Urination or defecation outside of the litter box is the most common behavior problem of cat owners. While occasionally these problems are related to health issues most of these problems are simple problems with the litter box that can be prevented.
7 steps to litter box success:
- Keep the box clean! Would you go to a dirty toilet? Then why do you expect your cat to do it? I recommend scooping daily and cleaning the entire litter box once a week. Dump all the litter and clean the box with warm soapy water.
- Most cats prefer clumping or fine-grained litter. It’s best to stick with the same brand and style of litter once you know your cat’s preference.
- Most cats prefer unscented or carbon-based litter. Keep in mind the cat’s sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours. Citrus smells are especially offensive to cats.
- Use a large box. Most commercial boxes are too small. A box should be at least 1 ½ times the length of your adult cat. You can make a DIY litter box using a sweater box.
- Avoid covered boxes as these trap in odors. I have seen cases where fellow household pets sabotage cats while they going into or out of the box.
- Place your box in a quiet, low-traffic area. I have seen cats frightened by alarms going off on the dryer and not wanting to go back.
- You will need one more litter box than you have cats placed in different locations. I.e. If you have two cats, you will need three litter boxes.
The key to resolving litter box issues is an early resolution. Your cat will develop new box preferences if not corrected quickly, which can be difficult to correct. If your kitten or cat is urinating or defecating outside the box, seek the help of your veterinarian immediately! Your veterinarian will help you decipher if this is a medical versus a behavioral problem and help you resolve the issue.