Litterbox Problems and Solutions


Out of the clear blue, your kitty stops using the litterbox. WHAT THE!? BUT WHY? WHAT CAN YOU DO??? The Number One reason why cats are abandoned or euthanized is due to litterbox problems. Remember, above all, THERE HAS TO BE A REASON, and PEOPLE GENERALLY GIVE UP TOO SOON! The first thing to do is take him to the vet to rule out a urinary tract infection, diabetes, thyroid, or other health problem. If you need to retrain kitty, BE CONSISTENT! And don’t scold kitty! He won’t understand. Inappropriate urinating or soiling outside the box is not done to spite the owner! You need to figure out what the problem is and find the cure.

Spraying vs. Urinating Outside Box. You must determine if kitty is spraying (marking territory) or urinating (squatting) outside the box. If you see him back up to a wall or dresser, lift his tail high in the air and twitch, and you see urine running down the surface ~ that’s spraying. If you see puddles or step in wet spots on rugs or clothes ~ that’s urinating outside the box.

Spraying. Unneutered cats are notorious for spraying. And yes, female cats can spray, too, especially if she is unspayed and trying to attract a suitor! Watch for a pattern to the spraying. Something has triggered it. What has changed in the household? New baby? A death? New dog or cat, or too many pets? High stress? Loud music or noise? Cigarette smoke? Are you away from home too much? Did you rearrange furniture? Maybe your cat can see, smell or hear another cat outside?

Urinating Outside Box. Again, something has triggered this. Is the box scooped regularly? Is it clean enough for kitty’s taste? Bacteria on unwashed litterboxes can be smelled by kitty but not you. Did you clean it with a product (like bleach) that cats hate? Avoid using litterbox liners. Where does kitty go instead? There’s something about a rubber backed throw rug that attracts cats to urinate on them. We don’t know why, maybe it’s the glue they use. Try using a spray repellant like Bitter Apple on it or put the rug away for a while.

If kitty urinates or poops close to the box but not in it, there’s something about the litterbox that bothers him. A cat may use his litterbox for years, then all of a sudden decide that he doesn’t like that kind of litter anymore. Maybe he’d like one box to poop in and another one to urinate in. If the litterbox is covered, try uncovering it. If you’re using regular litter, try scoopable. If the litter is deep, try putting less in the box. Try using a litter with the least amount of scent. Smells good to people, but not for the cat. Maybe the kitty wants to go potty in a more secluded spot, away from noisy washing machines, furnaces, or under stairs where footsteps may scare him. Has another cat chased him out of the box? Maybe he’s afraid to go back in again. Be sure the litterbox is not in a corner, so kitty can easily exit it. Make sure there’s a litterbox on each floor or at each end of the house, and when you find a place that works, don’t move the box.

In multiple cat homes, cats may have their own territories, and many cats scent the boundaries of their territory. If the litterbox is in one cat’s territory, another cat may not cross the territorial line to use that box. Place several boxes in different areas of the house. The ideal number of boxes is one per cat, plus an extra one.

When you clean up poop or urine outside the box, put it in the litterbox so kitty associates his smell with the litterbox again.

Cleaning Soiled Area. The best way to find out where kitty has pottied outside the box is to use a black light. With the other lights turned off in the house, turn on the black light. Soiled areas will show as green or yellow. Those areas need to be cleaned thoroughly with an enzyme cleaner. “Nu Kleen” is highly recommended. All area must be clean or kitty will smell his smell there and potty again.

Alternate Litter Material. You may want to try a completely different approach to the litterbox. Take a clean litterbox, put a little bit of his regular litter in it, then put in some grass and dirt from outside the house on top of the litter. Add just a little bit more litter. Instead of grass and dirt, you may want to try sawdust or pine needles, depending on what’s available outside. Or try shredded newspapers, hay, or whatever. You may want to try hardwood Wood Pellets sprinkled with Feline Pine pellets. It has also worked for us to put out some litterboxes with NO litter in them at all, or with a paper towel in them, and kitties use them!

Put Food Dishes in Previously Soiled Areas. The kitty will not likely potty where he eats. Put some of his favorite dry food on paper plates everywhere he has pottied before. It will discourage him from using those areas for eliminating.

Medication. Sometimes there’s stress to the kitty, unknown to the owner, and it helps to just chill him out. Try the new pheromone collars for kitty. They seem to work for a couple of months. Many people have also had luck putting their kitty on Prozac or a similar medication. It will only be temporary. If your vet won’t prescribe something, find one who will.

Confinement. You may want to confine kitty to a small room while he’s relearning to use the litterbox. It may take several months, but be consistent. Changing the litterbox material, together with using the paper plates of food, should help retrain kitty. Please don’t give up on your kitty if he has litterbox problems ~ help him instead.