Litter Box Blues

Helping kitty get back in the box

Litter Box Blues

Monday, October 12, 2015 | NHS Behavior Department

Litter box issues are common among cat owners and a leading cause of cat surrender. If your cat is eliminating outside of the litter box, rest assured that you’re not alone and there are things that you can do to help your kitty get back in the box.

Check with a Vet 

  • Whether this is a new problem or an ongoing issue, ruling out a medical cause is the first step. Cats suffering from a medical issue can develop litter box aversions and a combination of medication and behavioral help will be needed to get kitty using the litter box again. 

Clean up Accidents

  • Cats are drawn to eliminate in areas that they have used before. Clean up any messes with an enzymatic cleaner that targets pet odors to help prevent further accidents.

Take a look at your litter box set-up

  • Most cats have preferences when it comes to where they eliminate. When their litter box no longer meets their needs, they will look for more appealing locations. 
  • Providing a cat-friendly litter box can help. Take a look at Litter Box 101 for a quick guide. 

Play Detective

  • Cats don’t stop using the litter box because they are mad at you. If you’ve ruled out any medical issues, then your cat may be reacting to stress. 
  • Maybe you’ve added a new feline friend or the kids are home for the holidays. Investigating your cat’s behavior will help you find the best way to fix your litter box problems.

Below are some common issues and tips on how to help:

  • Nowhere to go: It’s recommended that you have one box per cat, plus one (2 cats = 3 litter boxes) placed around your home.
  • Too small: Cats that have accidents close to the box typically do so because they don’t have enough room. Try providing a larger box. Under-the-bed storage containers work well.
  • That doesn‘t feel right: If your cat is consistently urinating on clothes or a rug, he might prefer a softer location. Try adding more litter to the box and setting it on a padded surface. If your cat is using tile, counters or wooden floors, you can try removing litter and even leaving one side of the box bare.
  • That doesn‘t belong here: Adding a new friend to the home can be stressful. Introduce the new family member slowly and allow time for everyone to get used to smells and sounds before seeing each other. Roaming cats or wildlife that come to close to your home may cause your indoor cats to become anxious. Help your cats feel secure by deterring outside critters with safe animal repellents.
  • Keep in mind: Cats are creatures of habit. Changes to their environment and routine cantrigger stress-related litter box issues. Helping them cope with the stress of change can help. If possible, make any changes gradually. Setting your cat up in a safe room with all his necessities can give him time to adjust and feel more secure.  

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