If you’ve moved, check out How to Introduce Your Cat to Your New Home.

6. Territorial Disputes

If you have more than one cat, disputes can arise over litter box usage. Cats are territorial by nature. Their societies are sometimes structured in a hierarchical manner, governed by strict rules of conduct. In multi-cat households, the dominant cat will sometimes leave her feces uncovered as a form of scent marking, to announce her presence and status. Uncovered feces mean that the territory is taken. If the other cats feel they’re encroaching on a dominant cat’s territory, they’ll be reluctant to use that box.


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