10 Aug Cat Not Using Litter Box? (THE COMPLETE GUIDE)
Is your cat not using the litter box? Well, there can be a number of reasons as to why your feline friend has an aversion to using the litter box as we shall explain throughout this guide.
It’s important to first try eliminate every possible cause and then investigate, so that you can try and understand what your feline friend is trying to tell you. Most likely, it will be nothing more than the placement of the litter box, or, there could be a more sinister underlying medical condition which requires urgent treatment from your vets. Either way, it’s very important not to simply ignore it and hope it goes away!
Firstly, it’s important to note that your pet does not go to the toilet outside of the litter box, just to deliberately make your life difficult. We strongly advise against punishing your feline friend when they do have an accident as this will do nothing apart from increase levels of stress for both of you, and actually make it much more troublesome in identifying the root cause of this behaviour….
The priority at this stage, should be to try and eliminate some of the more serious causes that result in this type of behaviour. I know it sounds simple, but a quick trip to the vet for a physical exam will help to put your mind at ease to rule these out.
Some of the possible symptoms which you should keep an eye out for include; urination straining, licking their genital areas regularly, and any drops of blood in the urine.
Has your been neutered or spayed? If not, then they are more likely to be eliminating outside of the litter box. Again, this is something that you can discuss with your vet should you wish to proceed down that route.
It may also be surprising to learn that cats who have had the front claws declawed, may develop reluctance to use the litter box, as there paws may still be sensitive after surgery. If so, perhaps you should consider using shredded paper or pine wood shavings as an alternative option. These materials will be much less abrasive on their paws, and may help to encourage them back into the litter box as well…
Why doesn’t my cat use the litter box?
So, hopefully by now you will have ruled out any potential medical conditions, now let’s turn our attention to the litter box instead. As often, this is normally the primary cause…
Your cat doesn’t like the type of litter?
This is a very common cause for cats eliminating outside of the litter box.
Have you recently changed the brand of litter? Believe it or not, cats are very sensitive creatures and usually have a very specific preference over the type of litter they use. We strongly advise against using perfumed litter, as this can sometimes be very overpowering for your feline friend.
All scientific research suggests that cats much prefer ‘clumping’ litter, which has the consistency similar to a fine sand. Most of the time, it will be a case of trial and error, so a good idea is to have two separate litter trays side-by-side and let your feline friend decide which they prefer.
Feel free to try a range of materials; shredded paper, wood shavings and you can also try sand or even dirt from the garden! (although you may end up with a few dirty paw-prints over your cream carpet)
If you’re in the process of switching the type of litter that you use, try and do this process gradually by adding a little bit more of the new litter each time you change it. Unless of course, your feline friend has already got used to it.
Cats are natural predators, who tend to hunt at night. They have amazingly sensitive senses that allow them to navigate through this tricky environment. Therefore, these sensitivities can influence their reaction to their litter. Your feline friend may grow accustomed to a particular brand of cat litter and will be very sensitive to any changes of smell or feel of alternative products.
Keeping the litter box clean!
I realise that this is simply common sense. But, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping the litter box clean at all times. If you have multiple cats, try to keep on top of their elimination routine and make sure to scoop regularly.
Try not to use high-strength bleach, or strong chemical products when cleaning the litter box. Instead, use mild fragrant soaps and also soak the litter box in dilating vinegar to remove any sticky odours.
Is my cat stressed?
Remarkably, stress can cause litter box problems. The most common cause of feline stress boils down to change, even if it does not directly affect them at all. There are several signs to look for in a stressed cat; lack of appetite, restlessness, over grooming and excessive meowing are some clues that your feline friend is not feeling 100%..
Try and make a conscious effort to avoid being stressed yourself! Try to maintain a peaceful, stable atmosphere at home, cats can easily pick up on this and affects them more than you may realise. Also, as hard as it maybe sometimes, try hard not to yell at your cat — they simply won’t understand and will simply make them anxious and afraid instead. Instead, use positive reinforcement when they have use the cat litter tray or their scratching post for example.
Where should I put my cats litter box?
Cats are interesting creatures who find it hard to accept change in their routine. They are ultimately creatures of habit. Therefore, try not to relocate the litter box suddenly. If you do you decide to change its location, then do this gradually, even if it is just a few inches a day as this will give your feline friend plenty of time to adjust to the change.
Just like humans, cats like to have a bit of privacy when they are going about their business so try and avoid places where traffic noise is high, such as the front door or next to the washing machine for example. If you have space, then you can also block off the litter box area with child safety gates to prevent any unwanted prying eyes distracting them from eliminating.
Also, cats must feel safe and protected at all times so try and avoid placing the litter box where they may feel vulnerable due to a lack of available escape routes. Our best advice is to place several boxes in different areas, and you will quickly conclude where they feel safest.
What type of litter box should I use?
The most important thing to consider first, is the size of the litter box. Make sure that it is large enough for them to comfortably stand in, dig, and turnaround easily whilst they are going about the business.
Nobody likes odours, that goes without saying. But, just imagine how are you would feel if your sense of smell with 15 times stronger than it currently is? It is for this very reason why we strongly advise against using a covered litter box as they trap odours and make eliminating a very uncomfortable process for your feline friend. Also, they can feel trapped or even claustrophobic and therefore must be avoided.
What should I do if they still prefer to eliminate outside of the litter box?
If you still find yourself banging your head against the wall, there are several things you can do to encourage them back to the litter box.
If your feline friend continues to return to the same spots to eliminate, make sure that you clean it thoroughly to immediately eliminate the odour so they are not tempted to return. Then, try and block off that particular place, or place a bowl of food containing a few of their favourite treats as your feline friend usually won’t go to the toilet near food.
If this still fails, some cat owners prefer to cover these trouble spots with clingfilm as this usually serves as a good deterrent. After a week or so, hopefully your cat will have lost interest in the trouble spot and will have again eliminating in the correct area using some of the tips we have already provided..
Another great option to consider would be to correct and outdoor cattery. I know this may not be suitable for those with no outdoor space, or have a limited budget. But, if you are able to provide this for your feline friend, you may notice immediate results. Catteries come in various shapes and sizes, and are only limited to your own wild imagination! All you really need though, is a small enclosure which is just big enough for a litter box and your cat to comfortably have enough space to eliminate…
If you still require more information, check out this handy e-book ‘Cat Spraying No More’ which provides a proven system Guaranteed to stop your cat peeing outside the litter box!