Most Common Litter Box Issues and How to Fix Them – Dr Claire Stevens
From time to time, for apparently no reason, a cat may start doing its business outside of the litter box. There may be an underlying medical issue such as an urinary infection or bladder stones that is causing this change of behaviour; it may also be stress-related (for example, a new pet has been introduced into the household), or it may be that your cat simply does not find the toilet facilities on offer up to standard.
What to Do When Your Cat Pees Outside the Box
The first thing to do is to have your cat examined by your vet to rule out any urinary issues, which can go unnoticed but are very painful and therefore need to be treated as soon as possible. Often litter box issues can be solved simply by reassessing your pet’s litter tray. The following tips will help make your cat’s litter box seem more inviting than your carpet or couch.
Choice of Cat Litter
The type of cat litter used within the litter box can play a large factor in enticing your cat to use the box rather than your carpet. Cats tend to be rather fussy creatures at the best of times, and are no different when it comes to their litter preference. An unscented, clumping cat litter is usually the best choice, and is more acceptable to cats than strongly scented litters. Cats can also be fussy about the texture of the kitty litter used in their box. If you have recently changed the type of cat litter you use, the first step to reverse out-the-box peeing is to revert back to your original choice, preferably opting for a kitty litter that does not contain any strong fragrances that could potentially be very off-putting for your cat.
Cats are fastidiously clean creatures, which is one of the reasons we love them, and why when they suddenly stop using their litter box we should sit up and take note, as something is clearly amiss. As most cats will not find a soiled litter box appealing, cleanliness is very important. Scoop out the litter box at least once every day, preferably several times a day, to keep it clean and inviting. Clean out the soiled litter at least once a week (preferable every other day) and replace with fresh kitty litter and give the box a thorough cleaning with warm soapy water and/or a mild disinfectant at least once a month.
Type of Litter box
The choice of litter box can also be an issue. Enclosed litter boxes that keep the litter nicely contained inside rather than sprinkled all over your floor may seem like a practical choice to you, but they tend to be rather claustrophobic for cats, who may fear being trapped in this dark and somewhat confined space. Not only are enclosed cat boxes difficult for cats to manoeuvre about in, they are smelly, and unhealthy ammonia fumes from the urine can build up inside. Cats generally prefer oversized litter boxes that are uncovered, and which they can get into (and out of again) without too much effort — this is particularly important for older cats that may not be as agile as they were in their youth. A repurposed plastic storage box (with the lid removed) makes a great cat litter box. The sides are high enough to contain the litter, and with the top removed the cat can still see out and is less confined. Simply cut out a square or semi-circular hole in one of the sides to make the entrance lower and therefore easier for a cat to access, especially if they are arthritic.
Location is Key
Let’s face it, your cat is pretty vulnerable whilst squatting doing his thing in the litter box, and he is no doubt very aware of that. Therefore, choosing a quiet, safe location away from noisy household appliances, dogs and general household traffic, will help your cat feel more relaxed about toilet visits and therefore more inclined to use the litter box. The litter box should also be placed in an area that is readily accessible to your pet, who may not have the will, inclination or constitution to climb a set of stairs to get to the loo when nature calls. In a large home, this may mean having more than one litter box available for your pet (more on that below). Place the litter box is an area that is easily accessible and where there is as little disturbance as possible.
Cater for Every Cat
If you have several cats, you will need to have a least one litter box available for each cat, plus an extra one for good measure. This not only ensures that the litter boxes remain cleaner for longer, but also reduces the potential for conflict over ablution facilities. Many cats don’t find sharing a litter box at all appealing and will look elsewhere if something suitable is not readily available.
Once you have taken the above steps to make your cats toilet more appealing, you should also take measures to make their favourite spots outside the litter box less appealing. Thoroughly clean all of their favourite urine spots to eliminate any cat urine odours, and if necessary, place a litter box over these soiled areas to encourage them to return to using the box.